Anthony Franklin, founder and CEO at booking management platform fibodo, looks at the PT skills gap and how the next generation can be empowered to sustainably grow their business
As it stands, there are over 26,000 registered personal trainers (PTs) across the UK, 80 per cent of whom work on a freelance basis.
Just as in other industries, freelancing is an increasingly appealing option for PTs, as it enables flexible working and the ability to ‘be your own boss’.
But success as an independent personal trainer is about more than just core fitness knowledge. To really make a difference, fitness professionals need a range of business skills to engage clients, drive growth and boost their bottom line.
This is of particular importance in today’s increasingly crowded marketplace, in which fitness professionals must constantly find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors.
However, there has long been a lack of meaningful teaching on how to run a profitable fitness business. Our recent research, for example, found that around 6,500 PTs are currently working in the profession without having been taught practical business skills.
Until this changes, the industry will continue to lose great professionals who cannot make ends meet in the real-world.
So, how can we address this skills and knowledge gap?
What some newly-qualified personal trainers may not realise is that they are in charge of everything – from managing bookings and marketing their services, to processing finances. All of these tasks require a degree of business ‘know-how’ and without such skills, they are likely to struggle.
New research supports this, finding that one of the main reasons freelance personal trainers fail is because of their lack of aptitude for business.
To avoid a similar fate, it is imperative that PTs develop essential business skills, which may not have been an integral part of their PT accreditation. This will help to ensure that all aspects of their fitness business will function as efficiently as possible.
Honing marketing skills, for example, such as how to promote a business correctly via social media, provides PTs with a simple and effective way to boost their client base. Platforms such as Facebook advertising, which can be highly targeted, enable trainers to access prospective customers that may otherwise have been out of reach. But knowing how to get the most out of these complex tools takes training. Best practice is also in constant flux. Tech platforms are continually updated with new features and settings, so it’s vital that PTs keep up-to-date with best practice. However, without a base of core skills, they are likely to find it difficult and will miss out on opportunities as a result.
Many platforms exist which attempt to drive client sales for PTs, but a number of new platforms have become available which help the business-owner effectively handle their admin too. These often help manage client bookings, process payments and develop social media strategies. fibodo, for example, has been developed specifically for time-based businesses to allow PTs to manage a variety of tasks – from client bookings to marketing opportunities. As a result, the software helps the PT to increase bookings, reduce cancellations and admin time, and reach new audiences. PlanGuru, on the other hand, is a tool that integrates with accounting platforms to provide users with both current cash-flow data and forecasting. Therefore, entrepreneurs that adopt this software no longer need to waste their time managing this often complex aspect of a business.
There are numerous courses available that teach students a range of practical skills that can be easily applied to a time-based business. Each will differ slightly in terms of content and pricing, so it is important to shop around and find one that works best for each individual. E-learning courses, such as Future Learn’s free ‘Fundamental Business’ courses, are helpful as users can access learning materials anywhere at any time. This means business owners can organise studying around their schedule and minimise disruption to the day to-day running of their business. Another option is fibodo’s ‘Grow Your Business’ course, which focuses on teaching and inspiring those who want to sell time-based services on best business practice, as well as how to operate effectively online and develop successful careers.
There is a wealth of knowledge published by people who have already succeeded in this space before. Trainers should make the most of these resources by reading books, listening to podcasts and absorbing as much information from these platforms as possible. The Institute of Personal Trainers is useful in this respect, providing a library of both fitness and business related tips. Topics include how to streamline a business and how to find the right balance between instructing and administrative tasks.
With the sports and fitness sector amongst the fastest-growing freelance occupations over the last ten years, seeing a 103 per cent growth since 2009, the number of freelance personal trainers across the UK is likely to continue increasing year-on-year.
However, our research shows that many PTs are underprepared when starting out. As a result, there needs to be a greater emphasis on educating PTs on how to marry business skills with their finely tuned fitness knowledge.
This will enable them to make the best use of their time – for the sake of their businesses and their clients’ ambitions. In turn, the sector will be able to thrive, the number of successful PTs will be maximised, it will get more people active and make way for a new generation of business-savvy trainers.