Don’t make any one of these 9 fatal mistakes if you’re running a personal training business. I’ve seen these happen over the years and it always ends in a DISASTER (or something close), so please learn from my experience, avoid the pitfalls and SUCCEED! I hate to see history repeating itself.

Violate your client’s privacy and be prepared for the consequences.

1. Violate your client’s privacy

Violate your client’s privacy and be prepared for the consequences.

Personal training is a business where the customer puts you in a position of trust. Trust takes a long time to build up and an instant to destroy. At all times, you must listen to, and respect, your client.

Unfortunately, not all trainers got the message: I have seen instances where trainers took pictures with their iPhones of their clients working out on the gym floor and then posted those images on social media to boost their own profile to boost their social media presence.

WTF were they thinking?

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Clients come to you precisely because they don’t feel in perfect photogenic shape. The last thing they want is for a personal trainer to violate their trust for superficial commercial purposes. See yourself as a trusted advisor, not an Instragram junkie.

For most women, the idea of an image of themselves red faced, sweating with no make-up on, wearing an unflattering lycra outfit  appearing on social media is an absolute nightmare!  If you take photos of your clients without their express written consent, sorry, but you’re an idiot. Do it at your peril and watch your business go down the proverbial toilet.

I’ve seen it happen many more times than is comfortable for me so I had to say something.

Your integrity can only take so many hits before no one will deal with you and you’ll be stuck in a rut with nowhere to turn, your reputation is everything in this industry, forego a few likes on Facebook and build real trust with your following.

2. Ignore the local community

Use local businesses and publications to generate publicity on top of your social media marketing strategy.

Use local businesses and publications to generate publicity on top of your social media marketing strategy.

A personal trainer is often part of a much bigger ecosystem of goods and services consumed by your clients.

I’ve seen a lot of trainers perish because they think they can exist in isolation without the help of their local community.

Get it into your head that you can massively succeed just by tapping into the power of local businesses – you don’t need to worry about online marketing bulls*it until you’ve got the basics down.

Your customers will regularly be looking for services closely associated with personal training (such as nutrition advice, dentistry and the massive industry of beauty good and services…it’s a long, lucrative list).

Accept you are part of the local business community and get to know the key players in your community (over time this becomes a healthy, two-way relationship where you refer clients to other business and vice versa). If you neglect your local community – word will get out and you’ll be done for.

Check out this post with videos (it’s a private post, the password is simply ‘password‘) suggesting ten quick hacks of how to market yourself in your local community. These old fashioned principles will never fail.

3. Failing your target market

If your gym adopts a young, grimy weight lifting culture, understand it may deter a more affulent demographic

If your gym adopts a young, grimy weight lifting culture, understand it may deter a more affulent demographic

Look, everyone wants to look good and get their perfect physique. But from a business perspective, which target market is going to be must lucrative for you?

Remember you are in business to make money, not to impress your mates.

In my experience, it’s best to focus on middle aged clientele looking to make key health improvements than on gym freaks looking to add weight to their bench press one rep max.

Why? Simple.

Money. The thing that keeps you and your business alive.

I’d rather target a more affluent audience and adapt my marketing message accordingly than be begging and borrowing for scraps off students with no cash looking to up their bench!

If you run a successful gym for a younger audience – that’s great.

Just keep one eye on where the real money’s at and don’t forget:

Not every client wants a six pack and two tickets to the gun show 😉

4. Staff lose interest

If you sense that your team of trainers are losing interest, it may be time to let them go.

If you sense that your team of trainers are losing interest, it may be time to let them go.

I’ve run a gym for well over a decade so I am qualified to say that your trainers, over time, can lose interest – and if you’re not careful harm your business.

It’s not their fault.

It’s YOUR FAULT for not setting realistic career goals. The fact is, if you’re the best gym owner in the world you’ll train and manage your staff so well that they feel that they can leave and set up shop on their own.

At around the 2 year mark you will start to encounter resistance from your good trainers who want to fly the nest and set up shop on their own.

By this I mean they will start to behave insubordinately and think they know best. This is natural if you’ve hired good people in the first place.

The big secret of most major professional services firms is they don’t really want new graduates to stay there for life, they want them there for a fixed time of around two years to get a sweet period of good work out of them before they become too old/disillusioned/accomplished to want to work for you any more.

If you’re UK based, I recommend trying to tap into the huge volumes of new European trainers that are (for now at least) able to work for you in the UK. It’s a sweeping generalisation but, they tend to be massively incentivised by relatively higher UK wages.

