How to Start a Personal Training Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: January 11, 2024

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The personal training market is on the way up. As of 2023, the market reached $41.8 billion and the projected compound annual growth rate of 4.6% from 2023 to 2033 means the market could reach $65.5 billion. For those looking to join the personal training industry, now is a good time to get started.

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You can tap into this demand by developing fitness programs tailored to clients’ specific needs. Building long-term relationships and customizing regimens to help people meet their health objectives will be key. To attract clients initially, develop a strong online presence and offer free consultations or introductory sessions.

This guide will walk you through how to start a personal training business. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, obtaining business insurance, and customer focus. Here’s everything to know about starting a personal trainer business.

1. Conduct Personal Training Market Research

Market research is important, whether you’re an independent personal trainer, or opening a large company of trainers. Market research offers insight into finding potential clients, determining trends in the industry, and building a solid business plan.

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Several factors drive this continued growth:

  • Increasing disposable incomes, especially among millennial and Gen Z demographics, allow more consumers to spend on fitness services.
  • Greater awareness of mental health and self-care translates to investment in physical well-being through personal training.
  • Gyms and training facilities continue expanding globally, providing additional employment opportunities for personal trainers.
  • Celebrity endorsements and social media drive the popularity of fit lifestyles, influencing consumers to pursue personalized fitness assistance.
  • The growing consumer market creates ample prospects for aspiring personal trainers.
  • Those able to offer customized programs and measurable results can tap into this demand.
  • Exact opportunities vary by geographic region based on demographics, economics, infrastructure, culture, and existing fitness penetration.
  • Within local micro markets, placement near gyms, athletic facilities, corporate centers, and affluent neighborhoods can yield a strong clientele.
  • Digital platforms now facilitate remote training options too, allowing online businesses to access global niche markets.

The industry does face challenges in the form of seasonal revenue fluctuations, client retention issues, independent contractor status, and low barriers to entry resulting in high competitiveness in some areas. However, for dedicated personal trainers able to carve a specialized niche, the opportunities abound.

2. Analyze the Competition

Understanding the competitive landscape is crucial when breaking into the personal training industry. This applies to both brick-and-mortar and online businesses. Learning about personal training services gives you an inside look at price models, equipment suppliers, and trends.

Learn about other fitness professionals in a variety of ways, including:

  • When considering a physical location, identify existing personal training businesses and gyms in the immediate area.
  • Walk the neighborhood and note signage, equipment selections, class schedules, membership information, and amenities.
  • Talk to people about where they currently train and why.
  • Scout the parking lots of fitness training competitors during peak hours to gauge popularity.
  • Expanding your online search, look for personal trainers marketing to the same target demographics.
  • Visit their websites and social pages to analyze services, credentials, pricing, customer engagement, and reviews.
  • Searching by niche terms can surface less visible competitors too.

Both on-the-ground and virtual research should aim to determine:

  • Number and size of successful personal trainer businesses
  • Price points
  • Qualifications and experience
  • Specialties
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Marketing channels
  • Web/social media traction

Analyzing this data will reveal opportunities to differentiate. Avoid simply copying others’ offerings. Seek strategic openings like underserved demographics, niche disciplines, flexible/virtual options, or advanced qualifications.

3. Costs to Start a Personal Training Business

When starting a personal training company, significant upfront investment is required before opening the doors to clients. Let’s take a closer look at the breakdown of costs to become a certified personal training with your own online coaching, or in-house group training setup.

Start-up Costs

  • Certification & Education: Gaining credibility requires proper training and certifications as a fitness professional. Expect to spend $399-$799 on accredited certification programs.
  • Insurance: General liability insurance protects against 3rd party claims and averages $38-$150 per month based on location and coverage levels.
  • Local Business Registration & Licensing: Registering an LLC or corporation filing runs $40-$500 depending on the state. Local business licenses or tax IDs cost $50 on average but can reach $800 in some areas.
  • Equipment & Facility Expenses: Outfitting a dedicated personal training studio has high capital costs. Leasing commercial space starts at around $1,500 monthly with triple net leases averaging $25/sq. ft.
  • Online Business Platforms: Websites, membership software, and appointment systems require paid subscriptions. Quality site design averages $100-$300 initially then $50 a month for hosting.
  • Marketing & Advertising: Attracting an initial customer base demands consistent brand marketing across digital platforms and print material. Logo design and branding packages cost $200-$2,000.

