How I went from zero clients to a waitlist in my first year
Now that I am officially winding down for the holidays, I’ve started to reflect on this past year and what I’ve done in that time. I always find value in looking at where you have come from because the past offers a truthful glance at the progress (and failures!) to learn and apply in the present and future.
It also provides a chance to express gratitude for what you have because, just like everyone else, I struggle with focusing too much on what I could be doing and comparing myself to others in my field who are doing better rather than being grateful for what I have right in front of me. This is especially relevant as Christmas approaches because I didn’t have much last year.
The holidays can be challenging for many people, and last year was no exception for me. Being previously unemployed for some time, I was just starting in the industry and only had about $100 left in my savings account. I remember telling myself that this was the last year that I was going to feel this way.
I explicitly remember telling myself that this was going to be the last year I was ever going to feel like this. Sitting around the Christmas tree, embarrassed as people handed gifts out, nothing came from you, guilty that you received gifts from others and couldn’t return the favour. The best I could do for my immediate family was to give out cheap water bottles. I would also purposely avoid my friends because I felt ashamed of where I was in life.
Looking back at this time from a different perspective, this low point was a blessing. It lit a fire under me so great that I no longer had the option of waiting around, which leads me to my first tip, you have to…
Work like your life depends on it
Whether you cultivate this mindset or live in this reality, you need to change your thinking to one where you don’t have the option to fail. This shift creates a sense of urgency, which is essential for an entrepreneur just getting started because you are the only person going to make things happen.
The individual with their back to the wall will fight much harder than the comfortable one. They will be more willing to seek out opportunities, be more innovative in their planning, and, most importantly, be that much more willing to fail, which leads me to my next point…
Overcome fear with action
One Google search for how to start your own personal training business, and you’ll immediately be bombarded with software this, marketing that and about a thousand other things you need to have prepared before you start your business. Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, many people become fearful and talk themselves out of starting the business in the first place! I can personally relate to this as I wanted to have everything planned out and perfect before I began to; perfect the business name, website and systems to organize my clients.
The truth is that people overcomplicate the process of starting a business. Yes, you need to know about your industry and the market, but having it all planned out is a surefire way to failure because, in reality, you will never be prepared. The best way to overcome this fear is once you have a general direction, stop thinking and start doing! I focused on very the following specific things which I believe are most important to your early success, and they are…
Build and maintain quality relationships in your immediate environment
The most important thing to prioritize when launching your business is cultivating strong relationships with your immediate network. This isn’t just your clients. Think about members of the gym you work at, friends and family who share your posts and mentors who teach you valuable information. Never underestimate the power of being friendly and kind to those around you.
The first couple of clients are often the hardest to get, and I got mine simply by forming good relationships with the other members at the gym. Provide value and be genuinely interested in their lives. You will be amazed at how seemingly out of nowhere, a referral will come your because you took 2 minutes to ask how a member’s day is.
Specifically, regarding how you treat your clients, I created a conviction that they would always come first. As personal trainers, the mindset should be that we operate a “servant-lead” business. I believe the top 1% of trainers have a natural inclination and temperament geared toward the following traits that separate them from the other the 99%, and it’s not what you think…
The best trainers display these traits
In my opinion, the “best” trainers don’t have the best bodies, education or resources. The best among us simply display these traits more than others — they are empathic listeners who genuinely care about the success of their clients. When I mean care, I don’t just mean taking the extra time to design a good training program and providing good information in the session; I mean believing in the client and their goals more than they do.
Deep down, many clients come to a personal trainer not because they don’t know what to do but because they need a trusting person to support them along their journey. This means, first and foremost, being empathic towards the client and their situation. In the training sessions, many trainers lead with their eyes. What I mean by this is that they focus too much on the technical aspects of training, and although essential, they can take away from using what is arguably more important in their ears.
During the whole session, you should listen and communicate openly and honestly with your client. By creating an environment built on trust and respect, you will find that you will rarely if ever lose a client, and that leads me to my final point…
Do this, and you’ll be full in a year
If you know how to keep clients long-term and learn how to market yourself to attract new clients, you have just created the ultimate formula for success. But how do I deal with myself properly? You may ask. Well, to begin with, the question itself is wrong. As I mentioned previously, you need to start with your client in mind. Therefore, what value should be created for my audience?
You don’t need to latest and greatest camera to start creating good content. Yes, I have invested heavily in equipment for my business, but I’ve come from humble beginnings. Initially, I couldn’t afford a cheap Walmart tripod for my phone. Instead, I would use a water bottle or weight to record videos. I eventually transitioned to a tripod, but it was cheap, and I broke about three of them (I recommend buying the insurance).
What actually is most important when you first start posting content is that it's value-driven and consistent. There is an endless amount of topics you can cover in the gym, so get creative as there is no excuse to not start. Yes, it will probably suck initially, but remember that actively striving to improve oneself, regardless of the task, generates progress.