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I am now 3 days into my first ever planned vacation. I’m staying home, other than day trips, but it is still a vacation for me because it is (mostly) time away from work. I still have one follow up consult and I need to wrap up my bootcamp on Tuesday and Thursday evening. It’s not a complete week off, but I’ll take it. Events that happened yesterday really got me thinking about the last 5 years within this industry.
The first thing that happened was a bootcamp I was sought out to run fell through the cracks. No marketing/ promotion happened (which was the responsibility of the owners of the facility). A week out from the start date I emailed to see what was going on. Long story short it isn’t happening. Those spots I had left open in my schedule I am now left to fill.
The second took me off guard. A business needed into the training studio I work at (As in teach classes at… I am not a manager, I have no say on anything.). They got my phone number and called me on Sunday afternoon demanding I show up on Monday (A HOLIDAY MONDAY IN CANADA. Yes, it deserves caps.) and sit there for 2 hours or so while they film something. I explained it was my vacation and I am supposed to be headed out of town so I would have to think about it. When it dawned on me that I would have to sit there for 2 hours, on a holiday, on my vacation, for free, and delay MY vacation plans I said no. The lady was upset and proceeded to try and make ME feel bad because the owner of the studio is on vacation and this is the only day they can shoot. I don’t know about you, but if I only had ONE day to shoot a video somewhere I would make damn sure in advance that I had it booked. I wouldn’t be demanding employees go in on their vacation. She also said “We can meet you there at 4 am if it works better to get it over with”. YES, let me jump out of bed at 3 am to be there for 4am so you can use my key to get into the studio. Brilliant idea. She then suggested I leave my key with them and give them the code for the alarm and they will lock up. Sureeeee…. Then I am held responsible when something goes wrong. Anyway, I stood my ground. More people from production proceeded to call me. I ignored the calls. I am now the “bad guy” in this situation.
This got me thinking about what I wish I had known about the industry from day 1. It has taken me a long time to set up boundaries. I started out working for a company in Canada that forced you to do consults for free. FOR FREE. THEN they would force you to “work the floor” for free when you weren’t training. You were forced to stay there for 8 hours a day, regardless if you had clients or not. When I picked up a part time job, which obviously interfered with my ability to work for free all the time, I got lectured about my “commitment to the job”. Back in the day I thought this was normal.
I’ve worked at some fabulous facilities and I’ve worked at some crap facilities. I really enjoyed my time at The Athletic Club Guelph and Waterloo. I am also enjoying my time at Tease Fitness Studio. The best decision, however, that I ever made was creating my own business.
Here is my advice for aspiring trainers (In no particular order):
1) Set up boundaries from day 1.
(Everything else fits under this but I also wanted it to be it’s own point.)
This industry will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. Most places of employment don’t deal with people that speak up because they have a stack of resumes filled with people with NO boundaries who are willing to work for free or be walked all over. That shouldn’t be you. There ARE better opportunities out there to get experience at. The choice is also yours to start your own business.
Think of it like this:
If you get paid $18 an hour to do personal training and the facility charges $65 the business is making $47 off of your hour of time!!!! YOU should be making that money. Start small with your own business. Do in home training. Do something to get your name out there. Happy clients refer business so always go above and beyond (WITHOUT giving things away for free).
2) You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with… Including your time online.
I know my parents drilled this into my head as a kid. This doesn’t even just go in terms of perception you give others based on your associations, it also goes for how you grow as a person.
Places of employment:
I know some good trainers that are labeled as “bad” trainers just because of the company they work for, which has a rep for hiring sales persons that train, rather than trainers that sell. Think long term. Think about your business down the road. Do you want to be associated with that company long term? Do you want to be giving other people the majority of your earnings per hour forever (You are essentially making business owners richer while you do all the work.)? Who do you look up to? Who do you want to end up like? I look at it as renting a house vs buying. Do you want to invest in yourself or hand your money over to others.
These are all questions to ask and don’t be afraid to do what is best for YOU.
There are days when I wonder what I bring to the table for my friendships. I know I do bring a lot but when you have such inspiring friends sometimes it is hard to see it. A good friend of mine was brought on board for the 100 Miles of Wild, North Dakota Badlands Transect. (You can read more about it here: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/wild-side/green-athlete-running-wild and here: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/wild-side/green-athlete-running-wild-part-2. Her blog is here:http://lacesandlattes.com/). When you can say such inspiring people are your friends it inspires you to strive for your dreams and do more. They bring out a better side of you, rather than bringing you down.