Ongoing Costs

The monthly costs of running an established personal training business add up quickly:

  • Rent & Facility Overhead: $1,500
  • Equipment Maintenance: $250
  • Insurance Premiums: $200
  • Software Subscriptions: $100
  • Continuing Education: $75
  • Marketing Budget: $500+
  • Credit Card Processing Fees: 3% of revenue
  • Payroll Expenses (if employees/contractors utilized)

Additional potential expenses come from client programs, travel, professional associations, legal/accounting guidance, office supplies/tools, and miscellaneous operating costs. Personal trainers must continually invest back into the business to facilitate growth and keep services fresh.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When starting a personal training business, properly establishing your legal structure is critical for liability protection and tax treatment. The four main options each carry distinct pros and cons to weigh.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship represents the simplest structure where no formal business entity exists apart from the owner. Annual tax filing and income reporting are minimal. However, the owner assumes unlimited personal liability for all debts and legal actions against the business. Lenders also view sole proprietors as a higher risk. Sole proprietorships struggle to raise capital and have little protection if sued.

Partnership

Forming a general or limited partnership requires a formal agreement between two or more individuals to own/operate the business. Income passes through to personal tax returns. While partnerships allow raising additional investment capital, they provide little liability separation outside the “limited” version where certain partners’ assets gain protection.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Establishing an LLC offers personal liability protection for member-owners while avoiding double taxation on profits. It limits their exposure if sued and requires fewer formalities than a standard corporation. Startup costs average $750+ factoring filing fees, licenses, permits, etc. Ownership units facilitate bringing on investors or employee partners over time.

Corporation

C-corps and S-corps operate as distinct legal entities from their owners to offer liability safeguards. However, extensive annual filing requirements raise compliance costs. Corporations can sell stock and provide the highest credibility with customers, vendors, and lenders.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Sole proprietors and single-member LLCs use Social Security numbers for federal tax purposes by default. However, obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS carries key advantages even if you run an individual personal training operation with no employees.

The EIN registration process is free and fast at IRS.gov. Applicants answer basic questions about the business entity type, ownership structure, and contact details. An EIN gets issued immediately upon completing the online form.

Having a separate EIN facilitates:

  • Opening business bank accounts under your company name rather than your personal SSN. This bolsters credibility with financial institutions.
  • Applying for commercial insurance policies and potential financing.
  • Protecting personal identification and assets if identity theft occurs. Keeping finances compartmentalized minimizes vulnerability.
  • Allowing the business to maintain continuity as a transferable asset if ever sold.
  • Tracking all company accounting, expenses, invoices, and tax records with standardized identification.

Additionally, most states levy sales tax on services like personal training sessions. Registering with your state revenue authority enables properly charging, filing, and remitting owed sales taxes. Expect registration fees under $100. Quarterly tax payments follow based on company revenue.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Keeping clean financial records is imperative when launching a personal training business. Without organized accounting, owners struggle to track revenues and expenses, meet tax obligations, separate personal and business finances, prove losses if audited, and position their company for growth.

Accounting Software

The first step is implementing small business accounting software like QuickBooks. The technology automates tasks like invoicing clients, recording payments, reconciling bank/credit card transactions, and generating financial statements. Having all records digitized in one integrated platform saves massive time over manual methods.

Hire an Accountant

Consider retaining an accountant to handle bookkeeping, payroll, quarterly sales tax filings, fiscal year-end reporting, tax preparation, and advising on deductions to leverage. Expect fees between $200-$5,000 annually depending on the level of involvement. Their expertise relieves administrative burdens so owners can focus on clients and marketing.

Open a Business Bank Account

Separating personal and business finances is paramount. Register for an Employer ID Number (EIN) even as a solopreneur to open dedicated business bank accounts and credit cards solely for company transactions. Never comingle expenses to simplify expense categorization and personal tax reporting.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

Applying for small business credit cards also helps track expenditures, leverages unique rewards programs, keeps utilization of personal credit, and demonstrates legitimacy to vendors. Lenders determine limits based on personal credit scores and company financials. Provide past tax returns and current balance sheets when applying to secure ample revolving credit.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Before training any clients, personal trainers must ensure they comply with all federal, state, and local licensing regulations. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Gaining accredited certification represents the first step for anyone offering paid, customized exercise instruction. Programs like NASM, ACE, and NSCA require passing written exams on topics ranging from functional assessments to biomechanics, nutrition principles, and special population considerations.

