How to Start a Personal Training Business
If you want to start a personal training business, you get what others don’t. Being a personal trainer is fun. You’ll get a rewarding career helping others live a better life. Moreso, owning a business gives freedom and opportunity. Most people never get both in a lifetime. You might already be a certified personal trainer and working in a commercial gym. If this is the case, you’re realizing how much more you could make on your own.
Or, you might find fitness generally interesting. And, more importantly, you want to be your own boss. You love the idea of autonomy and work-life balance. So, you’re willing to do what it takes and what better place to start than in fitness?
Either way, it’s simple to start a personal training business and you can make a great income in less than 30 days. What’s a great income? Earning between $75 and $125 per hour is a great income. And this is just to start. When you scale your business with other trainers working for you, it can be a six-figure income.
Regardless of whether you currently train or are looking for a new side hustle, your answers are here. You’ll learn:
- The pros and cons of owning a fitness business
- Personal training business startup basics
- Business models to consider
- Defining your niche
- Personal training services
- Getting your education
Pros and Cons of Owning a Fitness Business
It goes without saying that there are good things and bad things about owning a personal training business. It’s best to know upfront what they are. This will set your expectations. You can think of it like working with a client. You make sure your client knows all the pros and cons of training. They’ll look better, feel healthier, have more energy, and learn so much along the way. Because there are pros and cons, you let your clients know it will be hard work. Setting their expectations is part of the commitment process. They’ll spend extra time in the gym, be pushed out of their comfort zone, and risk failure. In the end, you know they can hit their goals and there is a better life waiting for them on the other side.
Starting your personal training business is no different.
So, you need to remind yourself of the pros and cons and what this looks like. You’ll see starting this business is low-risk with high reward. More trainers should be doing it, but just aren’t.
Advantages: Personal Training Business Owners
Too many trainers never take the leap to start their own business. It could be because they think it’s tougher than it is. Or, they might think it takes extra business skills. It’s surprisingly easy and the pros far outweigh the cons. This list really could go on, but here are the basics.
- You’ll make more per hour than what the fitness club pays you
- You won’t have sales quotas that the big box gyms often place on you
- It’s scalable- you can have trainers working for you
- It’s recession and pandemic proof- nothing stops clients from working out
- The startup cost is minimal- clients pay for YOU not the equipment
- There isn’t much competition or businesses who market this service well
- No licensure is required- it’s a low barrier to entry (check with your state for business licensure)
- Most trainers are working in the gym so your independent competition is minimal
- Clients will pay more for you if they aren’t paying a club membership
- You can offer adjacent services and make more money
- You can be your own boss in the career you love
The Cons of Owning Your Own Training Business
No matter the business, there will be drawbacks. Although few, the cons include:
- Success is on your terms- what you get what you put in
- You’ll have to learn some business basics to get things started
- Sales get easier- the people you talk to already have strong buying interest.
- There might be more driving if not doing primarily online coaching
- You’ll have to target your social media- it’s where you’ll get most clients
As you can see, the pros double the cons. Read on to learn the different types of businesses you can start in the fitness space and the services to offer.
Training Business Startup Basics
There are a few things you should know as you start your business. This is a quick list of things to do when starting your business.
- Register your business as an LLC or other official entity. Check with your local and state offices. Don’t skip this step. It establishes you as a business and protects your personal assets in the event of a suit.
- Get personal training insurance. Liability insurance can cost you just $12 a month when you first start out.
- If you’re not certified, get your personal training certification. Consider getting additional specializations. Deeper knowledge on topics like working with seniors, elite athletes, and more will help build your credibility.
- Develop a business plan. This will outline the problem you’re solving, who it helps, and the specifics of your offerings. It’s the basis for all additional marketing.
- Create a marketing plan. We recommend starting with digital and social media marketing. People love fitness content, so start putting it out there. Then offer free assessments or initial coaching sessions to get prospective clients.
- Get your equipment. It’s okay if you don’t have much to start with. Remember, clients are buying an end result. Not the latest equipment on the market.
- Start networking. Learn from other trainers and business owners and develop a network. You should also network with the general fitness community to grow your reputation.
Equipment To Start
The startup costs for a personal training business don’t have to be big. And, it’s likely you already have some of them. Here is a list of what owning your training business will cost with minimal equipment.
- Personal training certification ($500 – $1000)
- Progressive resistance bands ($100)
- Dumbbells ($170) or kettlebells ($330)
With this fitness equipment, you’ll be able to train 70% of the clients out there.
Here is a list of fitness equipment retailers:
And, of course, Amazon. At a bare minimum, you need a personal trainer certification. We recommend you only purchase training equipment as your business profits allow. This will keep you creative in using bodyweight and resistance band programming.
Finding Your Niche- The Ideal Client and Offering
Something often overlooked is the first step, finding your niche. You need to hone in on exactly who your ideal client is. Now, you can do this by thinking about what you are great at (or want to be great at). Then, ask yourself what problem you’re solving and for who. This helps you define your niche. You’ll ask yourself the following questions:
What is the problem your client faces?
