By Chalene Johnson
I WORK EXACTLY TWO MORNINGS A WEEK. I own and operate a Mobile Personal Training company that services the majority of Orange County, California. When I first started, it was a one woman operation; just me and my clients. Now I oversee anywhere from 2 to 5 trainers. I personally train clients only two mornings a week. This allows me to dedicate the rest of my time to my adorable little guy.
To be a mobile personal trainer you really don't need more than about $200 in equipment. All of the equipment fits nicely in the back of a S.U.V. or tightly in the trunk of most cars. My employees and I drive our own vehicles. As trainers we go to primarily female clients' homes and provide for them a one hour personal training session in the comfort of their home, garage, apartment, or backyard. Some trainers set-up a room in their home and have client's come to them for their sessions. I don't find this option to work as well as going to them. For reasons of safety and liability, I only send female trainers to female clients. 98% of my calls are, in fact, from women.
The typical client is in her mid 30's to late 40's, middle class (not upper class as you might presume), 15 to 20 pounds overweight, and with a couple of kids.
Many interested clients are under the myth that they will need to have a large house, work-out room or at least some exercise equipment. Not true! That's the beauty and appeal of our service -- we provide all the equipment necessary for a cardiovascular or strength training work-out. Each trainer is equipped with the following: Step, Reebok Slide, 5 pairs of free weights 5#, 8#, 10#, 12# and 15#, Elastic tubing, specifically several resistance options of Ultra-Toners and Exertubes obtained to SPRI Fitness products, a Stability Ball, Clip Board, a Milk Crate to hold clients' records, and a map of the County.
A snap shot of a typical session: Lori has two kids, a 6 month old baby and 2 1/2 year old wild man. She has a small house, so we train in her backyard. By the time I arrive at her house, she has warmed up by just finishing a local aerobic class or a power walk with the baby jogger. Both children are with us. I help to keep the 2 year old occupied by applauding his basketball shot or returning an occasional hockey puck, all the while instructing Mom through a basic strength training program. Often we put the 6 month old in a front pack while Mom executes her lunges. Now get this...the baby weighs at least 16 pounds and on top of that this Mom holds 12 pound weights in each hand...TOTAL = 40 POUND LUNGES. This ain't no walk in the park work-out!!!
When the 6 month old is not in the front pack, I help to keep her amused by holding her and letting her watch her Mommy do all these silly things or we incorporate her into the work-out as resistance. I tell my clients up front that they don't need to hire a sitter. I come prepared to do double duty… trainer and child entertainer. Some Mom's, however, want an hour with their trainer... alone. For these Mom's we recommend scheduling sessions when Dad's available or arrange for a sitter.
It's amazingly easy to become a personal trainer; one need only prepare and take an exam. The certification process is (in my opinion) almost too easy! There literally dozens of certification companies, all of which have something different to offer. In my booklet, "Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Own Personal Training Company", we discuss the pros and cons of each. Don't assume that the most expensive one or the one with the greatest name recognition is right for you. To get certified will cost you between $99 and $400. One of the very best organizations runs a special once a year for $99 if you can get to one of the major cities on their event schedule. Getting yourself prepared for the exam is another story. I know people who decided they wanted to become personal trainers then registered, studied and aced the exam in less than a month! Most organizations certify you in one day. Several organizations offer a weekend type workshop to accompany the process, which is wonderful if you really feel you'd like a little hands on practice and reassurance. There are also several home study courses available, also very comprehensive.
Personal Trainers are not all gym-rats, hard-bodies or swimsuit models. Some of the most "average bodied" trainers are the most successful. You have to be a likeable/positive kind of person to do this. People can figure out how to sweat on their own. BUT people will pay top dollar for someone who helps them ENJOY working out!
In-Home Trainers, on a national average, charge clients $45 per hour (source: IDEA 1998 Personal Trainer Survey). That number climbs a little higher each year. In larger cities that rate climbs around $75 an hour. I train small groups (2-3) for $65 per hour.
Pull out a calculator and figure out how many hours you would have to work in order to make what you need. In order for me to earn the kind of money I need I work two mornings a week. I start my first session at 6:00 a.m. and allow for about 20 minutes of drive/set-up time between clients. My last session of the day is at 12:00. I typically can fit 5 sessions in before 1:00 p.m. That's about 10 sessions a week (two days) totaling between $500 to $600 a week. I work a very light schedule. In my area of Orange County, California its common place for in-home trainers working around 20 - 25 hours a week to make between $900 and $1200 weekly.
I have 5 regular clients who train twice a week. If they can't fit into my schedule I refer them to someone else. This seems to create demand and I've never had a shortage of clients to train at the times I'm available. Even if you live in rural Georgia…getting clients is a breeze if you know where to look and what to avoid!
Personal Trainers have one of the highest reported job satisfaction rates of any career; some resources list it as high as 81%. I can only speak from my perspective. My clients are my best friends. I actually look forward to spending time with each one of them and helping them obtain their fitness goals. It's hard for me to remember the days when I was working in an office. Every day the thought of calling in sick crossed my mind. If you are passionate about working out and spending time with others -- why not turn it into a paycheck you actually enjoy earning!!
You really don't have to have to be a 20 something fitness model to be successful at personal training. You do have to love fitness, be a good motivator and a good listener! If you have those qualities and are looking for a low stress career...this is it!
Chalene Johnson is a business consultant, columnist and public speaker from Orange County, California. She markets a "how-to" publication entitled, "Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Own Personal Training Business". To purchase her informative booklet call 1.800.315.2505 or go to www.powderblueproductions.com To reach Chalene by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.