When I first trained, I had a load of ideas about what I wanted to do. Now, they're very different.
It's a very odd industry, and it's taken me a while to suss out how it works.
Since that first certificate (exercise to music, for those interested) I've got a whole shedload more, diversified into interesting new areas and learnt a lot. I've given up my 'proper' job. I've had a few rollercoaster rides, a few disasters, a few unexpected huge successes. It's been a funny old eight years.
Anyway, in celebration of my anniversary, here's some ideas about how to survive (and flourish) in the fitness industry, and in life in general perhaps...
Chat to the other instructors, the gym staff, the cleaners, participants, anyone that will listen. Make sure they know who you are and what you do. This isn't about selling yourself, but just getting known. You're building your reputation. Once you have a reputation (and a good one, hopefully) then you'll never need to chase work again - it just lands in your lap.
...recommend + collaborate
"No, I can't teach that class as I have another booking, but Ines would be just perfect".
Gym managers like the fact that you've solved their problem, the person you've recommended is grateful (though usually suspicious...), and you look like you're a very useful person to know. The more you solve the problems, the more you become the first place people go when they need something. Which means you get first refusal on a lot of opportunities. Network. Refer. Comment on other instructors Facebook posts and share their stuff (with any luck, they'll share your stuff too). Give people work, and generally be valuable to them. Help out new instructors with kit and advice, help out established instructors with good quality cover and referrals.
...know your audience, and how to reach them
If you're teaching a pay-as-you-go class in a village hall, you're appealing to a certain sort of person. Know who they are. Target your flyers, posters and social media appropriately. You're unlikely to get clients from the super-expensive-looking houses (they'll have gym membership already...), you're unlikely to get good adherence from new mums (too busy), so work out who you're targeting that means that the class will be successful and also will grow organically. Your friends are not your target market (in fact, having your friends at your classes is very much a bad idea...), so know who is and know how to reach them (hint: your Facebook timeline is not this place).
Smile. No matter what. At everyone. Chatter. Ask after their kids/cats/weight loss/health. Mean it.
...be careful who you talk to, and how you talk to them.
This week's aerobics instructor is potentially next week's class coordinator.
Yes, I know I said to gossip up there ^^^. But make sure that you gossip in a positive way. Do not slag off other instructors, even in a sidelong sort of way. It makes you look bitchy. It makes the person you're speaking to wonder what you'll say about them when talking to someone else. It also makes your clients uneasy.
...tread on toes
Know what else is going on. Don't set something up at the same time as someone else or directly in competition with them. Don't try and poach other people's customers. As well as reducing your own potential audience, and making you look like you're unaware of what else is going on, it's just rude. When setting something up in the same village as someone else, I always give them a call to have a chat about it - in some cases I've deliberately then not started something because the existing instructor would prefer to not have the competition. There are plenty of 'gaps' in the market, so why compete for the same audience?
At one gym I'm working at, I discovered that another instructor has offered to take on one of my classes at 25% less than I'm currently paid - this annoys me (and you never know when you might need me on side!), plus it makes you look cheap to the gym and desperate for work. Good instructors are not desperate for work, so the obvious corollary is that you're not a good instructor.
...change your arrangements
If you've got a class at 6pm costing £5, then don't change it to 7pm and £6 two weeks later. People don't know where they are with stuff. It also implies that you've not really thought through what you're doing! Cost up your session, know your audience, price and schedule accordingly. Don't just try things out - have a business plan for each new venture and make sure you've got a viable session before you start.
...teach things you're not 100% fab at
Obvious, right? Based on a recent class I attended, apparently not :(
Your participants are inherently nice, so will tell you how great you are (even if you're simply mediocre), which you'll then put on Facebook. If it's a cover class, the regular will come back to find that most of the class thought you were shocking, but they can then do nothing about it (except feel smug when reading your Facebook status...<grin>).
Some people won't like you. Some people (for whatever reason) will switch to a different instructor. Let them go and wish them well. It will work the other way too at some point! Gyms will cancel classes, or replace instructors - try not to take this personally, but work out why and learn from that (it maybe because the replacement is undercutting you, in which case it will return to bite the gym in the bum when the new instructor proves to be both unreliable and rubbish!). Develop a very thick skin.
People need you. You have a place in the industry. Remember why you do it. Haters will always hate, bitches will always bitch. Trust in what you do, and your reasons for doing it. Keep at it.