How to gain credibility and clients as a freelance personal trainer

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When beginning a personal training business, credibility is everything. Nowadays, everyone can set up a social media profile, buy some equipment and start calling themselves a personal trainer. But will customers line up in their droves for their services, or merely glance at their content and instantly forget about it? That all depends if potential clients believe in them. Specifically, in whether they possess the relevant skills and expertise.

Whatever stage you’re at in your business, credibility is critical to your success as a personal trainer. Here we share four ways you can prove to potential customers that you’re the real deal.

1) Sort out the basics

Before you start thinking about getting clients and taking names, you need to get the fundamentals nailed down. Namely, getting your certificates and insurance. Although the quality and detail of PT qualifications are up for debate, there’s no getting around the fact you need them in order to appear legitimate. This involves taking courses from Level 1 to 3, which all in all should take around 12 weeks to complete. It might not sound like much fun, but you’ll have an official certificate at the end. So, rather than complaining about it, just get it done — you might even learn something.

Next is personal trainers insurance, which is very important according to insurance providers at Salon Gold, who explain: “A client may sustain an injury while following advice you gave them for their fitness routine. This may lead to a claim for malpractice and spell bad news for your business.” So how do you protect your business from the financial fallout of these kinds of accidents? Simple. Get an insurance policy to guarantee you’ll be protected.

Not only are you free to focus on the more important parts of your business rather than constantly worrying about safety, but it also stamps some credibility on your name. On your website and socials you can reassure customers by mentioning that you are fully insured, perhaps with a little certificate for proof if possible.

2) Pinpoint your training niche before your target audience

Knowing your target audience is crucial, but in order to find out who your customers are, you first need to consider where your expertise lies. It’s all well and good deciding that your niche is going to be middle-aged women who want to lose fat without lifting any dumbbells. But if you’re a 26-year-old man who has spent your entire gym career lifting heavy weights in order to bulk up rather than slim down, it’s safe to say that you won’t be able to offer much experience,  expertise or value. Just because targeting a certain niche is permissible, it doesn’t mean that it would be wise from a business perspective. You’d have to spend a lot of time learning and developing in order to gain the skills required to serve a niche you have no understanding of.

So, take a step back. Where do your training interests really lie? What are you good at? What knowledge do you want to pass on? This will help you pinpoint a target audience. When you first start you probably won’t have the luxury of picking and choosing clients as succinctly as you’d like. Over time, however, start filtering out clients you don’t want by being honest and saying: “I’m not the best person for you.” You could even recommend somebody else — this can help you build relationships with other trainers and also makes you look well-connected in the fitness community. Although you’re losing out on clients, your honesty will grant you more credibility with the clients you do want. After all, if you only train people like them, you must be really good at it.

3) Build a strong online presence that focuses on community

One of the first things people look for when it comes to finding a personal trainer is their previous clients. They want to know what you’re like, whether you were successful, how long it took to achieve their goal, and whether you were fun to train with. To create a consistent and meaningful set of testimonials, have a questionnaire prepared for your clients that you can ask them to fill in after a successful period. Having the same set of questions means that the answers will look uniformed and purposeful when you share them online.

Testimonials bring us onto our next point: a strong online presence. It’s inconceivable in the modern era to ignore your digital profiles, whether these are on social platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok or professional-looking websites. There’s tonnes of inspiration out there — just search the hashtag #personaltrainer on social media to see thousands of fellow trainers posting quality content that their customers love. For websites, some great examples include the likes of Mike Thurston, Joe Delaney and Anna Victoria. And with website builder tools like Squarespace and Wix available, there’s no reason not to create your own.

Once your online presence is established, you can start to build a small following. This will be made up of people you have trained, as well as any prospective clients. Curating this sense of community makes you more approachable and trustworthy. When people engage with your posts by commenting and sharing, these are all markers of community spirit that enhance your reputation, and mean potential clients will look at your services more favourably.

4) Showcase your knowledge for free

Marketing goes hand-in-hand with credibility and here is a useful piece of advice: spend 25% of your working day marketing and 75% training. You may be thinking that 25% on marketing is a large chunk, so what’s the most effective way to spend all that time? We would suggest creating free content showcasing your knowledge and expertise. Curate videos of you in the gym executing movements and talking about form or tempo. Perhaps you’re on a yoga mat doing a four-minute ab routine or maybe you’re offering diet advice on a podcast. Anything that gives your target audience value is always worth sharing, even if you aren’t being paid for it.

With this kind of stuff, some remarkable marketing will be needed to make a statement when there’s so much noise. YouTube doesn’t keep official stats on how many videos are tagged “fitness” but it has been reported that in 2020, viewers watched 5,500 years-worth of yoga videos alone. Even after taking the Covid lockdowns into account, that’s still double the number from the previous year. It might seem impossible to stand out when such a crazy amount of content is available, but you can still pierce through if you give value to a targeted set of people with a variety of PT marketing techniques. Moreover, make sure your uploading schedule is relatively consistent. You won’t believe how many people stick to certain creators because their content has embedded itself within their routines.

Some business owners may push back on the ‘free’ element of content creation. Why should you give away your expert advice for nothing? It’s a valid question, and the answer is that you have to think about the long-term benefits. When people get amazing value from your free content, they’ll assume the services they need to pay for must be even better. The best way to demonstrate credibility is to let your customers see you in action. Once you’ve backed up your credentials with this proof, they will know you are (in)credible.