spotlight Personal Trainer Marketing

How to Make a Personal Trainer Business Plan

Brad Dieter
Brad Dieter
| Stay Updated

Personal training can be one of the most rewarding careers an individual can pursue. You get to connect with people on a meaningful level, you positively impact their lives, and you can work in a field that you are passionate about.

However, one of the biggest difficulties that derail many careers is the inability to turn a job as a personal trainer into a financially successful career.

One important skill that personal trainers should develop is the ability to develop a business plan that allows the personal trainer to set up and run a financially successful business.

How Do You Write a Personal Training Business Plan?

A business plan is a blueprint for how to take an idea about a potential business and turn it into something real. It is often a formal document that includes the goals of a business, the methods for attaining those goals, and timelines for when those goals may be achieved.

In the context of personal training, a business plan may be focused on developing a successful gym or personal training studio, or it may be focused on building a successful private online coaching practice.

One of the best places to begin with writing a personal training business plan is to ask and answer the following four questions:

1. Who are your clients going to be?

2. What are your services going to be and how are you going to deliver them?

3. What is it going to cost to run your business?

4. How are you going to make money?

Who are your clients going to be?

One of the best places to begin is trying to define who your clients are going to be as this is often one of the biggest differentiators. For example, if you are going to try and work with professional athletes your business model is going to look very different than if you are going to try and work with senior citizens. Why would they differ? Well, consider the following:

1. Professional athletes all live in major cities.

2. Professional athletes travel a lot and will require more remote work.

3. Professional athletes are a much smaller population so scaling the business may not be viable.

4. Working with professional athletes will require a lot more equipment.

These are just a few examples but identifying your core market is the most critical first step.

What services are you providing and how are you going to deliver your services?

Once you have identified your core audience and who your clients are going to be, the next question to answer is what services are you providing and how are you going to deliver your services?

Are you going to do 1-on-1 private session personal training? Are you going to do group fitness? Are you going to do small group fitness? Are you going to follow a specific training method (e.g., Zumba, CrossFit, Barre Method, Yoga)?

Answering this question will help you define the overall scope of what your business is going to provide and help you define whether you need a physical space, how big of a space you might need, what equipment will be required, and if you will need to obtain a franchise or license to operate under a specific training model. Alternatively, depending on your scope of work and practice you may be able to run your business fully online.

What is it going to cost to run your business?

Before you start to think about how much money you are going to make, you need to understand exactly what it is going to cost to even run the business. All businesses cost money to run, but some business models require more capital than others.

Developing a good understanding of your operating expenses is critical to developing a successful business plan. Here are some of the major expenses you may need to think about and include in your business.

Rent

Rent is often the largest expense for any personal training business. If you are running a small private 1-on-1 studio or have a small office for private consulting you may have a small footprint and keep rent relatively low. Alternatively, you may be looking to start a large gym that teaches big group classes and requires several thousand square feet of space which can be quite expensive. It is important to not overpay for rent as it will generally be your most expensive line item.

Equipment

The equipment required to run your business will also vary substantially based on your core business model. If you are looking to open a yoga and Pilates studio you may need to spend your initial capital on yoga mats, blocks, and straps and replace them every 12-18 months.

The initial expense here may be minimal. Conversely, if you are looking to open a large gym that teaches group classes following CrossFit or Olympic Weightlifting, you will likely need to invest tens of thousands of dollars to outfit your facility so you can even run your classes effectively.

NASM has a course on home gym design that can provide a lot of insight on this aspect of personal training. 

Utilities

Utilities also need to be included in your business plan as you will have to heat and/or cool the facility if you choose an in-person business model, as well as provide water/plumbing, have the internet to run your business systems, and other miscellaneous utilities.

Operations

Operating the business will also include expenses. What software will you use to manage your client's information and billing? How will you run payroll if you have more than yourself as an employee? What will it cost you to clean and maintain the facility?

Each business model will have different operating expenses, but they need to be thought through very carefully, as unexpected operating expenses can turn a profitable business into a financial nightmare quickly.

