Thinking about becoming a personal trainer? Before you take the leap of faith, read through this comprehensive 2-part article covering all aspects of the job. I hope you will find this useful.
Do you have what it takes?
I won’t lie. The personal training industry is a highly competitive one. What makes you stand out? Here are some of the traits and attributes that make an outstanding personal trainer (list not in sequence of priority):
- Being a people’s person. Your charisma, the way you build rapport with people and how easily you can convert your clients to becoming your friends will largely determine your success. Personal training is a human to human business so even if you get the best results and have the best physique/knowledge in the world, being able to connect to your client is of utmost importance. With this connection, renewal rates go up and you end up spending less effort, time and money on recruiting new clients. There are self help materials you can consume to improve but this is by far one of the hardest things to work on if you’re naturally not inclined to build connections with others.
- Your physique. I don’t believe the top personal trainers here have bodybuilding type physiques. Some clients totally adore such muscular physiques but there are some who feel intimidated by them. Aim to have a physique that inspires your clients. Be a role model to them and lead a healthy lifestyle. Talk the talk, walk the walk. This goes a long way to maintaining motivation.
- Grooming. As much as I hate to admit it, the personal training industry is a rather superficial one. All things being equal, a better looking/groomed personal trainer will secure more clients. But this isn’t difficult to achieve. Get a haircut when it’s time, wear shoes with no holes and please no FBT shorts during personal training sessions. Look professional always.
- Knowledge. There is simply too much rotten information floating around on websites, social media, magazines etc. that’s bombarding us daily. Say no to bro science. Please take a science based approach to training and nutrition. It will be an invaluable skill to be able to read and understand research papers and have practical applications for knowledge that you gained. If this proves to be too difficult, at least choose a few good (science based) authors that you can trust, read their stuff and apply them in your work.
- Ability to coach and motivate. We have to be masters of motivation and use different types of motivational styles on different types of clients to push them to the limits of their capability in order to see the best results. You have to learn to be able to coach effectively as well by using the right cues, communicating clearly and having a keen eye on spotting technique inadequacies and correcting them quickly. This prevents injuries and maximises results.
- Sales and marketing skills. Personal training is a sales job. No doubt about it. You have to be able to convert trials into paying clients, get them to refer more people to you and have a marketing plan in place to be able to get new customers. If you have a mental block when it comes to selling or believe that your superior physique sells itself then you’re in for a rude shock. These skills can be honed through and with persistence many can excel in this area.
- Being results oriented and sincere. To a personal training client, usually the biggest priority is to get results. Not to make a new friend, not to feel good after a workout, but to get the best results possible. You have to make this your priority too. Take measurements for them, review results periodically and have discussions about it. This shows that you actually care and is sincere towards them. Be genuinely delighted when your clients see results they are happy about. People have a good sense of how others are sincere toward them. If it’s all a show you’re putting up and just in for a quick buck, it’ll be hard to survive in this industry.
- Being hardworking. As a personal trainer, you’re trading time for money. The more sessions you do, the more money you make. If putting in consistent hours is not your thing, this might not be the right job for you.
- Qualifications. Certified Personal Trainer – that is the paper qualification you need to be a personal trainer here. This is by far the easiest to achieve. There are a few certification bodies here and it is generally not difficult to obtain a good industry standard Certified Personal Trainer certification. NCSF Certified Personal Trainer is one of them. The certification is issued from the USA and NCSF is one of the most reputable certification bodies internationally, having certified more than 250 thousand personal trainers. Curious about the differences between ACE vs NCSF Certified Personal Trainer, read more here: https://www.personaltrainercertification.com.sg/post/ncsf-vs-ace-certified-personal-trainer-cpt
Pros of being a personal trainer
- If fitness is your passion, you won’t even feel like you’re working. While this is generally true, there are certain other aspects of the job like sales and marketing that you’ll need to enjoy too in order to succeed.
- Does society good. Our job helps people lose weight, quit drinking and improve their health. I can’t say that many other jobs are as meaningful as this.
- Flexibility. If you’re a freelance personal trainer, you get to dictate your schedule to a certain extent. Some people love this flexibility instead of being tied down to fixed hours.
- Good dough. Top personal trainers charge up to $200/hour and the average market rate for personal training is about $100/hour. Not too shabby at all!
