How to start a personal training business? Cover all bases in these 7 steps.
If there was ever a time to set foot in the personal training business, it is now.
Over the last few years, social media influencers have been a major factor in promoting health and wellness. And now with the Covid-19 global pandemic, people don’t just want to be in a good shape, they need to be.
However, ‘Bro science’ is out… The scientific method that trainers use is trusted more by people who want to get fit. Trainers like you, who’ve been doing this for a while are just what they need.
But before you start as a freelance personal trainer – let’s break down the term ‘Personal Training Business’ into the ‘Training’ part and the ‘Business’ part.
The ‘Training’ part
It’s been a long time since you started as a rookie with a certification. You’ve trained many clients by now (some annoying friends and family members too 😜). Starting your own business seems like the perfect next step.
Our advice? GO FOR IT!
By the time you’re thinking about starting a personal training business, ‘training’ should be the easy part.
You should know the ins and outs of this industry. You might be a good trainer now, but that’s not all there is to it.
The ‘Business’ part
You’ll be putting down a significant chunk of change in your business. So you need to get it right. You’ll need the time, resources, and dedication to set up this personal training business.
A successful business isn’t a sprint – it’s more of a marathon. It requires a solid pace, dedication, and commitment to success.
While you’re with us, you don’t need to worry. Take your spot, don’t slouch, and let’s get pumping!
Dive in, to know how to start your own personal training business or jump to a specific tip below:
STEP 1 – Find your niche
STEP 2 – Conduct market research
STEP 3 – Decide on the place to train
STEP 4 – Offer different payment packages
STEP 5 – Take care of the legalities
STEP 6 – Start building your clientele
STEP 7 – Hit the ground running with the right tools
We have also curated a neat checklist to help you stay on top of your business plan. Find it in the end (or jump directly to it)!
STEP 1 – Find your niche
Who told you this is going to be a cakewalk? Processed sugar isn’t our friend 🙂
But when we take it step by step, or rather, ‘rep by rep’, it isn’t long before you carve your niche.
The personal training industry is getting bigger by the day. Getting clients can be a little difficult if you don’t stand out in some way.
Rather than making your prospective clients muddle through the field of all available options, when you sell their niche, you’re the clear choice for most of them.
This advice sounds good to the ears but what you’re left with is just a hollow thought and no real direction to go forward in.
And we know what you’re thinking…
Haha, don’t sweat it. We’ve got you covered.
If you follow these simple steps you’ll know how to accomplish this task:
a) Understand what works best for you
Try to look for the aspects of training which would set you apart from your competitors.
For example – Let’s assume you’re a weight loss specialist.
Now, because of your experience, you must be familiar with lazy clients who just can’t stay motivated. They need someone who can motivate them to lead a healthy lifestyle. If you’re able to get these kinds of clients to come down to the gym and work out then you’re a good match for lazy people.
Trust us, they look for personal trainers who don’t give up on them as easily as they do on working out.
But, if your profile only says – weight loss specialist, you’ll be lost in the sea of personal trainers offering the same service. Try adding this in your bio – ‘Positive and patient, motivates clients with fitness challenges.‘
You instantly have the attention of Mr. Lazy Lounger who had almost given up on losing that belly fat.
Few ideas of parent categories with niche examples –
- Sports and exercise nutrition
- Macros and micros + water and electrolytes
- Effect of exercise on various body systems
- Energy requirement for athletes
- Dietary supplements and sports performance
- Pre and post workout nutrition
- Diet planning and management
- Strength and conditioning training
- Athlete assessment and evaluation
- Periodization + long term athlete development
- Plan prepare and deliver strength and conditioning for sports
- Designing individual strength and conditioning sessions
- Designing a proper strength training warm-up
- Posture and functional corrective techniques
- Activation & mobility
- Rehab and prehab specialization
- Injury prevention
- Post-injury rehab
- Weight loss
- Men/ women
- College students
- General health
- Stress management
- Mood disorders
b) Pay attention to what you’re passionate about
Go beyond your professional skillset and try to find things of personal interest that make you, YOU.