Insurance

Insurance is a non-negotiable for any thoughtful business owner, especially in the personal training profession. Accidents happen and insurance will save your business when they happen.

Marketing

Marketing will be the lifeblood of driving new clients through your doors. Without marketing your business your business will not grow. There are many different avenues to market, but they will all require money. Whether you use signs, social media ads, t-shirts, flyers, email marketing, websites, etc., it is incredibly important to include marketing in your business plan.

See How to Get Personal Training Clients for more. 

How are you going to make money?

Once you have fully thought through your business and what it is going to take to run that business, it is time to start thinking about how you are going to make money. There are a lot of different ways to go about generating revenue. Here are a few examples of how you can sell services and products to clients in various types of business models.

1. Sell subscriptions: whether you are looking to open a big box gym or a private studio, you can sell monthly subscriptions to clients.

2. Sell packages: this may look like selling year-long memberships or personal training packages.

3. Sell physical products: this may look like selling branded apparel, supplements, or workout aids (e.g., belts, straps, chalk)

4. Sell educational products: this may look like selling additional courses, seminars, or workshops to your client base.

It is also important to think about how you are going to price your services and how you present that pricing to your potential clients. Are you focusing on total client volume and a low-cost option? Are you focusing on a high-value, intensive training option that is a higher-cost option? Make sure you fully think through your pricing structures and how that might affect your ability to generate revenue.

Why Do You Need a Business Plan as a PT?

Now that we have worked through the core pieces of a business plan it should become apparent as to why you need a business plan as a Personal Trainer. Running a business has a lot of complexes moving pieces and the best way to be successful is to have a goal, a plan to reach that goal, and the actionable steps to help you get to that goal. A business plan lays out all of those components.

While a business plan does not guarantee that your business will be successful, it does greatly increase the odds!

What is a Lean Business Plan?

A lean business plan can be thought of in three main ways:

1. A business plan that focuses only on the most important things (e.g., focus on improving the core services instead of spending valuable resources finding the perfect logo).

2. A business plan that minimizes unnecessary overhead (e.g., do you need a 6,000 sq foot state-of-the-art facility or does a 1,500 sq foot warehouse suffice).

3. A business plan that can be easily adapted as you grow and learn as a business owner.

Ideally, your lean business plan incorporates all three aspects.

Fitness Marketing Tips for Flourishing

Marketing is a necessity for all businesses; if potential clients do not know you are there, how can you expect them to become clients? There are a million different ways to market, and each business will need different tools and messages but there are a few core concepts that hold across almost all businesses.

The first is to market to where your potential clients are. If you are targeting older, wealthier individuals for private 1-on-1 training sessions, spending your time, energy, and money on TikTok or SnapChat ads is probably not going to be effective. Conversely, if you are targeting high-school athletes for basketball fitness training, that might be the perfect place to reach your audience.

The second is you must have a compelling offer. If your offer (product or service) does not resonate with people then you will have a difficult time marketing, as people will not find your services interesting enough to investigate it in more detail.

The third is you must sell. Marketing is about raising awareness and educating your potential client, but you must actively sell to your potential clients. That is why one of the most common lines in sales and marketing is "ABC"... Always Be Closing.

The Author

Brad Dieter

Brad Dieter

Brad is a trained Exercise Physiologist, Molecular Biologist, and Biostatistician. He received his B.A. from Washington State University and a Masters of Science in Biomechanics at the University of Idaho, and completed his PhD at the University of Idaho. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship in translational science at Providence Medical Research Center, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital where he studied how metabolism and inflammation regulate molecular mechanisms disease and was involved in discovering novel therapeutics for diabetic complications. Currently, Dr. Dieter is the Chief Scientific Advisor at Outplay Inc and Harness Biotechnologies and is active in health technology and biotechnology. In addition, he is passionate about scientific outreach and educating the public through his role on Scientific Advisory Boards and regular writing on health, nutrition, and supplementation.