How to Start a Personal Training Business

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Quick Reference

If you’ve always enjoyed the challenge of getting fit and working to meet goals, a career as a personal trainer could allow you to share those talents and knowledge with others. Personal trainers can make a difference in clients’ lives, helping them to meet goals and improve their fitness routines. Starting a personal training business can be the first step in a career that’s fulfilling and rewarding as you share in your clients’ successes. If you enjoy training and have an interest in learning more about fitness, this might be a great career opportunity for you.

Business Overview

Personal trainers help clients to meet a variety of fitness and health goals. Trainers may specialize in certain areas, like strength training or weight loss, and deliver customized guidance and support to help clients on their fitness journey. Often, personal trainers work with clients one-on-one, but they may also offer group classes. Working with a personal trainer gives clients access to workout programs that are tailored to their fitness levels, needs, and goals, delivering an advantage over taking group courses or working out in the gym on their own. 

In many cases, personal trainers may freelance at or be employed by a gym. They may also take an independent route, building their own training business and establishing their own client roster. Most travel to meet clients, and some offer training within clients’ homes. Trainers enjoy scheduling flexibility, but may need to accommodate clients’ schedules, which can mean working on nights and weekends.

Industry Summary

According to IBIS World, the personal training industry experienced steady 2.4% growth from 2015 to 2020. This growth was partially driven by an increased interest in and demand for weight loss and customized workout programs. An increase in per capita disposable income and a reduction in the unemployment rate allowed more people to pursue personal training. It’s expected that a continued rise in disposable income will continue to drive industry growth through 2025. 

As of 2020, the personal training industry was a $10 billion industry. The 739,603 businesses in existence employed 747,365 people. While lower-cost do-it-yourself courses and training programs created competition, personal training offers a unique personalized experience and accountability that attracts clients. 

Industry Trends

Many trends are shaping the personal training industry, and trainers need to keep up with these trends to continue to appeal to clients. According to the U.S. News & World Report, personal training is increasingly offered online. Trainers now offer online sessions where clients can work out on their own schedules without any worry about having to get to the gym. 

Group training is also on the rise. While personal trainers traditionally work with clients one-on-one, group training allows trainers to coach all group members at once. Trainers can take participants through a workout and ensure that they’re all doing the exercises correctly. Group training increases the number of clients that trainers can work with, but by charging less for group sessions than for private ones, group sessions can help to keep personal training affordable. 

The American Fitness Professionals Association identifies many top personal training trends of 2019. These trends include high-intensity interval training, sustainable fitness, body weight workouts, treadmill workouts with audio-guided runs, yoga, and strength training. There’s also increased demand for fitness training for older adults that feature lower-intensity workouts. These trends are likely to continue in popularity in 2020 and beyond. 

Target Market

Personal trainers tend to target adults who want to get fit, get healthier, or otherwise meet personal goals. However, there’s plenty of room for specialization in this industry, and trainers may market to specific groups like marathon runners, professional athletes, moms who want to get fit after giving birth, people with specific weight loss goals, and more. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a personal training business

Starting a personal training business doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and experiences are valuable in both starting and running this type of business.

Fitness knowledge and enthusiasm. Nothing replaces a genuine passion for fitness training and firsthand experience in the field.  

Training experience and education. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, there are not currently federal or state regulations on the personal training industry. While a degree or certificate isn’t required, taking a highly-respected personal training program is advisable. This experience can improve a trainer’s credibility and improve their ability to do their job both effectively and well. 

Knowledge of psychology principles. A background in or knowledge of psychology principles can help trainers to understand how to better motivate and instill positive habits in their clients.

First aid certification. Taking the time to become certified in first aid can leave a trainer prepared to step in just in case a client ever has a health emergency while training.

Interpersonal skills. Personality and interactions with clients are a valuable part of building a business and establishing long-term clients. Strong interpersonal skills are an asset in this industry.

Communication skills. People learn in different ways, so trainers need to be able to adjust their communication methods and explain things in different ways. Strong communication skills are important. 

