22 December, 2014

5 of The Hardest Parts of Being a Personal Trainer… And How to Manage Them

Being a personal trainer is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding careers you could choose, but it’s also full of challenges. Here are five challenges of personal training, and some ideas for managing them:

  1. Getting used to having an irregular income. If you’ve come from a background of working a regular 9-5 type job, chances are you’re used to getting paid x amount at the same time each week, fortnight or month, and budgeting accordingly. As a personal trainer, you’ll generally earn a different amount each week depending on your schedule, which can make managing your bills a real challenge. One option for handling your finances is to keep two bank accounts. One, that your earnings go into, and another into which you pay yourself a salary. That way, on the weeks you take home extra pay, you can keep something aside for a rainy day, and on the weeks that you have less clients or have to take time off work, you can still pay yourself your regular amount by digging into the main account.
  2. Missing your usual social life because your working hours are the opposite to your friends. This one can creep up on you if you don’t pay attention to your lifestyle. If you’re doing late nights and early mornings and maybe even weekends, you have to say no to a lot of invitations. Casual dinners are often hard to fit in, and you’ll miss a lot of birthdays. But you can use your time creatively and still stay social – arrange to meet up with your friends on their lunch breaks, invite them to join your group classes, make new friends who work shift jobs, and consider taking at least one night a week where you finish early so you can go out for dinner with your social circle. As you build your client base, you’ll be able to have a bit more choice about your hours and things will get easier, but  in your first few years, it pays to think outside the box to make sure you maintain a rich social life.
  3. Getting enough sleep. It’s hard to preach a healthy lifestyle when you know you’re not being as healthy as you could be. And it’s hard to be as healthy as you could be when you’re not getting enough sleep – and if you’re working til 8.30pm and getting up again at 5am, chances are you aren’t.  Until you reach a point of having more choice about your schedule, one small thing that can help you to maximise the sleep you can get is using your free time in the afternoon to prepare everything for the following day and make your bed, so that when you get home from work at night all you have to do is wind down and go to sleep, and when you wake up everything is ready to go. If you have trouble switching off, YouTube is full of relaxation videos that you can just listen to the audio of.
  4. Clients cancelling. This one can be as frustrating as it can be demoralising, especially in the beginning. Most trainers employ a cancelation fee for people who don’t give 24 hours notice, and this can help ensure people don’t skip training sessions for no reason, as well as back up your income. The down side is that it can build ill will, discourage people from purchasing multi-session packages, and mean that clients come to sessions when they’re contagious. A different option is to fill your schedule with more back-to-back clients than you think you can handle (never doubling up of course!), knowing that at least one of them will probably cancel, leaving you with a manageable work load. I’ve found this to be a successful approach.
  5. Keeping records for tax time. The administration side of things can be a real nightmare if you’re not a naturally organised person, but there are some simple hacks you can employ to make things easier.  A filing cabinet (or even better, filing drawers) with marked sections for expenses, invoices, permits,  PAR-Qs, etc makes filing easy, while a spreadsheet stored in Dropbox (so you can access it from your phone) makes your timetable easier to manage. Consider paying a bookkeeper for a few hours of their time to come up with a system that works for you, and allocate 15 minutes every day to keeping on top of your records.

Don’t give yourself a hard time if you feel like you’re getting through your first year by the skin of your teeth – the learning curve, not just on the job, but for managing the job, is huge, and if you can get through that first year, everything after that will seem so much more achievable.

Along the way, take time to reward yourself for all your hard work, focus on how far you’ve come, and surround yourself with people who see your potential. The journey may be challenging, but it will also be filled with laughter, gratitude and amazing people you might never meet otherwise.

Do take time to enjoy it! Good luck!


Written by Shelley Lask of Body Positive Health & Fitness

Shelley is an AFA Graduate and AFA Ambassador

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