This is a question that was kindly sent over by a friend of mine called MIGHTY MORGAN which might be one of the strongest names I've encountered in my life.
How do you know when you are ready to be a Personal Trainer?
The answer depends on millions of factors including if you already have a steady income or how many people are dependent on you or if you have parents that are willing to bail you out for a few years like my mum and grandma had to for about 25 years.
It all comes down to risk.
How Did I Know I was Ready To Be A Personal Trainer?
I was working pot-wash at the time and I fucking hated every second of it. I felt like I was wasting my potential and couldn't stand doing something that I selfishly saw as pointless.
I hated having a boss. I hated living at home and I felt like my life was a complete mess.
Or now I think about it I was a overly moody early 20 year old who was sad about fucking up all my educational opportunities and in a dead end job. Not the best place to be!
The only escape I had from feeling like this was in training where I progressed well, naturally built muscle and actually stuck to some kind of routine.
And despite what I actually thought in my head at the time I actually really liked helping people and I've always wanted people to like me.
While on pot-wash I worked with a bartender (at the time) called Jason Mortimer who was doing a PT course at the time, he said "why don't you do it as well?"
I thought "why not?"
Did I know anything about being a Personal Trainer?
No. Absolutely not.
Thinking back I knew nothing about anything. I thought the illuminati ruled the world too.
I just wanted to get out of that pot-wash job after dropping out of sport college because I was too shy to do work experience (for those that know me, yup, that is true, I was around distinction level after my first year at college and just dropped out so I didn't have to make a phone call.)
This experience of being a complete tool constantly helps me deal with people on work experience.
Half of them don't want to be there and have about as many manners as a sledgehammer but they made it through the door which is more than I ever did.
I didn't feel ready for anything apart from something different to what I was experiencing at the time (with some crippling depression and mild suicidal thoughts thrown in just for fun.)
I did the Personal Training course over 2 years.
Still not knowing anything about Personal Training the entire time.
I'd trained since I was around 13 until when I did the course at around 20 so I had 7 years of lifting under my belt.
I didn't really know anything about the theory behind it all but I trained legs regularly so I thought I was the shit.
During the qualification process one of my good friends Cookie found out I was going to qualify as a PT and asked if I would train him.
I panicked for a while and then tried to apply what I learnt to a training plan and some nutritional changes.
He lost 8 stone. We later learnt that his diet was completely awful and we got him to lose weight through the sheer amount of work we'd do. Sometimes we'd train for like 2.5 hours because I didn't really have anything else to do other play my guitar badly.
I then got my job at a commercial gym and then my career began!
I can honestly say I never felt ready and that first few weeks/years was very hard and a steep learning curve.
If I was to go back and tell myself how to feel ready I'd make sure I gave the following advice:
Actually get to know and reach out to a Personal Trainer (or as many a possible) to get an idea of what the job will entails
Read and learn about what it takes and what you need to do as someone who is self-employed
Understand that you'll never feel ready
For the first few years I was either successful and busy and bad with money or quiet and bad with money when I moved to a rugby club gym a couple of years later.
This meant that I often had to rely on my parents paying my gym rent or helping me pay off bills more times than I can remember.
My mum will have the exact figure somewhere of what I owe here but it must be well over £15000 that I owe her. She'll never make me pay all that back as she's far too nice but I can't say I would have got very far as a PT if she and my gran weren't there.
Being self-employed is hard especially if you are 20 going on 12 like I was. But being a PT forced me to talk to people and get over my fears.
I started at a gym that was just opening (please try and do this if you are newly qualified) so I was doing inductions with 8 people at a time, asking them who would like a PT session for free and then getting those who enjoyed it to book in again.
I worked and suddenly I had some money I could blow on nothing and pay the odd bill.
Many years later I actually sorted out my business thanks to coach V and now I can mostly pay the bills!
So I was ready to be a PT because I had a natural passion for helping people. I fell in love with weights at a very young age so had years of training experience and I had the support of a wonderful family.
Yes I had crippling insecurity, but the foundations were there. I just had to work hard in order to reach my potential. I'm beginning to scratch the surface of that potential now I think but I'm a long way from being the complete coach I want to me.
So if you have a similar experience as me, you love helping people, you've trained for years and you have a supportive family and a high work ethic the chances are that you can make it as a Personal Trainer through many years of hard graft.
