The life of a typical fitness professional (ie. fitness instructors, personal trainers, athletic trainers, etc.) is very hectic and incredibly unpredictable! Unlike a person who works in a sales or management role in a fitness club, one with a 9 to 5 job, set roles and responsibilities and job security, a fitness professional traditionally works in a contract role with limited guarantees. In order to be successful in their career (and make enough money to make it worthwhile), most fitness professionals have to become “fitness entrepreneurs”. Unfortunately, most have little to no experience running a business (let alone a successful one)!
Being a fitness professional is a “feel good” career. The majority of fitness instructors and personal trainers truly love what they do and have a passion for helping people. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they would do it for “free”, if they didn’t have to make a living. They choose this career in spite of the following conditions:
- Teaching classes for multiple fitness clubs and studios (as an independent contractor).
- Training clients at all hours of the day (very early morning to very late at night).
- Lack of health insurance or work benefits (most fitness professionals are independent contractors and do not qualify for benefits or incentives).
Unfortunately, most fitness professionals are underpaid and many struggle to survive on their current salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (a division of the United States Department of Labor), 251,400 fitness trainers and instructors in 2010 made an average of $31,090 (below the national average of $33,840). Of these, the majority worked for fitness and recreation sports centers (61%) and very few were self-employed (8%). Because of the hectic work conditions it is unrealistic for them to take on a second job to make ends meet.
Fitness Professional = Fitness Entrepreneur
Fitness professionals already have many of the traits that make up a successful entrepreneur. According to Dr. Michael Woodward, CEC certified executive coach and author, the following represent traits of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs:
Have a unique perspective on risk.
Successful entrepreneurs don’t take “no” for an answer and don’t fear failure. They try new things, implement new ideas and incorporate new strategies in an effort to grow and improve their business. Fitness professionals do things that most “conventional” business people wouldn’t dare to try. They are not afraid to do something that makes them look silly if they know it will be successful (ie. new choreography, new wacky new exercises, fun and unique weight loss programs, etc.). They will try anything if they think it will help their clients succeed, help them grow their business, and help them generate more revenue.
Communicate vision and instill passion.
Successful entrepreneurs are able to move an idea and make it reality. Fitness instructors and personal trainers do the “impossible” every day with their members and clients. They take something that is perceived as undesirable (ie. exercising) and making it fun and enjoyable. They motivate people to improve their lives and their long term quality of life. They change lives every day by motivating the people they work with by building their self-esteem and the belief they have in themselves.
Demonstrate resilience and rapid recovery.
Fitness instructors and personal trainers are put to the test every time they teach a class or take a client through a session. Each work day comes with its challenges and opportunities for failure (ie. stumbling through new choreography, starting a client late, getting hurt, etc.), but fitness instructors and personal trainers learn to get back up, learn from their mistakes and move on … becoming even better than they were before!
Do what they do best.
Fitness instructors and personal trainers specialize in an area of expertise. A fitness instructor typically teaches what they enjoy the most (ie. Les Mills, Zumba, STOTT Pilates, Bikram Yoga) and very few teach everything. With an average of 50 classes a week in a single studio there is more than enough work to share with others. As for personal trainers, they function very much like a physician with an area of expertise (ie. general fitness, weight loss, functional training, rehabilitation, sports performance, women’s health, active aging, etc.). Their area of knowledge and specialization is what makes them unique and sought out above all others. They are challenged with new clients and unique situations that require confidence and solutions for each individual.
Preserve what they build.
For many entrepreneurs, starting a business is like nurturing a child from birth. There is a personal investment into everything they do on a day to day basis. Fitness professionals walk many people through a journey and watch them progress and grow with each interaction. They build connections with members and clients that are very personal and inherently rewarding.
For more information on these traits, click here.
Building a Successful Fitness Business
Although most fitness professionals will say that they love what they do … the reality is that their job at the fitness club or studio does not fulfill their need for financial stability. Because of this many look to selling products and services to their clients as a way to make extra cash. Unfortunately, many fail to make a decent living because they don’t have the business experience or knowledge to do it in a way that can be lucrative and successful.
In any business, you need to following to make any venture a success:
- Experience running a successful fitness business (or a mentor to provide solid advice).
- A strong business plan (including marketing strategies).
- Money to start the business (and sustain it for the first six months).
- A support team (people who will help you to succeed).
A fitness professional can be successful in building their own “side” business as they maintain their role with a fitness club or studio. The challenge is knowing how to build the necessary components to make the process simple to do, how to get the results they want, and ensure it doesn’t take much time out of their busy day. Today’s Fitness Trainer has identified specific solutions available that have been proven to help fitness professionals succeed in business!
Want to Learn More?
In the next article in the “Fitness Entrepreneur” series, you will learn about strategic marketing initiatives and opportunities that are helping fitness professionals establish ways to make more money by adding value to their experiences in fitness, exercise and health. This includes introductions to companies that provide quality products and services that compliment what fitness professionals do, strategic sales and marketing tools to make it easy for fitness professionals to make additional revenue, and have experience in business to help fitness professionals successfully build their own business through their existing clients and fitness community.