Are you passionate about fitness? Do you dream of opening your own personal training business? Continue reading this guide for a walkthrough of how to start a personal training business like a pro and set it up for success.
With fitness training jobs expected to skyrocket over the next few years, making a legitimate career out of your passion seems like a no-brainer!
Sure, the idea of good money and setting your own hours is nice. But even more rewarding will be seeing real transformation in clients as you help them achieve their fitness goals, gain sound health, and boost their confidence!
The thing is: building a thriving business from scratch takes more than passion alone. There are so many logistics to consider! Marketing, budgets, programs, legal stuff, and more. No wonder many well-meaning trainers crash and burn in the first few years. It’s not that they can’t coach; they just never learned the biz savvy part. But that won’t be you!
I want to help you avoid rookie mistakes and build something sustainable. So today, I will be sharing a comprehensive guide on launching a successful personal training business.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
How To Start a Personal Training Business?
If helping people improve their health and fitness sounds like a dream gig, then starting a personal trainer business is perfect for you. But, as it turns out, there’s more to being a personal trainer than just knowing your deadlifts and eating clean.
Building a thriving business takes effort and know-how so you don’t end up broke and burnt out within the first year. This is particularly important since launching your personal training biz can initially feel daunting in this super-saturated fitness space!
Take a deep breath because it is totally doable with the right guidance. Below is a step-by-step, tried-and-true roadmap to starting a personal trainer business that can stand the test of time:
STEP 1: Research the Market
Before you sprint ahead, printing fancy business cards and telling the world you’re a personal trainer, you need to pause and do your homework. I’m talking about digging into the market to truly understand what customers want and who else is offering it. There is no sense in offering weight loss programs to bodybuilders!
You need the full download on key details like location, demand, economic indicators, market saturation, convenience, and demographics to determine if your type of personal training biz can thrive in such an area. And the best intel will come straight from the source, so you should survey potential clients themselves!
You could create questionnaires, host focus groups, and even interview gym-goers to get the inside scoop. Doing that competitor analysis will also be crucial so you can learn from established trainers who are winning market share. You are not stealing their secrets; you are only improving on what’s available on ground so you stand out from the start. After all, most products today are essentially improvements on pre-existing ones!
STEP 2 – Identify your Target Customers
Laser-focusing your niche is vital for standing out in the crowded online training world! Rather than being all things to all people, zeroing in on your unique zone of genius helps attract your IDEAL clients.
For example, you could leverage your decade of yoga mastery to specialize in mobility and mind-body awareness for athletes. It’s not the biggest niche, but it may resonate with those seeking to maximize strength through both physical and mental flexibility.
Nail down those ideal client charateristics and what specific problems you solve for them. Whether it’s corrective exercise, nutrition for busy moms, or strength training for seniors–owning YOUR niche builds trust and referrals quickly.
STEP 3 – Get Certified
It’s a smart call to get certified before taking on clients. Having reputable training credentials builds trust and covers your bases legally, too!
While the options seem endless, I recommend checking out nationally-recognized organizations like ACE (the American Council of Exercise), NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine), and ASFA (American Sports and Fitness Association).
Their certification process doesn’t take long, and passing their exam preps you with science-backed methods for safe, effective coaching. Since regulations vary from state to state, be sure to choose a certification that meets your area’s requirements.
STEP 4 – Choose a Business Model and Get Registered
Getting your business legally protected and registered is SO IMPORTANT before taking on clients!
Starting as a sole proprietorship has its benefits, but you may also want to consider taking the limited liability company (LLC) route for the extra protection it provides. Starting with an LLC is worth consideration because if any unhappy clients were to sue, your personal assets would stay safe! (Whereas, with a sole proprietorship, everything’s on the line.)
The LLC registration process is super straightforward, too. Simply submit your Articles of Organization paperwork (and fees) on your Secretary of State’s website, and bam–you’ve formed your official business entity! Later down the road, as you scale, an LLC also makes managing finances and taxes smoother, especially if you opt to legally treat it as an S-corp.
STEP 5 – Pick your Workspace
When starting a personal training venture, you must decide whether to operate a mobile business model visiting clients’ homes/local parks, secure a physical facility, or focus on online personal training.
Renting gym space enables relying on existing equipment but may limit client capacity. Renting/outfitting your own dedicated space allows more flexibility to expand your client base, albeit at higher upfront costs.
In assessing your options, first consider budget limitations in launching operations. Also, evaluate prospective locations’ accessibility and parking/transit options for attracting local customers.
For mobile trainers, determine the geographic radius of in-person sessions you can feasibly and regularly accommodate based on travel time. Carefully weigh options to balance affordability, practicality, and revenue potential when picking locations best suited for your entrepreneurial fitness aims.
STEP 6 – Get Appropriate Gears
Having the right exercise gear to train clients is important to do your job properly! When starting out, consider your niche, budget, and training locations to decide what basic equipment to invest in first.
If you will be meeting clients at parks, durable and portable gear like resistance bands, medicine balls, and mats work well. However, double-check if commercial permits or insurance are needed for larger groups. This will help you avoid bureaucratic headaches later on.
Also, if renting a private studio space is your preferred direction, spend on more specialized or bulky items: TRX suspension trainers, foam rollers, adjustable weights, etc. Owning your inventory means more flexibility in the programs you offer.
