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How to start a personal training business

How to start a personal training business: woman doing push-ups while her personal trainer coaches her

Key takeaways

  • Identify a specific personal training need (like weight loss or post-rehab wellness) to highlight your expertise and stand out to potential clients
  • Review personal training restrictions at local gyms before taking your training sessions to third-party facilities
  • Obtain personal training certification to develop more effective workout programs and increase your marketability 

If you’ve ever made your own fitness goals, you know that staying healthy and building muscle isn’t as easy as simply stepping into a gym. Finding the motivation—and knowing which workouts to do—often takes the help of a personal trainer. With demand for personal trainers expected to increase 39% from 2020 to 2030, it’s the perfect time to share your love of fitness and help others reach goals of their own. Learn how to start a personal training business that’s financially fit and attracts a large client base.

How to start a personal training business

The health and fitness industry is valued at $30 billion and its growth isn’t slowing down. More people are interested in getting fit each year and taking steps to lead healthier lifestyles. Learning how to start a personal training business is your chance to make an impact on their lives, all while making a successful living. Follow these steps to get your new business going.

1. Identify your niche

When a potential client is seeking a guide for their fitness journey, they want an expert who understands their exact needs. The best way to stand out is by marketing yourself as a pro for specific types of clients or fitness goals.

For example, you could focus on working with bodybuilders, weight loss clients, post-rehab clients, or people with disabilities. You can even focus on training clients who want to do specific types of exercise (such as pilates or strength training) or who fit certain demographics (Gen X or high-income customers).

Your personal training niche should be a segment of the fitness industry that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about. But ideally, you don’t want to enter a market that already has plenty of established competitors. Doing market research will help you discover which niches in your local area are already covered and which underserved needs you can meet.

2. Choose a business location

How to start a personal training business: couple working out together

While you don’t have to lease an entire gym to start your personal trainer business, you do need to identify the primary place where you’ll train your clients. This can impact the types of activities you can include in your workout programs as well as what supplies you’ll need to buy.

Personal trainers have a lot of flexibility when it comes to location. You can operate out of your own home, in clients’ homes, at a community center, or in a local gym. If you plan to use a private third-party facility, make sure to contact them about their rules on personal training. Some allow contracted fitness professionals to use their facilities, while others require a special membership or certifications or don’t allow trainers at all.

You don’t have to only offer in-person training, though. If you don’t want to limit your target market to a certain geographical area, you can become an online personal trainer.

3. Start building your business plan

Writing a business plan can help you gain clarity on your business model and build a strategy that moves you toward your company goals. A business plan can also help you get funding from lenders or investors.

Start building a detailed plan by compiling the information you’ll need to include in your final document. This information should include:

  • Business structure: Your legal structure—for example, limited liability company or sole proprietorship—impacts how liable you are personally for your company’s debt, taxes, and legal issues (such as lawsuits).
  • Personal training services: Explain the individual services or packages you’ll offer along with your pricing strategy for each.
  • Startup costs: List the expenses you’ll need to cover to launch your business, such as gym equipment, a company vehicle, or personal training certification costs.
  • Operational costs: List the monthly expenses to run your business—for instance, the cost of liability insurance, gym memberships, gas, or marketing.

4. Become certified

Great personal trainers know their own fitness needs like the back of their hands. But a key part of learning how to start a personal training business is understanding how to develop effective workout programs that are individualized for different people. 

You don’t necessarily need a college degree to start your small business. However, completing a personal trainer certification program can help you greatly expand your knowledge (and prove it in an exam) in the course of 10-12 weeks.

Certifications don’t come cheap. Two of the most popular programs are offered by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, which starts at $799, and the International Sports Sciences Association, which starts at over $1,000. To maintain your certification, both require you to meet continuing education requirements and pay $99 every two years.

Many personal trainers also secure first aid and CPR certifications to ensure client safety, and many certification programs require you to have these before you begin.

Though a fitness certification isn’t legally required, it can help you prove your legitimacy to potential clients and build more effective personal fitness routines.

5. Register your business

Personal trainer using her laptop

Before you can start finding new clients, you need to know how to start a personal training business that’s legally allowed to operate.

Most businesses (other than sole proprietorships and partnerships) need to register with their state agency. The business registration process requires you to fill out a set of documents with information about your company, including your business name and location. This process can be completed online or with printed documents from your agency’s website. It costs less than $300 in most states.

If you plan to hire team members, operate as a corporation or partnership, or open a business bank account, you’ll also need to register with the IRS for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

You’ll also want to research whether your state, county, or city government requires business licenses or permits for companies like yours. You can reach out to your SBA district office for assistance.

6. Create your marketing strategy

Once your business is fully set up and you’re confident in your abilities as a trainer and business owner, you can shift your focus toward getting personal training clients. Your potential clients need to know how your business meets their needs and why they should choose you over a competitor.

Creating a marketing strategy can refine your messaging and help you develop key strategies to persuade your target market to hire you. For example, you can:

  • Offer free consultations or discounted training sessions to new clients via direct mail
  • Create a Yelp Business Page and complete it with your business information and high-quality pictures, then run Yelp Ads that help you show up for relevant searches
  • Create a referral program in which you offer gift cards to anyone who sends successful referrals
  • Post health and fitness tips on social media to demonstrate your knowledge about topics like supplements, fitness training, and online personal training

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Build a successful personal training business

Understanding how to start your own personal training business allows you to get your fitness business on the right path well before you get your first client. When you plan everything from your location to your expected costs ahead of time, you have a greater chance of success. And if you pursue a personal training certification, you can improve your ability to build a successful business that improves clients’ lives. Learn more about how to attract clients to your business with our word-of-mouth marketing tips.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.