- Connections. Most times, people who can afford personal training might be lawyers, doctors, businessmen etc. Teach them about fitness, who knows they might reciprocate with some valuable knowledge. If you enjoy dealing with people from all walks of life and potentially building friendships with them, this will be a fulfilling job for you.
- Training, leading a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy. All these are part of your job as a personal trainer. This is a joy for most trainers. Oh yes, you can be in sports attire all day long!
- Stress. I’d consider personal training a relatively low stress job. Unless you have really demanding clients (rare) or simply run out of customers.
Cons of being a personal trainer
- Trading time for money. The sky is not the limit for you. There is an income ceiling. As well, when you stop working you don’t get paid. If you are a freelance personal trainer, you might not have access to medical benefits, bonuses, leave etc.
- Competition is fierce. Over the years there has been a surge in demand for personal trainers but naturally more personal trainers who entered the industry. If you have no way to stand out or pick a niche to get into, it is not an easy industry to thrive.
- Might not work out as a long term career. Personal training is physically taxing and can be tiring. Few personal trainers do this in the long run. Most times you’ll have to progress on to being a manager of a gym or a gym owner etc. to ensure long term survivability
- Social stigma. There are some people who think personal training is not a ‘serious’ job. That personal trainers are all brawn and no brains, that sometimes there will be funny businesses going on between personal trainers and clients. The list goes on. Surely there are black sheeps in the industry but for the most part, I politely disagree with these kinds of views and maintain that personal training is a professional career.
- Work timing. Peak hours for personal training are early mornings and evenings. Most weekends. You work when your clients are not working. Not great for social life for some.
Where to find work?
As a personal trainer in Singapore, there’s a few places you can find work:
- Big box gyms with multiple locations. Offers a mix of regular membership, group classes as well as personal training.
Pay structure: Low basic pay plus commissions on sessions you do. Commissions are usually tiered depending on experience
Hours: Fixed number of hours you have to be in the gym
Personal training fees they charge: range from estimated $70-120/hour
a) Usually locations for such gyms are fantastic. Wide range of equipment, good facilities
b) Since they sell membership, new members usually get free personal training trial sessions so you have a healthy source of new customers, provided you are able to convert them into paying clients.
c) Hopefully there’s good teamwork and cohesiveness between personal trainers at the gym and you can learn from one another
d) More options for progression and promotion. To become team leader, branch/district manager etc.
a) Gym can be crowded at peak hours with members and your clients might need to queue for equipment
b) There are only full time options. Hours can be gruelling
c) Due to their massive operational overheads, big box gyms usually don’t pay as much as a smaller personal training studio or if you work as a freelancer
- Personal training studios. Usually offers personal training, small group training only.
Pay structure: varies. Could be basic plus commission or commission only
Hours: varies depending on pay structure. With a basic pay you might have fixed hours in the gym. Without basic pay, timing could potentially be more flexible.
Personal training fees they charge: range from estimated $80-200/hour
a) Environment is usually more exclusive and conducive for personal training since there’s no members crowding the place
b) Pay is usually higher
c) Work hours might potentially be more flexible
a) Usually these gyms look for more experienced personal trainers
b) Less options for career progression
- Freelancing. Going to your client’s condo gym, to a park, using a public gym like ActiveSG or renting personal training studios to conduct your sessions.
Pay structure: you usually keep everything your client pays you
Hours: flexible depending on how you arrange your schedule with your clients
Personal training fees you charge: this is the Wild West. There are inexperienced personal trainers selling sessions at $25/hour on Carousell. Top personal trainers who do house calls might charge up to $200/hour since they take the time to travel to your location.
a) Totally flexible. You are your own boss.
b) If you like moving around to different places instead of being stuck in one place, this option is for you.
c) You get to keep the entire fee that you charge
a) You must be able to market your services and find customers and that’s not always easy for novice personal trainers
b) You spend time and money on the road needing to travel from one location to another. That limits the total number of sessions you can do too compared to doing sessions back to back at one location.
c) Lack of equipment. Most condo gyms have minimal equipment
d) It can be lonely. You won’t have colleagues to talk to or go to lunch with.
That’s all for part 1! If you are motivated at this point to become a personal trainer but are not certified yet, I recommend that you check out our NCSF Certified Personal Trainer course. Stay tuned for part 2. Till then!