5 Mistakes for New Trainers to Avoid

Detric Smith

Trainer, Coach, Business Owner, Author

Williamsburg , Virginia, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kinesiology, Nutrition Coach, Exercise Physiology, Certified Personal Trainer


When I started training clients, I thought I knew it all, and I would strut around the gym floor like a peacock, willing to assert my superior gym knowledge. When in fact, looking back, I knew absolutely nothing.


This attitude hurt more than helped me, and this was the first of many mistakes I made at the beginning of my career.



Mistakes are all part of the learning process, and you’re guaranteed to make them and keep making them if you don’t learn from them. What will set you apart from other trainers is your ability to reflect upon what happened, reassess, and make changes, so it doesn’t happen again.


Let my pain be your gain as I’ve put together a few common mistakes trainers make at the beginning of their career. If you’ve made them, that’s normal; consider this an opportunity to grow. Let’s dive in.


1. Not Giving Away Freebies

“Why would I give away free stuff? Training is my career, and I need to get paid!”


Trust me—they’ll get their free information from somewhere. But, by giving away free stuff, you can make sure your clients are getting the correct information while also building a connection. When you start to build trust and value, they’re more likely to become a client.


Think of your free consultation as an investment that may pay dividends in the future.


When you have gotten a potential client's contact info, ask to set up an appointment for a free consult/assessment on their schedule.


  • Please give them a taste of the difference you can make and show you’re not a sleazy salesperson.
  • Please sit down and ask questions and listen to their answers.
  • Learn their schedule, their goals, their lifestyle, injury history, and exercise preferences.
  • Explain to them how you can meet each need they have.
  • Be direct and say, “I think a 3-day-per-week semi-private group session will work best for your needs because….”


Giving away free stuff will set you apart as the go-to trainer for information.



The more potential clients come to you, the more opportunities to turn them into paying clients.


2. Don't Narrow Your Focus Too Early

Some trainers start by wanting to work with athletes or train celebrities, but you need to spend years setting yourself apart, doing internships, and learning from the best.


It would be best if you built a stellar reputation.


Tons of other populations need your expertise now, so don’t count them out. By zeroing in on a single population too early, you’ve entirely negated anyone who doesn’t fit your supposed ideal client. Sure, you might get one or two aspiring athletes, but is that enough to make a living?


Instead, use the start of your career to connect with a broader audience.



Remember—you’re growing a business, and it helps to train everyone at the beginning while developing your brand.



3. Don't Specialize Until You Gain Experience

During your first few years, you must train as many people as possible to figure out your niche. But after you’ve gained experience, then you can start to specialize.


Hopefully, you have a grasp on which group fits your training style. With whom do you enjoy working? Which population can make the most significant difference?


Narrowing your focus allows you to start attracting your ideal clients.


Now, you can genuinely say you’re the expert in X, and you have the social and experiential proof to back it up.


Once you’ve been in the industry a few years, you’ve got to find ways to stand out and not blend in. Unless you plan to be the Wal-Mart of trainers, narrowing your focus provides a superior product for attracting your ideal client.


4. Don't Miss Opportunities To Network

Learning doesn’t stop after you get certified, even though you may think you know it all. Getting out to live events and connecting with other people in our field is essential for growth.



You’re on the right track by reading this, but nothing beats a face-to-face conversation with fellow professionals because live events are great places to meet like-minded people. Then you can pick their brain about dealing with challenging clients or starting a business.


The day-to-day grind of training clients leaves little time for business development, but you owe it to yourself and your career to do it.


5. Not Getting Client Referrals

Social media is a great way to market your services and highlight your successes.


But, you don’t control the platform or the algorithm, and you don’t know how many people will see your posts unless you pay to advertise them. But there is a much easier way to get clients, and it’s right in front of your face—your current clients.


Ask your current clients if they know any friends or family who would benefit from your services. Or ask them to write a Google review or testimonial (with your guidance) to post on your website or social media.


Glowing referrals from your clients means potential clients who come from being referred to you have been presold, making it easier to sign them.


It is an untapped gold mine many new trainers miss.


When starting your career, you will make mistakes because it’s easy to overlook something you don’t know.


Now you know better, you will avoid these five mistakes and get a head start on a long and fruitful personal training career.

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