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Why ‘the grind’ and hustle porn will kill your personal training business

We all have a few of them on our social media news feeds. The bad impression of Gary Vee ‘Lions don’t follow the opinions of sheep’ type characters who would are constantly sharing screenshots of their stock market ‘success’ and can be caught posing next to a leased BMW on any given Sunday.

Could you be doing a version of this with your Personal Training business?

Obviously you’re thinking ‘hell no!’ but if you take a step back and look at it through an honest lens then the answer may surprise you. It certainly shocked us.

It was early days of Propane, we had been through a couple mentorship programs in the past and we were still struggling to get the business to ‘click’. We had 15 clients each, that frustrating no-mans land where it’s not enough to do full time but still enough that it feels like a job.

What’s worse is we HATED our actual jobs. I was clock watching the moment I got into the office and Yusef was on the edge of headbutting the photocopier until one of either him or the photocopier didn’t work anymore.

We were looking for a way out. Up pop’s an ad from a Fitpro ‘guru’. I normally skipped them but after a 2 hour meeting full of arbitrary conversations about KPI’s and ‘circling back’, my willpower was sapped. I clicked through and watched a video where the guru explained to me the secret sauce to unlock my six-figure future.

CHARGE MORE!

The maths was simple, and alluring – charge 997 for each client you onboard on a 3 month package then you only need 5 sales a month to make 60k a year pretax and VAT. That’s a decent living for most.

We charged 30 pounds a month for our 1-1 coaching at the time. On reflection this was certainly too low but 11 times that? I talked it over with Yusef and we agreed we might as well give it a punt to try and break our plateau. We signed up for their 6 week six figure mastery group.

Fast forward 4 weeks and we are deep in the trenches, running ads to book in a ‘discovery call’ to then take a big swing on the phone to convert an almost complete stranger on to a 1k personal training package. The methods of persuasion suggested were, to put it lightly, persistent and calculated.

If it could be summed in a sentence:

‘By any means necessary make them feel the desperate pain of their failures and position yourself as the one-and-only solution.’

In the mastery group comments thread, a coach was bragging about how they had convinced a single-mum to take out a high-interest loan for a 6 week fat-blast. Worse than that one of the course teachers was actually congratulating them on the feat. Something felt ‘off’. The breaking point for me was making a lovely lady from Stoke-on-Trent cry when I told her the price. I’d just spent 30 minutes unearthing her very personal weight loss struggles. She was desperate to change things, she couldn’t do it alone, but there was no way she could afford 997 – what the fuck was I doing? In a way I felt like her – stuck and desperate. On top of that I felt like a fraud, was this the only way to make the online coaching work?

I hopped on a call with Yusef. He felt the same. We seemed to be caught in the Dark Knight’s dilemma. We had to die heroes, or live long enough to see ourselves become the villains.

This is the major flaw with a lot of this ‘the grind never stops 💯’ mentality. It is too self-focused. Businesses at their core give value to other people. Become too focused on the number in your bank account or the amount of hours you put in in a certain week and you are missing the point entirely. Personal training is a service. You are a servant to your target market, they are not disciples whose purpose it is to stroke your broken ego. Our prospective clients didn’t give a crap how much we disliked our jobs, they didn’t care about our arbitrary financial targets or how much we’d invested into mentoring, they rightfully only cared about how our coaching could help them.

Now – you may not have been down a path quite as extreme as us but ‘charge high ticket’ has an insidious little-sister called ‘post 3 times a day’ that is usually just as self-absorbed in its execution. It goes something like this:

‘If I post 3 times a day then I will get more engagement which means I can DM more people, which will mean I can make more sales’ – notice how many ‘I’s are in that sentence?

It’s not that you can’t attract business with organic content – we deliver a ton of free value on the front end and it massively helps the sales process. However, if you’re posting that much are you giving your followers genuine value, or are you just whacking out a production line of vaguely relevant content for your own self-interest/because a guru said so?

Another facet of hustle culture is the notion that conspicuous effort = progress. They aren’t the same thing. There’s work ethic, which is a valuable trait to possess. However the hardest workers just keep plodding on like a juggernaut through the ocean. Slow, deliberate, unending. They aren’t hellbent on letting everyone and their nan know just how hard they are working.

Who is your 4:00am timestamped IG story really for? No one cares if you got up before sunrise and screamed ‘Light WEIIIGHT’ into the mirror of a Pure Gym as you deadlifted 4 plates with a rounded lower back. UNLESS they are trying to do the same.

And this is where the line gets blurry. As a personal trainer you are in some ways an aspirational character. It is generally beneficial to have six pack abs and competitive lift totals. There is a ‘walks the walk’ trust that comes from being in great shape. If you have abnormal results then people tend to put you on a pedestal. Naturally, this can encourage coaching enquiries and make sales much easier. However, your role is to help others onto the pedestal alongside you, not show just how remarkable it is that you managed to get up there – do not get high on your own supply.

And that is the core problem with ‘hustle’ culture. It’s too ego driven. A lot of the actions are fairly reasonable in theory, but when they come from a place of self-service, they become self-defeating. The value of a personal training business is in the number of people it can help achieve their desired fitness goals, and nothing else.

If you want to chat to us about a better way of doing things then book in here