How to Make 100K as a Personal Trainer

If you’re interested in becoming a personal trainer, contact Chris at the bottom of the page. He’s graduated over 700 personal training students.

Let’s start by making SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  A common question that I hear from trainers is how to make 100k?  Here’s how to make 100k as a personal trainer in 2017. Before I do so, let’s go over my rap sheet as a trainer of 10+ years, teacher, and gym owner:
In 2006, I began working at my first commercial gym.  I made 16k.
In 2008, I was promoted to Head Trainer.  I made 42k.
Between 2006 – 2008 I made a lot of mistakes training e.g. wasted too much time, never planned ahead, didn’t read enough, I wasn’t writing, and didn’t think outside the box on how to help more people.  If I could go back and tell myself two things, it would be to SHOW UP and WORK HARDER (get your ass up at 5am!)
In 2009, I started teaching at the National Personal Training Institute. Teachers don’t make crap.
In 2011, I opened up my first Show Up Fitness in the SF Bay Area (Dublin).  In our first year, we made 16k.
In 2014, I opened up my second Show Up Fitness in Santa Monica.  In our first year, we did 85k.  This year we’re set to gross 150k (already clearing 100k).
This isn’t me tooting my horn (Choo Choo), but in order to give direction on how to make 100k, you sure as hell better be reading from someone who has.  Let me help you make 100k by following these steps:

Step 1- Figure out your worth
In your first 0-6 months at most large box commercial gyms, you’ll be making between $20-30 per training session.  Most trainers begin with zero clients and a handful of floor hours.  During these floor hours, you need to be hustling the floor, making contacts, smiling at everyone, memorizing names, and making an amazing presence- people need to know who you are.  Your goal should be to talk to as many people as you can.  The more people you connect with, the more assessments you’ll schedule.  During these assessments, you’ll be given the opportunity to show your value on why they need to hire you as their personal trainer (PS.  everyone needs a trainer.)  On average, for every 10 assessments, you’ll close three.  Ya that’s right, trainers are like baseball players, we get paid to fail (less than 30-40% is considered awesome.)    As you become a seasoned trainer, that number should go up; at Show Up Fitness, we’re north of 70%.!

In the personal training industry, 25-32 hours is considered full-time (once again, depending on location and self-drive).  In order to make 100k, you need to be bringing in $8,333/ month.  This is the first step in organizing your year.  THIS IS PROJECTED.  YOU’LL NEED TO FACTOR IN SLOW MONTHS, CLIENT ATTRITION, AND SICK TIME.  In my opinion, a great trainer rarely loses clients.  In the course of a year, you should see less than 10% of your clientele leave (relocation, unrealistic expectations, and financial turmoil.)  Here’s what 100k looks like broken down per hour:
At 25/hour you’ll need to be training 80+ hours / week (NOT HAPPENING).
At 30/hour you’ll need to be training 70 hours / week (I smell BURNOUT).
At 35/ hour you’ll need to be training 60 hours / week (plausible especially as a new trainer, you should be hungry at every opportunity to train).
At 40/ hour you’ll need to be 50 hours / week.  Have you ever worked a 50-hour work week?  Ya I thought so.  I’d suggest aiming to make 40/ hour to begin your conquest in making 100k a year.
At $50 / hour = 40 hours         $75 / hour = 28 hours     $100 / hour = 21 hours

What about small group training?  (That’s another article in itself, but I’m going out on a ledge and say that it’s going to drop off around 50% in the next 5 years.)  You need to do your research and find out what the average trainer is charging and their experience.  As you’ll see, the more you charge, 100k seems a lot more reasonable.  At a gym, the price is already set, but as an independent contractor, your rates can vary depending on location and experience.  With that being said, let’s take a look at step #2…

Step #2: Experience & Branding
I’ve had one student graduate in my 6+ years teaching who was able to charge over $100 within his first two years of training.  IT CAN HAPPEN, but you need to get your reps in first.   What is it with today’s society and entitlement?  It took me over five years to make headwind as an established personal trainer.  The 10,000 Hour Rule by Malcolm Gladwell states you need to practice your craft for 10k hours to be considered an expert in your respected field.  That’s 40-hours / week for 10 years.  Where are you on this spectrum?  The take-home message, “SHOW UP, SHUT UP, AND TRAIN.”  Learn how each and every body is unique. 
You need to brand yourself. You’ll never seen me in Santa Monica or Dublin without our SHOW UP logo.

