Update 8/21/20. How to get clients is one of the most common questions both rookie and veteran personal trainers wonder about and stress over. With that in mind, let me show you how to use one of the best ways to pick up clients -outside of the gym – with Craigslist! I know what you are thinking: “I tried Craigslist and it didn’t work.” I know for some people it didn't work and that's why I'm going to show you the right way and the wrong way to do it. Follow along with me as I show you a better way to use Craigslist to get personal training clients.
Why Use Craigslist?
Craigslist is totally free and millions of people use it every day – That includes people in your area! More than this, I can tell you from personal experience that Craigslist works for getting clients. I've used it and have gotten clients that I have worked with for several years. I also know a lot of trainers think Craigslist doesn’t work also. Having looked at a lot of the personal trainer ads, I think I know what they are doing wrong. Let's start by discussing the wrong way…
The Wrong Way
When I look at the personal trainer ads on Craiglist, they usually start off with something like “Hi I'm Bob “ (Bob who? They don’t give their full name) and “I'm a personal trainer and I want to get you into the best shape of your life” or something like that. They then go on and on using long-winded paragraphs about great they are, followed by a phone number and /or an unprofessional email address (e.g. SexyTrainer@Don't-Have-Any-Clients.com).
In addition, the ad isn't even proofread for spelling errors.
Sometimes they toss in random pictures that have nothing to do with themselves―or even worse —sexy/half-naked picture of themselves! In a nutshell, the whole ad is unprofessional. Very few potential clients are going to respond to an unprofessional ad.
But First, You Need A Website
I'm going to show you how I've used Craigslist. I know this will work. Before you do this, I highly recommend you have a website to accompany your Craigslist ad. After people read your ad – they are going to want to check you out further before contacting you. This is where your website comes in.
Your Facebook page probably won't work if its a private page because people will have to send you a friend request before they can see you. And if you use your page for personal reasons, you might not want your potential clients seeing some things you post (political views etc).
Here is how to make a website in about 1 hour. This is how I made my websites.
Websites are very important because odds are people will not call a stranger on the phone. But, they are more likely to contact you if they have checked you out on your website first and feel comfortable with you. Your website is a way for them to get to know you better.
Using Craigslist To Get Personal Training Clients
Now let's talk about the specifics.
Where To Post Your Craigslist Ad
I recommend you post your ad in either the Sporting Goods section or the Health and Beauty Section. That seems to be were many personal trainers post. While I've noticed that some trainers also post in the “General” section, I feel posting in the sporting goods or health and beauty sections better targets people who might be most likely to hire a trainer. While I feel this is best, feel free to experiment with what works for you.
Craigslist lets you add a location to your post. I've noticed some trainers list the location as “Anywhere” however I feel this is a mistake. For example, I'm sure you probably won't travel for 3 hours for just one client.
I recommend you list only a single location, preferably one of the more affluent locations in your area. Another option is to list a zip code of an area.
Should You List Your Rate?
I ‘t recommend that you do not list your rate on CL. Why? For one reason, trainers who list a price, usually list only the per-session rate. I know many trainers who have different rates for those who purchase 5, 10, and even 20 or more sessions upfront. One alternative is to say you have a “variety of packages to suit your needs and budget” in your ad without listing the actual rates.
Another reason not to do list your rate is that the bottom feeder trainers who are also on CL might try to underbid you.
Yes, I said “bottom feeders.” These are slick/ fast talkers who are either certified or not not certified. They lowball the price to get clients. Potential clients who think all trainers are equal, might just look at price. That would be a loss for both them and you.
You may be the best personal trainer on Earth and worth every penny you are asking, but some people might overlook you based just on the rate you list. Lastly listing the rate in your ad might make some people think there is no wiggle room for negotiation.
I know there are trainers who would negotiate down their price if the client lived 5 minutes away, was very close to an existing client, or wanted to train at a time that fit well within the trainer's schedule.
How To Format Your Ad
Instead of writing long and wordy paragraphs about the benefits of exercise, personal training, etc., I suggest you outline your craigslist ad the way I have listed in the sample below. I feel this will maximize the responses you get.
Bullet everything in your ad. Bullets are easier to scan and read online than paragraphs. This is one of the most important parts of your Craigslist ad.
