If you’ve always enjoyed the challenge of getting fit and working to meet goals, starting a personal training business could allow you to share those talents and knowledge with others.
Starting a personal training business requires more than just knowing how to perform squats or burpees; it’s about planning, understanding how the industry works, and navigating through challenges. We’ve created this handy guide to help you through the process.
Personal trainers help clients to meet a variety of fitness and health goals. Trainers may specialize in certain areas, like strength training or weight loss, and deliver customized guidance and support to help clients on their fitness journey. Often, personal trainers work with clients one-on-one, but they may also offer group classes. Working with a personal trainer gives clients access to workout programs tailored to their fitness levels, needs, and goals, delivering an advantage over taking group courses or working out in the gym on their own.
Personal trainers may often freelance at or be employed by a gym. They may also take an independent route, building their training business and establishing their own client roster. Most travel to meet clients, and some offer training within clients’ homes. Trainers enjoy scheduling flexibility but may need to accommodate clients’ schedules, which can mean working on nights and weekends. With this flexibility, you may be able to balance this business with other employment.
Related Business Ideas
The fitness industry is a dynamic and growing field. Personal training, in particular, has gained popularity thanks to increased health and fitness awareness. With a diverse client base, from busy professionals to fitness enthusiasts, the demand for personalized training services is on the rise. The fitness industry consists of an estimated 832,000 businesses that are expected to generate $14 billion in 2023.1
With an increasing focus on health and wellness, more people are expected to seek out personalized fitness coaching to achieve their goals. This presents an opportunity for personal trainers to carve out a niche in the market.
As you begin researching this business, understanding the latest trends is important. The industry is seeing a shift towards holistic health, where mental and physical wellness are equally emphasized.2 Additionally, the integration of technology, such as fitness apps and online training modules, is reshaping how services are delivered.3
Sustainability in fitness is also becoming increasingly important. Clients are becoming more interested in eco-friendly programs (such as taking the workout outdoors).4 As a personal trainer, adapting to these trends will not only keep you relevant but also open up new avenues for business growth.
Steps To Start A Personal Training Business
Step 1: Market Research
Getting swept up in the excitement of a new business idea is easy, but before getting too far into planning, you should first research the market to understand the local fitness landscape and figure out if your personal training business is likely to find a faithful clientele.
First off, you need to define who your ideal clients are. As a new personal trainer, clearly identify the attributes of your ideal client. Consider demographics like gender, age range, income level, family status, profession, etc. Understanding lifestyle factors that affect their goals and ability to pay is also important. For example, new mothers may want help to regain pre-baby fitness but have limited time and disposable income. Retired individuals likely have more scheduling flexibility but are on fixed budgets. Use census data to analyze the prevalence of your potential customer profile near where you plan to establish your business.
Next up is checking out other personal trainers and gyms in your location. Take a look at the training services they offer, their pricing, the certifications they hold, and their general reputation. A simple internet search or a visit to their classes can give you this information. This research will help you understand if there’s unmet demand and if there’s room for another player in the market.
Also, gyms often have partnerships with independent trainers. So, speaking to gym managers could provide a clearer picture of the demand for personal training. Moreover, they might be looking for trainers to join their team or even know customers who would prefer independent personal training. They can provide valuable insights into customer needs.
Validating demand for your offerings before taking the entrepreneurial leap ultimately sets your new business up for success.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
As you get ready to start your personal training business, you might feel the urge to hit the ground running. But there’s an important step to take before you begin: writing a business plan. Business plans might seem dry or even unnecessary, especially if you don’t need a loan, but they are worth doing. Here’s why:
A business plan provides direction and sets specific goals for your personal training business. Think of it as your own custom roadmap to success. With it, you get a clear picture of where you want your business to go and how to get there. A business plan helps you set and prioritize goals, track your progress, and maintain a strong drive to succeed.
Another important part of a business plan is the marketing and sales strategy. Here, you specify your target market and analyze your competition. This allows you to identify potential clients and understand what they’re looking for in a personal training service. Once you have a handle on that, you can create effective advertising strategies to catch their attention and show them that your service is the one they need.
One important aspect of writing a business plan is creating financial projections. These projections include expected revenue, expenses, profit margins, and cash flow and allow you to analyze whether and when your business will start making a profit.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Register the Business
When starting a personal training business, there are some basic steps to making it legal to be aware of. Requirements vary by state, but here are some tips:
Business structure: There are four main business structure options:
- Sole proprietorship: Simplest option with no formal registration needed. However, there is unlimited personal liability.
- General partnership: Similar ease of setup to the sole proprietorship, but must file a partnership agreement in a few states. Like a sole proprietorship, the partnership offers no liability protection.
- Corporation: More complex formation but offers personal liability protection. The downside is that it requires more record keeping and administration.
- LLC (Limited Liability Company): Offers liability protection with less paperwork than a corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: There are no specific licenses for being a personal trainer; however, if you plan on selling supplements or equipment as part of your business, you might need a sales tax permit. This, along with any other necessary business licenses, will be dependent on your location.
There are various certifications that you can gain. Having a certification from a recognized organization, like The American College of Sports Medicine or The National Strength and Conditioning Association, can boost your credibility and help attract clients.
Step 4: Find a Location
After getting the business legally established, the next step is to nail down where you will offer training services. Some personal trainers operate independently from a sports facility, providing services at the client’s home, a gym, or a public area. Others may own or lease their own facilities. Some service providers may contract with local schools or parks to secure space for training programs.
