Getting Clients With Craigslist: How To Do It

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 Craigslist personal trainerthis, 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’ In addition the ad isn’t even proofread for spelling errors.

Sometimes they add in random pictures that have nothing to do with themselves―or even worse —sexy/unprofessional picture of themselves! In a nutshell the whole ad is unprofessional. Very few people – and even less serious potential clients are going to respond to an unprofessional ad.


Using Craigslist The Right Way

What I’m about to show you  is how I’ve used Craigslist so I know this will work. But before you do this, I highly recommend you have a website to accompany your Craigslist ad. After people read your ad – and like what they see – they are going to want to check you out further before contacting you personally. 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. 

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.


Where To Post Your 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 “GeneralCraigslist for Salesection, 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.


The Location

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 3 hours from your location for just one client (unless they are paying you a bunch!). Instead, I recommend you list only a single location, preferably one  of a more affluent locations in your area. Another option is to list a zip code of an area.

Should You List Your Rate?

I like to be totally honest and transparent but I dont recommend your list your rate on CL. For one reason, trainers who list a price, usually list only the per-session rate. I know many trainers have different rates for those who purchase 5, 10 and even 20 or more sessions up front. If you do this, you might mention that 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 low ball 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 might 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 trainers schedule.

How To Format Your Ad

Instead of writing long and wordy paragraphs about the benefits of exercise, personal training etc., I want you to lay out 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 part 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 length of time you have been a personal trainer
  • Include the name of your certification organization

Tip. Don’t just list the letters (ACE, AFAA, NSCA etc.) because the general public does not know what the letters mean. Writing out the 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 with your post because it increases the number of people who check your ad out. The picture should be non-offensive and tasteful.  While the picture doesn’t necessarily have to be of you, if the picture is of you and one of your clients, make sure your client knows this and is OK with it.
  • 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 a 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 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 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.


When They Call: What  To Do

If you give a perspective 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 responders 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.

What do you think?


  1. 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 !

    • 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.

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