And don’t overlook digital assets that level up training if you choose the online route! A quality webcam, branded backdrops, and editing software can take your virtual coaching game to the next level.
The key is carefully choosing versatile, high-quality gear that allows you to serve multiple clients with diverse needs. Over time and as business grows, you can always expand your equipment arsenal.
STEP 7 – Maximize Modern Marketing Techniques
Implementing marketing strategies early on will be key for you to expand your clientele. Leveraging social media platforms to establish an online presence and following is invaluable nowadays. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok allow interaction with and content sharing to attract prospective customers.
A polished website detailing your credentials, services, pricing packages, and training philosophy is also considered indispensable. Websites enable centralized, comprehensive business information housing for client referencing.
However, while modern digital promotion through social sites and websites is crucial, you should not overlook supplementary traditional marketing methods either. Strategically distributing printed materials like brochures, flyers, and business cards in high-traffic public venues can further boost your brand visibility. But, of course, always obtain advance permission before leaving marketing collateral at locations like gyms and retail spaces.
STEP 8 – Create Contracts and Get Insurance
Contracts are the written proof you’ll need to legally defend and protect yourself and your business. Securing legal backing with clear contracts and insurance gives clients peace of mind while protecting your assets – that’s a win/win!
Start with waiver forms outlining training risks so clients can’t hold you liable for injury. And don’t forget binding contracts capturing payment terms, attendance policies, etc. You can get valuable legal templates, like referral rewards and cancellation fees, customized to your needs.
While contracts attempt to limit liability, only insurance truly safeguards you. You wouldn’t open a bakery without legal protection, so why start your business without any? Plus, that’s what business insurance is for!
Business insurance keeps things competitive even when the unexpected happens. As a personal trainer, having policies that shield your assets is non-negotiable. General liability insurance should be baseline coverage, protecting you if a client gets injured on your watch. It covers legal fees or settlements if someone sues for damages. That’s peace of mind for just a few bucks a month!
If hiring employees down the road, workers’ compensation insurance is mandatory in most states. This covers injuries staff sustain on the job, so you avoid covering costs out of pocket.
Not sure where to start? I help business owners figure out what contract and website policy they need based on their business. Contact me today to get started!
STEP 9 – Decide Your Service Fees
The typical fitness trainer makes around $40K a year, which is about $20 an hour. If you can get higher-paying clients and opportunities, you can make up to $75K yearly, or around $36 an hour.Those numbers are usually for trainers working at big gyms and centers. When you’re an independent small business owner like yourself, you get more flexibility in pricing–but you also have more factors to weigh.
For example, are you training clients in a major metro area or a small rural town? That influences what rates people can actually afford. Do you have a ton of fitness certifications under your belt, or are you just getting started? More experience means you can justify higher pricing!
You can also survey rates from other independent trainers in your geographic area to get a feel for the competitive landscape. Price yourself somewhere within that range–not too high or low compared to others. It’s about finding that sweet spot between covering your costs and keeping it affordable for clients!
The same general idea applies if you’re doing online training. But you also have some extra costs to consider in the digital space–video platforms, website fees, equipment shipping, etc. Make a list of all your unique expenses for running that online biz, and factor it into your rates.
STEP 10 – Embrace Continuous Personal Development
When it comes to health and fitness, there’s always some new fad diet or workout trend popping up. As an independent personal trainer, part of your job is helping clients sort fact from fiction when they say, “My friend lost 10 pounds doing so and so–should I try it?” It can be a delicate balance between keeping them safe and not bursting any bubbles too hard. That’s why, as a trainer, you must stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the industry.
And I get it–who has time for that on top of actually training clients?! But looking at it more broadly, continuing your own education helps you help YOUR clients even more. You become a more well-rounded fitness coach when you expand your knowledge into areas like nutrition, yoga, mindfulness–whatever draws your interest.
This doesn’t have to mean going back to school for another boring textbook degree. Although additional personal trainer certifications can be great for credibility! There are options like taking short courses, attending conferences, listening to health podcasts while meal prepping–all sorts of things!
Are you ready to take that bold step?
Sure, running any kind of company seems intimidating and risky on the surface. But, it’s important to keep in mind that anything worthwhile requires effort. By laying the proper groundwork ahead of time, educating yourself on the realities of the fitness industry, plotting out a thoughtful business plan, getting the right certifications, and insurance—you set yourself up for sustainable success!
The exciting part? The demand for personal training services just continues to grow as more people prioritize their health. That means there is no shortage of clients needing an amazing fitness coach like you! It’s simply about putting in the work upfront to position yourself for lasting success once you start your business!
Luckily, you don’t have to figure it all out alone. I’m here to support you whether you’re a total newbie or a longtime fitness professional looking to take the next step. I’ll show you how to be an online fitness coach and be successful at it. Bounce ideas off me anytime, pick my brain if one issue has you stuck, or even vent if it all feels too much some days. I’ve been there, and I’m happy to help however I can.
I also have plenty of online resources—templates and the Ultimate Bundle™—to direct your path to getting that personal training biz up and running. And I’m constantly updating my blog and podcast with more real-world, actionable tips. So soak it up, and reach out whenever you need that extra shot of motivation!
Watch my free legal workshop “5 Steps to Legally Protect & Grow Your Online Business” for the basics on how to legally start a personal training business, protect your website, make sure your contracts are solid, and get paid on time. You’ll even be able to ask me questions (and yes, you’ll get the replay!).