Whether you’re newly certified or have been personal training for awhile, you can easily set yourself apart from the competition with professionalism. Many people get into the fitness industry because it’s a hobby and passion. If you have plans to sustain fitness as a career, follow these tips to transform your personal training hobby into a profession.

1. Listen to your voicemail. How does it sound?  Happy?  Excited?  Sad?  Mumbled?  Grumpy?  Write a new script for it and smile or dance around to some music before you record.  But, keep it brief.  Your tone of voice is often more impactful than your words.

2. Social media clean up.  Scan your facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc. and remove any photos of you that show you at less than your best.  Intoxicated, half nude, etc.  Unless it fits into your brand somehow, get rid of inappropriate pics.

3. Listen before giving advice.  If you really want to help people, start listening more intently and get curious.  People often give away the solutions to their problems when they’re talking to you.  It’s human nature to think you have the answers for someone else, but really the best thing to do sometimes is to listen, clarify and ask questions.  Help lead them to their own conclusion.Professional Trainer

4. Keep notes.  Use a three ring binder with dividers to keep track of clients health information, likes, dislikes, routines, and amounts of weight they use for each exercise.  Don’t get caught saying, “What did we do last time?”  Also, if you’re out of town this can be useful for your substitute or if you ever move away you can pass this on to the next person.

5. Build a referral network.  Find a trusted massage therapist, chiropractor, physical therapist, nutritionist, yoga instructor, etc. who you like and trust.  Trade a session with them (or observe them for an hour, in the case of a PT) and propose that you exchange business cards to refer clients back and forth.  Only do this if you like them and it’s reciprocal (they are willing to refer to you).

6. Invest in education.  NFPT offers many affordable opportunities for continuing education.  The Idea Fitness Journal is a professional, credible magazine that provides the current research in the industry ten times per year.  Don’t just get education for the credit, do it because you want to be the best.

7. Focus on the client.  It’s easy to land up talking about yourself when you spend a couple hours a week with someone.  Keep it minimal and always bring conversations back to the client.  Answer their questions about your weekend, your life and your habits briefly, politely and then re-direct to them.  “I went nordic skiing with my dogs this weekend.  What did you do?”

While you’re busy being professional, don’t forget to also be YOU by being professionally authentic.