Consider also tapping the Australian market which produces a steady stream of able trainers that want to work in the UK for two years but no longer.

Always see your business model as relying on graduate trainers that will work for you for no longer than two years. This keeps your business young and exuberant – exactly what you want in this industry.

If you want to give your existing staff some reading material, you can always hand out a few copies of my book. The Trusted Trainer. 😉

5. Fail to protect yourself legally


This one is simple but so many gym owners and trainers don’t do it.

Clearly, you need liability insurance.

You also need a comprehensive health and safety policy (there are plenty of templates available for free online).

And you need prominent notices all around your training space and in your terms and conditions that people visit your gym at their own risk (insofar as the law will allow) – these are entirely standard: visit any decent gym and you’ll see them everywhere.

And – if you miss any of the above and you get burnt by an aggrieved client, you’ll be sorry and out of pocket.

6. Keep the wrong clients on your books

If your client is always late for things it might be time to FIRE THEM!

If your client is always late for things it might be time to fire THEM!

If you’re anything like me you’re a motivated and ambitious health and fitness pro.

That’s why when you design a training and diet programme you expect your client to stick to it and achieve amazing things. I always feel a sense of ‘what could have been’ when they are clearly not keeping to their side of the bargain either by turning up late or not at all, or clearly f**ing up their diet, even if they try to create an illusion of progress.

I’ve been there so many times on the gym floor early in the morning or late at night only for my client to cancel or postpone me at the last minute.

Trust me, if someone makes it clear to you they can’t honour a basic commitment to their own success then it’s time for you to move on. I talk about this in my book.

The caveat to this is if you’re brand new to the industry you might wanna hang in there for a year or so just to get the experience and establish momentum.

However, if you’re just a little bit established and your clients keep sapping your energy by failing to keep their promises – drop them like a Bomb Over Baghdad (as the famous song goes) – they are not worth it (despite their verbal protestations to the contrary that ‘they will change’ or  ‘things will get better’).

There’s an endless line of good clients out there, you just have to find them.

Trust me, you won’t regret it.

7. Forgetting it’s all about Location, Location, Location

Great potential as a gym facility…but it means nothing if it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Great potential as a gym facility…but it means nothing if it’s in the middle of nowhere.

I know a lot of gym owners that made a big mistake. They were seduced by the prospect of owning a large, modern facility with a huge plot of commercial floor area and high ceilings with amazing loading bays.

“This is going to be an amazing gym, right?” they think.


I’d rather own a small garage in Chelsea than an entire fitness complex in middle of Butt F*** nowhere. Location is everything.

Remember that an individual’s gym commitment is part of their daily routine and if you underestimate the importance of travel time to and from your facility, you’re a poor strategist.

I’d prefer a shitty facility in a prime location within walking distance of residential areas than an amazing facility in a retail park 15 minutes’ drive from all human civilisation.

8. Being a cheap ass with your gym equipment


Pay more and pay once

That’s my motto.

It’s very true of buying new gym equipment.

If you need to leverage yourself, just a little bit, at the outset to buy the best available gym equipment then I totally recommend that you do so. If you try and skimp on the equipment at the outset then your client base will notice and regard your facility as a low quality facility with under-par equipment.

The other big mistake is to buy equipment that will intimidate and be inconsistent with your target market’s needs (see point three above).

The classic example is a young gym owner that think’s its imperative to buy a power rack and sawdust pit when most of their customers are middle aged women looking to keep their health in check. This is plain stupid.

If you’re starting a cross fit studio, then buy the aggressive power lifting equipment if you must.

But if you’re looking to tap into a lucrative Mum’s market, think about what they want to see and don’t go to grand with your gym equipment, keep it reasonable.

9. F**king up your own appearance

Say the words Personal Trainer and some people think of this...If you’re a muscle-bound, tattooed, human growth hormone meathead working in a facility for bodybuilders then… keep doing what you’re doing.

If you want to attract a clientele with real money you’re going to take a long hard look in the mirror.

Being a personal trainer requires you to be in shape, dress well and pay close attention to your own grooming. If you look like sh*t – why would people hire you to help them look great? Equally, if you don’t look like someone that is approachable, friendly and suited to your target market, why would they buy from you?

You’ll regularly be physically in close quarters to your clients so make sure you’re well groomed and shower regularly.



PS – if you have any (good) questions…leave them in the comments section below and if I’ve pissed you off then I’ve achieved my objective. The biggest factor in designing a successful business in ANY area is to be true to yourself, if you agree with everything I’ve written then I’m doing something wrong.