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How to start a personal training business in 14 steps

The fitness industry continues to thrive as more and more individuals seek help to achieve weight loss, wellness, and strength goals. Because of this, a personal training business can be a fantastic and fulfilling way for fitness professionals to earn a solid income doing what they love.

There are many different types of training you can provide to clients of all ages and abilities. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast hoping to turn your passion into profit or a current personal trainer who wants to leave your big box gym behind to head out on your own: Read on. We’re going to take you through our 14 step guide to show you how you can start your own personal training business.

Can I start a personal training business with no experience?

As a personal trainer, you will be responsible for the development of other people’s bodies. You will help them achieve their fitness goals with safe, informed practices that encourage healthy movement patterns. To do this, you will need to get certified. There are several accredited schools in which you can enroll to attain the necessary knowledge and fitness certifications needed to run an ethical, sustainable personal trainer business. Here are a few trusted options:

These and other schools offer something a little different to aspiring fitness trainers—research each option to find the personal training certification that best suits your goals. You can even take additional certifications to supplement your main personal trainer certificate. These added personal trainer certifications are an excellent choice if you know you plan to work with certain population segments such as youth, seniors, or persons with disabilities.

In addition, it is a good idea to gain your CPR/AED certification and go through first aid training. These certifications empower you in an emergency and may encourage new clients to work with you over other trainers.

Now, let’s dive into the 14 steps you need to know to open your personal training business.

1) Business plan

After you know for sure that a fitness business is right for you, you’ll need to draw up a business plan. This written document acts as a blueprint for your business. It will help keep you on track as you continue to build and grow, and it will also help you receive financing through banks and/or private investors.

A thorough business plan should include at least the following sections:

  • Executive Summary: This is a high-level overview of your entire business plan. Outline your vision for the business, whom you intend to serve, and how you will profit.
  • Industry Analysis: Detail your market research. What is the market’s size? What trends and gaps have you uncovered? How can your business capitalize on those trends and fill those gaps?
  • Competitive Analysis: Who are your competitors? What are their strengths? Their weaknesses? How will you differentiate yourself?
  • Marketing Plan: Discuss your ideal clients and how you will reach them. What marketing channels will you use to build your client base? What brand image do you intend to create?
  • Management: Will you have a staff, or will you be the sole employee of your business? What are your credentials? How will you manage your clients? How will your business be structured?
  • Operations: Do you intend to implement any systems to run your business? Where will you train your clients, and what specific services will you offer to them?
  • Financial Plan: Outline your financial goals and projections for your first five years in business. Where will cash flow come from? What are your startup costs? What are your recurring operational costs? When do you plan to recoup your initial investment and achieve a net profit? How do you intend to grow that profit over time?

2) Business structure

There are several types of business structures available for your business. The most common are:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Limited liability Company (LLC)
  • Partnership
  • Corporation

Research each of these as well as their sub-categories. Which business model most allows you to pursue your business goals successfully?

3) Business name

You will use your business name on all your marketing materials. Therefore, you want to ensure your business name is:

  • Clear and memorable
  • Easy to say and spell
  • Aligned with the type of service you provide (you can use “personal training” in the name, for example)
  • On-brand

If you struggle to come up with the right name, try a business name generator to help you brainstorm. Before finalizing your business name, ensure that the matching website domain and social media handles are available.

4) Ideal clients

Creating a template of your ideal client allows you to hone your marketing and branding and your services. The clearer you are about who you’re the best fit to serve, the better you’ll be able to market to them. The better you can market to them, the greater the likelihood that they’ll choose you as their trainer.

To help you define your ideal client type, consider the following questions:

  • How old are they?
  • What is their gender?
  • In what city do they live?
  • In what sort of residence do they live?
  • What is their current level of fitness?
  • What is their main health or fitness goal?
  • What is their biggest issue or problem?
  • Do they have any injuries or special needs/requirements?
  • What is their annual income?
  • What do they do for a living?

You will likely get more accurate information about who they are as you start to work with different types of clients. However, start with the information you have from your market research and your training background to determine which segment of the population you should focus on first when building your initial client list.

5) Niche, unique value proposition, and branding

Niche

Choosing a niche in your personal training business can be a powerful way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. For example, if your background is geared toward working with people over the age of 65, your niche could be “senior fitness specialist.” Other niches include youth training, sport-specific training, pilates classes, training for bodybuilders, and strength training.

Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

Your UVP sets you apart from your competition. It’s something you offer that no one else does—at least not in the same way. Feature your UVP on your website and other marketing materials so that it can become a clear part of your brand over time.

Branding

Once you know your niche and UVP, you can work on your branding. Excellent branding identifies you to potential clients quickly and memorably. Think of any major label and notice how just a simple image is enough to evoke an entire brand. As you create your personal training brand, consider the following components:

  • Color palette
  • Fonts
  • Design aesthetic
  • Values
  • Mission statement
  • Training style, background, and education
  • Ideal clients

Remember always to keep your brand consistent across all marketing platforms and channels.

6) Services

What sort of personal training services will you provide? Will you offer nutrition as part of your program? What about group training versus individual training? Will you train sports teams? Do you offer HIIT, kickboxing, CrossFit, weightlifting, bodybuilding, endurance, agility, or mobility training? How will you package your services? Can clients buy sessions in bulk to receive a price break, or must they pay as they go? These and other questions will help you design your services menu.