Tech-savvy skills. Technology, like apps and fitness monitors, are becoming increasingly popular in this field, and a trainer who can embrace these tools can use them to enhance their programs.  

Costs to Start a Personal Training Business

Starting a personal training business is often highly affordable, especially if your business model involves working with clients at their homes or at gyms. Personal trainers may choose to purchase some portable workout equipment, but often, the largest cost to starting a training business is investing in a reliable vehicle, if you don’t have one already. Most personal training businesses cost as little as $2,500 to start. 

Common startup costs for a personal training business:

  • Exercise and training equipment
  • Training journal or recordkeeping software for each client
  • Website
  • Reliable vehicle
  • Workout clothes or branded clothes

Steps to Starting a Personal Training Business

Step 1. Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a clothing line business plan.  Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.

Related:
How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2. Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC.  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements. 

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Step 3. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

There are no specific licenses for being a personal trainer, however there are several certifications that may build credibility with potential customers.  If you plan on selling supplements or equipment a sales tax permit may be needed, in addition to any location specific business licensing. 

Related: Common business licenses, permits and registrations by state

Step 4. Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a personal training business is another.  While to cost to start a personal training business is pretty low, getting a business loan can still be difficult.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs. 

Related: Finding the money to start a business  

Step 5. Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Personal training businesses rely on marketing to bring in new clients. Common marketing activities include marketing in local gyms, maintaining an active social media presence, paid online advertising, print advertising, and even radio advertising. Establishing a referral program or a loyalty program can also be effective. 

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 6. Get Insurance

A personal training business will need several different insurance policies: 

  • General liability insurance protects the business if a client is ever injured. This policy can help to cover expenses like medical bills and legal fees. 
  • Commercial property insurance protects the business if its equipment or property is damaged or destroyed by an event like a fire. 
  • Worker’s compensation insurance is only needed if a business has employees. It can help to protect the business if an employee is injured while on the job, and may cover expenses like lost wages and medical bills. 

Insurance policies vary in cost depending on variables like the value of the business’ equipment. To get the most accurate idea of insurance policy costs, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, look beyond just how the premiums compare and consider other factors like differences in coverage limits, exclusions, and deductibles. 

Step 7. Hiring Employees

While most personal training businesses are run entirely by their owner, some businesses may expand into hiring multiple personal trainers. According to Glassdoor, personal trainers earn an average of $36,140 per year, though salaries can range from $18,000 to $65,000.

If a business hires employees, then salaries are just one of the expenses that need to be included in the budget. Paid time off, health insurance contributions, and workmans comp insurance are also often necessary. 

Related: Hiring your first employee

 


 

Amazon has several good books for starting a personal training business such as:


 

How much can you potentially make owning a personal training business?

Personal training businesses can be highly profitable and rewarding ventures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, personal trainers earned an average of $40,390 per year, or $19.42 per hour. While data on individual business profits isn’t available, keep in mind that many factors will affect a business’ profits. Location, specialization, rates, and an overall business model can all influence potential earnings. 

Things to consider before starting a personal training business

When starting a personal training business, it can take time to build up a roster of clients. There are a few ways that you can go about this. You might seek employment as a personal trainer at a gym, which can give you experience and help you to build up a solid reputation and plenty of references. Or, you can start off on your own and can build your business part-time while staying employed elsewhere until your business takes off. Because personal training gives you great scheduling flexibility, it’s easy to balance this career with another job as you’re just getting started. 

Demand tends to peak at the beginning of the year, with “New Year’s Resolutions” so this is often the best time to be marketing personal training services. 

As you better define your ideal clients and get to know them, you’ll discover the things that matter most to them. Most clients are looking for convenience, and you can deliver that by carefully structuring your business. Delivering online courses that clients can access from their homes can make it easier for them to fit a workout into their schedules. In-home visits are also highly convenient for clients, so consider offering a few different options to help training fit into your clients’ lives. 

Resources:
American Fitness Professionals Association
National Exercise Trainers Association
National Strength and Conditioning Association