10 Strategies to Get Started as a Personal Trainer During a Pandemic

Oct 23, 2020

By Tim Saye

If you're a personal trainer working the gym floor in 2020, you've got it pretty tough. With gym closures and social distancing affecting so many places this year, you've probably had to be patient with how your career has developed this year. 

Even now, gyms are being closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Significant restrictions are in place on large areas of the world, and even in gyms which are still open and operating, the number of members attending is likely to be lower than usual. In this article, we'll discuss strategies any personal trainer trying to make it locally can use, but they're most crucial for those trainers that have started their career this year!

Strategy #1. Find a Gym Where You Don't Have to Pay Rent and Start Talking to Members

A typical gym model is that personal trainers pay rent to the facility to train clients there. This gives them access to the gym and all the equipment they need, including client data, and sometimes promotional and marketing support from the management. However, for new personal trainers that don't yet have a client base, this can be an expense you can't afford at the moment. 
Some gyms, however, don't ask for rent. Some gyms operate a model where, instead of paying rent, personal trainers work in the gym. This time is often spent cleaning, doing sales calls, taking new members on inductions, or running classes. This model allows you not only to start chatting to members (from a safe distance!) but to be recognised as a personal trainer around the gym. Someone friendly and approachable. 

The Gym Group operate this model, many Snap Fitness franchises have the option, and a huge number of independent gyms and leisure centers pay you for gym hours. It's worth researching the places you're aspiring to work at and asking if this is a model they use.

Strategy #2. Aim for the Outdoors

Exercising outdoors became a big hit this year. You might want to consider looking for clientele, who like to be in the fresh air when exercising. Training clients outdoors can become tough as a trainer during the winter months though, so make sure you invest in proper clothing to keep you warm and encourage clients to do the same.

Strategy #3. Start Marketing Within Your Own Circle

Once you figured out where you'll b working, you can start promoting your services. Your social media channels are some of the best resources available for connecting with potential clients. These people already know you and like you. They see you as a trusted authority on all things fitness already. You can start posting about topics that interest them or invite them into a Facebook group. Sharing valuable content and advice can build a circle of potential clients and raise awareness of your personal training business. You could even ask people to invite their friends and family that might be interested in joining your group to connect with a broader audience. 

Strategy #4. Advertise in Local Businesses

Advertising your fitness services in coffee shops or local "partner" stores (supplement shops, butchers, etc.) can be a great source of offline leads. Start with the places you regularly visit yourself and are well known. Always ask the owner if you have their permission before leaving leaflets or business cards. 
If you have a budget for advertising, try the local paper or radio station. Consider consulting with a copywriter or advertising specialist before paying to publish your ad so that it's as compelling and persuasive as possible before going to print. If taking this option it is definitely worth asking for discounts as advertising space should have lower demand, and therefore lower prices during the pandemic.

Strategy #5. Offer Free Sessions

Many people are starting to prioritise their health for the first time during the pandemic. They are uncertain about what to expect when working with a fitness professional. Offering free sessions, or to have a goal-setting consultation - can build rapport with a prospective client so you can show them you're the right trainer for them. 

Strategy #6. Create Content For Online Marketing Channels

Recording content for social media that is educational, personal and well made is a fantastic resource. Images, blogs and videos which are well produced and thoughtfully written can help to connect you with an audience online that need your help. If your finding it hard to grow your business right now using the extra time to create lots of content is a wise investment. You can share it all now or schedule it out throughout the year.

Strategy #7. Train Friends & Family For Free In Exchange For Social Proof

If you don't have any clients right now, you will need to seek every opportunity to be seen as a trainer. One of the things that really helps your "social proof" is providing evidence that you can help people. When you have no clients, your best action is to offer training for friends and family in exchange for a testimonial, workout videos and pictures or even before and after photos if you train them for a transformation. These recordings of progress then make up much of your marketing materials for your next intake of paying clients. 


Strategy #8. Consider Having A Job Short-Term

Having a job that covers your bills can take a lot of the stress off the need to get clients. When you are trying to close a sale because you need the money, you're often much more on edge, and that creates an environment that might feel stressful for your prospective client. Or put you in a position of taking on a client that might not be the best fit for your services. If this of interest to your check out Zumba Fitness Instructor Jobs

In contrast, when you're less worried about your basic financial needs, you'll be able to listen to the person sitting in front of you, pay attention to what they need, so you can honestly decide if you'll be able to help them. If you're in a job right now, maybe consider not quitting until you hit a target income from personal training. If you aren't, figure out how much you need to cover the essentials, like your place of living, food, bills and find any job that will help with that for the time being.

Strategy #9. Be Patient

As a personal trainer, you're a business owner. It takes time to build a business at the best of times. During a pandemic, it's considerably more difficult. Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the process. Having a fitness business should be fun. Perhaps more than in other industries, you're building a reputation as a personal trainer. People are buying into you and your coaching philosophy, so use the quieter times to get clear on what that is for you.

Strategy #10. Explore What You Can Offer Online

Offering online personal training has never been easier because due to the pandemic, people understand how doing things online works. It's being called a "Fitness Revolution". Things that once confused prospect clients, like the remote delivery of services, are now something that they do every day to stay in touch with loved ones and colleagues. 

That removes a significant barrier; the objection that the clients don't "get it". It's even more convenient than using a gym, eliminating the difficulties around rent and social distancing. Newbie personal trainers might feel that without having hands-on experience working with clients, they have no chance to succeed online. However, if you use the time to build an online audience with free resources and content as well as training friends and family for free to show sessions and transformations you could quickly become quite successful online.

Wrapping Up

The chances are that when you were trying to figure out how to become a personal trainer, you never imagined your first year in the industry will throw such a curveball at you. What this year has shown to us, though, is that people out there need personal trainers even more than ever and not just for vanity reasons. Your sessions might be the only physical activity your clients get while having to social distance and a significant part of their social interactions. Both of which are crucial for their mental health.

Now is a time when it's challenging for any business but, as a personal trainer, if you're proactive and put in the work you can still do well now and build a strong foundation for big success when this pandemic is over. Many, many trainers are sitting back, cutting costs and not taking responsibility for their situation during this challenging time, those trainers won't be in business when this is all over so there will be huge opportunities for the proactive trainers that come through the other side.