Survive or Thrive as a PT: The Choice is Yours

Dean Zweck | 08 Jul 2019

The PT Industry is tough! Even if you are one of the fortunate 57% to make it past 4 months, and then one of the 30% who make it past one year, the average salary for a PT in the UK is a lowly £19,591 (payscale.com; however, the average salary for a PT in the US is a little over $60,000 per year, salary.com). For all the hours we put in, most PTs in the UK are barely surviving, let alone thriving!

But in an industry worth £5 billion, someone must be making money! Whether you like him or not, Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has £12 million turnover per year, earning the average PT salary every 14 hours! Bruce Lee commanded a fee of £1000 per hour to train with him. How many of you would be comfortable charging that?

How is it possible to earn this money when some trainers feel uncomfortable charging £30/hour?

Getting Smaller to Get Bigger

Some of you might recognize the band in the photo above, and then some of you might have good taste in music. Like them or hate them, One Direction had the most successful year of any band ever, earning $130 million in 2015, smashing the next best set by Take That in 2012 ($69 million).

How did they do this? They targeted teenage girls, and only them. They don’t make music for males, for adults or for very young children, just teenage girls, and this niche made them successful and rich.

Who are the highest paid doctors? The ones who specialize in treating one condition or body part. You wouldn’t go to your general practitioner if you needed a heart transplant.

Let’s bring this back to fitness. Joe Wicks made his fortune by focusing purely on 15-minute meals and 15-minute workouts on Instagram.

Who else is successful in the industry?

  • Martin MacDonald, who specialises in nutrition education
  • Jenny Burrell, who focuses on female health specifically pregnancy/postnatal and menopause
  • Eric Cressey, who works almost exclusively with baseball players and shoulder function
  • Bret Contreras, ‘the glute guy’

I could keep listing names, but you get the idea - these guys all succeeded and thrived by becoming a specialist in one area.

What is a Specialist?

Take this PT profile that I snapped from one of the gyms I work at. Look at the list of specialisms. Loads of them!

It starts off with qualifications, and I’ve spoken about this before:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”

Here are some things to consider when comes to specialising:

  • Be a specialist in one thing
  • Be great in a few
  • Be good in many

Unfortunately, this is how most PT profiles look across all gym groups - everyone is a specialist in all the same areas. We all blend in together. No one stands out.

Defining Your Own Specialist Area

There are two things to consider when defining your niche:

  1. How big is the niche?
  2. How well do you fit the niche?

The size of your niche needs to be big enough for you to gain enough clients from. If you want to focus on professional males, 30-35 years old who want to step on stage and compete in body building, BUT your gym has only 5 people who fit this niche, it isn’t the right one for you at your club.

Unless you take to online training, you need to find another niche.

Secondly, if you have never competed before yourself OR ever trained anyone to compete, you don’t fit the niche. You don’t have the reputation or the experience. So again, choose another niche.

I had the pleasure to do multiple courses with Jenny Burrell of Burrell Education, including modern day pregnancy and post-natal exercise, and optimal nutrition for post-natal recovery. The size of the niche is HUGE. Approximately 50% of the population will either be pregnant or post-natal at some point in their life.

Do I fit the niche well? Unfortunately, not - no matter how much I know in theory, I will never know first-hand what it is like to give birth and to recover and heal my body after. When stood alongside a mom of two kids who is equally qualified, they are obviously much more suited to the niche than I am.

I now focus my training on 30-45 year old’s that want to improve their fitness, speed and strength to run distance events and obstacle course races (ORCs). Eight million people world-wide engage in OCRs (250,000 in the UK itself) and having ran 20 races myself and trained multiple people to compete, the niche suits me.

Next Steps After Defining Your Niche

After you define your niche, you need to do everything you can to establish yourself as the go-to expert. Here are a few things you can consider to achieve this:

  1. Social proof – do you have evidence of having been successful yourself or with others?
  2. Social media – your social media is a reflection of you. I am a big believer that your personal social media should include references to your niche area.
  3. Experience – get experience training people in your niche to gain the above.
  4. Authenticity – when people see you in real life vs socially, are you believable as the expert in your chosen area?
  5. Clarity – change your PT profile so your message is clear. This is who I train (and do a bloody good job too).
  6. Reputation – it takes years to build up a good reputation but only seconds to destroy it. Be professional.
  7. Stand out – don’t be vanilla. To be more appealing to one group, you have to be less attractive to the others.
  8. Education – the first thought in any choice of education should be ”does it help me train my chosen niche better, or will it help me gain more clients from that group?”

In Summary

To really thrive and stand out as a PT, you must specialize. You have to define a niche. Being a generalist is totally fine, but to earn more money and go to the next level, you must focus on one group and do everything in your power to become the go-to expert for that group. The one area that no one else can ever be better than you at, is being you! Define what niche works for you, what are you passionate about, and then create your strategy and plan from that.

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Dean Zweck

About the author: Dean Zweck

Dean Zweck, BSc, CPT, has been in the industry for 17 years with 13 as a personal trainer. For the last 7 years, he has been the lead educator for PTs in the UKs largest commercial gym chain, as well as successfully owning his own PT business. Dean's passion is helping trainers acquire all the tools so they can get clients, train clients and keep clients. The three core skills all successful PTs need to have.

In his spare time, Dean is a bit of an adrenaline junkie competing in OCRs with Europe's Toughest Mudder on the agenda for this year, plus engaging in mountain biking and rock climbing.

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