- Your ad should include your full name (not just your first name)
- Put the most important facts about yourself at the top of your ad
- Include any special education (degrees etc) you have as well as the length of time you have been a personal trainer
- Include the name of your certification organization
Tip. Don't just list the letters of the fitness organization (ACE, AFAA, NSCA etc.). The general public does not know what the letters mean. Writing out the full name of the organization sounds more professional and impressive to people. For example, instead of saying AAAI/ISMA, say, American Aerobics Association International/International Sports Medicine Association. If there is something special about that organization, briefly mention it.
- Do you specialize in an area of fitness – kids, athletes, older adults? If yes, include your specialty. If you specialize in women's fitness/female issues add this in because most people who hire personal trainers are women.
- Include any special achievements you have accomplished. For example, If you have lost a lot of weight and kept it off
, mention this. Most people who hire trainers are going to do so for weight loss. If you already lost weight, then they will hire you just to learn what you already know. If you're running a special (10% off for Craigslist customers etc.) put that in the post.
- If you can, include a picture because it increases the number of people who check your ad out. The picture should be non-offensive and tasteful. If the picture includes you and one of your clients, make sure your client knows this and is OK with it. If you have written books – as I have -add those pictures too. It gives you extra credibility.
- If you have references from other clients, state that references are available upon request.
Sample Craigslist Post
Here is a summary of something I posted on Craigslist that got me, clients. Use this as a template for how to craft your ad.
- Hi, my name is Joe Cannon and I'm an exercise physiologist/ personal trainer and author.
- I have an MS degree in exercise science.
- I have a BS degree in chemistry and biology.
- I teach/certify personal training. In other words “I train the trainers.”
- I've authored books including those on personal training, dietary supplements and sports nutrition.
- I've written for several publications including The Journal of Strength and Conditioning, Today's Dietitian, and WeightWatchers.com to name a few.
- I've appeared on TV and radio.
- I specialize in working with older adults as well as people with special needs (diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, etc.) as well as dietary supplements and sports nutrition.
- For more information feel free to contact me via my website Joe-Cannon.com and I will be glad to help you.
That's basically it. Notice I got straight to the point and bulleted everything. The key here is to be professional, honest, transparent and to tout your strengths and who you feel you can help the most.
What Not To Do
- I don't think you should put your phone number in your ad. It might lead to spam calls.
- I don't think you should list your personal email in your ad because it will lead to spam.
- Do not be unprofessional in any way.
- Do not post sexy pictures of yourself.
- Do not seem needy or desperate.
Remember to re-post your Craigslist ad every 30-45 days because it will be automatically deleted in that time period if you don't repost it. If you use Outlook, Google Calendar, etc., set a reminder to pop up in that time period so you remember to re-post your ad.
Do You Need Insurance?
You need to protect yourself with personal training insurance if you are traveling to the homes of people to train them or meeting them at a separate location to train them. Don't train anyone without personal trainer insurance. A personal trainer's insurance policy will protect you no matter where you are: home, gym, public park, etc.
The good news is that personal trainer insurance is not expensive. Many good policies can be purchased for less than $200 per year. A few examples of companies that offer insurance to fitness trainers include AIG, K&K, and The Philadelphia Insurance Company.
When They Call: What To Do
If you give a prospective new client your cell phone number, make sure the voice mail message is professional and short. For example, “Hi this is Jen Smith of Body by Jen. Please leave a message and I'll call you right back.” When you do speak to the person, let them do most of the talking.
Let them explain to what their problems are and what they are looking for. Ask questions based on what they say to probe deeper into how you might help them. When they ask for your rates (they will), be ready to give your rates over the phone.
Sometimes people might balk when they are told the rate so if you want to minimize this, you might also say something like:
“My normal rate is $85/hour for 10 sessions but for Craigslist I am running a special of $65/hour for 10 sessions ―and that rate that never goes up.”
In short, your Craigslist ad should be almost like a resume, highlighting you and why you are special and worthy of being hired. Focus on making your post easy to scan (use bullets), short and straight to the point. I think if you follow this simple strategy – and give it time – you may be surprised at how well it works for you.
