8 February 2019


by Jacob Schepis 0

*Takes big breathe* Alright, here we go again… Making a career in the fitness industry is damn bamboozling. Blogs, articles, courses, degrees, webinars, seminars, research reviews, e-books… These are but a few of the mediums and means by which coaches and fitness professionals can up skill to improve their skill set, knowledge and seek to…

*Takes big breathe*

Alright, here we go again…

Making a career in the fitness industry is damn bamboozling. Blogs, articles, courses, degrees, webinars, seminars, research reviews, e-books… These are but a few of the mediums and means by which coaches and fitness professionals can up skill to improve their skill set, knowledge and seek to become more informed practitioners..

I’ve seen so many trainers and coaches come and go now it’s beyond laughable. Whilst you may be thinking, hey that’s great for your business, I’m not that kind of guy and my client list is full so its no skin off my nose. It truly saddens me to have seen so many competent and downright good coaches fail to defy the odds and outlive their short life expectancy as a coach.

Is it the hours?

Is it the pay?

Is it the job itself?

It likely could be a combination of all of the above, but in an industry saturated with coaches and trainers all looking to make a career of their passion – ‘fitness’, I’ve found there to be a common denominator in why it is that coaches simply don’t last and this article will hopefully help you looking to excel in the industry have a better understanding of how you can make it…

If you’re good, the money is great.

If you’re great, you run your own hours.

If you’re amazing, you can make the rules and create your own position description..

So why is it that so many trainers slowly dwindle out of their coaching career and back into the 9-5?

My speculation – lack of direction…

These days there are gyms on damn near every block. Technology affords 24/7 access to the digital world so that anyone can become an online coach and social media gives everyone a voice and platform to engage an audience. So there are jobs to be had, options available if you hate the double shift and a market willing and eager to hire you if you have a six pack and some sex appeal #flexfriday.

So surely there is more to it if we are seeing so many coaches come in and out of the industry with such a high rate of turnover?





These are all common feeling among many coaches. I’ve mentored over 40 personal trainers now and there are some recurring themes present when I first sit down to chat about why the hell they aren’t where they envisioned when they first signed up to PT school as a bright eyed fitness fanatic.

Oh, and the industry ‘guru’s’ and opportunistic businessman who have been paying attention to this dilemma, they’ve created systems for people like you. You are their market and they want to help, for a fee of course, right?

Increase sales they say…

Work from home they claim.

Follow their system…

They’ll give you one simple trick to take your business into a money making machine, blah blah blah…

Sales is not the answer, nor is marking  or  getting on the gym floor to coach and for f*** sake, there is no simple trick to make 6 figures. If there was I would tell you, believe me.  I’m certain that after 8 years in the game I would have stumbled across it by now. Or maybe I’m just an imbecile, i’ll let you be the judge…

But is the lack of sustainability in coaching really due to an inability to make money?

It’s NOT your price point, its not your marketing strategy and I would dare say it isn’t even your ability to stand out in the crowd. Whilst these are no doubt important, and being competent in the aforementioned certainly helps, they are all but trivial components to fitness industry success.

What I have seen to be the primary reason coaches don’t last more than 6 months is the lack of pathways available for professional development and career direction. There is no  form of clear, succinct and logical progression as a coach, its the nature of the game and it can suck. Once your course or degree is over, you are tossed into the jungle with ravenous hyenas and expected to know how to hunt, kill, eat and thrive…

But why is it that so many coaches are feeling lost in their professional development?

Tidbits of information here, soundbites of knowledge there. It’s an absolute shambles trying to continually educate yourself further outside of formal qualifications and I too have experienced first hand the hardships of lacking direction in my up-skilling. Whilst many may think that formal education is the answer, I would argue that even then only the elite survive in the university system and the gap between higher education and the gym floor is one that is not bridged in a four year course. I mean, Ive seen 3rd and 4th year exercise science students recite anatomy but not know how to piece together a sound program or teach a squat. In the same token, I’ve seen personal trainers give great sessions and cue brilliantly the ‘chest’ up’, ‘knees out’ in the squat but fail to locate their tibia…

So what’s the solution?