After you’ve made sure what your area of interest and expertise is, you can refine your niche even more. For example, you can be the trainer who –
- Specializes in training lazy clients.
- Offers a discount to military and ex-military personnel.
- Is good with young adults and adopts a buddy system to train.
- Can offer services any time of the day.
- Specializes in training clients with heart diseases, asthma, and/or other conditions.
- Is a Wellness guru who specializes in training clients in their rehab phase by enhancing their physical as well as mental well-being.
When you break down large audiences into smaller sections, you’re able to provide the exact service and experience they want. Your targeted audience feels like the service is customized for them. This way, your clients are more likely to choose you over your competitors.
STEP 2 – Conduct market research
Before you start printing business cards, let’s take a step back and analyze the situation.
Doing market research is an important part of your business strategy. The process of collecting information about your potential customers and competitors will help you understand the viability of a service such as personal training in your target area.
The golden rule of every business is to know the demand before you start supplying. Find out what the customer wants. For example – you can’t recommend a weight loss program to a bodybuilder.
Find out the answers to the following questions to get a good sense of the market.
- Where do your customers live?
- Which area is easy for you to target?
- What are the needs of potential clients in your target area?
- Do they need your services?
- Economic indicators
- What is their income range?
- How much is their spending capacity?
- Market saturation
- How many similar options are already available to the customers?
- Are people satisfied with their current options or are they unhappy?
- Do people prefer working out indoors or outdoors?
- How many of them prefer online sessions over actual face-to-face sessions?
- Is there a specific demographic which focuses more on trendy fitness ideas?
- Population data on age, wealth, local interests, or anything else that’s relevant to your business.
To get the answer to these questions, you can research existing sources or take the direct approach to ask customers yourself.
Here is a state-wise distribution of employment and wage statistics for the U.S, to help you target clients where employment and wages are high.
Few methods to use direct research are – surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews.
Market research is incomplete without competitor analysis. You need to know what people already in this business are doing. Understanding their methods will help you penetrate the market.
Research helps you learn from businesses competing for your potential customers. Competitor analysis specific to this line of business can be done by answering these questions –
- What is their area of expertise?
- What is their experience level?
- What are the payment packages they offer?
- Location – Where are they training their clients?
- Target demographic – Who’s their primary target?
College students/ elderly/ post or pre natal women/ people with bone deformity?
- Is there any nearby workout place that offers discounts for couples?
- What are the timings they offer to their clients?
- Group session or one on one?
- Are online classes available?
- Are there any trainers who give hybrid packages with online pre-recorded sessions as well as face-to-face training?
This information will be used to determine your window of opportunity to enter a specific market.
You’ll be able to correctly decide on the pricing as well as your strong points, based on which you should be selling your services.
STEP 3 – Decide on the place to train
Once you have an understanding of the market that you want to target, you might want to start thinking about your choice of facility for personal training.
While most of it depends on the client and where they want to train, you need to know a few things before starting out as a personal trainer. You should keep your options open and have a client-centric approach. Few places to consider training your clients are –
Private gyms that allow you to pay per session
You can try and tie-up with a local gym which will allow you to train your clients there. They take care of a lot of stuff for you which would be rather difficult if you were to get the items yourself.
Gym equipment is a given, but other things are often overlooked like sanitization and hygiene, lockers, showers, a space with 24X7 water and electricity supply, and maintenance for all these facilities. If you go with this option, you don’t need to worry much about anything other than training your clients.
At a studio
Opening a personal training studio works for yoga, Pilates, and Zumba instructors and for trainers who are looking to hold group sessions. Renting these studios is an easy option but keep in mind that it takes time to build such clientele.
So keep enough cash reserved to pay rent for a few months before you get a continuous stream of clients who can keep the business going.