Now, I think like minded people are naturally drawn to each other, so I don’t think it’s hard for this one to fall into place. But even in terms of training, do you want to be associated with the trainers that flake on their clients, who are unreliable, etc, or do you want to be associated with reliable, trust worthy individuals.
Where you get your information from and where you spend your time online have a huge impact on you as a trainer. I personally spend my time learning from Erik Ledin of Lean Bodies Consulting, Scott Abel and Dr Layne Norton. For “fun” I check out mobilitywod and read blogs of those that inspire me. I “get” something out of my time online. This information is also good, solid, research based information that will advance me as a trainer and athlete. Pick your mentors wisely.
4) Know your craft, and if you have questions then ask.
Some people don’t see through bad instructors or trainers, and I guess good for you if you are pulling the wool over peoples eyes. The problem is that people that DO know better see this and word travels damn fast in this industry. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You aren’t supposed to know it all. No one does. It is ok to say you don’t know the answer or refer someone that will be able to help them. Again, you will be respected MORE for referring a client to someone else then guessing your way through it and messing up their body. They will tell people and business will come to you.
Have you noticed once you become a trainer EVERYONE wants help with training, everyone wants a program, everyone wants nutritional guidance, everyone wants to know how to get to their goals…. But very few are willing to pay well for it. Friends suddenly want your service and expect, because you are friends, that it is free or comes cheaper. Someone buys an online program and wants you to meet with them constantly to go over movements so that they know they are doing it right. Half hour meetings turn into an hour. “Free” consults turn into them asking questions to try and build their own program. The list goes on.
STAND YOUR GROUND. This is a business for you. This is how you pay your bills. People will pay for what is important to them. By them asking for half off or free programs then buying the new LuLuLemon summer wardrobe they are sending you a CLEAR message: They find new clothes more important than the service you provide. They are also showing you how much they DO NOT respect you or your time.
If you want everyone else to have everything you want, then fine. Give it all away. If you actually want to build a business then CHARGE people and charge a price that is appropriate.
6) Set hours and stick to them!
I think every seasoned trainer can relate to this. I always see posts on facebook about trainer friends training 11 clients back to back. I guess if you enjoy that then great. It doesn’t have to be that way though, and I question the energy you are able to put into that 11th client when you are starving and exhausted.
Make a schedule and stick to it. If you don’t want to work weekends then don’t. It is easy to start bending the rules because so and so can ONLYYYYY workout Monday at 3am, Wednesday at 11 pm and Saturday at 6am. You feel bad saying no so you start bending your schedule for one person, then two, then three… And before you know it your schedule looks nothing like it was supposed to. If a client wants to work with you bad enough they will find a time that works. Trust me.
7) Treat your clients with respect.
Like I said before, word travels fast in this industry. If you are a jerk to everyone you meet then no one will want to work with you. Even on days you are tired (I have insomnia, I get it), over worked and just want to lie in bed make sure to still give your clients the service they deserve. They are paying for your knowledge and time, not for someone to treat them like shit. Also, happy clients will refer business to you. The best way I went about building my brand and business was providing top notch service to my clients, which led to referrals. I genuinely care about their success and I want to see the best for them. I push them when needed, I can be tough when needed but I always show them respect and listen to them. Maybe it is my education in Psychology, but providing someone with a great program is only half the battle. If their mind isn’t in it they won’t follow through properly. Listen to your clients and find out what is going on in their life that may stand in the way of their goals. Show a genuine interest in them. Show you care.
Also, not every trainer is right for every client. Some people won’t like your approach. That is OK!! Refer them to someone that is a better fit.
8) Never stop learning.
You don’t know it all. Continue to take workshops, certifications and read books/ articles. I can completely relate to certifications being expensive and sometimes the funds just aren’t there. That isn’t an excuse for not learning. You can learn from so many people online or pick up some books that interest you.
This is clearly not all encompassing. It is meant to serve as a reality check for new trainers. You NEED to set boundaries, respect yourself and your knowledge, and make a living from your career (otherwise it is just a hobby). Set yourself up for success. It may seem detrimental to your career to say “NO”, to ask questions about a sketchy employer, request more pay, increase fees, etc but long term you will attract the right kind of clients that will enrich your life and help you build a successful brand. Make decisions in the short term that set you up for long term success. The opportunities are there in this industry. You just need to take a chance on yourself, go after them and make them happen.