Regarding pricing for your services, packages, and programs, think about your overhead costs, level of experience, and the type of fitness training you provide. Are you a rare specialist who can demand higher rates? Are you a newly certified trainer looking to break into the business? Once you determine your list of services and prices, keep adjusting them as needed until you find the right balance. Remember also to include a clear and firm cancellation policy to encourage retention and to avoid costly no-shows.

7) Location

Where will you train clients? Out of your home? Out of your clients' homes? Will you rent space from a local gym or a local community center? Do you want to lease your own space? Consider your target market, equipment needs, and budget as you determine the right location for your business. Even if you plan to offer online training, you'll need to consider where you will film your training videos or where you will set up for live online training sessions.

8) Equipment

Depending on the type of personal training you intend to provide, you’ll need some equipment to get started with clients, including:

  • Benches
  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Bands
  • Barbells
  • Squat racks
  • Pullup bar
  • Bumper plates
  • Agility ladder
  • Yoga mats
  • Medicine balls
  • Gymnastics rings
  • Floor mats and/or crash pads

If you intend to rent space in another gym, you may be able to skip the majority of your equipment costs by using their gym’s equipment instead.

9) Finances

There are a variety of funding options you can use to start your business. The most common of these include:

  • Bank business loans
  • Private investors or lenders
  • Friends and family
  • Personal savings

Options like bank loans require that you have specific types of insurance coverage in place to qualify for financing. This is in addition to your business plan, which you will need to show them so that they can see clearly how you can repay them, were they to lend you money.

10) Insurance

Every small business owner needs certain small business insurance policies before they can open their business. As a personal trainer, you will need a specific suite of policies to ensure that you are properly covered based on your unique risks. Let’s take a look at some of these necessary policies in greater detail.

Find out what you’re likely to spend on your small business insurance with a fast and free quote from Huckleberry.

11) Paperwork, licenses, permits, and accounts

Paperwork is a necessary part of starting any small business. Let’s take a look at some specific paperwork, licenses, and other administrative things you’ll need to take care of before you train your first client.

  • Register your business name: After choosing your business name, check out the Small Business Association (SBA) to see how it must be registered.
  • Get your Employer Identification Number (EIN): Your EIN is like a Social Security Number (SSN) for your business. It offers multiple benefits, so get yours right away.
  • Get your business license: Check with your state to learn how to secure your business license.
  • Open a business credit card and business bank account: A business bank account and business credit card allow you to keep your personal and professional earning and spending separate. A credit card can also give you additional capital if you need it.

Check with your specific state's government to see if you’ve met all necessary requirements to open and run your personal training business.

12) Employees

If you intend to be the only employee throughout the lifetime of your business, you don’t need to worry about hiring practices. However, as soon as you decide it’s time to bring in some additional help on the training or administrative side, you’ll need to know where to find the proper paperwork. Forms such as the W-4 and W-9 can easily be found, downloaded, and printed online. You’ll also want to ensure that you engage in a robust hiring process to find and keep the best talent available.

13) Marketing strategy

A strong marketing strategy ensures that you can build a quality list of long-term clients. However, marketing can easily become overwhelming. Keep it simple by leveraging the following effective marketing channels.

Your website

A personal training website is a chance to inspire your potential clients with what’s possible for them should they work with you. Use before and after photos of past clients if you have them. Show your physique and fitness achievements on your About page to prove your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Offer a blog with helpful tips and pointers to build authority for your brand.

On the technical side, you want your website to be fast, responsive, searchable, and optimized for mobile. Work with a web designer and an SEO specialist to help you with this.

Email marketing

Email marketing proves itself as a valuable marketing tool so make sure you use it to your advantage. You can offer a way for visitors to your website to sign up for your email list. Once you start to grow your list, send out a regular newsletter or direct email marketing message sequences that excite potential customers to learn more about how they can achieve their fitness goals with you.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is another powerful tool for you as a personal trainer, as it allows you to show your expertise, results, and programs in quick, inspiring images, videos, and captions. Start with a single platform, learn it well, and then move on to another. This ensures that you learn to optimize your social media efforts and saves you from time-sucking, endless posting that does nothing for your business. Some social media platforms you can use include:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Google My Business

Google My Business gets you found through local Google search. Sign up for a free account, register your business, and you’re all set! Now, local searchers are more likely to see your name at the top of the list when searching for personal trainers in your area.

Word-of-mouth and referrals

Encourage positive word-of-mouth reviews from your clients by offering an incentive program to current clients. Give them something like a free session if their referral signs up for a package of sessions with you.

Another way to spread good word-of-mouth is through testimonials. Gather these statements of gratitude and endorsement and use them on your website and social media. Even better if you can use a before/after picture showing their transformation along with each testimonial.

14) Additional resources

As every good trainer knows, rest days are an important part of the training process. Likewise, taking adequate time to relax and restore while building your business is essential to your success. In addition, you’ll want to keep a few helpful resources nearby to keep you growth-oriented and inspired through your business journey.

Here are a few to get you started:

And there you have it: The 14 steps you need to start a personal training business. Congratulations, and keep after it. With consistency, determination, and a lot of heart, you’ll be open for business before you know it!

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Disclaimer

All content on this page is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any specific case, is not legal, tax or insurance advice and should not be relied upon. If you have any questions about the situation for your small business or the latest information in your state, you should contact an attorney for legal advice, an insurance agent or broker, and/or your state's labor or industry agency, board, commission or department. Please note that the information provided on this page may change at any time as a result of legislative action, court decisions or rules adopted or amended by any state or the federal government.

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