How to Start a Personal Training Business

Kelly Hopper

Kelly is a Chicago-based writer with an educational background in mass communication, digital content marketing, and creative writing. Her 20 years as a business owner and operations consultant provides unique insights through storytelling and brand journalism techniques.

Senior man and fitness instructor talking in gym.

The growth prospect for personal training businesses is very optimistic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will grow “much faster than the average for all occupations” over the next ten years. With people growing more health-conscious and businesses joining the effort by offering incentives to employees who work towards healthier lifestyles, getting fit will continue an upward trend for years to come.

Just as a good manager helps their team envision then realize success, a good personal trainer helps clients visualize a healthier self then guides them along the path to achieving that goal. If you’re a leader who’s passionate about fitness, then starting a personal training business might be for you. And we’ve got the steps you need to get started.

Build your professional credentials

A decent resume is essential to getting clients in the door. Do things that add value to your business, and don’t waste time on anything else.

Certificates and experiences that matter most

Focus on certifications that add value to your specialty. If you want to work with the elderly, then a youth fitness certificate might not be beneficial. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Earn certifications through the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Council, or the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
  • Get CPR certification and first aid training through the American Red Cross.
  • Experience in exercise and fitness is a must. Most certification programs expect you know about fitness before you take the certification course. Experience also allows you to relate to potential clients and observe other trainers.

Continue your education

Owning a personal training business takes more than fitness knowledge. You’ll need some business aptitude as well. Check with your local government offices, as many cities provide resources for small business owners and offer free seminars on accounting, business management, and local, state, and federal requirements.

Find a mentor

Asking for guidance when you need it is a great character trait to possess. Embrace it. Even if you have years of experience in the field, there will always be more to learn from those who know more. You can pay for mentoring services or go online and join an entrepreneurial fitness group for added support.

The basics of starting a personal training business

The regulatory tasks of starting any business are tedious and plentiful, yet necessary. Get the planning and legalities out of the way early, and you will be glad you did.

Start with a plan

A business plan acts as a roadmap, keeping you focused on where you want to go and getting you there safer and with more money in your pocket. Here are some guidelines on how to create a solid business plan:

  • Determine your start-up and ongoing costs
  • Establish your target market
  • Set your fee structure and estimate expected revenue
  • Create your sales and marketing plan
  • Name your business

As your business grows and evolves, so will your business plan. It takes you where you’re going, not where you’ve been, so make updates as needed.

Don’t overlook administrative duties

You may want to put off all the administrative work of starting a business, but kicking that can down the road will bring trouble. Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to entrepreneurship:

  • Choose a business structure: The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Establishing an entity such as an LLC or a corporation protects you from personal liability if your business gets sued.
  • Apply for an EIN. It’s free and straightforward.
  • Register for taxes: Setting up state and federal tax accounts online will make it easier to keep current on paying your taxes.
  • Acquire state and local business license: State licenses and permits might be required to operate a personal trainer business. For local licenses and permits, check with your city, township, or county clerk’s office.
  • Open a business account: Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
  • Purchase liability insurance: Clients have a risk of injury, so you want to protect yourself from lawsuits if a client gets injured during a workout or sues you for being disappointed with the results.

Choose an area of expertise

Focusing on a specific area will help you target your audience and standout amongst the competition. You may want to provide training to athletes, pregnant women, or senior citizens. Figure out your niche by writing down answers to the following questions:

Why do you want to start a personal training business?

Tell your story, divulge who you are, where you came from, and what moves you. People want authenticity, and nothing beats an inspirational story, so dig deep and tell yours.

What experience and training do you have?

If you have any special certifications or experience in specialty training, then you might already know your niche. If your background and certification are generalized, which part or style of training do you prefer?

Who do you want to serve?

Figuring out your target audience is one of the most critical parts of getting your brand right. Which clients do you gravitate toward? Did a particular type of client respond to you? If you are interested in training MMA fighters but have an instinct with seniors, your decision may be more difficult.

Where will you train your clients?

Public parks are a wonderful place to workout, but you can’t consistently count on decent weather. Even in the best climates, you need a backup location. The following are places where you can conduct your business:

  • Private gyms: Look for facilities that will allow you to pay by the session, so you and your clients remain independent from the facility’s payroll or clientage.
  • Client’s home: Do an in-home consultation or ask the client’s about what equipment and space they have available so you can plan accordingly.
  • Your home: Converting your garage into a workout space will allow you to deduct the costs on your taxes — renovation, equipment, and a portion of your monthly home expenses. You’ll also have the benefit of working from home.
  • Virtual: Start an online fitness business or offer personalized PDF training guides or video downloads.

How to secure fitness clients

Individuals buy trainers, not training. If selling yourself makes you cringe, you might have a problem finding buyers. You will need around 25-30 clients to fill a full-time schedule. It’s a standard you can meet if you focus on the following recommendations:

Define your brand

Your brand represents what your company stands for and how the public perceives your business. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors. As a personal trainer, confidence and a strong sense of self is paramount to your brand. Think about ways you can show your value when deciding on a brand strategy.

Marketing tips for your personal training business

You’re a personal trainer, not a marketing specialist, but if you want to start a business, you’ll need a crash course. Marketing is a high-value activity that needs consistent attention, so designate weekly time blocks for marketing work.

The following tips will help you get started:

  • Digital marketing: Build your website and create a blog, then use social media to drive traffic. Post high-quality content that provides value to your audience and no hard sell. The goal is to drive traffic to your website and sell from there.
  • Traditional marketing techniques like simple, clean business cards and brochures appeal to an older clientele.
  • Referrals and testimonials are huge in the fitness industry. Do good work, and your clients will spread the word; it’s as simple as that. And, always ask for referrals.
  • Respond to clients quickly, as their ability to connect with you helps build confidence in your brand.

Sell yourself with gusto

The hard truth is, you are selling yourself, not your services. Credentials, experience, and a great website might get them through the door, but if you can’t convince them you have the skills to get them fit, they’re going to walk out.

Here are some tips on how to handle buyer hesitation:

  • Squash their fear of failure by attaching a positive emotion toward your service.
  • Show your value by providing proof. Share testimonials and examples of clients like them who got results.
  • Affordability will prevent some clients from committing. It is best to find this out upfront and move on gracefully.
  • Be honest and set reasonable expectations. Telling a client what they want to hear just to make a sale is a fast way to ruin your reputation.

Jumpstart your personal training business today

If you’re a self-starter and passionate about helping people become their healthiest selves, then starting a personal trainer business will give you that opportunity and more. Get started on your journey today. If you get stuck anywhere along the line, don’t hesitate to ask one of our experts for guidance. Our network of seasoned professionals is one click away from providing expert help.

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