ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, New Personal Trainer Checklist: Starting Your Own Business

New Personal Trainer Checklist: Starting Your Own Business

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Date: 2022-05-19

Some people become a personal trainer with the goal of working for a well-known health club. Others dream of being on their own; they envision having a personal training business they can grow from the ground up. 

If you fall into this second group, you may be wondering what you need to do when setting up your new training business. Here are a few items to put on your list.

1: Secure Liability Insurance

The last thing you want to do is put all of your time and money into becoming a successful personal trainer only to lose it all in court. Liability insurance helps cover the costs should a client decide to sue you. It helps pay for your defense and can also foot some or all of the bill if the court decides against you.

Securing personal trainer insurance is no different than buying insurance for your car or home. You hope you never have to use it but it’s there if you do. It also enables you to keep more of your personal assets if you are ever in a lawsuit since the policy absorbs most of the costs.

2: Create Your Personal Training Program

Once you have your liability insurance, it's time to work on the nuts and bolts of your personal trainer business. This begins with creating the workout you intend to do with your clients.

Some personal trainers decide to become business owners because they’ve developed a new, never-seen-before way to exercise. What does this exercise look like? How long are the workout sessions? What exercises does it include, and in what order? What benefits does it offer?

What if you haven’t created your own unique training program? You still likely have a specific way that you structure your exercise sessions. Lay that out now so you can easily explain it when a new client asks.

3: Purchase Your Personal Training Equipment

Unless you intend to do only bodyweight exercises, you’ll need equipment for your new personal training business. Even inexpensive items such as an exercise mat, medicine ball, or hand weights can add up. 

If you will offer training in your home or the home of your client, you can build equipment costs into your fee. Another option is to buy the equipment, then sell it to your client. This ensures that they will have what they need to complete their workout.

If you plan to open a full-blown gym, you’ll likely need more expensive pieces (and more of them). In this case, you may need to secure a business loan to get everything you need.

Also consider whether you’ll need any equipment to promote effective recovery. Having a foam roller or two on hand can help when training a client who has tight or sore muscles.

Do you need to purchase equipment for your clients if you are strictly an online personal trainer? That’s up to you. You can either get their equipment for them and add this amount to your fees or you can give them a list of the items they need and have them buy it themselves. 

Keep in mind that the more the client has to do to work with you, the harder it may be to get them to sign up. So, you may be better off planning to purchase their equipment for them. It may take more work on your part but a bigger client list is a good payoff.

4: Write Up Your Personal Training Contract and Intake Paperwork

When someone joins a gym, they have to sign a membership contract. They should do the same when working with you as an independent personal trainer.

A contract outlines what you will and will not do. It defines what they can expect from you as a personal trainer. This includes the number of training sessions, costs, etc. It also tells them what their responsibilities are as the client, such as when payment is due or whether they’ll be charged for a last-minute cancellation.

Part of your intake paperwork should include a liability waiver. Like with liability insurance, this offers a little extra protection for your personal training business.

5: Decide How Much You’ll Charge Per Training Session

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for a fitness coach is $40,700 per year or $19.57 per hour. The highest-earning 10% make closer to $75,940 annually, which is $36.51 an hour. These incomes are for fitness professionals employed by a gym, fitness center, or similar facility. What should you charge if you own a personal trainer business?

This amount varies based on several factors. It can change based on whether you are in a small town or a big city. It can also vary according to your level of education and experience. Take some time and do research to see what other trainers in your area are charging. Position yourself within that range so your prices are competitive.

When deciding the rates for your online personal training business, you’ll consider a lot of the same factors as when training in person. The main difference is likely what it costs to run your training business. Since you’re online, you also have video platform fees and, if you ship equipment to clients, you’ll have that cost to consider as well.

6: Get Your Fitness Business Online (Website, Social Media Pages)

A 2020 survey found that 93% of consumers use the internet to find their business providers. If you aren’t online, you’re missing out on all of these prospective clients.

You can either design a website yourself or have someone else do this for you. Information to include on your site are the training services you offer, your qualifications as a personal trainer, and what type of physical activity you do with your clients.

The one question a prospective client has when viewing your website is, “What’s in it for me?” Answer this question for them. Tell them if you can help them with weight loss or building muscle. Get them to envision you as the person who will help them achieve their fitness goal.

Setting up business pages on social media platforms can bolster your online presence. Share exercise videos to get potential clients excited about working with you. Offer tips for getting into shape, further strengthening the coach-client relationship.

7: Devise a Marketing Campaign for Your Training Program and Business

With all of these other items in place, you are ready to start marketing your services as a personal trainer. Focus on getting your name out there. Promote your brand so that people know you exist. The more comfortable they become with you, the more likely it is they will contact you when looking for personal training services.

Numerous marketing options exist, from direct mail to email marketing to social media marketing and more. Start with one and see what type of results it provides. If it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, move on to something else.

If you find marketing difficult or overwhelming, it may be worth it to hire a professional service. These individuals know how to maximize different marketing avenues. They’ll also have a better idea of how to get the most out of your marketing dollars.

Additional New Personal Trainer Checklist Items to Set Your Personal Training Business Apart

Part of building a successful business as a new personal trainer is setting yourself apart from all of the other personal trainers in the fitness industry. Give a potential client a reason to hire you versus going with another trainer. How do you do this?

  • Identify what makes you different as a fitness instructor. Do you have a unique program or training style? Maybe you approach fitness from a different perspective. Highlight these differences. Show that you’re not like every other personal trainer out there. 

  • Offer a free initial consultation. Potential clients may be leery of signing up with you, especially if you’re new to personal training. Take the risk out of their decision by offering their first session at no cost. If they have nothing to lose, they’ll be more willing to give you a chance.

  • Obtain your personal training certification. Think like a client for a moment. Who would you rather work with: a trainer who has their certification or one who doesn’t? When you can say that you are a certified personal trainer, you are telling clients that you have a certain level of knowledge about diet and exercise. This helps boost your credibility. It also provides some assurance that, despite being a new trainer, you do know what you’re doing.

If you aren’t yet certified, the ISSA offers Personal Trainer Certification. This certification can set your business apart from other personal trainers. And it’s completely online, enabling you to earn your certification in a way that is convenient for you.

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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from

Pitman, J. (2022). Local Consumer Review Survey 2022: Customer Reviews and Behavior. BrightLocal. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from

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