If you’re just starting out, you may consider working out of a commercial gym. This allows you to build a clientele and develop a reputation before incurring the expenses of renting or buying your own space. At a commercial gym, you usually need liability insurance and pay rent for using the space and equipment. While you won’t have full control over the environment, you will have access to a variety of equipment and a built-in audience.
If you’re looking for full control over your environment, you may want to rent your own private studio space. This option is more expensive but allows you to create your own workout experience tailored to your clients’ needs. You will be responsible for all equipment purchases, maintenance, and upkeep. A private studio is ideal if you have a clear niche or specialty that you want to focus on.
If you’re looking to reduce facility costs, you can train clients in their own homes. This eliminates the need for a third-party facility but does require more travel time. You will need to consider the logistics of bringing your own equipment to each training session or relying on clients to have their own.
Step 5: Prepare to Launch
As you get set to welcome your first personal training clients, there are several final startup steps that remain. These will vary by business, but some of the more common tasks include:
Business Insurance: For a personal training business, this might include general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and property insurance if you own or lease a space. These insurances protect against potential liabilities and unforeseen events that could impact your business.
Client waivers: Develop a waiver and consent form for your clients to sign. This can help protect you and your business from potential legal issues related to injuries or accidents that may occur during training sessions. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.
Opening a business bank account: This keeps your business finances separate from your personal finances, which is helpful in managing cash flow and simplifying tax reporting.
Booking software: One of the essential elements of setting up operations for your personal training business is arranging your booking and scheduling system. You can either use an online booking platform or a spreadsheet. Online platforms, like Mindbody or Zen Planner, automate scheduling and billing, which can save you time and help you stay organized. However, when first starting out, a simple spreadsheet can work just as well.
Creating a Marketing Strategy: Developing a marketing strategy may include creating a brand identity with a logo, building a professional website, and utilizing social media platforms. Other strategies may include local advertising, email marketing, and offering free introduction sessions.’
Common Questions When Starting A Personal Training Business
How much does it cost to start a personal training business?
Starting a personal training business is often highly affordable, especially if your business model involves working with clients at their homes or gyms. The cost varies by business model and location, but you can start with as little as $1,000 to $15,000 and up. Let’s break down each category and the associated costs.
Equipment: The equipment needed for your personal training business will depend on your services. You can start small with minimal equipment, such as resistance bands and exercise mats, for around $200 to $500. However, if you plan on offering a fully-equipped studio, expect to invest $1,000 to $5,000 or more.
Facility access: The costs for securing a location will largely depend on the type of location you choose. Renting your own space or gym access could mean spending around $0 to $1,500 monthly, and deposits may be needed up front. If you decide to work from home, in a client’s home, or a commercial gym, your monthly costs may be lower or nonexistent.
Business Registration: Registering your business usually involves fees ranging from $50 to $500, depending on the state in which you’re registering.
Certification: If you’re not already certified, getting a personal trainer certification can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000 depending on the program.
Insurance: Initial insurance costs generally include a premium for the first year of coverage. For a personal training business, this might include professional liability insurance and general liability insurance, which can range from $200 to $400 annually.
Marketing: Initial marketing costs include developing a website, creating a logo, and initial advertising campaigns. The cost could range between $100 and $2,000, or more if you choose professional assistance.
How profitable is a personal training business?
Understanding the possible profit of a personal training business can be helpful if you’re thinking about starting one. While it’s difficult to provide a precise estimate, since many factors can impact profitability, we’ll use some industry statistics and assumptions to get an idea.
Suppose an average personal trainer charges $50 for a 40-minute session and conducts 30 sessions per week. This would result in a weekly revenue of $1,500 or an annual revenue of $78,000 if we assume a constant level of business throughout the year.
Now, let’s look at expenses. Common operating costs for a personal training business include rent, insurance, utilities, salaries, and marketing. Let’s assume that approximately 50% of the revenue goes toward these expenses, so the yearly expenses would be around $39,000.
When we subtract expenses from the revenue, we get an estimated annual profit of $39,000, before taxes.
Keep in mind that every business is unique and this estimate might not perfectly represent your situation.
What skills are helpful in running a personal training business?
Starting a personal training business doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and experiences are valuable in both starting and running this type of business.
Fitness knowledge and enthusiasm: Nothing replaces a genuine passion for fitness training and firsthand experience in the field.
Training experience and education: While a degree or certificate isn’t required, obtaining a highly-respected personal trainer certification program is advisable. This experience can improve a trainer’s credibility and improve their ability to do their job effectively and well.
Knowledge of psychology principles: A background in or knowledge of psychology principles can help trainers understand how to better motivate and instill positive habits in their clients.
First aid certification: Taking the time to become certified in first aid / CPR / AED can leave a trainer prepared to step in if a client ever has a health emergency while training.
Interpersonal skills: Personality and interactions with clients are a valuable part of building a business and establishing long-term clients. Strong interpersonal skills are an asset in this industry.
Communication skills: People learn in different ways, so trainers need to be able to adjust their communication methods and explain things in different ways. Strong communication skills are important.
Tech-savvy skills: Technology, like apps and fitness monitors, is becoming increasingly popular in this field, and a trainer who can embrace these tools can use them to enhance their programs.
What is the NAICS code for a personal training business?
The NAICS code for a personal training business is 812990.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.