How will you solve their problem?
What is your exact product to provide the solution?
Who will most benefit from this solution?
For example, maybe you had a personal weight loss journey and want to help others do the same. You know the struggles of changing your lifestyle. Therefore you answer the questions in this way:
- Problem: Clients who want to lose over 30 pounds see it as overwhelming and non-attainable.
- Solution: You will help them in a step by step way to change their life for good
- Product: You’ll provide one weekly private workout session, two weekly nutrition coaching sessions, and unlimited group sessions for $500 per month
- Who: Your client persona is:
- Between 25 and 75 pounds overweight
- Working mother
- Middle to high income
- Follows trending diets
Breaking things down this way will help you with marketing. It doesn’t mean you can’t work with clients outside of the persona. It only means you are going to make yourself great at something. Then, you’ll market more accurately.
Types of Independent Personal Training Businesses
Before getting started on how to launch your training business, you first need to know the types of training businesses you can embark on. There is more than one way to offer your training services. We list these in ascending startup cost order.
Online Training and Virtual Coaching
There are three great things about starting your business as online training or virtual fitness coaching:
- Upfront cost doesn’t get any lower. You’ll be hosting workouts virtually. And clients will upload their videos of performing workouts. This allows you to virtually critique their form and give feedback. In this space, the client pays for the equipment cost. You won’t have any drive time or studio rental fees either. Therefore, this is your lowest risk and cost way to begin your training business.
- Other trainers aren’t great at online coaching yet. Trainers were lost without the gyms during closures. They began virtual coaching but there was a learning curve. With gyms re-opening, most reverted back to traditional forms of training. This leaves a huge opportunity for you. If you can master online fitness coaching, it’s open water. Further,if you do it right, you can scale it for a small investment and pay other trainers to follow your process.
- You can work from anywhere in the world. Gone will be the days of attaching to one fitness club. When clients move, your services move with them. When a gym shuts down, you’re still making money. When you want to be by the beach making money, you’re there.
Training in Public Spaces
Don’t overlook the option of training in public (or semi-public) spaces. This can include parks, playgrounds, and even parking lots with permission. Some of these public spaces aren’t truly public. You may have to pay a minimal permit fee which pales in comparison to studio rental space. If you’re creative, these public spaces will have “equipment”. Things like monkey bars, swings, slides, stairs, and sand are fitness modalities. Of course, you still need to make sure you have liability insurance. But the equipment cost and overhead are low.
Also, the popularity of training in public spaces is growing. Especially for programs like boot camps or yoga, clients love to be outside. The more you can train yourself on using minimal equipment, the better you’ll be. This will help with the budget. It will also force you to be creative in your workout design. Too many trainers rely on expensive equipment at commercial gyms. This is exactly why gym closures were bad for personal trainers. Check out your surroundings and see what might make a good space for you. Then connect with the grounds management to see your options.
Training out of Clients’ Homes
If you are going to train out of clients’ homes, you have two options. First, you can give them a list of equipment to buy. Or you can purchase the equipment and travel with it. The first option is ideal. So if possible, help your client develop a good space to work out in. Give them equipment recommendations they can use with or without you. Let them know you’ll teach them how to use it all so none of it will go to waste.
If you opt for traveling with your own equipment, keep it light and simple. Remember, creativity will be your financial friend. Consequently, don’t invest in weights of all sizes. Instead, use resistance bands and other inexpensive forms of equipment. If your client has a pool, brush up on water workouts you can lead them through.
Here’s a financial tip if you’re training out of clients’ homes. Factor in drive time and gas for your overall pricing. Don’t short yourself. As you’ll read later, your time is valuable and clients will pay for your services. Time on the road is time you won’t be spending marketing your business or training clients elsewhere.
Training out of Your Home
There’s good and bad with training out of your home. First, the good. You won’t have to travel around using gas money to conduct business. This will also save you time and reduce your risk of being late to sessions. However, expect to pay more for equipment in your gym. Clients will expect to have higher-end equipment that’s more on par with a gym. Otherwise, they’d be seeking your training from a studio.
You should also keep in mind that training out of your home is the least scalable model to start a personal training business. Unless you have a large house with multiple rooms available, you’ll be in one space. This means growing your business to employ other trainers or training assistants will be tough. Chances are you will be in tight quarters and not want it to be the “company office”.
Training from another Studio
Private gyms are another way you can conduct personal training services. You can also sublease from martial arts and yoga studios. These fitness studios will have enough space for you to teach and employ others. So the scalability is there. However, you’ll be paying a form of rent to the studio owner. For example, some of these gym owners will charge you per client or session. Others will charge you on the number of other trainers working out of the space as well. If you’re lucky, you can find a flat fee that will allow you to train as many clients and with as many employees as you want.
Training from Your Studio
As a business owner, training from your own studio sounds like the best plan. You can call the shots and set the hours. This gives you plenty of space to run group sessions, educational seminars, health fairs, and more in. The downside is that it’s the most costly option. You’ll need equipment and have to sign a lease. But the flexibility here is endless.