At clients’ homes/ facilities
Clientele for personal trainers tends to be on the wealthier side when they prefer to work out at their place. In-home trainers can charge more and they won’t have any problem paying up. You’ll stay fit and make more money. What else does a personal trainer want? 🙂
But during these testing times of the pandemic, you should take care of a few things while you train at the client’s facilities –
- Wear a mask and a pair of gloves.
- Try not to touch anything at their home as much as possible.
- Ask your client to sanitize the equipment used (if any).
- Get COVID – 19 testing done frequently to keep yourself and your client safe.
At a park/ public spaces
There is a certain sense of calmness when training outdoors. You don’t have to listen to the loud noisy gym surroundings. Parks and public spaces provide that. Although there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you start chasing that endorphin high out in the open.
Some parks need special permits before you can begin training clients there, be sure to check that beforehand. Keep in mind that if any equipment is to be used during your training, you’ll have to carry it to the park and back to your home or shed.
Public spaces can be government or privately owned like community centers, schools, and college gyms. You can find out who owns the place and get permission to train your clients.
You might need to pay for it which can either be flat rent or a portion of what you earn from your clients. It might be a good idea to pay the flat rent when you have a large client base but it’s a better idea to go with the portion policy in the beginning.
At your own home
The best part about personal training at home is that you don’t have to commute to-and-from work. You can convert your garage into a gym area. Sanitize all equipment used before and after every appointment, and you’re ready to make some money.
Note of caution: As several people will come to your place, it will be tough to keep a check on what they touched. If the workplace and the rest of the house aren’t separated, sanitizing everything at your place can also be difficult.
It is a little extra work, but it’ll all be worth the effort in the long run.
Start an online personal training business
After battling COVID 19, people have started adapting to the necessary changes. One of them was a hike in services going online.
… with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.Thomas Jefferson
Training clients virtually is the solution personal trainers came up with. It is one of the easiest business models that you can opt for. You can train people in two ways –
- Giving live online classes to a group/ individuals or
- Setting up a pre-recorded workout plan for people to subscribe to, every month.
For more information, you can check out our blog on ‘How to start your online fitness business.‘
NOTE: To target a wider range of audience, you can offer a hybrid model with both online and in-person training.
Both online and in-person training will obviously increase the fees. Online training will be pre-recorded videos or live online classes (according to the needs of your client) for workouts + diet plans. The clients can later schedule an in-person appointment for advice about their posture or workouts as needed.
Price structure and range:
- Same fee per class (for one on one personal training)
- Monthly fee for performance plan (online training)
All the above-mentioned options need a place, personal trainer licenses, insurance, and permits. However, if you do decide to go online, you just need your license. The location of your business will greatly affect your fee structure. Let’s see how.
STEP 4 – Offer different payment packages
Something which makes the difference even after your strategized pricing is how diverse are the payment packages you offer.
Depending on their training background and spending capacity people look for different payment packages. After all, more than anything, money can be a deal maker or deal-breaker depending on how you package it.
Different payment packages which can be implemented are –
Pay per class
Count a fixed time duration as one session and accept payments based on that.
$25 to $50 per 30 min session.
$40 to $70 per hour.
$60 to $100 per 90 min session.
This can go up to $60 to $100 hourly if you go to your client’s house to train.
We all know how these work. 🙂
Price range: $250 to $400 per month.
Offer discounts for people who pay for several classes together.
For eg. If someone pays for 5, 10, or 15 classes together, 10%, 15%, and 20% discounts can be offered on the respective class packages.
When a group approaches you for your services, discounted fees can be offered.
These can range from 5% to 20% depending on the number of people who come at once.
This takes into account the popularity of specific times, trainers, and classes, and determines an appropriate price to smooth out demand. If all classes are valued the same, customers will choose the most desirable option for them, often based on how it fits into their schedule.
NOTE – Set higher fees for classes early in the morning as most of the clients want to train at that time. At the same time, you can strategically lower the fee for classes in the middle of the day which would attract clients looking for a cheaper option.
Price range: 10% higher prices in peak times and 10% lower prices for odd hours like mid-day.
