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HFE instructor guides student through a deadlift.
HFE instructor guides student through a deadlift.

The Credibility Factor

8 minute read

So you’ve just finished your personal training course and you’re qualified to start your dream career. You’re feeling excited about the future, but you’re new and don’t have any clients yet.

Nobody knows you or what you can do – you have no reputation preceding you, no track record, and perhaps most importantly, no credibility.

What is credibility?

By definition, credibility is the quality of being trusted or believed in, both of which are so important as a personal trainer. Your clients literally have to trust you and your skills for them to even consider paying you to give them the results they so desire.

Often for personal trainers, the temptation is to seek ways to increase credentials rather than credibility. It’s very common for them to focus on acquiring more and more qualifications in the belief that this will increase their credibility and, in turn, make them more successful.

These qualifications are used as evidence of their ability; of their worthiness as professionals. These credentials are then used to sell personal training – just take a look at personal trainer websites and leaflets. Nine times out of ten, the most prominent feature is a long list of qualifications that each trainer has acquired which translates into a list of services offered.

The point is this – credentials are of course important but there’s more to credibility in today’s market place than simply acquiring qualifications. Developing your credibility as a personal trainer can contribute greatly to your success provided you get it right.

The acquisition of further qualifications, specifically those which are CIMSPA accredited,  is certainly encouraged by the Fitness Industry. Developing your credentials in this way serves a number of purposes. It’s essential for getting a job, if that’s the route you choose, because employers have to know that you’re qualified to do what you do. It also serves to prove that you’re maintaining and updating the necessary qualifications required to deliver the service of personal training.

However, once you’ve proved your credibility to employers and secured a job, it’s a mistake to assume that those same credentials will also secure the clients you want. In fact, whether you choose employment or self-employment, this continued focus on developing your credibility by adding more and more strings to your bow is more about you than it is about your clients. It’s often about building your own confidence and mistakenly believing that the more you can build up your own self belief, the more clients you’ll get.

Question: How important are qualifications to your clients?

How often do you think you’ll get asked about your qualifications by your clients? The odds are never. Allow me to use my own experience as an example for you.

In all my time as a fitness instructor, trainer or coach I’ve never been asked by my clients about my qualifications or to prove myself by showing a certificate – for your clients it’s kind of a given. When teaching other PTs how to develop their business, for example, the fact that I’m a qualified business coach is of little importance for them.

What is important to them is that I’ve worked with many personal trainers like them and helped them build a successful business out of PT, to grow their client base, to increase their income, to reduce their stress and anxiety by giving them the tools to develop their business and so on. My clients come to me in response to the various strategies I use to demonstrate what I can do for them; the results and benefits I can help them achieve. Each strategy used delivers valuable service and benefit regardless of whether they become one of my coaching clients.

All of the qualifications and the professional memberships are about your personal and professional integrity. In order for you to call yourself a personal trainer, and to be an effective and competent professional, there are skills and knowledge you must have and those will always require updating and developing. Any good personal trainer will, as a matter of course, ensure that they’re qualified and that they maintain and develop their expertise.

When it comes to gaining credibility in the eyes of future clients, credentials in the form of qualifications are not the most important quality you need.

Consider your own decision to work with a professional. It isn’t based purely on their qualifications, is it? It’s based on whether you believe they can help you. It’s based on likeability and rapport. It’s based on whether you think they have the solutions to your problems or the skills to help you get the results you want.

All of this isn’t proved by a piece of paper. It’s proved by what you do. You demonstrate your credibility and your ability to be of service by consistently delivering valuable information and service for your target market.

You are one of thousands of personal trainers out there, all with a long list of qualifications. These things are essential, won’t necessarily help you to get clients. Ask yourself – how are people are going to choose you over the next personal trainer?

Here are 5 strategies you can use to develop the credibility factor:

1. Specialise

Few if any of the best marketing strategies work unless they are tailored to a specific audience. You will never appeal to everyone and in order to become client focused, you need to know exactly who your clients are going to be. This is where credentials can be a good starting point – taking an exercise specialist course, for example, could help you narrow down your niche.

If you can specialise, you’ll be in the best position to get to know your clients in terms of what they want. Subsequently, you’ll be able to further develop your expertise to better serve your clients and you’ll be much more effective at communicating and selling yourself to them.

2. Become 100% client focused

Everything you do in your business from your sales and marketing to your choice of further training needs to be of benefit and value to your clients. This means demonstrating your understanding of their burning desires and most pressing problems and challenges and your ability to help them to get the result they want.

Our attracting and retaining personal training clients article discusses this in more detail, but being specific to your clients and not just covering them all with the same formula or training plans is always a good idea.

3. Get Writing

Writing provides the opportunity to deliver great value to your clients. At the same time you build your authority and become more believable in your client’s eyes. It could be articles, reports, an e-book or a published book, contributing to existing newsletters or magazines or creating your own.

Not only does writing display your expertise, but it also develops it. Even if you’re not the most confident or experienced writer, the research you often do when putting together an article can be second to none in terms of gaining knowledge and inevitably, credibility.

4. Get Speaking

Any opportunity to speak to your target clients can help to build your reputation and help them to get to know, like and trust you. It helps you to stand out from the rest and is an important part of the process of getting your ideal clients to choose you over your PT colleagues. Offer to speak at relevant conferences and events or set up your own seminars or workshops.

5. Get other people to sell you

Make sure you get testimonials from all of your clients as this builds confidence amongst prospective clients that you can do the job, that you can help them get the results they want too.

A glowing testimonial from an existing client who is achieving what your prospects want or overcoming the same challenges they have is very powerful – more powerful than anything you can say. And you don’t have to wait until a client is leaving you to get a testimonial either. If your clients are happy with what you are doing for them, they’ll be happy to write one at any time.

Credentials have their place. They might help to get you a job and they might build your confidence as a personal trainer, but they won’t help you attract that all essential stream of clients. To achieve that, you must develop and demonstrate the credibility factor that your clients are looking for. That means putting yourself out there in ways that demonstrate and deliver real value.

Action: Think about your target market and the clients you want to work with.

Once you’re clear on this, you can start making some more strategic decisions about which further training courses you do. You can also start making use of the strategies above to develop your credibility in the eyes of your future clients.


By Yvette Nevrkla – expert business coach for personal trainers, published author and founder of The PT Business Gym, a company that specialises in supporting personal trainers to build successful and profitable businesses. With a career already spanning 15 years in the fitness industry and her experience as a business coach and business owner, Yvette’s knowledge and expertise is successfully helping personal trainers to get the business results they want and to survive and thrive in today’s competitive market.

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