Changing Careers to be a PT
When you are changing careers as an adult coming in from a new career I always recommend a phasing in process because you probably won't have a huge business at first.
When changing career to be a PT in later life you still need to have had years under a bar, on the track or training in some capacity where you've had to overcome issues and difficulties in order to achieve what you want to achieve.
That achievement doesn't have to be newsworthy. It may well have been a massive challenge to get in 3 gym sessions a week for the past 10 years while working an immensely stressful job.
As long as you have that experience you can use it to your advantage as a Personal Trainer. If you've had experience in management even better!
Being a Personal Trainer requires you to manage and motivate lots of people. The more experience you have of managing people successfully the better you'll be as a Personal Trainer because you have to communicate well to coach well.
If you've never been successful at managing people or you hate managing people and you have for your entire career I would honestly ask yourself whether you want to risk changing career and your income and the security of those that rely on you for something you'll potentially hate and/or struggle.
If you already have a career and presumably have a wage in order to get through the first few months you should keep both on the go if at all possible or you should save as much money as you can in order to take the pressure off yourself to get clients as you get used to interacting with people on the gym floor and on social media.
Being a self-employed Personal Trainer with no clients is very expensive. A few years ago I could have told you from experience!
Keeping both jobs going will be a disaster on your free time but it also helps you not lose everything if you decide that while PT was a great idea it just wasn't for you and you can go back to your old job without having to go through any period of being unemployed.
How do you know when to finally make the full leap to full-time Personal Training?
You need to know you can pay the bills first and foremost. You need to build your foundations like a pricelist, a consultation process, have a location and a load of other things that sets you up for success. Set a goal for how many clients and how much money you need to bring in before you make the leap and STICK TO THAT PLAN until it needs changing.
Some careers may be incompatible with doing Personal Training.
For these people lots of savings to cover gym rent and rainy days is essential unless you have an absolutely amazing sales process that you can wow people with right from the start. Or you need to have an amazingly supportive family or spouse that can cover the bills until you are on your feet.
These types are always risking something and can never know whether they are truly ready. They must plan ahead and execute well to transition as effectively as possible to avoid being part of the majority of PT's that don't make it through the first year in business.
My favourite kind of Personal Trainer is the one who is always being asked advice on lifting, life and is just a people-magnet in general. They have had a long career in something not fitness related and then suddenly decide that they will start doing Personal Training on the side after 20 odd years.
These people are often a wealth of knowledge when it comes to training. They have a solid income and often a job in management and can just train people as a hobby unless it becomes something that is a major income source.
I think these are the only people beyond lottery winners that can ever say near enough 100% that they are ready to be a Personal Trainer because they don't stand to lose anything/much. The risk is low for these people!
Whatever kind of person you are the easiest way to start as a new Personal Trainer is to start at a big commercial gym that's opening with you there on the first day.
The benefits of this are pretty endless.
There are usually hundreds of new prospects with very few of them having a coach.
You are in an environment where you aren't "the new guy" because everyone is new and most importantly THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF LEADS AND LOADS OF OPPORTUNITIES TO MEET NEW PEOPLE LITERALLY WANDERING AROUND YOU
Whoever you are don't just jump at the first opportunity that comes your way because it might not be the right fit. Private studios for example, are often very tough places to make it as a new PT unless you have someone actively giving you clients and helping you with the sales process.
Go for the best opportunity to first survive as a PT as you learn your way around the industry because nothing prepares you for it more than actually being in the industry.
Most of us never felt ready for this. So build the foundations of your business as far as you can, work hard, plan and make sure you will be able to operate in a loss for at least a year (this is still optimistic.) Train for years, love speaking to people. Love helping people. Have a thirst for knowledge and you'll be able to make a wonderful Personal Trainer.
Just don't expect to ever feel ready.
Because this shit is scary.
By Chris K
Chris is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach, Writer and man of small stature and reader of The Discworld Series with a decade in the industry. He trains everyone from beginners to high level athletes. His favourite clients are people getting into the gym for the first time because they can make the biggest changes in their life.
You can reach me through the email address Chris@kershawstrength.com
My Instagram is Chris_Kershaw_Strength.
Thank you for reading!