Newly certified personal trainers may wonder how and where to get started. With a bevy of options including gyms, private studios, health clubs and private training, you have much to consider when applying for jobs.

After receiving my ACE certification, I applied for a job at my gym and I was hired almost immediately. The upside was that because I’d been a member there for a few years, I knew a lot of the staff, trainers and instructors. That alone made starting there much less intimidating (and I was grateful because this was a significant career change).

Continuing Education and Career Options for Certified Personal Traienrs

Starting your new career as a certified personal trainer in a gym environment is an excellent way to get your feet wet. Supervisors and trainers can mentor you about designing programs, interacting with clients and problem solving. If you run into issues with a client, you have access to support and ideas. You also have the advantage of observing other trainers and group fitness instructors. It’s helpful to see how different fitness professionals teach classes, maintain files and connect with clients and members.

You also have the option of trading sessions with other trainers or other gym employees who offer related services. You will be required to complete CPT continuing education and your facility may offer continuing education for CPTs in the form of training or conferences that count for your requirements.

My personal experience working at a gym taught me the ins and outs of personal training. I shadowed other trainers to see how they worked with their clients, kept records and created programming. I used that knowledge to develop my own system and I continually revised it to meet changing needs. I regularly traded sessions with other trainers because A) it was a nice treat to let someone tell me what to do and B) I learned new techniques in terms of exercise and communicating with clients. Good trainers are always on the lookout for new ideas and ways to inspire clients. Training with other trainers and attending group fitness classes are excellent ways to freshen up one’s exercise repertoire. I had a supervisor who encouraged gym employees to trade services with in-house spa employees and it turned out to be a fantastic method for cross-promotion. I traded with an aesthetician and when my clients asked me about our spa services, I was able to tell them first hand.

Support is critical for new trainers. Whether this is your first foray into the working world or if this is a career change for you, it’s essential to have the ear of others in your business. Personal training in a gym offers the opportunity to meet other trainers and fitness professionals. Collaborating with others may save you time and energy in terms of client relationships, paperwork, etc.

Even if you work at a gym, always be open to private training. In most cases, it pays significantly better and there is little overhead. However, you must legally protect yourself with appropriate paperwork and insurance. Most certifications offer liability insurance at a discounted rate. Your insurance provider or certifying agent will likely have boilerplate consent and liability forms. Review these documents with a qualified lawyer to make sure they meet your needs.

Because I had a couple of private clients while I worked at the gym, I was already set up to continue independently. I had already put together a medical history packet and legal documentation. I trained the majority of clients in their homes but a few trained in my home.

Private training is definitely more lucrative than working in a gym but it has its own issues as well. You’ll need to factor in travel time for appointments. You’ll also want to decide how far you’re willing to drive. When setting your prices, keep in mind fuel prices, wear-and-tear on your vehicle and any other operating costs. Invest in the kinds of equipment you can reasonably bring with you. Establish days and times you are not available. Don’t spend a lot of money on a fancy website. You need a website that is easy to read, easy to understand and depicts you as a qualified professional. Remember that you’ll still be responsible for completing certified personal trainer continuing education courses. Choose CE courses for personal trainers about unfamiliar topics to give you a well-rounded knowledge base. Keep any continuing education for CPTs coursework or textbooks for future reference.

I often have contact with clients in between our meetings. If a workout was particularly tough, I’ll send a follow-up email the next day to check on them. During sessions, I always make it a point to ask them how they felt after the last session and follow up on things we discussed in the previous session. I find this practice adds a continuity to the client-trainer relationship.

Getting clients is one of the most challenging aspects of working independently. Referrals are the best way to get new clients. Offer your clients a free session or two if they refer someone who decides to train with you. In terms of advertising, you can try print or online advertising, connecting with local health professionals and leaving your cards with them or putting up flyers in your neighborhood.

I got creative with advertising. I put together a stretching handout for a local chiropractor and in exchange, he kept my business cards on his front desk. I paired with a registered dietician and we offered a joint nutrition and training package. I advertised in a local magazine. Ultimately, my Google AdWords campaign proved to be the most fruitful. I have been contacted many times by search engine optimization companies offering to increase my ranking. Generally, these services are very overpriced and you’ll get similar results using Google AdWords.

As a whole, I prefer private training to working for a gym because it is devoid of politics, pointless meetings and urging from management to be salespeople in addition to being personal trainers. I also enjoy being able to set my own hours, decline clients who are not a good fit and manage my business in ways I feel are most beneficial to my clients and myself. However, starting my career in a gym was irreplaceable groundwork for working privately. I learned so much about myself, how I wanted to conduct myself as a trainer and invaluable information about working with diverse populations. It gave me the confidence to forge out on my own and create a successful business.