Keep in mind that location matters when setting up prices. Clients in Manhattan would think that $100/hr is reasonable but people in the Bronx would laugh at you. After you decide on the payment plans, set up an online mode of payment so you can receive payment for your services without any hassle.
STEP 5 – Take care of the legalities
When you’re compliant with the law, not only do you keep your clients safe but also save yourself from expensive fines and the potential cancellation of your personal trainer license.
Here are the legal requirements which need to be taken care of before you attend to clients –
Registering your business
Business structures in the US are – sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability, and corporation.
If you plan on operating as a sole proprietorship, there is no legal distinction between the owner (you) and the business.
Therefore, you should register your business as a limited liability company (LLC) or other official entity beyond sole proprietor. This will protect your personal assets from your business assets if you happen to get sued. This means, if your business suffers a loss, your car, house, and bank account are protected.
If you’re not an employee, you’ll need your own insurance.
General liability insurance will cover you if your client gets hurt by an accident, like slipping and falling in the gym. On the other hand, it will not cover you if you’re negligent.
So be on the lookout for people doing cheat reps. For instance, you could be in trouble if a client gets injured doing a back squat while fatigued.
Most personal trainer certification programs require CPR certification. Get CPR certified through an official first aid certification authority. Check with a fitness certification company for any specific knowledge it requires beyond CPR, such as how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator) or first aid training.
Open up a business bank account
Opening a business bank account limits your personal liability, maintains credibility with your clients, and organizes your business records which helps in taxes at the end of a year. You can do it without breaking a sweat if you have the right registrations and paperwork ready.
STEP 6 – Start building your clientele
Business cards printed. The shop is set. Let the gains begin. Right? Wrong.
While research makes your task easier, getting clients initially takes just as much time. Once you have an initial client base, you don’t need to worry as much about it.
You didn’t start your fitness journey thinking about marketing, but to hit the ground running, you’ll need to market your business and market it well.
1. Approach prospective clients around you first
Investigate the academic programs offered by community colleges, technical institutes, and/or universities in or near you and in your community. Approach them first to get many clients from a single place. Set up a stall by talking to the authorities in these places and offer a free demo class to get clients.
2. Network in various industries
Before you think about becoming a freelance personal trainer, build your network through the different clients you’ve trained in the past.
Suppose you get in touch with someone from the healthcare sector, you may be able to work as an independent personal trainer at hospitals, physical therapy offices, and chiropractor clinics.
Networking can get you clients from various corporate offices as well.
3. Offer a free trial
Let’s be real. Everyone loves free stuff. There’s no risk of losing out your money if the product/service doesn’t turn out to be what was promised. You didn’t pay in the first place.
In the personal training industry, a tempting offer for someone who wants to know what you’re about can be whirled in with a free trial. When you offer a free trial, give the best possible service and special attention to those clients. Making a good first impression is necessary to convert them.
4. Create a cross-referral system
Time to reap the fruits of the competitor research you did earlier. Connect with the specialists in the area who can refer their clients to you (related to your niche) in exchange for your referral.
These specialists can be – muscle activation specialists, nutritionists, active release techniques specialists, weight loss specialists, etc. This way it would help you, that specialist, and your clients, all at the same time.
The above methods are the traditional ways to get your initial clients. But they’re not enough. People look out for everything in one place – the Internet. You need to make sure that your online game is strong so you don’t miss out on those potential leads.
There is a high possibility that people who search for fitness trainers online will find you in your service area and you can reel them in with your niche, discounts, and offers to build a clientele from online sources. You can increase your online presence and engagement by focusing on the following things.
5. Create Google my business account
To increase your visibility, create a Google listing known as a ‘Google Business Profile’. But this alone won’t give you management over it. You need those management and editing abilities if you want your business profile to work as an effective lead generation tool.
To do that, create a free ‘Google my business‘ account for that profile. This is the only way you claim your business profile and get management rights. It also unlocks free features to increase your visibility on google.
