Its almost 20 years ago to the day that I started my career as a freelance personal trainer.
In 1992 I was made redundant twice within 6 months. I already had a personal trainer qualification but having a salary and a company car made it a difficult choice to throw all that in for the risk of creating my own income.
Redundancy gave me the spur that I needed and I have never looked back. They say that every cloud has a silver lining. For me the redundancy was the best thing that could have happened.
When I started out as a personal trainer there was only 1 other trainer in Leeds, although globally it was a growing phenomenon. I guess that in Yorkshire where people have short arms and long pockets, nobody was going to pay “for a bloke to keep thee fit when tha could be walkin’t dogs for nowt!”
Fortunately there were some more enlightened people about and a new career was begun as a fitness consultant. It was an easy step to make from that point to the triathlon coaching I do now
Last year you may recall was my 25th in triathlon and I wrote down 25 lessons. I’ve done the same again but obviously this time there are only 20 and they are more like life and business lessons rather than exclusively triathlon related.
- 1. If you have a life goal or a big dream, just go for it. Life is too short. Redundancy was a catalyst for me but looking back I wish I’d made the jump sooner
- 2. Everyone needs a mentor. Whether starting your own business or aiming for your first triathlon, the journey is much easier if you have someone with experience and knowledge to guide you.
- 3. Create or join a network - For years I was literally a sole trader. There were no networking groups. At times being on your own in business can be a very lonely place. I’ve since developed my own network groups of like minded professionals (not necessarily coaches or PT’s). I didn’t realise that a lot of these people had just the same challenges that i did. It would have been nice to share them
- 4. Set Goals – A couple of years ago I was looking back through some old notebooks and I found a list of goals that I wrote down in my very first year. I’m pleased to say that I have achieved every single one of them. In recent years I have taken my eye off the ball a little in this respect so its one of my 2013 tasks to get back on it with business goal setting
- 5. Balance – In the early days I worked some crazy hours, all the while trying to be a good triathlete as well. I figured I was invincible. (don’t we all at that age?) After 1 divorce I’ve realized that while work is important its not the be all and end all. Work/life balance is key to a prosperous life (by prosperous I mean happy, healthy as well as financially sound)
- 6. It is possible to make a living from your hobby.
- 7. If you need a “venue” to work from move heaven and earth to buy rather than rent. We did this 10 years ago and while it stretched us at the time its been well worth the effort.
- 8. Create a business with multiple income streams. Within a couple of years I realised that PT work was OK if I was healthy but if I got knocked off my bike and broke my leg then there would be no income. Thats when i realised that if I could coach people remotely, I only needed to be able to operate a computer.
- 9. Never trust anyone in business. I’ve been “worked over” a couple of times by people I thought I could trust. Fortunately it wasn’t too financially damaging but with a solid contract and a bit more research into my partners I might have been better off. Henry Ford’s philosophy was “hire slow and fire fast”. These days I apply that to everything from working with new business partners to taking on new athletes
- 10. Give forward. I like doing people favours; It makes me feel good. For example people often ask for my advice about training or diet matters I generally don’t ask for anything in return but I have found that these good turns often come back with interest.
- 11. Have fun. Who says you shouldn’t have fun in business? It’ll make you happier and it will definitely make your clients happier too and that will make them come back for more
- 12. Learn to say no. When someone tells their friends how good you are its very flattering. If that person then asks you to train them its very difficult to say no. I regularly ended up working far too many hours and paying the consequences by getting run down
- 13. Learn the value of your service - When I was desperate for work in the first couple of years, I’d take on any clients and sometimes at reduced rates just to bring in the cash. Often it worked out OK but sometimes it was more hassle than it was worth.
- 14. Find a niche – Many trainers make the mistake of targeting their services at “anyone who wants to get fit”. Thats similar to being general physician. Look around. The specialists who have targeted a small niche will always get paid more money.
- 15. Social Media is not the only way to market your business. A lot of people are investing time in building twitter lists and Facebook fans but there are only a few people who have been able to turn a large twitter following into a regular income. While I have used both for a few years I still prefer the old fashioned methods such as referrals, direct mail and a simple newsletter
- 16. Study Marketing with a passion - You may understand the technical details of your business like no other. However I can show you plenty of examples of brilliant technicians who are scraping a living because they don’t understand the basics of how to tell the world about what they do. At the same time there are some very average technicians with very profitable businesses because they are brilliant marketeers
- 17. Work “on” your business – If you really want to make progress with your business then you need to spend as much time working “on it” as “in it”. Every business need a Chief Marketing Officer and in a business of one then its you. Its a discipline just like working out every day and in the same manner, if you can just spend an hour 6 days per week the consistency will pay bigger returns than the Hero workout once per week..
- 18. Leverage your contacts - Its an American word but I love what it means. You’ve probably got a lot of contacts with whom you could do joint ventures to the same customer base. (Cycle manufacturers teaming up with cycle clothing companies OR personal trainers teaming up with nutrition suppliers). Combine your marketing efforts to grow your business.
- 19. Create time - Its the one thing that we cant replace. Rather than trying to work more hours to earn more money, I’m trying to earn the same money with less hours of work. I’m not quite there yet but I’ll let you know when I have got the answer
- 20. Celebrate the victories – It seems that in business and in sport we don’t take enough time to celebrate our victories. When I looked back at the notebook with my early business goals I don’t think I celebrated that much when I crossed them off the list. It was just “right, whats next?” I’ve seen this in athletes as well. Success should be rewarded with a celebration. Life is about experiences so make the most of them.
Well that was harder than I thought it would be. I hope you enjoyed the article and maybe some of my lessons will help you. Please feel free to share with your friends by using the buttons at the top of the page.
You can be sure that I’ll be celebrating 20 years in business this year and I will have some special offers for you as well in the next few weeks so pay attention.
Stay healthy & have fun
P.S. Have you registered yet for our February training camp? Its a perfect opportunity to have your swim, bike and run techniques reviewed so that you can get them grooved in by the start of the season. Click here for more details