Kael Roberts by Kael Roberts

Being a new personal trainer was awkward at first. I didn’t really know how to begin the relationship with a new client, so I usually just began with a standard fitness assessment and started training from there.  

Although that was an effective way for me to assess where my client was physically, it left out a huge piece of the puzzle that was vital for overall success in working with different individuals (and personality types) in reaching their goals. I wasn’t getting to know my clients quickly enough, and I soon realized this would be my greatest area of weakness.  

Over the 10+ years I have been a health coach and personal trainer, I realized that the beginning of the relationship with a client is actually the ideal time to set the foundation for success. Instead of slowly getting to know my clients over several weeks or taking one or two whole sessions to ask all the important questions, which took time away from goal progression, I decided to expedite the process through a client onboarding system. 

Creating an onboarding system helped me streamline all the things I was manually doing over the course of several sessions, which not only allowed me to have a lot more time in sessions to focus on the client’s goals, but also allowed the client to feel much more supported from the very beginning, because I actually took the time to get to know them before we ever stepped foot into the gym.  

Why Is Onboarding Important? 

The onboarding process is a great way to make a good first impression. Not only does it show that you are organized and prepared, but it also shows that you are willing to take the time (and have the desire) to get to know your clients on a deeper level.  

The questions you ask during the onboarding process will be very important in how you effectively lead them toward their desired outcomes. You want to get to know them on a personal level, but also understand what motivates them and why now is the time they decided to work with you. All of this is vital in how you can show up for, and best support, them moving forward.  

My three-part onboarding process encompasses the following. You’ll want to adapt this system for your business and the types of clients you serve, so the exact framework of your onboarding process might be slightly different from what you see here 

Part 1: Expectations and Evaluation  

This first step involves collecting information, as well as setting the expectation for the client–personal trainer or client–health coach relationship. It’s a great way to get to know your clients before you ever start working with them, but also a great time to share your mission, vision and any other important information about you and your business.  

You can get to know your clients by: 

  • Finding out who your client is (“who) 

  • Engaging with clients by listening well and using empathy to foster a trusting and respectful relationship that will set the foundation for moving forward together  

  • Strengthening engagement throughout the onboarding process to gather important information that will help you better serve your clients 

  • Finding out what your client wants to work on (“what”) 

  • Understanding why they are seeking help from you 

  • Understanding what is important to them during your time working together 

  • Asking, “What brings you in today? 

  • Asking, “What are you hoping to achieve by working together? 

  • Determining clear shared goals 

  • Finding out why the goal is important (“why”) 

  • Understanding what motivated them to start now 

  • Asking, “Why is this goal important to you now? 

  • Asking, “How important is this goal? 

  • Finding out how your client would like to work toward the goal (“how”) 

  • Understanding how they like to be motivated (are there specific things that are motivating or incentivizing to them?) 

  • Understanding what is most challenging for them (not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally) 

  • Asking, “Would you like to develop a plan? 

  • Asking, “What might be a next step? 

  • Asking, “What are you considering? 

Part 2: Trainer/Client or Coach/Client Agreement  

You can set up your trainer/client or coach/client agreement as a part of the onboarding system, which will streamline all the things that can be rather time-consuming when first working with a new client.  

I like to have my onboarding process be one complete system that includes everything the client needs to begin the process of working together, which will also give me all the things I need to have in order to move forward with the process of working together.  

Other information to share includes: 

  • The nature of the client–trainer or client–coach relationship 

  • The type of coaching provided (online, in-person and/or telephonic) 

  • Session frequency and duration 

  • Agreed-upon costs/fees and payment of structure 

  • Policies (no-show, rescheduling and/or cancelation) 

  • Affirmation of client confidentiality 

  • Process of terminating the coaching agreement 

Part 3: Confirmation 

As a final step, check in with your new client to make sure they have all of the information needed and that all of their questions have been answered. Are session dates and times clear? Does the client have your contact information? Do they have everything they need to successfully get started? Are you both clear on any goals to be worked on between now and your next session together?  

This final step is an opportunity to ensure that you and the client are on the same page and moving forward in the same direction. 


You need to build quality relationships with the people you serve to really know what information is essential for the onboarding process. The beautiful thing is, the onboarding process allows you to gather more information about your clients, so you can continue to evolve this process as you gain more experience. Get to know each client’s individual needs, then integrate those needs into your existing onboarding process. 


If you are an ACE Certified Professional, be sure to take advantage of ACE Pro Compass, where you will see an exclusive suite of career-support tools and resources to help you chart a personalized career path in the fitness or coaching industry. 

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