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How To Start a Personal Training Business

Personal fitness training

A shift towards active living and the increased availability of fitness options has prompted sustained growth in the fitness industry. People want to exercise and live healthy lives, and personal trainers are popular for those wanting tailored fitness programs.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 14% from 2022 to 2032. This is faster than the average for all occupations.

If you are ready to launch a fitness startup, follow this step-by-step guide to set up your personal trainer business.

See How To Open A Gym for specifics on how to start a gym or fitness center.

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Get the Proper Certifications

There is no legal requirement for personal trainers to have a specific certification to practice. There may be required industry-specific certifications, but there is no national requirement. Having the proper credentials is a professional standard within the fitness sector. The right certifications will increase your credibility and help you remain competitive.

Most gyms and health organizations also require personal trainer certifications or a post-secondary degree in exercise science, kinesiology, sports medicine, physical education, or a related field.

Several organizations offer personal training certifications. Many of them use an online program you can complete from home. But any program you consider should have accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) offer two of the most reputable personal training certifications.

If you're not certified, you should know the basics of first aid and have training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) for cardiac arrest. Your business insurance may require certifications.

Know Your Potential Client and Market

One of the first things you'll need to do to start your own personal training business is perform market research. Comprehensive market research will inform several aspects of your business, from pricing to marketing messaging.

Who is your ideal client base or target audience? For example, decide if you want to work with:

  • Athletes
  • Bodybuilders
  • Celebrities
  • In-home personal training
  • On-location personal training
  • Senior citizens
  • Special populations
  • Youth

Know your target demographic's fitness goals so you can position your messaging and tailor training sessions for them.

Next, determine what you can charge. Researching your area's pricing for personal training sessions can help you decide your fees.

Finally, determine how many clients and sessions you need to make a healthy profit.

Set Up Operations

A personal training small business is flexible. You'll need to decide where you conduct business—either at your client's home, your home, a park, or a gym. There are pros and cons to each.

Client's Home

Going to a client's home is most convenient for your client. If they don't have a home gym or the necessary equipment, you will supply the equipment for their sessions. This option may also come with space restraints and travel costs. Consider gas prices, time to set up, and travel time to the location when pricing your sessions.

Your Home

Your home may be the most convenient option for you. You can set up an exercise area for training. If you have a dedicated space for your clients, you may be able to deduct part of that space as a business expense.

Your homeowner's insurance may not cover liability from self-employment activities conducted in your home. If you rent your home, there may be a clause that prohibits commercial activity within the home. Talk to your insurance provider about adjusting your coverage and adding the appropriate business insurance. If you train clients at your home, you may find yourself in breach of contract and evicted.

Park

Meeting your client at a park or outdoor venue means you have low overhead, but you must transport your equipment. You are also subject to weather conditions, and your clients may not want to exercise in public.

Some public parks require permits or licenses to train there, so research your local zoning and licensing laws before scheduling clients.

Gym

Although you may pay a fee, training clients from a local gym has several advantages. For example, you can access various exercise equipment, and members that see you helping other clients may hire you. Plus, the gym may refer clients to you.

But the gym may have some control over the type of personal training you can do on-site. They may also limit the hours and times you can hold training sessions. Some gyms don't allow on-location personal training by third parties.

Online

Another option is to market your services as an online personal trainer. This digital model lets you work with clients, deliver workouts, and provide personalized guidance virtually. You can use YouTube, Vimeo, Zoom, and other streaming and video platforms to post content and host virtual sessions.

This option removes geographic restrictions, helping you reach a wider audience. But this model may deter potential clients who want to work with a fitness professional in person.

Create a Marketing Strategy

A strong marketing strategy will help you find your first clients and get your business off the ground.

Your marketing and advertising strategy should have several elements. Diversify the methods you use to spread the word about your new business and attract new clients. Consider the following:

  • Traditional media, like radio and newspaper ads
  • Digital methods like social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and email marketing
  • Community events and outreach—community centers, festivals, and neighborhood events are great ways to connect with your customer base
  • Word-of-mouth and referral programs
  • Partnerships with local businesses (like partnering with the health foods store or smoothie shop in your neighborhood)
  • Press coverage and publicity—try to get local news outlets to cover your new business
  • Promotional materials and merchandise
  • Business cards, flyers, and signage

Setting up a website and social media pages for your fitness business should be a top priority.