Branding 101:  Who are you, and why should someone train with you (read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow)?  What makes you so damn special?  Start writing… NOW!  Don’t send me a link to someone else’s page, you need to start creating content, TODAY.  Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are a start, but I want to see you blogging on your own website (CreateSpace has user-friendly templates to get you started.)  Go to Barnes and Noble and look at all the catchy titles, “How to build a butt,” or “How to TONE your arms.”  You can’t “TONE” your arms, but you gotta play the game in order to get recognized.  Otherwise, some douche-bag will create some stupid workout that won’t do much.

As you gain experience, get your clients to leave reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, Thumbtack, and LinkedIn.  Every person you encounter, offer to train them in exchange for a review.  I’d challenge you to get at least 10 reviews within the first month.  As your clients get results, document the progress, and update your website with the transformations.  People love seeing people transform, not the questionable ones seen in magazines.  They don’t care how ripped you are or that you’re some model (BFD);so you need normal body types because that’s your clientele.

Having “pretty” people on your website / social media may help with getting more likes, but what about ROI and ROT (Return On Investment / Return On Time)?  Time is money and if you spend hours on social media without any lead generation, is it worth it?  Maybe your posts suck, so get a third parties opinion, and make sure to try around with different styles.  BUT, you need to have social media; just don’t spend more than five-ten minutes a day on it.

As you expand your brand and grow as a person, you’ll need the help of someone who’s been there and done that to prevent burnout.  Enlist the help of others by….

Step #3: Seek Mentorship
Why not buy some of those 10k hours from people who’ve already experienced what you’re going through?  My biggest problem isstubbornness.   I don’t like asking for help.  I want to do it all by myself; my way, and win it all.  That’s the folly of Chris.  I’ve learned throughout my training career that this is a stupid approach.  I should have done an internship under a well-respected strength coach like Cressey, Boyle, or Verstegen- COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA! The world of kinesiology and dietetics is constantly evolving.  If you’re not learning, you’re dying.  If you bust your ass, ask for guidance, and keep a positive f’in mindset, you can realistically within seven years become that pro (five if you’re a true badass.)

If you work at a gym, go up to the top two trainers and offer to pay them in cash to train you once a week.  The trainer will bite at the opportunity for some under the table cash, and you’ll be learning from the highest performing trainer at that gym.  At the end of the day, you’ll be getting tips and pointers from someone who has more experience than you.  I’d be willing to bet that they probably won’t charge you either.  If they don’t GO OUT AND GET THEM A FREAKING GIFT!  Where has the thoughtfulness gone today?   When someone does something nice for you, get them a gift card or something with some thought behind it.  A little thought goes a long ways.

Step #4: Positive F’in Mindset (PFM)
I adopted this term from the great Napoleon Hill and best-selling author Rhonda Byrne of The Secret.  The secret ain’t special y’all, it’s believing in yourself, Showing Up, working hard, and maintaining a PFM.  Of course, they didn’t drop the F-bomb, but vulgarity is more my cup of coffee.  In the 20’s, Hill would’ve lost all credibility by using the F word.  I wrote a book called The Vulgar Truth Diet: Fat Loss II, so it’s all good, I’m the Country Thor cool dude (right? HA).  Maintaining a Positive F’in Mindset is the most important thing you can do.

How optimistic are you?  When life gives you lemons, do you say, “Screw it; let’s make a whiskey lemonade?”  Or are you dwelling on the “negative aspects?”  Why not make everything positive?  If you get fired, it’s a blessing in disguise to find your true passion.  When your significant other dumps you, it means they weren’t the one for you; finding the right one will be spectacular.  At Show Up Fitness, we never lose, we either WIN or Learn.  It’s time for you to adopt a PFM.

If you’re training at a gym making $15 an hour, why is it that people bitch and complain that they aren’t making enough?  You know what the average household in America brings home annually?  Around 50k- for a HOUSEHOLD!  If you’re making $15 an hour as a beginning trainer, be optimistic that you’re working.  The first few years are going to define how successful you’re going to be.  How about you flip that negative-Nancy mentality around and say, “Wow, I’m making 50% more than someone getting paid minimum wage!”  You’ll climb the ladder at work and begin making $30-50/ session, but it takes time.  My dad has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and charges $125 an hour.  You’re a trainer with a certification that you probably got online, do you really think you are worth $100 a session? $75?  Get REAL!  The cash cow will begin to steamroll in after you’ve been training for 5+ years.  Sit tight and be excited about the future; stop being so damn negative, KAM.

