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Craig McInerney Sep 20, 2018 11:02:10 AM 27 min read

How to earn in the Fitness Industry (Part 2)

Will I be rich or poor if I become a personal trainer?
If you are looking to change career and enter into the fitness industry there are some key things you need to be aware of and some practical advice that will make the transition a smooth and fulfilling one. The following are the lessons I’ve learned from changing career to becoming a fitness professional.
How I did it?
I’d been passionate about sports science, coaching, performance and all things training from a young age but I never really thought I could make a living from it. I went to college for 4 years in Cork did a Bachleor of Science degree and got a government job, then worked in some large american multinationals for a few years. I felt like I was doing the “right thing” and whenever people asked me “what did I do for a living”? they seemed impressed, which made me feel good. I wasn't feeling good everyday though. I didn’t like my jobs, any of them. I had no sense of fulfillment. Changing jobs wasn't going to solve it. I’d already tried that a few times. I needed to do something I loved, cared about and something where I felt like I was actually making a difference. Reaching the end of my 20’s it finally dawned on me the difference between doing what you want to do and doing what you think you should do... is happiness.
I decided I was going to make a change and do what I wanted to do regardless of whether it was a perceived good idea or not. I took my last week's holiday of that year from work and asked the guys in FFS Gyms if I could come and intern for a week and “get a feel for the place”. They agreed. They asked me to come in at 5.30am on the Monday. I later found out that was a test. I passed. Over the next week I got to see everything from the high octane energy of the classes, to the calmer approach of injury rehabilitation for clients and everything in between. I had a new appreciation for the full remit of what was going on and how much bloody hard work it was.
I was all enthused and went head first immediately into getting started. I enrolled in college to do Physical Fitness & Conditioning for Sport diploma, signed up to do an gym instructor course, a personal training course and I also enrolled to become a Precision Nutrition coach.
€8,000-10,000: College course (cheaper if paid in full, I didn't)
€3,800: Gym Instructor & PT cert
€1,000: Precision Nutrition Sports and exercise nutrition
€600: Textbooks etc.
€1,100 on Travel:(Train, Taxis, Buses)
€17,300 to be considered for a position that I wanted at the most basic entry point. I’m not including insurance costs, or start up costs. This was the bare minimum requirements I needed to be allowed to coach clients on a gym floor.
Reality Cheque
I was still working full-time 8.30-5.30 in my job Monday to Friday. My courses involved Saturday/ Sundays in Tipperary (I was living in Dublin at the time and not driving).I used to have get up at 6am on the weekends and get a train to thurles. It involved doing course work on my lunch breaks in work and staying in Saturday nights and doing assignments and lots of times being the first person in the door in Starbucks on a Sunday morning and leaving at 6 to get my shopping that night. It was generally dark, lashing raining and cold.
I completed the gym instructor and personal trainer course. I was doing it during the same time frame as many “full-time students” so I had to bounce around to try and make dates for assessments and course work asking for a few favors here and there to accommodate me.. Getting a bus to Derry for weekends was a particular highlight. Being outside Busaras at 5.15am in the rain on a Sunday morning is character building stuff. I got all the work done, did all exams, and completed the practical's. Roughly 8 months I had my gym instructor and personal training qualifications , I still had about a year and half to go in the diploma. I approached the guys in FFS Gyms and asked if I could intern again and take some classes and discussed the possibility of taking PT’s. I did a few trials classes, took some constructive feedback and then got involved on an interim basis pending a review.
Here is the big lesson that I see people ignore continuously and it is one the biggest pieces of advice I can give anyone. DO NOT GIVE UP THE DAY JOB!
I continued to work like this as much as I could until it was no longer sustainable. The amount of potential personal trainers/coaches/gym owners who clean break and start from ground zero is terrifying and a lot of them unfortunately don’t succeed. I usually get a mail or someone approaches me saying:
“I’m quitting my job, I want to do what you do”
“My son is packing it in and going to start doing courses, he loves fitness”
“I love the idea of just training all day, it must be so amazing”
“ People ask me all the time for advice in the gym I think I could make a living out it”
“I want more of a work life balance”
“I’ll do whatever it takes it’s all I really care about”
“ I’ve always wanted to be involved in sport and coaching but I’m afraid. I’m afraid it will be a disaster , I’ll lose money and I’ll be an embarrassment..but I think it is what I am meant to do”
I always ask them the same questions?
● Do you really want to be a personal trainer or do you want a job where you can train?
● Do you genuinely get excited seeing people do better?
● Does helping someone achieve something they didn't think possible put you in such a good mood that you actually physically can’t hide it?
● Can you afford the commitment of time, money and effort into making it a success?
● Are you willing to work harder and longer hours than you currently are?
● Do you back yourself to be effectively your own boss and all the responsibility that entails both positive and negative?
● Do you think you can actually make a difference?
