American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable are you with uncertainty and variability in your income? This will be especially relevant in the early days of your training career. In the early days, income fluctuation is part of the process of getting clients and making a name for yourself, but it takes a strong stomach. Be sure you are ready to handle this period.

--Jonathan Ross, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year

When starting a personal training career, it helps to consider if your ultimate goal is to work for yourself or for a company. If for yourself, you might pay a fee to a local gym, meet clients in their homes, run an online training service, or perhaps a bit of everything. If you hope to work for a company, would you like to establish yourself at a small studio or within a large gym chain? Of course, your direction might change over time, but it always helps to lay out your options as you get started in your career.

--Amanda Vogel, M.A., fitness pro, presenter, fitness writer and blogger at in Vancouver, B.C. 

A career as a personal trainer is one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs on the market. Be prepared to bring your A-game, energy and a boatload of positivity on a daily basis—despite what is happening in your outside life. Seeing somebody learn to move well, become healthier and learn to love exercise for the first time will make the early mornings and exhausting hours worth it!

--Shana Verstegen, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Master Trainer, TRX Master Trainer

Be willing to develop rapport and interpersonal connection with those whom you train. Understanding exercise science and nutrition principles lay the foundation for giving sound advice to clients. But I would argue that it’s even more important to connect with and really listen to your clients so that you can train the whole person.

-Sabrena Merrill, ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, speaker, continuing education developer

Personal training is more than developing and delivering exercise plans to be clients. Be sure you are ready for the necessary soft skills: empower, motivate, educate, encourage, interview and more. And don’t forget that it’s a business—be sure you like and learn all the necessary skills to work on your business to grow your clientele. Right away, determine the number of hours you are interested in working each week. Next, block out 10 to 15 percent of those hours for office time. If you do not commit, up front, to hours needed to work on your business (vs. in your business), your business will not be sustainable. Also, set your annual income target right away; this, combined with the number of hours you want to work, will help you plan your schedule, rates and the work you will do. Finally, be smart and align yourself with other industry professionals. Avoid viewing all other trainers, gyms and instructors as your competition. It takes a village and there are plenty of people that need our help.

--Shannon Fable, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach, 2013 IDEA Group Fitness Instructor of the Year, Director of Exercise Programming for Anytime Fitness

Getting started in this career takes time and often means working when others play. Hours will likely include a varied schedule of mornings, evenings and weekends to develop a consistent client load.

-Amber Long, M.Ed., ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Director of Kirmayer Fitness Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center, 

Organizational skills are a must, be it with your time or as an independent contractor. There is paperwork, billing, liability insurance, continuing education credits, expiration dates, clients schedules, changes, etc. One really needs to have the ability to bend yet be firm and juggle many balls with precision. 

-Elizabeth Andrews, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, TRX Instructor, DVRT-Ultimate Sandbag System Master Trainer 

If you're interested in starting a rewarding career in fitness, check out the ACE Personal Trainer Certification

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