I don’t have one and neither does anyone else…

We can always be idealistic and discuss the many ways we can aim to bridge the gap and help educate all fitness professionals to excel in their respective field, but its a pipe dream. There is so much to this job beyond coaching its not funny and in writing this I don’t even know if education is the answer…

If education is the answer, then what do you, the coach, need to be well versed in?

  • Exercise/Sports Science.
  • Nutritional Sciences.
  • Psychology.
  • Communication skills.
  • Business & Accounting.
  • Marketing.
  • Graphic Design.
  • Digital Media.
  • Social Media.
  • Customer Service.
  • Administraiton.

These are just some of the areas that I have had to quickly learn when I first started out coaching, and f*** me sideways looking back I am lucky to have made it. God knows how I did it, but I did. Stubborn, arrogant and somewhat obdurate in my quest to survive, but here we are 8 years on…

There are some damn brilliant courses available both online and in the flesh don’t get me wrong and if you’d like shoot me a message and I would be happy to refer you to them. But despite the quality of information and education for coaches improving, I still see the same problem arise year in year out and I attribute it to the sheer lack of direction that comes with self employment and the whole fitness biz thing.

But Jacob, if education and knowledge aren’t the key to a sustainable and fruitful career, where on earth is a coach to start in order to make a living in the fitness industry?

My answer, have direction and become self sufficient…

Would you get in your car without knowing where you want to go, or without having a good sense of how you are going to get there and without the ability to drive?

Of course not and your career should be no different.

There is no perfect route in any career, and becoming a great coach and making your mark in this industry is beyond the scope of this article and well outside my area of expertise – ask your year 12 career advisor, not me. I’m just a PT.

So fellow coaches, here we are with more questions that answers yet again. BUT, before you look to invest in another rehab, strength, nutrition, marketing, sales or pilates course, plan out your god damn career and make sure that whatever it is you’re doing aligns with your definition of success and your mission. If not, f*** it right off.

Remember, you have no boss, no hierarchy and there is no corporate ladder to climb. You need to know what your next move is once you’ve got a few clients, have started to make a buck and got a few thousand followers on IG and as they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. This I believe, is one of the primary reasons we are seeing a high rate of turnover in coaches…

The solution my friends is not necessarily in paying someone to teach you more, it certainly helps and a mentor who has walked your journey can be of significant value, but there aren’t many honest and genuine people willing to do that these days.

Therefore, your first step is to critically evaluate your current situation and past clearly define where it is you want to be.

In our mentorship program for coaches, one of the first tasks I get all students to complete the following:

  • Their definition of success;
  • Their mission statement;
  • A prospective career evaluation; and
  • An assessment of their competencies.

The point of these exercises is that it allows students to identify what it is their dream job entails and the areas in which they wish to work long term, as well as what they are good at. From here, its a simple process of reverse engineering and mapping out their professional development both on a coaching and business level and understanding that everything they do should be aligned with their long term goals.

Oh, and before I leave you, please, for the love of god keep in mind that nobody can save you. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how much you sob and bitch and moan, its your f***ing career. Take some ownership and and accept that if you want something bad enough then you will have to make it happen. After all, its your career and it should be a priority.

Remember, an established career doesn’t happen over night. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and if you think that job satisfaction comes with ‘more’ clients, more money or industry status you are mistaken. There will be months and years of the grind before you get to where you want to be, and you must be willing to suck it up for a while and embrace delayed gratification…

Just be sure that your relentless hustle is done with integrity and honesty of course. Otherwise no matter what you do, you’ll be in and out like a slice of bread in a toaster. Oh and a smile. Clients like smiles…

PS – If you are considering a 5-10k investment into marketing, sales and the likes, I have some advice for you. Instead, drive down to the casino, put it on red, cross your fingers and thank me later.



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