Step-By-Step Guide to Starting a Personal Training Business

Pete McCall
Pete McCall
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Congratulations! You passed your exam and have earned the NASM Certified Personal Trainer credential. Now comes the time when it's necessary to decide where you will work and how you will start your personal training business.

This blog will provide nine tips for starting an independent personal training business.Keep in mind that starting a business is a lengthy process with several legal implications, so there are many nuances that are not covered within this guide.

With that said, let’s dive in!

1. Hustle

No matter which field you work in, being an entrepreneur and starting a business require a lot of energy and effort; nowhere is this more true than in the fitness industry. When it comes to promoting a fitness business and gaining customers, it will take time to develop a client base.

Plan on taking three-to-six months at the minimum to establish a revenue stream through a personal training business. When you're just starting your personal training career, whether, in real life or online, clients won't just find you. You have to hustle to get out and find them, so get to it!

2. Do Your Research

Starting a business means you’re not going to be working for an employer and instead will become an entrepreneur. You may want to research whether it is worth your time and resources to start a business entity like a limited liability company (LLC), which can separate your assets from that of your business. These rules vary from state-to-state; spend a little time to research what would work best where you live.

3. Invest in Liability Insurance

Where will you provide personal training services? Will you be paying for a space in a facility, or do you plan on working in clients’ homes? In either case, it will be necessary to invest in liability insurance. Most facilities that allow personal trainers to see clients will require this. If you’re going into clients’ homes, it's a good idea because, like forming an LLC to separate your business from your assets, it could protect you from any liability in the (unlikely) event a client becomes injured. As an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, you have access to an affordable liability insurance program.

4. Scope Out the Facility

When scoping out your facility here are 4 really helpful questions to consider asking before you make any decisions. Only after you have weighed the potential answers to these questions should pick a facility.

  1. If you do decide to work as a contractor, where you are paying rent for space in a facility, what type of support, if any, will the facility offer? 
  2. Will you have the opportunity to meet with new members of the facility? 
  3. Will you be able to solicit existing members, or will you be required to do your marketing to bring clients in? 
  4. How is the facility managed? It may be a popular place to work out. Still, if it's not professionally managed, you may want to consider whether it's worth your time to establish a formal business relationship.

5. Invest in the Right Equipment

If you decide to market yourself to clients in their homes or offer workouts in a location like a park, that will require you to invest in some exercise equipment. That's because you'll want to be sure to have what you need to successfully apply the different stages of the NASM Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) Model of program design.

From medicine balls to rubber resistance to kettlebells to adjustable dumbbells, there are a number of options. Your budget and ability to transport them to the locations where you will be seeing clients will help determine the best equipment to suit your needs.

If you are going to offer workouts at a park, make sure you check with the local park department to see if any permits are required.

For example, in the city of San Diego, it is okay to train one or two people at a time in a city-managed park. Still, groups over the size of four require a permit issued by the park authority (which requires having the proper liability insurance).

Graham King, the owner of Urban Fitness in Washington, DC, started his business by offering workouts in a park and has grown to have three locations. As Mr. King demonstrates, park workouts can be an excellent option for starting a fitness empire, but you want to be sure you do it correctly.

6. Consider Online Coaching Options

If you're going to offer training programs online, how will you market your services and deliver the workouts? Will you sell static programs or offer to coach through an online service? Another option is to provide live coaching via apps like FaceTime, Zoom, or Facebook Live.

Kira Stokes, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer in New York City, teaches live classes and works with clients in person. She also has evolved to offer a successful app based on her 'Stoked Method' that reaches thousands of people a month, in addition to training clients online through video conferencing.

The point is that technology has now made it possible for personal trainers to provide fitness solutions to clients anywhere in the world as long as they have a high-speed internet connection and space to exercise in. Like any other business, there is tremendous opportunity in online coaching, but it will take time to be successful.

7. Identify Your Target Market

Whether you are offering your services live or online, who is your target demographic? Who are the clients that will receive the most significant benefit from your services? It's one thing to offer a variety of different types of workout programs.

Still, if you identify a specific target market, that could help you develop your messaging for how you market your services.

For example, offering weight loss and muscle-sculpting programs in an area with a large population of older adults may not resonate with an audience. Who lives in your immediate area? What types of clients do you want to work with? Take some time to brainstorm a target demographic like new moms, older adults, or teenage athletes, then identify the most effective method for communicating with them to attract and earn their business.

8. Create a Brand

Once you identify a target demographic, how will you communicate with that demographic so they can understand the benefit of your fitness services? Marketing is branding, and branding is marketing; creating a brand identity can help you to communicate with potential clients.

When you think of tissues or adhesive bandages, brand names like Kleenex or Band-Aid tend to pop in your head right away. This is called 'top-of-mind' brand recognition and is the power of developing a recognizable brand identity.

Ms. Stokes used the convenience of her last name to establish her 'Stoked Method,' an instantly recognizable brand that has developed a strong following for her workout programs and coaching services.

9. Research Payment Methods

Whether you offer live or online services, how will your clients pay you for your time or the programs you sell? Just like technology has made it possible to reach clients anywhere in the globe, it will be necessary to research payment methods.

You can start an account with PayPal, Venmo, Square, or any other service so that you can be sure that you are adequately compensated for your time and efforts.

A lot goes into starting a fitness business. There is no guarantee of success, but if you have the hustle, put in the work, and apply these nine steps, then you will be well on your way to a long, rewarding and potentially lucrative career as a fitness professional.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND ADDITIONAL ADVICE

A lot goes into starting a fitness business. There is no guarantee of success, but if you have the hustle, put in the work, and apply these nine steps, then you will be well on your way to a long, rewarding and potentially lucrative career as a fitness professional.

If you choose to work for an employer like a health club or fitness studio, they should have training and development programs in place that will educate you on what you need to do to work in their operation successfully.

The role of the fitness manager is to support you as you start your business. Listen to their advice because they know what works. Also, look for the more experienced, established personal trainers and ask for their help on how to be successful in that business model.

ONE LAST THING TO CONSIDER 

If you plan on opening a facility, it requires several different steps from finding the best real estate to hiring the right contractors for the build-out. Therefore, these recommendations are for those of you who are considering becoming an independent personal trainer either contracting with a facility, working in clients’ homes, or offering online coaching programs.

The Author

Pete McCall

Pete McCall

Pete McCall is a NASM-CPT, PES , Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), international presenter, host of the All About Fitness podcast, fitness blogger and an author of several articles, textbook chapters and the book Smarter Workouts: the Science of Exercise Made Simple. In addition, Pete holds a master’s degree in exercise science and has been educating fitness professionals for more than 15 years. Currently Pete lives in Encinitas, CA where he is an education consultant and content creator for Core Health & Fitness, Terra Core Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness.