Being pretty much on my own in the freelance arena, the best resource I can rely on is my mind. The competitiveness of the fitness industry makes getting clients and building a profitable business a challenge. Certainly, it would have been easier if I had the guidance of a thriving freelancer in the same trade who is willing to share all the wisdom he or she has to be just as successful. Yet such support is rare and practically non-existent.
So what is the key challenge of being a freelance fitness trainer in today’s world? What mindset did I have that caused this challenge to present itself in my career and how did I resolve the issue?
The main difficulty I faced was finding my unique selling point (USP). Knowing that there are many other trainers out there in the gyms with pleasant looking physiques and an existing client base of 20 to 30 people, there were high barriers to entry for a new trainer like me when I first started in 2013. How could I possibly get ahead of my competitors and have clients choose me over them?
Back then, I dedicated a large amount of time weekly having coffee chats with other freelancers and small business owners in the fitness line as well as other industries. There was a common message that I got: BE UNIQUE! Their advice was to have one or two exceptional features which distinguishes me from the masses, such that people will choose me because I am the only one who can deliver them. These features may be an additional service or a product that I create.
That sounds common-sense enough, but why didn’t I think of it? Looking back, I now know it was due to the way I thought. I used to imitate what I saw around me in the gyms, following what most trainers do because I felt there must be good reason for it: either because it works, or that is simply how it ‘should’ be done. What if I tangent off in my way and lose even further to them? What if after changing, I not only fail to get clients but damage my reputation as a trainer within the community? What if I had to start again from ground zero or an even lower point than that?
With all these thoughts flooding my mind, I was somewhat reluctant to take the first step to change. But what I fail to realise then was that I could either continue to follow what the masses do and see slow, limited results; or I can choose to be different, capitalise on my unique strengths, and begin seeing quicker, better results. After much deliberation, I eventually chose the latter. All I had to do was believe it can be done and tell myself that I am the only one who can decide if change is going to work for me.
Just that single shift in thinking got me better at my trade. Today, I have people coming to me rather than me going to them. The USP I have is the bodyweight-training modality and my philosophy behind what a fitness lifestyle truly means. I believe in incorporating exercise into everyday life. Workouts need to be scalable, portable, and most importantly, fun! I have designed all my training programmes to meet these criteria. It does not matter that I may be unable to train bodybuilders and athletes, for with my new thinking, I have accepted that I do not need everyone to be my client. I would rather be good at what I enjoy doing and add tremendous value to my preferred clients, than to imitate what other trainers do, but end up not buying into it and short-changing my clients with half-hearted service and execution.
If I had remained stubborn about change and stuck to mainstream ways, I believe I would still be struggling in my career. Once I overcame the fear of failure and decided to go ahead with my USP, results kicked in and there was no looking back.