If you want more insights like this, grab my book 101 Personal Trainer Marketing Secrets. In that book, I share with you what I and other personal trainers have done to get clients.
modesto talavera says
Hey Joe, Thanks for sharing. This has been very helpful. Also Joe I took the ISSA Cert. and It is a very good cert. as far as knowledge goes. I think it covers a lot that prepares you for a personal training career. The only thing it is hard to get hired with this cert. I been wanting to start a business but lack experience training people. Any suggestions
Modesto, I like ISSA. Some gyms have been bamboozled into thinking its not as good as other certs because it’s not NCCA accredited. NCCA accreditation is expensive and not worth it in my opinion. I think you have taken the first step to go into business for yourself by thinking about how to use craigslist to your advantage. You should have personal trainer liability insurance but this isn’t expensive (maybe $150 per year). Then put an add on craigslist like I summarized and see how that works. Ive heard good things about another service called Thumbtack (I have not used that myself).
You should have some portable equipment you can bring to people’s houses when you train them. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate and can be as simple as this:
TRX Suspension Trainer
If you want to get your feet wet in a gym setting, take a look at Jewish community centers (JCCs) and YMCAs.
if you have any other questions, just ask.
Thanks for the great article. How would you recommend gathering information if you don’t have a website
Hi Nadia, thanks so much! What kind of information are you trying to gather – information on finding a personal trainer who understands how to work with people with HIV or how to gather information on HIV and exercise?
If you give me some more details I can try to help you.
Thanks for sharing! Do you have any strategies on wording the posting title since this is the first thing that peaks peoples interest?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Chelsea, good question and I’d say lead with your strengths. For example, when I crafted my ad, I lead with that I was an exercise physiologist and I specialized in special needs individuals. I’ve looked at your website – very nice by the way – read your bio and it looks like you have been through quite a bit. For you, I’d say something like “Body Transformation Specialist” and add that before and after picture you have on your 411 page.
Craigslist is full of “personal trainers” but I think the better someone can distinguish themselves from the masses, better the odds of using it to its full potential.
Let me know how it works for you 🙂
Coach Daisha says
I decided to implement this awesome strategy!!!! Thank you for sharing…
Joe Cannon says
Hi Daisha, you are very welcome. That south foulton Tennis center you work at looks like a pretty awesome place too 🙂
Can you explain why you said NOT to use craigslist if you don’t have training insurance.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Chris, My thoughts with using craigslist were that you would be using it to get clients you train one your own, either in their homes, your home or at some local gym. Since you will be working in the capacity as a self – employed personal trainer, you need to carry liability insurance to protect yourself, just in case anything ever went wrong during training sessions. If you employed at a gym and work with clients there, you may be covered by the gyms policy (see my review about gym trainers and insurance for more info) but if you work with clients on your own you need to have your own insurance.
I can give you some places to look for insurance if you like? Most are not expensive.
K T says
Hey, Joe. Where’s the best place to get cheap insurance?
Joe Cannon says
Hi KT, try these
Philadelphia insurance company personal trainer insurance
CPH personal trainer insurance
AIG personal trainer insurance
Do an online search for those phrases and their websites should pop up.
Brad Dake says
This article was very helpful. Thanks for the tips. I’m going to use this to re-work my Craigslist (previously no leads.) Here we go!
Joe Cannon says
Brad, glad to help! Do let me know how it goes:)
Thanks Joe, I learned alot from this article now to put it to use. Wish me luck.
Joe Cannon says
Freddie, you are very welcome and much success. Let me know how it goes 🙂
Justin W. says
I tried this and got a lot of phishing scam calls and emails. Be careful.
Joe Cannon says
Justin, that’s why I recommended NOT posting your email or phone number in the craigslist ad. List your website instead to cut down on the scams.
Paul Thomas says
Great article Joe. I’ve never used Craigslist before to get training clients, but will certainly reconsider. Great point about linking to your website to lessen the possibility of you being a serial killer & not to include too much contact information & get spammed to death. Great tip as always – thanks Joe!
Joe Cannon says
Paul, thanks and I hope it works for you. Since you already have a site I think this will work for you. Keep me posted !
Syed hassan says
Hey joe, I just read your article I can’t wait to post an ad the right away, Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us in able for us to succeed.
Hi Syed, thanks for for saying that! I’m happy to help. Let me know how it works for you 🙂