Goal Setting Your Future as a Personal Trainer

Learning how to run a business is equally important as learning how to become an excellent trainer. I worked solely on becoming a better trainer for 3 years straight. Unfortunately at the end of the day, my business was still failing because I didn’t know how to run it. It took me 3 hard years of working ridiculous hours, many sleepless nights, stressful days, overwhelming anger and frustration to the point of tears for me to take the simple advice someone gave me when I started. “For every book you read on strength training, nutrition, or mobility, read one on business.” Don’t make the same mistake I did. Since March of this year, I hired a business coach, started reading business books, and have invested more in my business than the past 3 years combined. Business is booming. I’ve become one of the top trainers in my club, become a positive influence to other trainers, and can pick and choose who I want to work with. I’m so glad I finally listened, but there’s still a lot of work to do. There is no one right way to run a business. There is only the way that works for you, works for your clients, and allows you the freedom to not work yourself to death. Now it’s time to decide on what kind of business works well for you and what it’s going to take to get there. Plan out your success from the top down.

Don’t wait to set long term goals

Determine your end goal. There is nothing more frustrating for a personal trainer than showing up to work each day and going through the motions. Same clients, same programs, same routine, same struggles. If you want to eventually be able to reach more people and make more money, you need to start thinking further ahead than next week. Start by making a plan for the future. Do you want to work at the gym you’re at for the next 20 years, travel the world and work with clients from a computer, or just simply move up a level at work so you can get paid more? Whatever your goal is, it won’t happen without planning ahead.

Plan your success from the top down

Let’s say your goal is to take home $4,000 gross income per month while working at your current gym. Instead of randomly showing up to work each day, trying to fill your schedule with whoever will take you and hoping to hit your end goal by some miracle, sit down for an hour or two a week and figure out where this money is going to come from. Let’s look at a basic breakdown:
  • $4,000 per month take home
  • How much do you get paid per session?
  • How many sessions do you need to do in order to hit that number? (take into account cancellations and whether or not you will charge them)
  • How many clients you need?
  • How often does each client need to train with you?
  • Where will these clients come from? (off the floor, referrals, new member integration if you have it - pick the one you’re best at and go hard)
  • Based off how many sessions you have currently served, how many more do you need to in order to hit your goal?
  • Get started
Start with a small, realistic goal. There is nothing that makes you feel worse than setting a lofty, unattainable goal. As an example, when trying to up my performance at work, I set my session goal at 110 per month when I was already hitting 100 per month. I knew that most people trained with me twice a week, so I only needed to take on one to two more clients and I’ve hit my goal. Since I was good at talking to people on the floor and integrating new members, that’s where I started. Within a month I was serving 110 no problem. Once I started hitting 110 per month consistently, I upped my goal to 115-120 sessions per month raising my overall income by $570-760 each month. From there I moved it up more. 120 to 130. 130 to 140. Each month I planned to do a bit better than last month. Some months I hit and some months I didn’t. By the time I hit the 140 mark, I was bringing in an additional $1,520 a month putting me over my original goal of taking home $4,000 a month. I felt no additional stress because I learned to manage my workload as the session count went up. As I mentioned before, I became one of the top producing trainers in my company and actually worked less hours than most other PTs. Emails from managers from other clubs inside our company started contacting me to tell me they noticed a huge upward trend in my business over the last couple months. It didn’t happen by accident. I used this exact method. This didn’t come without failures here and there. I made many mistakes on the way and took each mistake as a learning opportunity and you should too.

Be prepared to put in work and learn

Do you remember the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Here’s a new one, “Rome wasn’t built by sitting around thinking about the perfect way to build it and never actually getting to work.” Building up your business, writing a popular blog, or becoming the expert everyone reaches out to with questions is not an overnight process. It takes dedicated work consistently over a long time period to become recognized. One simple way to do this is to follow the steps I’ve shown you, write about things people care about and offer free fitness advice to current gym members. Having 100 drafts and 0 articles doesn’t help anyone including yourself as much as having a ton of helpful information inside your head, but not sharing it with members doesn’t help anyone. If you’re worried about sucking at this, you don’t have to - because you will. It’s called learning. Your skills will get better over time with practice and the help of an experienced mentor. Being successful at anything means you’re going to overcome some struggles. There will be days here and there when you get frustrated and want to quit - don’t. It gets better, but you need to find the right tools to help you and your business grow.


As I mentioned before, success is not an overnight process and it definitely isn’t a linear one either. Your business will succeed or fail on whether or not you can learn from past mistakes and use other’s mistakes as a learning opportunity. The most beneficial thing I’ve ever done for my business was to hire someone to help me. My business coach looks at my business from an objective point of view and tells where I can improve or when something just isn’t working for me. This will be an investment, but if done correctly it will one with great return on investment. Don’t be afraid to invest some time, work, and financial resources into your business.

Plan for your success

Plan ahead if you want to be succeed. Have something to work towards and build your future as a successful PT. If this is a serious goal for you, why not start taking it seriously right now?
James Harris
James Harris is a certified personal trainer, who also studies kinesiology at the University of the Fraser Valley.