Anyone who runs their own business and has read the fantastic book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, will have had a lightbulb moment that hopefully revolutionised the way they do things (working on their business, rather than in it, as Gerber would say).
It’s worth noting at this point that most personal trainers are sole traders or the only person in their company, and are in the situation, initially at least, where they only earn money while they are physically with clients, meaning income is limited by how many hours you work. This is why many would say ‘traditional’ PTs have a self-employed job and aren’t actually running a businessat all, as a true business enables you to earn while sat at home doing nothing. In the modern world of the internet, online training and the sale of information products has changed this situation, removing the limit on earning potential.
However, whether you’re a sole trader selling your time, or have multiple revenue streams, the principles of The E-Myth still apply and can make the difference between working long hours for little return, and making the money you want whilst working less.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, the E-Myth is this:
"Because I am good at the technical aspects of my job, I would be great at running a business based around that job".
Thus the 'E' stands for 'entrepreneur'. So for example, a plumber who considers himself to be adept at fixing taps and installing showers, may believe he could run a successful plumbing business. This may of course be true, but it requires the plumber to have sufficient ability in the fields of marketing, sales, accounting and administration, amongst others (or at least the desire to learn them very quickly). Without the skills to run a business, the individual is left with nothing more than the trade skills that enable them to fulfil a job, which is what they were doing before.
Applied to the fitness world, many personal trainers fall victim to a version of the E-Myth - but they are not in the same situation as someone who already has a job in the industry in question. Indeed the problem often arises before they have even begun their qualification. The version of the myth is:
"I enjoy exercise and training, therefore I can run a business training other people."
Again, this proposition can be true in many cases. However the two fundamental points to consider for a lot of budding fitness professionals are 1) training yourself is not the same as training someone else; someone who has different goals, different motivation and different physiology, and 2) being able to coach someone in exercise and nutrition is one thing, but finding them in the first place and getting them to pay you for it is another.
The first issue is of course addressed by completing a quality personal training qualification along with continual research and learning, which all trainers should want to do. However, this contributes to the second problem. Far too many people come into the industry with boundless passion and enthusiasm for training and helping others but no idea of the harsh realities of business. There are some frightening statistics around how many personal trainers leave the industry, not because they have lost their love of exercise and fitness, but because they can't make a living.
This isn't meant to be a cynical and negative slur on the industry - the intentions of those who want to become part of it are genuine, commendable and much needed in our current society. Instead it is a plea to those people to learn as much as they can about business. Study courses, attend seminars, read books and watch videos about branding, marketing, sales, management and accounting, to make sure you're prepared for success. Of course you can't learn everything - like the technical aspect of personal training your education is never-ending - but by being aware of where you need to further your knowledge you can at least 'know what you don't know', which, although initially scary, is a lot less dangerous than not knowing what you don't know in an increasingly competitive market.
Paul Swainson is Head of the Future Fit School of Personal Training, a role to which he brings over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Having run his own personal training business and worked as a PT manager and tutor for some of the UK’s leading brands, his aim with the School of PT is to provide the next generation of fitness professionals with all the support and resources they need for a successful career. You can follow him on Twitter: @PaulSwainson