Opening a gym: A simple 9-step guide on how to start your own gym and get clients
If you are a fitness enthusiast looking to join the gym owners club, you are in the right place!
Let’s get this cleared first – Opening a gym is not easy! You have to take care of a lot more than just lifting weights and training people. Your responsibilities will also involve taking care of things like developing business strategies, income models, dealing with customer service difficulties, gym marketing, and being ready for any challenge that may arise.
While all of that may seem a little overwhelming at first, you don’t have to learn everything at once. That’s why we have put together a series of blog posts on
- How to start a gym; and
- Gym marketing ideas.
This is the first blog of the series and it talks about the 9 important steps that you need to follow in order to start your own gym:
- Decide what kind of gym you want to run
- Do your market research
- Find the ideal location
- Determine your expenses
- Workout a pricing strategy
- Finance your gym
- Licensing and certifications
- Promote your gym
- Stay up to date
1. Decide what kind of gym you want to run
With many fitness centers and gyms in operation, this industry has a very saturated market. This makes it difficult for newer gyms to establish themselves as leaders in the industry. It all boils down to how well you can stand out from the pack and get your audience’s attention.
Having a specialty in such cases can help you in kick-starting your gym. So research your market, see what fits you the best and double down on a niche of your choice. Generally, fitness centers fall under the following categories:
- Traditional gyms: These have a defined workspace with different workout options like cardio training, weight training, fitness classes, etc. Most of these gyms also include additional facilities like sauna, tanning, steam rooms, massage, etc.
- Specialty fitness centers: These are specialized centers having trainers who are experts in certain areas. Pilates, Yoga, and aerobics are some of the top specialty fitness centers in the market.
- Wellness & medical fitness centers: These mostly focus on medical and physical therapy services. Because these types of centers are frequently recommended by doctors and therapists, there is a large potential for forming partnerships with a variety of local clinics and hospitals. This boosts public relations while also assisting in the acquisition of new clients.
Local demographics, competitor space, and your area of specialty, to name a few, all play a role in selecting your company’s specialization. You should have a clear sense of what type of center you want to establish before making any major decisions.
2. Do your market research
Keep your customers close, but your competition closer
Have a good understanding of the people you wish to attract, aka, your target audience. Determining area demographics, choosing the type of gym you want to open, and your area of expertise all go hand in hand with the customers you desire. Study how your target clients locate the best gym for them.
It is even more crucial for you to know what the market is offering to your target customers. Competitor research is the key to success. This will help you assess the current scenario and assist you in gauging how you need to go about making your gym business plan.
REMEMBER! Your rival gyms have been running for a while now. They have a better understanding of the market and have already tailored or are in the process of tailoring strategies to maximize their business growth. Use this to your advantage!
How to do it?
It can be as simple as visiting their social media handles, or even exploring their studios yourself! What are their marketing strategies? Who are their customers? What kind of services do they provide and how much do they cost? Finding the answers to questions like these can help you assess how your market works and guide you through the first few steps to opening a gym.
3. Find the ideal location
Poor accessibility is a detrimental factor for someone who is looking to sign up for a gym membership. Your gym’s location can depend on a lot of things. Mentioned below are a few for you to think about:
- Rent. This will be your monthly recurring expense and would hurt you the most if not factored in correctly.
- Accommodation space and layout of the gym would completely depend on the kind of gym you want to run and the services which you provide. Say, you plan on opening a traditional gym that also provides services like spa and sauna rooms, naturally, you will find yourself in need of a larger workspace.
- The volume of local traffic can influence the rate of fresh sign-ups a lot and should be accounted for while deciding the location of your gym.
- Even though this does not directly affect your business, having a parking facility in your gym’s vicinity can be an asset in your potential customer’s books, so be on the lookout for that as well.
- Impact of neighbors on the business. Running a gym in a locality where you can find 20 other fitness centers can be a bad move. Also, gyms are quite infamous for being a source of unwanted noise like loud music and dropping dumbbells, which might annoy people in the neighborhood. So keep these things in mind while you look for a place to set up.
4. Determine your expenses
Calculate the expense before thinking about your revenue
Draw up a sheet having all your gym start-up costs which include your initial investments and recurring expenses. The cost to open a gym can be broken down into the following major components:
- Rent and utilities which include electricity and wiring, water dispensers, waste management, internet, etc.
