Welcome to the start of an exciting journey! This is the first step in the process of you earning over $100,000 a year and working less than 20 hours per week. In this article we’ll look at what you need to do to start charging what you’re worth—which I suspect is a LOT more than what you’re charging now. But before we get started, there’s one concern that almost every personal trainer I talk to has around this subject, and that is: “What if I put up my prices, all my clients leave, and I can’t get any new ones. I still have to pay the bills!” Rest assured, I’m NOT suggesting you just put up your prices and not do anything else differently. That would be risky. Instead, what I’m going to show you is a system, that if you apply it as I show you, will have you consistently being able to charge at least double what you currently charge, and often a lot more.
Are you ready? Here goes….
The first thing you need to do is to DIFFERENTIATE your service. That means you need to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Stop being a “me too”. Because if you’re a me too, then you’re a commodity—it’s like buying petrol—people will shop around and only compare you on price. But if you set yourself apart so you have NO competitors, then there’s nothing for clients to compare you to. They stop buying on price, and instead look at you and what you have to offer.
But (I hear you say) given that there are 5,000 new personal trainers graduating every year, how are you going to set yourself apart?
Well, there are actually millions of possible ways to do that, but they fit into two main categories. To understand how this works, we need to look at an important business principle called “The Bathplug Diagram”. Here it is:
Imagine that you’re looking at the cross section of a bathtub, with the plug hole at the bottom. Every business lies somewhere on the curved line. Here’s how it works:
The people who make the highest profit are those at the top left and the top right of the diagram. Those at the top left are the ones who do a small volume of business, but at a very high price with a large profit margin. Like, say, a designer clothes store. Those at the top right of the diagram do a large volume, with low prices and a small profit margin. Like Kmart or Target.
The problem for most people is that they are too afraid to claim either of these two extreme positions. Instead they try to be “everything to everyone”, taking all business that comes along, and charging the least amount they can without going broke. It’s these people in the middle who struggle. The reason for this is that, when the economy goes bad, or “the plug is pulled” on the economy, these are the first ones to go down the drain. So here’s the key: the further up the sides of the bathtub you are, the better you’ll do. You can do that in one of two ways:
Model one: low volume, high price (like the designer clothes store)
This is probably the easiest model to set up. The way you do it is by finding a niche that you can specialize in. There are thousands, if not millions of possible niches out there. The reason that specializing works is that, given the choice, people would rather be trained by a specialist who knows exactly what they need, rather than a generalist who takes all-comers. And people are prepared to pay more for that privilege.
Think about the difference between a GP and a medical specialist. The GP has to see 70 or 80 patients a day, while the specialist sees a lot fewer patients, and charges a lot more!
Model two: high volume, low price (like Kmart or Target)
This model is generally a bit more effort to set up. The way you do it is by finding ways to have a lot more clients without having to spend a lot more hours on the job. That means leveraging your time. Here are two ways you can do that:
- Do group training. Instead of seeing one person and charging $200 an hour (like the specialist) you could see 20 people and charge them each $10 per hour to get the same outcome.
- Hire a lot of trainers to work for you. In this case you teach a lot of other trainers your system, and take a percentage of every dollar they earn. It does mean hiring and managing staff (and all the hassles that can go with that initially), but can be very lucrative in the long term.
For now we’ll concentrate on the first model (low volume, high price), since it’s the generally the quickest and easiest to set up, and is probably not too different from what you’re currently doing.
How to become a specialist
Specialising allows you to do a number of things:
- You can target your marketing for gyms, so you need to do less marketing and you get more clients.
- You can charge more, as people expect to pay more for a specialist, and they’re not just comparing you on price.
- You can work less hours without a cut in income, since your hourly rate goes up.
- You keep your clients for longer, since your training is tailored exactly to suit them.
Exactly what do I mean by “finding a niche to specialize in?” Actually, a more accurate description would be “finding a niche within a niche to specialize in”. In other words, you’re after a fairly narrowly targeted group. When I talk to personal trainers about specializing, they’ll often say to me something like “Oh, I already do that. I specialize in working with women.”
Well, this is NOT what I mean by specializing.
“Women” is a very broad niche. In fact it’s roughly half the people in the entire world! Working with the niche “women” is certainly not what I mean by “specializing”.
Instead, you need to find a niche WITHIN this broader niche.
Here are some examples of niches within the niche of “Women”: overweight women preparing for pregnancy, brides-to-be who want to look their best on their wedding day, or new mums who want to get back in shape after having a baby.
And here are some other examples of niches—Men in their 20s who want to pack on muscle, tri-athletes, people recovering from open heart surgery, paraplegics, people giving up smoking and not wanting to put on weight. Are you starting to get the idea?
Newbie mistake—many people who try to define a niche for themselves for the first time tend to choose a niche that is either too broad or too narrow. The next section will stop you from falling into this trap.
There literally are thousands of “niches within niches” out there. So how do you choose the right one for you? There are a few criteria that a good niche must meet. Here they are:
- There must be a big enough group of people in that niche. It’s no use building a business targeting albino pygmies!
- People in the niche must be hungry for your service—they must really WANT it. For example, targeting couch potatoes who’d rather drink beer and watch the footie than exercise may sound like a noble cause to work on, but the reality is, while they NEED your service, they don’t WANT it badly enough to do something about it. Don’t fall into the trap of choosing a group who really NEEDS your service, but just doesn’t WANT it.
- It should ideally be a niche where you already have a track record, either because it’s something you’ve done yourself, or you’ve successfully trained others in the niche before.
- It’s easy to find people in your chosen niche. Do they all read the same magazine? Do they hang out at the same conventions or expos? Do they all shop at the same store? Do they all buy a particular product? If you can find big groups of them, it really makes your marketing for gyms easy.
- The people in the niche are willing and able to pay for your services. For example while “long term unemployed people” may be a niche that fits the other criteria, they are unlikely to be reliable payers. On the other hand “busy executives who travel interstate at least once a week” are generally willing and able to pay a substantial amount for the right program.
More detail on Part 2