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions but generally the conviction associated with it can tell you a lot. So ask yourself those questions and honestly answer them before embarking on a new career. If you are happy with the answers it could be one of the most rewarding career moves you’ve ever made and can make a huge difference to finding fulfillment in your life.
You need a reality cheque . In that you need to be able to fund your new career and limit the hit as much as possible to your bottom line. My advice is to keep an income stream and start small and build yourself up as much as possible and then change career. It can be a scary place being in debt from your studies and starting your first day with no clients, rent due, insurance due and start up equipment costs.
Here was my week shortly before I changed career and went full-time into the fitness industry at FFS.
The week before I made the full-time leap:
5.30 wake up. Cycle to gym. Personal Training from 6.00-8.00. Leave gym for work. Arrive at work 8.15. Shower, Breakfast at desk login at 8.30. Finish work 17.30 cycle to gym. Personal Training from 17.50-20.45 Bodyweight circuits for myself .20.45-21.15. 21.30 Make dinner/eat. 22.00-23.00 Continuous assessment assignments for college.
7.45 wake up 8.00 Cycle to work. Arrive at work 8.15. Shower, Breakfast at desk login at 8.30. Finish work 17.30 cycle to gym. Train myself 17.45-18:15 Personal Training from 18:15-20.45..Make dinner/eat. 21.00-22.00..Listen to audio notes on nutrition course 22.00-23.00. 23.00 Bed
5.30 wake up. Cycle to gym. Personal Training from 6.00-8.00. Leave gym for work. Arrive at work 8.15. Shower, Breakfast at desk login at 8.30. Finish work 17.30 cycle to gym. Personal Training from 17.50-20.45 Bodyweight circuits for myself .20.45-21.15. 21.30 Make dinner/eat. 22.00-23.00 Continuous assessment assignments for college. 23.00 Bed
7.45 wake up 8.00 Cycle to work. Arrive at work 8.15. Shower, Breakfast at desk login at 8.30. Finish work 17.30 cycle to gym. Train myself 17.45-18:15 Personal Training from 18:15-20.45..Make dinner/eat. 21.00-22.00..Listen to audio notes on nutrition course 22.00-23.00. 23.00 Bed
5.30 wake up. Cycle to gym. Personal Training from 6.00-8.00. Leave gym for work. Arrive at work 8.15. Shower, Breakfast at desk login at 8.30. Finish work 17.30 cycle to gym. 17.50-20.45 Take classes at gym. Personal training from 20.45-21.15 21.30 Make dinner/eat. 22.00-23.00 Continuous assessment assignments for college. 23.00 Bed
Up at 7.00. Cycle to gym 7.30.Take classes in gym from 8.00-12.00 Personal training from 12.00-12.30. Train myself 12.30-13.30. College Assignment/Nutrition Assignments 1 (this invariably became a time slot where things had to get done for deadlines) 15.00-21.00.. 23.00 Bed
Up at 6.30 get train to Thurles home at 19.00. Dinner at 19.30. Cinema at 20.00. 23.00 Bed
This might look pretty grim on paper but the reality is I loved it. I was finally doing what I wanted and every single day I was getting closer and closer to it becoming a full-time career. I enjoyed my day job more because it was fueling my ambition (financially) and things that in the past that were grinding me down now became non-issues because I knew everything was pushing towards the main goal.
2 things came out of this period:
1)I absolutely knew this was what I wanted to do now.(I wouldn't have kept it up the schedule and study if I didn't )
2)I had the confidence, experience and solid base to make the transition into making it my full-time career. I knew if I worked hard it would be rewarding financially.
If you are working, keep working. If it is something you really want to do. You will make the time and you will make it work. I would have loved to have an FFS Academy model available to me at the time. Even if you hate your job. Why would you cut off your only source of revenue? Let a negative be a positive role in your life. Use the financial stream of your current role to jettison your new career. Get trained up, get your accreditations, get your work experience/internship done. Build up your confidence. Build up a client base so that when you make the transition you have a place to start that isn't rock bottom. The stress, travel and fighting to get in assignments, the stone age learning tools and model I used. (I had a 1,000 page log book and a website that looked like an Atari from the 80’s) is thankfully not the only option available to want to be personal trainers . I am excited to see some of our first students graduating at the FFS Academy. The blended learning model (text/video/audio module options, 3D interactive graphics, and online learning portal) combined with practical actionable takeaway workshops in our city centre based gyms is a new standard in personal training certifications. I’m very proud to be involved and envious I didn't get to do it myself.
Where will I actually make money?
Having said that Money is still a big question. How much can I actually make, where does it come from?
Here’s how I make money
My Revenue Streams:
Personal training clients (1:1, 2:1 and small groups)
Gym Classes (taking classes at FFS Gyms)
Consultations (Nutrition, Screening ,Programing, Goal Setting)
FFS Online Coaching (Programming & Nutrition, testing, trailing different software and selling programs to clients)
FFS Academy (Take Workshops on Nutrition and Movement, Exam Assessor)
FFS Head of Bodyweight training (Draft up, test and implement our Suspension & Bodyweight programs)
FFS Head of Nutrition ( Create content advertising our nutritional services, Recipe videos, Social media etc)
Corporate( Visit offices and give Seminars, Nutritional Workshops, Presentations)
FFS In-house Content (,Training videos, Blogs Drafting Academy Curriculums, Intern Curriculums, Internal docs)
FFS Duties (Responsible for the opening, closing, all facility services when I’m in the gym)
Events (FFS events in collaboration with other partners brunches etc)
