When I entered the industry in 2010, I wanted to have lots of clients and I wanted to earn good money. But to be honest, I didn’t have a clue what good money really meant.
These days, when I sit down and speak with a new personal trainer — or one that’s about to enter the industry — I strongly urge them to think about how much income they want to earn.
Figuring out how much income you want to earn will give you a clear goalposts to shoot for. It’s just like setting training goals with a client: if you know where you want to end up (from an earning perspective), you can develop a (business) plan that will get you there.
If you’re like most personal trainers that work for yourself, either through a commercial gym, or in some other capacity — then how much you want to earn will normally be completely up to you. Instead of plucking a number out of thin air like many rookie personal trainers do, the best place to start would be to determine your break-even point and work forwards from there.
How to figure out your break-even point
Your break-even point is the total sum of all your expenses over a given period of time. To calculate this, you need to create a simple budget that lists all of your expenses.
Don’t worry, you should be able to do this on the back of a napkin.
All fixed, recurring and regular expenses need to be noted. Once you’ve noted those down, calculate the total. This is your break-even number.
Put simply, if you don’t earn enough money to reach your break-even number, you’re in the red. This means that you’re not earning enough income to cover your expenses. If your income exceeds your break-even number, you’re in the black — and moving forward with your finances.
Your break-even point forms your baseline, or the minimum amount of income you need to produce. From there, you can be more ambitious and progress to creating a more attractive goal of how much you want to earn.
If you aren’t sure how much you want to earn, consider the following:
- Your weekly or monthly expenses. At the very least you should be aiming for this amount.
- The hours you have available to see clients.
- The kind of lifestyle you want to live.
- Any savings goals you may have.
Once you’ve set an income goal, the next step in the process is to work out how to achieve that goal.
Reverse engineer it
Reverse engineering is the process of deconstructing or working backwards to determine how something was put together. To work out how to best achieve your income goal, you first need to deconstruct it.
A quick caveat: For the following exercise, I have not included the income taxes that would be owed on a $100,000 income. To be safe, it would be wise to put aside 30% of your income to cover tax obligations. Be sure to take income tax obligations into consideration when setting an income goal.
Then break it down
Let’s say, for example, that your income goal is to earn $100,000 per year, which is a common income goal for those in the fitness industry.
If we break $100,000 down into monthly chunks, you will need to earn approximately $8,300 every month to achieve your yearly income target.
If we break that monthly total of $8,300 down further into weekly chunks (let’s assume there are four weeks in every month for this exercise) you will need to earn approximately $2,080 every week to achieve your target.
Breaking down $2,080 into daily earnings, you will need to earn $416 every weekday to achieve your target, assuming you’re only working Monday through Friday.
When you break down what it takes to earn $100,000 in a year from a purely numerical perspective, it can look daunting. However, if we design a method to achieve our income goal, the path forward becomes far clearer.
What you actually need to do to earn $100K as a personal trainer
Let’s assume for a second that you do 45-minute sessions with your clients and you’re charging $70 per session.
Based on what we’ve worked out so far, to earn $100,000 in a year, you will need to do the following number of paid personal training sessions:
119 sessions every month —bringing in $8,300
30 sessions every week — bringing in $2,050
7 sessions every day — bringing in $416
Now that we’ve worked out specifically how many paid sessions you need to do to be in the position to earn $100K, it comes down to building a client base large enough that you’re performing enough paid sessions each week to achieve your income goal.
I broke down what it takes to earn $100,000 as an example, but you can run the same exercise for whatever amount you like. The process of goal-setting and reverse engineering remains the same.
Another great thing about knowing the numbers is that they become a yardstick by which you can periodically audit your own performance. You can cross-reference the number of paid sessions you’re currently doing with what’s necessary to achieve your target.
Achieving your desired level of income comes down to working out what you want to earn, then reverse engineering that end-goal in order to work out a path to get there. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
Once you’ve set an income goal and have broken down the process necessary to get there, it comes down to transitioning and developing a marketing and sales plan to build your client base appropriately.
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