As with all other parts of starting your training business, do the research. Start by knowing exactly how much you have to spend for the initial opening. Assume a client ramp-up period of three months or so and see if you have enough money to hold you. If not, a great way to start this business is just online or in a public space. It’s the lowest risk and you’ll have more runway to improve your marketing. Once this is in place, you’ll be more profitable to choose one of the other options.
Training Services Your Business Can Offer
If you’re already offering personal training, you know what goes into it. Individual fitness assessments are a must and are the first session. Then, you’ll follow it up with a personalized fitness program design. Others might do group training as well as private training. When you start out on your own, you should add as many services as possible.
If you aren’t even certified yet, have no fear. You can still get to owning your own business in as little as one month. Here are common services personal training businesses offer.
Traditional One on One Training
It’s still common for fitness trainers to conduct traditional one on one training. This is the most personalized form of personal training. If you’re offering one on one training, make sure you’re thorough and professional. Conduct initial and ongoing assessments. During these assessment sessions, do a deep dive with the client on their progress. Give them the opportunity to discuss what worked well and what didn’t. Learn each month, how you both can grow.
Maintain a client record-keeping system to track progress. Then, be sure to personalize the coming month’s training session to keep moving toward the ultimate goal. Additionally, you should provide explicit recommendations on what the client should be doing on their days not with you.
Online Personal Training
Even if you’re working in a public space or private studio, include online training. You can provide services to existing clients like:
- Off day nutrition and fitness check-in sessions (as part of a monthly fee)
- Fitness competitions not specific to private clients
- Educational or motivational webinars
- Ongoing training for clients who move or want a lower cost option.
In the past, personal trainers had to rely on a market-specific to geographic location. With technology and the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic, online personal training is becoming more popular. It is becoming more popular slowly. This is because trainers tend to adapt slowly to technology. This isn’t for the wrong reasons. Instead, so much of what personal trainers do relies on physical proximity and a close personal connection. Trainers never needed to worry about how to develop this in a virtual world. So, there is a great opportunity to make money in online fitness.
Sessions like boot camp or even mobility classes are great income opportunities. You’re able to earn more per hour with more clients. You can also charge a “membership fee”. This is a great way to create predictable income without scheduling clients. Group fitness and coaching is also a gateway for prospective one on one clients. You can hook them on your leadership and motivation without a big financial investment on their end.
Hosting fitness competitions is a nice low barrier to entry service for prospects. It’s also great for marketing. If you only charge $10 to enter the competition you’ll get tons of referrals. These will be qualified leads of happy clients. Fitness competitions also are easy to market to the masses. Whether traditional or digital marketing, leads are easy to find with competitions.
Online Fitness Content
Fitness and nutrition are high search topics. You don’t have to be a social media influencer. You just have to put out great content. Personal trainers don’t always take advantage of this. They overlook it because perhaps they “aren’t good writers”. But, people will pay five dollars for a handbook on “The best kettlebell exercises” or “Avoid holiday weight gain”. It can be simple tips and tricks. Trust you know your information and start offering this as a product.
As you continue to learn about how to start your personal training business, you should revisit these services. Ideally you will have a mix of each offering. This gives you additional income opportunities and keeps revenue front of mind.
Building Your Education
If you aren’t already a certified personal trainer, you’ll need to start building your education. Fortunately, most certification programs are all online. This means you can study at your own pace and take the exam when you’re ready. The following is a list of certifications we recommend.
EMAC (Education, Motivation, Accountability in Coaching)
The EMAC Certified Personal Trainer course has a strong focus on the interactions of the personal trainer and client. Therefore, it translates well to any style of personal training business. Whether you’re looking to train at a gym or love the idea going online so you can trainer anywhere, EMAC encompasses it all. Additionally, it has a strong student focus, so you don’t learn unnecessary exercise science info that you won’t use. Instead, you learn the ropes of what a personal trainer does day in and day out. Plus, it has an easy, at home exam you can do from anywhere.
ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)
The ISSA certification it has great ratings and reviews. Their reputation is in service and helping students pass the final exam. They give two exam options, one is proctored and accredited. The other is non-accredited and open book. Both options come with your course purchase. So, it’s a great choice if you have test anxiety. Additionally, their information is easy to digest. This can be important if you don’t already have a degree in exercise science or kinesiology.
NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)
If you love science and the human body, NASM is the way to go. They have several certification packages to choose from. And they’re a bit higher on the price range. The good news is however, they offer payment plans (most programs do). Additionally, the information is packed with scientific and evidence-based info for you to read. This is great if you’re the scholarly type. However, if you’re new to fitness science, it might be a bit much for starting out.
ACE (American Council on Exercise)
Another accredited company, ACE offers personal training certifications. They’re a non-profit organization with the lowest price of the three here. During some specials, you can get course access for less than $450. Their programs are all online and accepted by most employers.