Post fitness tips to your social channels. Instagram, TikTok, and X (formally Twitter) are great ways to drive traffic to your website. You can also create a business page on LinkedIn.

If you allow clients to book sessions through your website, take proper cybersecurity measures and communicate your privacy policy clearly.

Choose Your Business Name

Give serious thought when choosing your business name. As a personal trainer, you are your brand. You can enhance your brand with a catchy or clever title. For example, instead of "Casey Clark Personal Training," you could call your business "Results by Casey."

Here are three steps for choosing and securing a business name:

  1. Decide on a name for your business.
  2. Search to ensure your selected name is not already used by another business.
  3. Secure the business name by filing a fictitious name registration.

If you're a sole proprietor, file a fictitious name registration or a "doing business as" (DBA). Or, if forming a corporate entity, register the business name on the paperwork with the secretary of state.

Break Down Your Startup Costs

Depending on where you run your business, you could have minimal startup costs. But you'll need to invest in some or all of the following to get your business running:

  • Certifications, training, and professional membership fees
  • Business registration and licensing
  • Commercial insurance
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Gym fees (if you work out of a gym or fitness center)
  • Rent or lease payments (if you rent a commercial space)
  • Marketing materials
  • Professional fees (if you hire a lawyer, accountant, or other business professional)

Determine how much cash you need to start your business. Then, figure out how you want your clients to pay you. Consider offering easy ways to pay, like Venmo, PayPal, Stripe, and Square.

Make a Business Plan

Why do you need a business plan? What are the benefits?

A well-written business plan is a strategic roadmap for your business goals. It clearly outlines your entire business model, informing several areas of your business and guiding future decision-making.

Your business plan is even more important if you need to take out a business loan or seek out other financing. Investors and financial institutions will use your business plan to determine the risk of investing in your business or giving you a loan.

Your business plan should cover the following:

  • Business description and objectives
  • Market analysis (target market, demographics, and competitive analysis)
  • Marketing and sales plan
  • Business operations
  • Costs and expenses
  • Financial projections

Having a business attorney or accountant review your business plan is helpful.

Get Corporate Protection

An essential step in launching your business is protecting personal assets from your business operations. Your legal business structure determines your level of liability.

A personal trainer can operate as a sole proprietor. But this comes with some risk—there is no protection from lawsuits that result from your business. Due to the physical nature of personal training and the risk of injury, it may be a better choice to structure your business as a corporation, limited partnership, or limited liability company (LLC).

A corporate entity separates the liabilities of the business from your personal assets. For example, if a client suffers an injury from your equipment or a training session, they can only sue your company, not you.

Obtain an Employment Identification Number or Tax ID

Once you've created your corporate entity, apply for an Employment Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS. This number links to your business name for tax purposes. You will need your EIN to open a business bank account.

Obtain Business Insurance

In addition to corporate protection, it is critical to have general liability insurance and professional liability insurance. Juries have awarded damages to clients who suffered injuries during a personal training session.

Business insurance protects personal assets from lawsuits arising from your business. Personal trainer business insurance varies, so talk to a local agent to see what best fits your business model.

Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Check with your state and city licensing offices to apply for a business license and any necessary permits.

You may need additional licenses and permits depending on your jurisdiction and the specific personal training services you offer.

Seek Out Professional Help

As a new business owner, engaging other professionals to help with your business setup and planning is helpful.

  • Business attorneys know how to handle corporate paperwork, draft liability waivers, and advise you on contract matters. They may also be able to help you with your business plan.
  • Accountants can help you file taxes and look for deductions to pay less in taxes.
  • Business coaches or mentors can offer guidance and insights into business strategy and decision-making.
  • Insurance agents help identify and recommend the appropriate insurance coverage for your business.

Launching and growing a successful personal training business will likely require some help and guidance along the way.

Starting Your Business the Right Way

While there is little overhead and few obstacles to launching a personal fitness business, there is a framework to do it properly. Consider using our trusted, simple-to-use online business formation tool. We'll help you create your business and meet all the legal requirements.

You may also want to consult with a local business attorney to keep your new personal training business in good shape.

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