Achieving the first step of starting a career in fitness can be quite an undertaking: attaining a working knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, programming, specificity, nutrition and even understanding the human psychology of fitness and health can be daunting, expensive and an investment of time and energy. The education component of becoming a credentialed fitness professional, however, however, is just the very beginning. To make a career out of the profession, and to live the quality of life you wish, you must also be vigilant about understanding the business of fitness. But the initial challenge many face is figuring out how to find that very first client to jump start their career.

Here are three strategies to securing your first client:

1. Network (smartly)
There are many options for networking opportunities in most towns/cities, but failing to understand the art of networking is where many people end up wasting time and money. The key to successful networking is doing the opposite of what most people do. When you meet someone at a networking event, do not focus most of your conversation on what you do, rather find out about what they do and then determine whether they may or may not be a potential client, someone with whom you can do business-to-business (i.e. a company that prints t-shirts for your business) or a potential partner who can refer clients. Make sure you get their business card and ask if they would like you to add them to your bi-weekly email newsletter (see strategy #2 below).

2. Focus on building an email following with an email newsletter
There is no better way to economically build credibility and trust with potential clients than through marketing using email newsletters. For a nominal monthly investment, use an email platform like Constant Contact or fitpronewsletter.com to store and grow your email subscribers and regularly send out email newsletters with useful information and tips that will help the subscribers get to know you, like you and trust you. 60-70% of your emails should give quality information that lends to your credibility as an expert (without a direct sales pitch). 30-40% of your emails can ask for the sale or directly promote your services. You may not get an immediate sale, but your regular emails (start with a minimum of twice monthly) will put you front-of-mind when they are ready to seek-out a fitness professional.

3. Offer free lunch & learns at local businesses
I found one of my first clients as a result of a free lunch and learn session I offered to a local real estate office. There were five women who attended, and I spoke about how to fit in health and fitness amid their business schedule. While I didn't directly pitch my services, I asked each of them if they wanted to be added to my email list at the end of the session. A few days later, one of the attendees contacted me about personal training. What I gained in return for investing a little over an hour of my time and the cost of a few printouts paid itself back multiple times.

Whether you decide to start by working in a big box gym, a small studio or start your own business, finding that first client is key to giving you the confidence and momentum you need to build a thriving base of clientele. Keep the focus on building your business one client at a time!