How to Start a Personal Training Business - The Quick Guide


How to Start a Personal Training Business - The Quick Guide

Reading Time: 6 minutes 12 seconds


Date: 2019-05-21T00:00:00-04:00

You want to be a trainer, or maybe you are already working as one, but now you want to take the next step. It's a big one too: start your own business.

Personal trainers don't have to be small business owners. You can work for a gym, a spa, a medical center, and be an employee.

But a lot of trainers long to have more flexibility and freedom in their careers. If this is you, take a look through our quick guide for starting your own business. As a business owner, you will have a great deal of responsibility, but it can also be so rewarding. Read up before taking this first important step in the next phase of your training career.

Start with Certification

It may seem obvious, but don't even think of starting this business without being certified. Certification gives you the theoretical background knowledge you need as the foundation for being a good trainer as well as the practical skills for actually helping clients, managing training sessions, and running a small business.

Not only will a certification help you become a real trainer, but it is also what will make you marketable to clients. When a new client is facing a choice between a trainer with certification and one without, which do you think they will choose?

Are you new to personal training? Read this ISSA post with tips for new trainers to get some great advice on getting started in this career.

How to Start a Personal Training Business without a Lot of Business Knowledge

It would certainly help to also have a degree in business or some business training, but this isn't strictly necessary. You can start your own business from scratch with just your personal training certification in hand. You will have to do some research, maybe learn more about insurance and marketing than you ever wanted to know, but you don't need a business degree.

One smart way to learn the basics of business before you get started is to take an online course or two. Most online fitness training programs offer classes in marketing, bookkeeping for trainers, and other courses on the nuts and bolts of running a small business.

Your Personal Training Business Checklist

Aside from certification, the next most important thing you need for starting a business is a plan. Know what you need to get started, how you'll offer your services, what your marketing will look like, and where your sessions will be. To help get you started, here are some things you'll need as you develop a plan for the business.

Business Licensing, Taxes, and Insurance

You don't necessarily have to license your new business, but it helps you be more professional. For instance, registering as a limited liability company, or LLC, is easy and inexpensive. It will separate your personal liability and finances from those of your business, so it's worth doing.

Also worthwhile for protecting yourself is business insurance. You could be sued if a client gets hurt, and your insurance will help you cover those costs. Look for a general business liability insurance that covers personal trainers.

Paying taxes will be a little more complicated as a business owner rather than an employee. Make sure you find out what you need to do to get a business tax license in your state and the forms you'll complete to pay taxes.

Decide Where to Train

This is a big part of your business plan. Will you rent space in a gym? Train from your home? Use public spaces, like parks? Or are you looking to get your own building, whether rented or owned? The latter may be difficult if your finances are limited, which is likely as you just start out. Start with less expensive options and save up to get your own gym or rental space. Keep in mind that if you use your own home, you will have the expense of buying equipment.

Get Your Marketing Together

Here's the real meat of your business. How will your clients find you? You need a plan for marketing your new business, which may include many different elements:

  • Business cards, brochures, and flyers posted in gyms, hotels, and public spaces

  • Networking opportunities, fitness fairs, and similar events

  • Free classes and sessions

  • A social media presence

  • A business website

  • Email and newsletter marketing

Social media sites are powerful tools for marketing. For details on how to become a social media fitness influencer, check out this ISSA blog post.

Know Your Target Market

Of course, a big part of marketing is having a target audience in mind. Otherwise, you are simply throwing business cards to the wind and hoping some stick. For instance, if you know you want to target busy moms, focus your marketing on fit mom Facebook groups, mom-to-mom sales, and local mom's groups.

Understanding your market is also important for ongoing success in your business. You need to know who your clients are, what motivates them, why they are choosing to work with a trainer, and other important information in order to meet their needs.

Aim for Success as You Start a Personal Training Business

Planning and starting a business is a big step, but once you get going you can't just step back. A good business may mostly run itself one day, but for now, you will have to keep fighting for success. You are the sole person responsible for keeping your business and career going. Here are some things to keep in mind as you build and grow this new training business.

How to Start a Personal Training Business and Manage the Money

You have a passion for training and fitness, but this is a business. You have to make, handle, and manage money to be successful. Start by setting up a business bank account. It's important to keep personal money separate from business money.

Consider investing in accounting or bookkeeping software. It will help you organize payments, checks, receipts, and bills. As your business grows, this aspect of it will only get more complex. Over time you will want to compare your expenses with gross and net profit to be sure the margins make sense. If you're not making enough money, you need to make changes to pricing, expenses, sales, or anything else that will shift the margin back in your favor.

Know What to Charge for Your Services

This is a tricky part of business for most trainers. If you are starting out as a new trainer, you may be tempted to set your prices lower, but don't sell yourself short. If you are certified, educated, and help your clients meet their goals, you have value.

To determine what you should charge, look at your competition. Check out several trainers in your area, whether they work at gyms or in their own homes, and compare pricing. Your rate should be comparable. Expect to be able to command more in larger cities and wealthier suburbs and less in smaller towns and rural areas, but generally, rates for personal trainers are between $35 and $100 per 50- or 60-minute session.

Set Policies and Stick with Them

Before you even begin taking on clients, write out policies that you think will be important. For instance, you need to have a set policy for how clients pay and when. Will there be an extra charge for late payments? Some other considerations for policies include:

  • How to handle client cancellations

  • What to do if you need to cancel a session

  • How to charge for a series of sessions or group training

  • Clients who are consistently late for sessions

  • Clients who are difficult to work with

It's not easy to be the rule maker and enforcer, but in order to have a successful business you must have policies in place. And you need to stick with them or some clients will take advantage of you.

Be the Best Trainer for Your Clients

As you get more clients on your roster, it's time to do the real work of being a personal trainer. This means training people well, helping them meet their goals, and leaving them satisfied that they have gotten value from the service you offer. This is how you start and continue a successful business. Word will get around if you are a good trainer and if you are a bad trainer. Work hard for your clients and they will do the same in return, sending friends and family your way.

Beginning a career in personal training is exciting, but starting a new business is daunting. You may choose to work for a gym first, but when you're ready to be your own boss be smart about it. Take time planning and considering all your options to set your business up for success.

Ready to take that first step? To start a career as a personal trainer, check out the ISSA's comprehensive course in Personal Training.

How to Start a Personal Training Business - The Quick Guide

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