80% of your money will come from physically training people , getting hands on and being on a gym floor. This is still where the overall majority of profitable personal trainers make their money and I do not see that changing over the next decade or so. You are offering a premium product . YOU! Your skill set, your knowledge, your personality, your ability to get results. This is the unique selling point and people either value it or they don’t. The value will be based on hard work, building a reputation, your results, the environment/ colleagues you immerse yourself in and referrals from your client/member base. As your reputation increases your value goes up either in rates or number of clients, or both. Personally I am actively working on the 20% with the aim to expand my off the floor revenue but it’s a lot of investment in time, resources and learning curves and it’s important to always keep your eye on the big picture. The harder you work on the 80% the more you can derive from the 20% in time.
Whether you will be rich or poor is all relative, but I will tell you where I am currently . Over the last 2 years I have never had to worry about if I’d have enough money for groceries ,bills, rent, stags, weddings, ski-trips, rugby weekends, holidays, concerts, flights, nights out, meals clothes etc. If I want to ….I’ve able to say yes to everything I want to do. I do not live an extravagant life but I did have to worry and often had to sacrifice things in previous roles and for me I’m much happier financially now than I have ever been and I intend to earn more every year. The fact that I love my job means in every sense of the word I feel “rich” .
In saying that I’ve compiled the following list on how to maximize your earnings as a PT from the start.
Maximize your earnings as a Personal Trainer from Day 1
The 1st client
The first clients you have is a huge opportunity they will either sing your praises or not. There network will be your next clients. You want them telling their families, friends and co-workers about this “fantastic PT”. You won’t have to advertise , you won’t have to offer free sessions(never offer free sessions) they will come to you and that’s how you will grow. I have over 14 long-term clients. From my first 2 clients. I coach sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, housemates,workmates, team mates and partners. They heard about me through that conversational network and that’s how you grow in reality. Social media gives you exposure but real people talking to real people generates real revenue. Hashtags and likes don’t get you paid and it’s easy to forget sometimes.
Earn your dues
You don’t decide you're going to become an accountant and then on your first role you are working on multi-million euro partner accounts. Be willing to learn. Be willing to do the simple unglamorous tasks. Cleaning toilets, cleaning equipment, taking out rubbish. You need experience but more importantly you need exposure to real athletes and real potential clients. Ask to shadow or intern at gyms or with coaches/teams you respect. Treat every day as a potential interview and do your best. Learn from more experienced coaches and soak up as much information as you can. See what they do great and emulate it, see what other coaches do crap and don’t make the same mistakes. If you make a good impression you will generally be offered a role, a rate to work the floor or get a good referral for another opportunity.
Personality goes a long way
Be yourself . You won’t be able to put on an act for the rest of your career. It's called personal training for a reason. People need to like spending time in your presence. They need to look forward to training with you. You need to be a people person. You will get to see people at their best and their worst and everything in between and there is huge trust in that. You need to make that session one of the best parts of their day. You need to be yourself but you also need to be approachable, kind, practice what you preach, be a role model, be compassionate and be interested in people's lives and realize your role in improving it. People will generally refer to your personality first when talking to friends and family and your training methodologies 2nd so it is very important.
The majority of clients will want to train before work early in the morning or after work late into the evenings. The majority of your clients will lead incredibly busy lives with demanding work schedules and challenging family commitments . You will have managers, partners, self-employed and freelance clients who train during the day and can dictate their own schedule but at the start......Those early morning and evenings are going to be the bulk of your work. You need to be available and open to working these times particularly in the beginning otherwise you will not succeed. As you grow more you will be in a position to dictate your schedule more
Walk the Walk, Talk the talk
You need to invest in yourself. Your training, your research your development. People need to respect your knowledge base through your actions, your words or your presence. You don’t have to look like a model or run like a track star but it should be clear when someone is talking to you that you are passionate about what you do, you live the values you espouse and you can offer value to them.
Just Do it
If you are really passionate about becoming a personal trainer . Just do it, but do it smartly! Have a clear plan in place, a good structure surrounding you and choose the best means of obtaining your qualifications that fit within your lifestyle and will make your transition a smooth and financially rewarding one.

Craig is a Personal Trainer, S&CCoach and head of FFS Nutrition at FFS Gyms.
Craig is one of the lead instructors for the FFS Academy specialising in Nutrition and Assessing Movement
To find out more information from Craig E-Mail: Craig@ffs.ie and check out the @ffsacademy on Instagram for regular updates.

Craig McInerney

Craig is Director of FFS Gym at the Ivy Exchange. Our brand new gym located opposite the Rotunda Hospital, just off Parnell Street. He is an S&C Coach, Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach and program director of our Suspension & Body-weight Program across all 3 FFS Gyms. If you would like to know more about training at #ffsnorth contact him at craig@ffs.ie. Email Craig at craig@ffs.ie Find Craig on Instagram at @craig_ffs