Part1: 14 Years, 14 Costly Mistakes: How to Profit from the 14 Lessons I Learned As A Personal Trainer turned Gym Owner

Appearances can be deceiving.

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, or have encountered the fitness brands I’ve helped create, including what you are reading now, The Fit Man Collective, you’d assume I have my shit completely together.

That’s true. But I am still work-in-progress when it comes to being fully prepared to become the best husband and father I can be. I’ve made a lot of costly mistakes over the years as a personal trainer, gym owner and human being. I sucked at life.

Luckily, my epic stuff-ups didn’t cause any collateral damage. Rather than explode, I mostly imploded, so my mistakes only affected my fitness business, so it was me that lost money, me that lost time, and me who suffered hardships.

So, I guess, in theory, if you keep reading, you’ll neither explode or implode, but thrive. Heck, you may even come out of this feeling clairvoyant, able to see the future of you and your fitness business. It’s my version of The Secret, Fit Man style. Visualise it, and it will come, they say.

Easier, I reckon, to manifest your success if you know what to visualise. I mean, if you are a shitty human being, like I was, you are kinda limited. You visualise crap, because that is all you know.

Frankly, I don’t care if you are a convict or Mother Theresa. I’m not here to judge. Leave that to the robes and politicians. Rather, I’m here to empower you. And one way to do that is to paint a vivid picture of how I dropped the damn ball, so that you can visualise what not to do, and instead crack on faster with your epic plans for fitness world domination.

I could list a thousand mistakes. I’m not kidding. For today, though, I’ve selected the 14 biggest and most costly ones. 

Mistake #1: Offering ‘workouts’ made up on the spot

As a personal trainer, it is far-far too easy to think that our clients hire us just for the workouts. In hindsight, this kind of thinking was sheer laziness. And kinda stupid.

I genuinely didn’t notice or care about what a client’s real interests were. I blindly followed what more or less every other trainer did.

Having my client warm up on a piece of cardio equipment with or without me didn’t really matter. During this time, I was either daydreaming (“when will the session be finished”) or trying to slap together a workout plan, which, if I am being honest, was whatever machine or piece of equipment was available. Lazy.

Do you know what’s wrong with this? Apart from looking like a little cheerleader counting backwards from 10 to 1, you’ll continue to charge by the hour (at a very minimal rate), and the chances of that client ever showing up again is very unlikely.

Your shoddy practices and lazy thinking end up lighting up someone else’s bank account, because whatever your commercial gym boss charges the client, you only get a tiny cut off from that. Petite. Might as well wear a pleated skirt.

So, avoid doing trial workouts or “taster sessions” because this isn’t really what we’re trying to sell, or what the client wants. These trials and tasters work against you (and your bank account) because they are suggesting to your clients that this is the most important element of your service offering. So you can only charge based on that. You are more than lackey for someone else’s empire.  Learn how to put together free consultation that results in high paid memberships or hourly fees. For you.  

Mistake #2: Competing on a number of clients I had with other trainers

Growing a number of clients that you serve is fine, but it is not where you should focus your valuable attention.

Having more clients than any other personal trainer doesn’t necessarily make you the better trainer. It only means you have more clients. What good does having 100 clients notched on your belt do when you’re exhausted and broke?

Seriously, would you rather have 100 clients, making you £2500 per month or 50 clients making you £3750 per month? That’s 50% fewer clients, resulting in fewer hours and actually earning £1250 more a month, and £15,000 more a year.

Training as many clients as you humanly can might be a good idea to begin if you are going through the ‘apprenticeship’ phase. You are learning your trade and figuring out which clients you help best, and these sorts of insights come faster if you see more people. This is okay, but have your eye on the real vision: earning more money per client/session. Go into your apprenticeship phase with the mindset that you are already the kind of person who can command higher fees. Then, when you are ready to fully step into your power, get after it.

Mistake #3: Not tracking the all important numbers

When I was a lot dumber, there would have been times that, if you were to ask me how many enquiries I had this month, or how many hot leads, I would have shrugged my oversized shoulders. If you would have asked how many of those leads set up a consultation appointment, or how many of those consultations appointments showed up, or how many of those converted to actual sales, or what the average income made per client was, I would have stared at you like a baby deer in headlights. Well, maybe more like a five-point Buck, but still, the duh-duh look.

Again, we’re talking about laziness here. It is all too easy to treat your personal training services as something other than a business. Even waiters and waitresses understand they are running a miniature business, but sadly not most PTs.

Even if you are still working for someone else, it will do you absolutely no harm to keep a track on your own numbers. See your energy within their business as a proto version of your own business and eventual fitness empire. Know your shit: a number of sessions you complete, the amount of no shows, a number of clients you have, and a number of free sessions converted. Anything that can be measured, measure it.

Knowing these numbers in-and-out provides you killer insights. You’ll know your weaknesses before it’s too late; that is, before you find yourself jammed in at the end of the month, with a few days to spare, panicking how you’re going to find new clients and make up the shortage in income this month from the previous.


Mistake #4: Know how much a client is worth

If you still need convincing about tracking your numbers, then this might just be it. It certainly was for me.

How much is a client worth to you?

For me, a client was worth anything from £3000 to £14,000 a year (not including supplement sales and add-ons).

Okay, let’s play around with the lowest membership fee from above.  On average, a client stays as a member for 3 years.

£3000 x 3 = £9000 LTV (Life Time Value)

Supplements sales on average would be £60 per month.

£60 x 12 months x 3 years = £2160

Total = £11,160

Wait, that’s not all…

The average referral or recommendation a new client would send our way was between 1-2 in the whole 3 years.

Take the “total number” and multiply that by another 2 = £33,480. This then becomes perpetual, which basically means a never-ending cycle, because if 1 client refers 2, and then those 2 refer 2 more, that’s 4, and 4 refers 2  more, then that’s 8 new client/referral, assuming that you have a really good referral system in place.

Knowing a new prospect is potentially worth £11,160 to your business, you’d be a fool not to operate in a whole new way. The blinders would come off. The mountain would come to Moses.

So, if you had 10 leads, and only 2 showed up to their initial consultation, there are 8 prospects equivalent to £89,280 that you’ve missed out on. Using these numbers, it would tell me that my receptionist (or whoever took the initial enquiry) is converting at only 20%. That’s good for website opt-ins, but bad for fitness.

To be the best, you should be aiming for 60%. Knowing that number tells me where to focus my efforts on next month when it comes to staff training. Or if you are still solo, where you need to focus your personal study and development.

When I first learned about the power of these numbers, I combed back through old spreadsheets of prospects; I had 1000s that got in touch with me, but for whatever reason didn’t sign. I could have made more money, saved more, grew quicker and helped more people.

Next up, in Part 2: Why you should be careful who you date, why saving money is critical, how neglecting yourself will ruin everything, and much more. 



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