Integrate ‘Reserve with Google’ with your google business account to start converting all those Google searchers into booked sessions. This platform helps businesses get discovered by Google searches and turns them into customers through the door.
6. Get listed on online marketplaces
Unlike other marketing platforms, you don’t have to invest. You don’t need to pay per click or keep a marketing professional on payroll to do this.
Several online marketplaces connect personal trainers to clients like fitnesstrainer.com and findyourtrainer.com. They would show your profile when people search for trainers in your area, increasing your chances of getting more clients.
7. Offer discounts
Based on the number of classes – This would work when someone wants to book 1 class but they see that they can get a better deal if they book classes in a bundle of 10. You can offer a 5% discount and boost your revenue.
Here’s a discount package example from one of our clients in Tampa Bay, Florida.
|No. of months||Private group – In Gym package||Virtual Training package|
Based on Referrals – This age-old method never fails to fetch clients where you can give discounts to your current clients when they get their friends and family involved.
For example – if they buy 10 sessions, they get 11th free after they successfully refer a friend. This would mean 1 extra class per 10 classes for referring a person.
Group discounts – If the capacity of small group classes is 5, then you can offer a discount if a group of 5 people comes in. This can be for the first month/ first few classes.
For example – You can give a discount of 15% on their first 5 classes if 5 people come as a group.
Based on the client’s field – If your target area has a large population of people from a specific field, for example, military and ex-military men and women. Then you can offer Military discounts to directly attract those people.
Giving impeccable professional training to your clients is important but giving attention to the personal aspects of the equation is what makes all the difference. Maintaining and nurturing your relations with your clients will take you a long way.
After all, the most effective way of getting new clients is through word-of-mouth. When they’ll develop that sense of comfort you’ll be able to retain clients easily.
Before you jump on ahead, make sure you check out our upcoming blog in the series which would explain ‘Personal training marketing ideas’ in detail. Drop your email address here and we’ll make sure to send that valuable information directly to you.
STEP 7 – Hit the ground running with the right tools
As the customer base expands, most personal trainers start to panic because they aren’t habitual in keeping track of the day-to-day activities for many people. People tend to use Google Sheets or Drive but it’ll later become difficult.
- Some common tasks for a personal trainer which is part of your daily life like – sending emails to clients for diet plans, keeping track of their workout plans, measurements, and updating them periodically is something that takes a lot of time to get used to.
- Deciding on meeting places and timings via phone calls is a thing that might consume a lot of your time because you need to give confirmation and send reminders. Sometimes, you may also forget about sending reminders making you lose that hour with your client. If they never show up, you lose your money.
- Keeping track of all the appointments that you’ve scheduled for the day and letting other people know your availability via phone calls and text messages can be challenging between getting to places and managing your own time.
- Keeping track of rescheduled or canceled appointments and then allotting time to other clients accordingly is also time-consuming and can be pretty hectic.
- In the personal training industry, you train many clients like businessmen in big corporate houses who sometimes don’t have the time to attend to all the calls and hence miss changes in your meeting time because you only have no means to send alerts other than calling them.
- Because of all the panic at that later stage, you may also lose clients because you don’t have the appropriate infrastructure required to deal with them.
Managing a personal training business isn’t an easy job. One thing which successful personal trainers do is prepare for these difficulties from the beginning.
What if the solution to all these problems was a single software that is easy to use and even comes with a free plan!
Check out Appointy’s personal trainer scheduling software to take care of your appointment management needs, along with payments, analytics, and other admin work.
Final thoughts + free checklist
Continue growing your knowledge and education. If you develop an interest in another fitness specialization or if the market demands it, learn new things and be up to date with the latest trends.
Want to get all this listed at one place?
Here is a checklist –
Download it and get that sweet satisfaction of checking boxes. 🥴
Oh and if you follow this efficiently and complete each step, you can also start a personal training business in no time.
Kick-start your business with our checklist!
Save it or print it out so that you stay on top of your To-do!
Yay! You are one step ahead in starting your personal training business.
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog, or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
We love a good talk!