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The Learning Plan You Need to Maximize Your Income as Personal Trainer (or Gym Owner)

By Sean Greeley

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Whether you’re a newly certified personal trainer, an established career professional, or a studio owner… you’ll benefit from investing time in learning new business skills to continue advancing your career.

But what business skills should you focus on learning to best grow your income in the year ahead?

That answer is different for everyone.

When most people think about growing their fitness business, they think that growth is all about mastering marketing. They (incorrectly) think that if they just have more leads, they’ll surely have more clients and revenue, and that will allow them to achieve all their goals.

But they’re wrong.

Starting and growing a successful business requires a diverse set of skill sets across several domains. In this article we’ll review each of them and give you direction to how to design your own professional learning plan to best advance your goals.

Let’s start by exploring 5 powerful fitness business growth questions that will drive your continued success in the long term.

As you think and reflect on your answers to each question, I want you to self-assess how confident you feel in your answer. Give yourself a score from 1-5 (with 1 being not very confident and 5 being extremely confident).

Question 1: How well have you defined what success looks like for your career and business in the year ahead? How well developed a plan do you currently have to achieve your goals? 

Business strategy is a term that is confusing to most. It essentially refers to the plan you have created to achieve a goal. Which of course begins with clearly defining your goals in the first place.

What exactly do you wish to achieve? How will you measure success?

Have you created a plan that you’re confident will lead you to success?  And if you’re a business owner or in a position of management… how will you best lead (and align) other team members on the journey with you?

Finding better answers to these questions requires spending time in the domains of Leadership, Strategy, and Team Development.

The better you’re able to powerfully lead yourself and others… the faster you’ll be able to increase velocity toward achieving your goals.

Question 2: How well do you know WHO is the best client for your business, WHERE you’ll find them, WHAT you’ll say to engage and inspire them, and HOW you’ll lead them to commit to the journey required to achieve their goals (and sign up for your programs)? 

In the fitness services industry, success begins with defining WHO is the best client for your business. What types of clients do you most love working with (new moms, busy professionals, seniors, athletes, or kids)? What problems do you most love solving (pain management, increasing mobility, fat loss, muscle hypertrophy, increasing sports performance)?

Once you’ve defined your WHO, you must learn where and how to find them. There are many strategies you can use to find and engage prospective clients, including advertising, public speaking, networking, referrals, and more. Creating and executing a marketing plan to grow your client base will almost always require stepping outside your comfort zone. You’ve got to learn new skills WHILE rapidly implementing them (and making mistakes along the way) to connect and engage your market.

Next: What will you say to inspire them? Learning how to best communicate a powerful message that engages your prospective clients and inspires them to take action isn’t easy. It takes a deep understanding of the market, your competition, and growth in your communication skills.

And most important of all… once you’ve done all that… you must effectively lead your prospective client to say “YES!” by voting with their wallet and signing up to work with you. Without each of these things in place, nothing happens.

Question 3: How clear are you on WHAT success looks like for your client and HOW you’ll deliver unique value in serving them to differentiate your business from the competition?

The better you understand the desires/goals and problems/challenges of your clients… the better positioned you are to powerfully serve them.

But that’s just the beginning.

Creating and delivering a powerful client journey requires technical competence in your ability to assess a client’s needs and design a program that both solves their problems and leads them to achieve their goals.

Not only that, but to assist your client with implementing the program, you must be confident in teaching movement technique, and be skilled at leading powerful conversations to support and challenge your clients with establishing new lifestyle habits.

Working with clients after they’ve signed up is where we get the chance to finally deliver value to them. The more value we deliver, the more we’re able to uniquely differentiate our business from the competition. All of which is key to client engagement, satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value.

Question 4: How well do you understand the numbers (and decisions) that drive revenue, profitability, and cash flow in your business?

Most people don’t get into the fitness industry because they want to get rich. But everyone soon discovers that struggling to support yourself makes it tough to stay in the game doing work you love. In fact, the reason most professionals leave the fitness industry (and business owners close their doors) is because they simply aren’t making enough money to pay their bills.

That’s why it is critical to spend time learning and understanding critical areas of competence in accounting and finance. This includes an understanding of margins, business cost structures, how to read a profit & loss statement, how to read a balance sheet, and the ability to forecast business revenue and cash flow.

And if you feel like you’ve got to go find a dictionary just to understand the meaning of the terms I used above, you’re not alone.

Accounting and finance is not a natural area of competency for most fitness professionals and small business owners. But without an understanding of these important areas, you’ll be flying blind and be unable to understand the critical numbers required for making good business decisions.

Question 5: How much fun are you having each day? Are you enjoying the journey to achieve your goals?

If you’re committed to this industry, your career will likely span decades. That’s a long time to be in the game.

And if you’re not having fun and enjoying the journey… you may find yourself questioning if this industry and career path is the right one for you.

Fulfillment comes from many sources. But even when you love serving others and working with clients… It’s tough to feel fulfilled when you’re neglecting self-care and unable to devote important time needed to your most valued personal relationships.

Unfortunately, this is often the case for many professionals and business owners in our industry. It’s not easy to build a client base, work split shifts, grow and develop a team, and do all the “other work” required to grow a fitness business to the next level. And it takes a lot of consistent practice (and constant course correction) to navigate the journey of growing a career (and business) while building a life.

The better you can master your time and energy management, the better you’ll be able to focus and be present with each moment (whether you’re working or whether you’re not), and build the perfect day and weekly calendar to best support your growth at this stage.

Don’t expect this work to ever be finished. Balancing your career, business, and life is forever  an ongoing work in progress.


We’ve covered a lot. Let’s take a moment to review your scores.

What areas do you feel the most confident in right now? What areas do you feel the least confident in? Let your insights guide building your personalized learning plan for the year ahead.

Most people make the mistake of investing all their time learning in just one domain. Or they find it more comfortable to continue improving their strengths, but ignore key areas they need to develop in if they want to continue advancing their business and career.

Don’t let that happen to you. Take time to regularly assess your greatest areas of opportunity for personal and professional development, and commit to stepping outside your comfort zone to grow your knowledge base. Doing so will allow you to develop the business skills required to ensure continued success for years to come.

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