Step #5: Work harder, then smarter
The average personal trainer quits within five years.  Why?  In my opinion, it’s because people think personal training is a 9-5; clock in and then you’re done.  In actuality, we take the unwritten oath that we train when our clients are not working, 5-9am, and 4-9pm.  For the first 2-3 years, you need to GRIND IT OUT (I hate that word, but everyone seems to understand its value.)  By implementing step #4 (PFM), and planning accordingly, you’ll be able to prevent burnout.  I wake up between 4-5am, read, write, teach, train, workout for two hours, and then train and teach some more.  Every Monday morning, I spend 30-minutes planning for the week ahead by developing my awesome vs comfort zone list.

Your first two years of training, you need to train as much as possible.  I suggest every quarter attending a seminar to reignite a fire under your ass.  Knowledge is power, it should make you horny, I mean hungry.  Years 3+, it’s time to start working smarter.  Let’s revisit the $8,333 number to make 100k.  You should be charging a premium rate ($75-100 / 60-minute session) which will allow you to train less (sometimes as much as 50%).  On top of your hourly rate, discover ways to supplement your monthly income such as online clients.  If you had 10-online clients paying $100 a month for a program, that’s an extra grand a month (1-step closer to your goal of achieving the 100K).  What about finding a protein bar, powder, or supplement to sell to your clients? If you’re a trainer, supplemental income is huge. Just ask Bill Murray from Kingpin

Write a book and sell on Amazon for $9.99?  “The top 50 techniques to lose fat” – If you had a few Ebooks on your website that generate a few units per month, it’ll start adding up.  On top of it all, create some sort of clothing brand that you can sell online.  I’m working on some shirts that say BUFF JESUS & LET’R RIP.  After watching Mathew McConaughey’s speech delivered to the Texas Longhorns. I’ve gotta make some shirts that say LET’R RIP!  Ideally, you’ll have 1-2k coming in supplementally online via your website and products, which leaves 5-6k to make it through training.

By implementing the aforementioned steps, you’ll be on your way to six-figures.  You need to remember why you became a trainer in the first place.  To help people.  If you focus on making more money, you can easily burn out.  Here’s one last step to prevent burn out by…

Step #6: Continuing your education
Every day, when I wake up, I’m excited to learn more, help as many people as I can, and continue to grow.  Isn’t that what life is all about?   If you’re not reading at least a book a month, you’ve got major work to do.  Don’t be that “YouTube trainer” who’s constantly watching flashy videos on trendy exercises.  I know it’s important to increase your exercise library, but results come from Showing UP, implementing the patterns of movement (vertical push & pull, horizontal push & pull, squat, hinge, carry, and unilateral movements), and owning the mechanics!

Here are some great people to follow: Tony Gentilcore, Bret Contreras, Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Dr. Stu McGill, Ben Bruno, Sohee Lee, Mike Reinold, Molly Galbraith (Girls Gone Strong), Dean Somerset, Dan John, Dr. Mark Cheng, Dr. Jacob Wilson, Thomas Plummer, Tim Henriques, Robert Palka, John Berardi, Andrew Vigotsky, Brad Schoenfeld, Nick Tumminello, Mike Israetel, and John Rusin (SHORT LIST, I PROBABLY FORGOT 100’s OF NAMES.)

Here are a FEW great books to START out with (I’m in the process of developing the ultimate personal trainers start-up kit for continuing education):
Fitness (Text style):  Starting Strength (Rippetoe), Easy Strength (John & Pavel), Designing Resistance Training Programs (Kraemer), Advances in Functional Training (Boyle), 2×4 (Contreras), All About Powerlifting (Henriques).

While 100k is a great starting point, I’d challenge you to aim higher.  Why not 200?  Why not 500?  Why not a million. Or a Billion. Interested in becoming a personal trainer?  Contact Chris who’s a teacher at NPTI and graduated over 700 students to learn more.  530-520-2664.