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A HFE personal trainer guiding a client through an exercise using suspension bands.
A HFE personal trainer guiding a client through an exercise using suspension bands.

Defining your personal training services

6 minute read

How to differentiate your personal training offer so that you stand out from the crowd once you’re qualified.

Completing your personal training course and qualifying is an achievement you can be immensely proud of. However, there are a couple of things worth considering for when the time comes to enter the PT market:

  • How are you going to define your services?
  • How will you differentiate your training offer from that of your competitors?

Even if you’re planning on securing a stable job in personal training rather than being self-employed, the principles of what we’ll present in this article still apply if you want to succeed.

We know that now might be a strange time to be asking such a cliché question, but there are two really good reasons why you should give this some serious thought before you enrol on a personal training course.

1. Focus on your end-game

The clients that you’re passionate about working with and the exciting services that you plan to offer will help to empower and motivate you to you to work harder towards achieving your goals. It will keep your eyes on the prize, and will also help you to be able to apply what you are learning theoretically to real-client situations with the clients you’re targeting.

2. Know which populations you need to cater to

Knowing who you plan to tailor your training services for in terms of the particular population group (e.g. pre and postnatal women, older adults, weight management services, athletes, or providing body transformation courses etc.) will determine which qualifications you actually need to complete. If you decide to add these on to your base personal training qualification, you can overlap your training so you’ll be able to qualify a little earlier. You’ll also likely be able to save yourself a little money for enrolling on multiple courses.

Personal trainer assisting client with kettlebell

Niche personal training services

Personal Training is a person-focused business in which the name of the game is to work with clients to deliver results according to what their training goals and objectives are. Given that personal training is ultimately about people, there are almost an endless number of ways in which you can tailor your services for specific groups.

For example, perhaps you want to work with athletes and sports participants, helping them to avoid injury, recover faster and improve their athletic performance. In this case, you may want to consider adding a strength and conditioning specialism to your PT armoury.

Alternatively, maybe you want to provide tailored exercise programmes for pregnant women or those who have recently given birth, in which case you’ll need to complete qualifications in pre and postnatal training.

Or perhaps you want to focus on the sports nutrition or the dietary side of the service, supporting clients to make body transformations, better nutrition choices and improve their metabolic health. PTs are often expected to give general advice on diets and healthy choices, and a nutrition course could be beneficial as a result.

The personal training business has changed considerably in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated what was already underway. Training clients no longer requires PTs to be on the gym floor, and many of the more tech savvy trainers have taken their services online, virtually or on social media. In today’s PT market, the only limitation to your training service is your imagination.

We would like to underline the fact that there’s still a HUGE demand for gym-based trainers, so if that’s where your passion is at, then don’t let the niche thing put you off!

Personal trainer assisting client with form

3-step winning formula for differentiating your PT services

One of the best ways to find a niche market for your PT services is to spend a little time and energy researching who is already doing what you plan to do and how well they’re actually doing. More importantly, if you can find out how can you improve on what they are doing, that customers might favour your training services over the competition.

1. Find something you’re passionate about

They say “if you do something that you love then you’ll never work a day in your life”. If you subscribe to this philosophy, then it’s crucial to take the time to be honest with yourself about what excites you, who and what are you interested in, and how you want to be defined.

Create a mind map of everything that you’re passionate about and use your own words and language to make sense of things. You don’t have to limit your niche to one area, but try not to be overly broad, as this can lead to a lack of focus and quality in the long run.

2. Do your market research thoroughly

Actively look for trainers offering services similar to what you are passionate about…

  • What do they charge for their services?
  • How could you improve on their offer?
  • Is it a viable proposition?

Conduct focus groups with potential clients to gauge their thoughts, and use their feedback to try and better suit their needs. It’s probably best to avoid friends and family, because they’ll more than likely tell you what you want to hear!

If there aren’t other people doing what you’re thinking about, be sure to do some digging – this could either be because there’s no demand for it, or because nobody else has thought of it. Be brutally honest with your research so you don’t become a victim of your own biases.

3. Create a strong vision and strategy for how you will succeed

Once you’re confident that there’s real demand for your niche, take the time to plan all the steps carefully. Don’t place too much pressure on yourself to hit lofty goals, especially early on.

Instead, be realistic in those early weeks and months when you’re learning the ropes and taking your first steps. You might want to start volunteering as a trainer before you get qualified, allowing you to meet with real clients and trainers that are already working in the business.

Make sure you record your plan and define what outcomes (e.g. financial, number of clients, training hours, qualifications) that you want to achieve in the first year or two. If you don’t have a clear plan, you’ll wander aimlessly in no particular direction.

It’s important that we underline the fact that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and come up with some game-changing novel idea that nobody has thought of before. There are plenty of niche opportunities in personal training so if you’re looking for a fast-track way to differentiate yourself, look closely at who is in-demand right now and model yourself on what they are doing.

Whatever you do, do it with passion!

If you want something bad enough, all you need to do is make a plan, break it down into small achievable goals and turn it into a day-by-day process. If you can be half an inch closer tomorrow to where you need to be, whether it’s a physique goal, a business goal or fitness transition, if you just take those slow continuous steps forward and don’t let the enormity of the situation overwhelm you. Small steps are easy to take, giant leaps are less so: do that and you’ll have no problem!Shaun StaffordElite Personal Trainer - Founder of City Athletic

Shaun Stafford is an elite personal trainer and founder of City Athlete


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