Start a personal training business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your personal training business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the initial costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your personal training business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand.
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Personal trainers work with individuals to help facilitate diet and fitness goals. Personal trainers help a variety of individuals to achieve diverse goals regarding their health. This may involve creating custom workouts and diets as well as helping to establish specific goals for clients who aren't sure what they need to do next.
Who is this business right for?
Obviously, this business is great for those who are already fit and have worked hard to create an exercise and health regimen that works, as they can use their personal experience to help educate others. It's good for someone who is a “people person,” as the entire job revolves around regular interaction with a diverse clientele. It is also good for someone who is a natural leader—just as a good manager or coach helps people to visualize and then actualize success, a good personal trainer helps clients visualize a healthier self and provides a pathway to achieving that goal.
What happens during a typical day at a personal training business?
The daily activities of a personal trainer are very straightforward, though they may vary based on the client’s needs. The vast majority of any given day involves traveling to where clients are and then conducting sessions (typically one hour sessions). This means, potentially, a lot of driving and using phone calls or text messages to coordinate with the different clients. The actual sessions can have very diverse content—some sessions may involve helping elderly clients recover from surgery using pool exercises. Other sessions may involve helping younger clients achieve their coveted beach body through a variety of cardio- and strength-training exercises.
What is the target market?
This job involves a more diverse clientele than almost any other job out there. Generally, though, the best clients are younger clients. The main reason for this is that they are likely to schedule more sessions (leading to more money for you) and, if they like you and stay in the area, may be a regular source of income for you and your business for years to come. Such loyal clients can also help recruit more clients for you in the form of inviting their family and friends to contact you.
How does a personal training business make money?
Personal trainers make money by charging their clients for sessions. This is typically an hourly charge and the sessions are usually an hour. You may consider charging extra for travel to the client or offering specials where a client can pay a certain amount up front for a number of sessions.
What is the growth potential for a personal training business?
The growth potential for a personal trainer business is very good, as the field is expected to grow at a steady rate for most of the next decade. It helps that more businesses and governmental institutions are encouraging healthier lifestyles and offering additional benefits to employees who work towards this goal.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful personal training business?
While a formal education is not required, having a personal trainer certification may help you secure more clients and is likely a requirement to become a personal trainer in your area. Personal experience working in anything related to the fitness industry can also be a major benefit as you are getting started. As mentioned earlier, special exercise and diet regimens you have developed for yourself in the past can help you customize these things for your clients, and being a healthy, visible member of your community will help your community look to you as an authority on matters of fitness and health.
What are the costs involved in opening a personal training business?
The costs involved with opening such a business are minimal. The certification you may require should cost no more than $2000, with some programs being as low as $500. You will need to purchase liability insurance, and this should cost no more than $200-$300 a year. Because you will be meeting with clients at areas that they choose, you don't have to worry about the pricey overhead of a separate building or its various utilities. In fact, your only other real cost will be any equipment that you purchase for your clients, and this will change based on specific clients and their specific needs. Plus, you should be building in equipment costs into your hourly rate (more on that later). Finally, factor in about $1000 for some initial advertising—this will be in the form of professional fliers, business cards, and possibly newspaper and radio spots. Never neglect the potential of running a website and having a social media presence,as both of which can be done with little to no cost and help increase your visibility.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a personal training business?
One way to stand out from the competition is to specialize in one or more areas. Instead of being a “jack of all trades” trainer, consider specializing in things like weight loss or athlete training. Don't forget to always be “on call” for new and existing clients, as their ability to quickly reach you helps build their confidence in your brand. Finally, use the success stories of your previous clients to help sell yourself to new clients—being able to see the results you have gotten is much more valuable as a recruitment tool than anything else.
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Growing Your Business
How to promote & market a personal training business
As mentioned before, don't neglect traditional advertisements such as business cards, fliers, newspapers, and radio. However, social media and your own simple website are great ways to increase visibility and provide necessary info about your business. Additionally, considering offering free workshops in places such as local gyms and community centers. This increases your visibility while highlighting your skills, which is a great recruitment tool. Finally, consider putting advertisement for your business directly on your own vehicle...since your job involves a lot of travel to and from clients, it doesn't hurt to advertise your services while you drive!
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
As mentioned earlier, consider offering promotional specials where clients can effectively save money by buying several sessions at a time. Also, consider offering a free session or some other bonus to a client who successfully refers another client to you. In terms of retention, the absolute best thing you can do is conduct honest and open communication with clients. Listen to their specific needs and create a plan to help them realistically achieve their goals. So long as you are doing this, your work will speak for itself and they will keep coming back.
How and when to build a team
The nature of a personal trainer is that they typically work solo—in fact, the notion that you are providing your specialized expertise in a one-on-one setting is a large part of your perceived value among clients. For this reason, most trainers do not make an effort to expand their team. However, if you choose to do so, you should wait until you have more sessions than you can reasonably fit into your schedule, and start by taking on a partner. This way, you can reasonably split duties without taking on the prohibitive cost of trying to buy or lease an office for a large group of trainers to work out of.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a personal trainer business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Release of Liability
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, personal trainer businesses should have their clients sign a release of liability. Here is an example of one such form.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your training business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Professional Liability Insurance
This is critical for any personal trainer. AFPA has examined many insurance organizations and has compiled a listing of those organizations that offer the reasonable rates with excellent coverage. Professional Liability Insurance organizations are listed here.
Certificate of Occupancy
A personal training business can be run out of a gym or any large space (typically indoors). Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a space:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a personal training studio space.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a space:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your personal training business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Also be sure to include a services contract for each client. This contract should specify how you will help clients reach their health and fitness goals and the price of training.
How much can you charge customers?
As with many jobs, the exact amount you can charge your clients will vary based on the area that you are in and the full breadth of services that you offer. For instance, some trainers suggest charging a fixed $85 an hour, and they believe this cost is justified based on both your experience as well as your willingness to buy the clients whatever equipment they require (which can become an expensive proposition based on the client and the equipment). Others recommend either charging different amounts for different services (with the knowledge that some forms of training is more expensive and/or complex than others) or to negotiate a price via an open pricing model (which may let you factor in things like whether it will take 30 minutes to travel to a client and then 30 minutes to travel back, which eats up an hour you could spend training someone else).
What are the ongoing expenses for a personal training business?
Perhaps the greatest thing about a personal trainer business is your minimal ongoing expenses. Pretty much all you will regularly pay is the monthly contribution towards liability insurance (between $200-$300 a year), any fuel costs for traveling to clients, and the cost of the equipment that you buy. And, as mentioned above, there are different pricing structures that allow you to absorb these costs, effectively reducing your ongoing expenses to nothing more than the insurance.
How much profit can a personal training business make?
Obviously, the exact amount of profit that you can make comes from the intersection of your average hourly charge and the amount of customers that you have. The average amount that a personal trainer makes is about $50,000 a year, and a steady array of clients means that you could potentially double that amount and then some. Keep in mind that the previously-mentioned low overhead and low cost to start this business are also major factors in how much of this money goes directly to you rather than to the costs of your business.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As your business picks up steam, don't hesitate to raise prices. Even a modest increase in your hourly charge can contribute greatly to your bottom line. Consider taking on additional roles for your clients, such as selling them valuable supplements or specialized equipment: this helps establish you as their “one-stop-shop” for fitness. Finally, consider creating an automated payment system, as it helps establish your desire to work with regular clients and makes payment more convenient for those who are suitably committed.