- Purchase and maintenance of workout equipment.
- Additional accessories like TV, music system, etc.
- Marketing and advertising comprise an important expense. Websites, targeted ads, marketing on social media should also be considered while drawing up your monthly expenditure.
IMPORTANT! – Investing in the right equipment can be very beneficial in terms of machinery efficiency. Partnering with the right suppliers can also help in promoting your gym business.
5. Workout a pricing strategy
Your revenue is what you’re working for. Dealing with your expenses requires an elaborate understanding of HOW you will make your money and HOW MUCH. Some of the factors which may influence your pricing are:
- Consumers hold true power in this sector. You can either win them over by doing what every other gym in your area does, or by hitting your value proposition bang on!
- Your location is another important factor that affects your pricing strategy. A similar gym setup in 2 different cities can have a price deviation of anything between $10,000 to $100,000, which directly affects how you put a tag on your services.
- Competitive pricing. The alternatives available for your gym play an important role in what your customers perceive as a “good price point”. You should know about the freelance personal trainers, public meet-ups for training that are organized online, and other fitness centers near your gym and how much they charge their customers.
- Suppliers have a big impact in shaping your pricing structure when you’re a starter. The initial capital investment in gym equipment is substantial, and it is up to your supplier’s bargaining position and how you negotiate your way to an offer you desire.
Along with profitability, the value of your services should also be appealing from a customer standpoint. Some of the plans, generally prevalent in gyms, are:
- Bundle pricing is when a member pays a single charge for all of the services that they may demand from your facility on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.
- Optional pricing is when you offer a lesser fee and the member has the freedom to choose the optional add-ons they want. However, if the member required all optional extras, the cost would certainly be higher than the bundle pricing offered by your gym.
- Pay per class/session. For even more flexibility for your customers, you can also provide the option of paying for every session which they have in your gym. This can be charged hourly on a higher per-hour fee as compared to other membership plans.
- Skimming pricing is when you lower the price of a service over a period of time. Say you charge $30 a month for cardio sessions. You can lower the price to 25$ after the 6-month mark. Price skimming can help you in customer retention and provide an incentive for other people to sign up for this plan.
- Offer 3 pricing tiers – basic, standard, premium.
- Be transparent about the total costs including tax.
- Don’t charge any separate joining fee; instead, include the setup charges in the overall price.
- Along with the 12-month memberships, have the flexibility of providing monthly plans as well.
- Spell out the value of what each membership includes clearly.
6. Secure the bag: Finance your gym
Remember, you will always need more money than you think you actually need
Financing your gym is arguably the most important work which has to be done, especially if you don’t have a lot of money and you’re looking to start a gym from scratch.
There are many options to secure money for your gym. Business loans, investors, small business subsidies, and even personal savings are some of the most popular ones. Institutions that provide funding usually require detailed business strategies for the following 3-5 years of your gym’s existence. So, being prepared with a good business plan before approaching any bank or investor is crucial.
For matters related to financing your gym, it is advisable to consult a financial expert. It’s all too easy to overlook specifics in this area, so hiring a specialist is always a good idea.
7. Get the paperwork done
By now you have an extensive business plan drawn up for your gym and have a fair idea about how it is supposed to look when it’s up and running. The next step is to get the paperwork out of the way. Like any other business, owning your own gym has its fair share of legalities that have to be dealt with.
- State licensing requirements are essential. Follow them to ensure the legal operation of your gym. Business and tax registrations are very important and should be duly filed on time in order to avoid hefty fines.
Small Business Administration provides an in-depth knowledge regarding the legalities of opening a business and various state-wise regulations which you should be aware of.
- For operational safety, having insurance is also critical. It’s important to remember that gym members and staff are vulnerable to injury and damage from accidents.
- Putting it rather simply, for you to own a gym, you have to convince others that you’re capable of it. And for that, you will need help. Hire legal professionals who can assist you with the necessary licensing, ITRs, and insurance coverage for business enterprises.
IMPORTANT! – As mentioned before, It’s always beneficial to be an expert in the field you’re considering opening your business in. Having a training qualification will help you:
- When it comes to starting a gym business, simply because you will have an advantage over others as an industry expert with a broad knowledge base.
- In making a good pitching point for investors, bank loans, and business grants.
- To ensure efficient staff recruitment.
- To be involved in day-to-day gym activities while ensuring that you do not miss out on anything.
You can check out NASM for information related to various certifications from ASME, ACE, etc.
DO NOT worry if you’re not a certified trainer or an expert in the fitness industry. Make sure you conduct all necessary research, create effective business development plans, and ensure that you have the right people around to help you carry out your objectives.
8. Get things rolling: Promote your gym
Now that you have all the certifications and legal paperwork out the way, start your work. You’ll need to make sure you’re adequately supplied with everything from machinery to additional utilities, and provide enough training for your staff, before you open your gym, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
After this, it’s time to start marketing your gym and doing whatever else you can to get customers through your door. People tend to take this casually, but bringing in customers is far from an easy job. Here are a few ways through which you can get more people to sign up during your early days:
- Reach out to your own contacts, and more importantly, have your staff spread the word to their past/existing clientele to get things going. You can give certain incentives like a discounted membership or free services.
- Announce training camps, challenges, marathons during the initial days and give away prizes like discounted membership programs, free services to attract local fitness enthusiasts.
- Establish partnerships with local businesses like gym equipment dealers and sports clothing outlets. Mutually beneficial cross-promotion can be very effective to promote your gym to a larger audience, so make the best out of it.
- Promoting your gym on social media is also a very good idea. Using platforms like Instagram and Facebook can help you attract many customers. Google my Business is another good way to promote your gym through organic searches which can directly bring in new customers through Reserve with Google. Many gym scheduling software can help with these integrations and establish your presence online.
- Setting up websites & writing blogs on relevant topics such as health, workout trends, nutrition, etc. can prove efficient in the long run in terms of attracting organic traffic.
IMPORTANT! – Be well-versed with Covid safety guidelines. It is imperative for any business to have regulations in place to ensure the safety of their customers/members and staff. Things like regular sanitization and minimal physical interaction should be explicitly followed.
9. You’re in for the long haul: Stay Updated
The worst thing for any business – being out of date
Your initial market research will surely help you a lot, but being on top of new trends, knowing the “new thing” and using them to your advantage will help you cater to your customers better as your gym begins to settle down. Let me break it down for you:
- Interact with other fitness experts. There are many meetup groups across cities where you can casually get together with other professionals and share ideas. There are many large-scale conferences and trade shows where you have the opportunity to talk to successful industry leaders. The IHRSA International Convention is a huge trade show which you can consider attending.
- Learn from your team. Gauge your members’ interests by providing a free session in exchange for a membership survey. Explore other fitness gyms in your area and see how they operate, the kind of services they provide, and how relevant those are to the current trends.
- Implement your learnings in your gym. Schedule training sessions with your team to make sure everyone is up to date and on the same page. Consider what your employees have to say about fresh business opportunities. Know what works for your customer. There’s no reason to host services or keep products that don’t appeal to your customers.
Let’s talk about some of the current key trends which are catching up and are expected to grow:
- Wearable technology, such as smartwatches, is very useful in training and has a large following. In the same way, mobile applications can be quite beneficial during gym sessions. To attract customers, incorporate these on a customer level in your gym.
- Virtual training at home is a rapidly growing sector in the fitness industry. Running online fitness training sessions can help you to generate a separate revenue stream while incurring a minimal cost. Breaking geographical barriers, people now can attend training sessions from any part of the world, so why not take advantage of that?
With Appointy, you can conduct live virtual sessions seamlessly. Read more about how you can use Appointy to conduct live training sessions without any hassle.
Some other key trends to follow up:
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Mind training exercises.
- Recovery products usage (Theragun, foam rollers, etc.)
Improvise, adapt & overcome
As you might have already noticed, opening a gym is not easy. There’s a lot of hard work which has to go into building your business from scratch and there will be many difficulties which you will have to face along the way. So instead of trying to be prepared for the problem, be ready with the right support to deal with the situation.
The pandemic has caused a paradigm shift in the way gym businesses are run. People are now turning to software for a lot of their work.
Gym scheduling software, like Appointy, are now being used for things like organizing & scheduling workout sessions, marketing, resource management, customer relations management, etc. which can take a big chunk of the workload off of your working employees.
By automating these administrative tasks, you can utilize your time better. So feel free to check out Appointy and see how it fits your needs.
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!