Certification costs between $399-$799 initially then $100-$300 for renewals every 2-4 years. Continuing education earns required CECs. Listing approved credentials on your website, contracts and marketing materials proves your expertise.

Register your personal training business locally to comply with city/county-level operating regulations. Agencies issue licenses after submitting registration forms and paying fees of around $50 on average. Check if zoning restrictions apply for in-home or rented studio locations within residential areas.

Some cities may require additional documentation like parking plans, floor layouts, proof of insurance, emergency protocols if working outside, and evidence of bonding.

Mobile or virtual trainers still need licenses tied to their home or mailing address in most cases. Renewing annually remains essential to legally run fitness operations.

Liability Insurance Even certified trainers risk lawsuits from client injury. Carrying robust liability insurance is non-negotiable, often a $1 million minimum per occurrence. Premiums run approximately $38-$150 monthly for suitable coverage. Ensure activities like outdoor boot camps or partnerships with gyms get included by the underwriter.

Indoor Facilities Requirements For traditional or rented brick-and-mortar spaces, building codes necessitate additional safety considerations like sufficient ventilation, backup emergency lighting, secure entry points, smoke detectors, sanitation protocols, and more. Landlords explain any unique property regulations.

Consult an attorney when drafting client agreements, purchase contracts, partnership deals, independent contractor forms, and other legal templates to ensure state law compliance. Predetermined fee structures must also align with financial regulations.

While extensive, adhering to credentialing, licensing, and regulatory obligations protects personal trainers against severe fines or legal jeopardy when beginning operations. Treat fitness certifications like mandatory minimum malpractice insurance for physicians.

8. Get Business Insurance

Carrying proper insurance represents a non-negotiable investment for personal trainers to safeguard against financial ruin. Even one uncovered accident, lawsuit, or property damage event can permanently destroy a fitness business.

Without adequate liability coverage, scenarios like these could lead to bankruptcy:

  • A client tears their ACL during a session sparring with boxing pads. Their $250,000 knee surgery and lost wages suit exceed the trainer’s assets.
  • An electrical fire sparked by a treadmill ravages the rented studio space. The landlord sues for $100,000 in repairs and renovations.
  • A virtual session transmitted over an unsecured network gets hacked, exposing the client’s credit card and medical information. Resulting in legal settlements approaching seven figures.

General liability insurance covering bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury starts at around $38 per month. Products like Next Insurance cater to policies specifically towards personal trainers with premiums based on revenue, location, claims history, and policy customization.

The application process requires submitting key details about training activities, equipment used, building sites, certification credentials, past liability payouts, and more. Insurers then assess total risk to quote annual premiums, often between $500-$5,000 for adequate protection.

Policies renewing every 6-12 months give entrepreneurs flexibility in clients adjusting limits or changing providers if launching new services down the road. Comparing multiple commercial insurance vendors ensures finding the best-fit coverages at reasonable rates.

9. Create an Office Space

Operating a personal training business from a dedicated office carries tangible benefits for client meetings, administrative tasks, online sessions, equipment storage, and overall professional credibility. The right physical environment creates operational efficiency.

Home Office

When starting, establishing a home office represents the most affordable option to designate a workspace while deducting household expenses like rent, utilities, and internet. Converting spare rooms or finished basements maintains privacy when not actively training clients. Expect costs between $100-$500 monthly managing household operating costs.

Coworking Office

Coworking spaces like WeWork offer convenient alternatives starting at around $300 monthly. Gaining access to shared equipment, private meeting rooms, front desk staff, event spaces, and business amenities suits semi-nomadic trainers lacking separate facilities. Networking opportunities within communities of entrepreneurs and remote workers facilitate valuable connections and potential partnerships too.

In-Gym Office

For location-dependent trainers closely tied to specific gyms or studios, see about securing dedicated office or storage areas onsite to base operations out of. Even modest spaces to secure sensitive documents, expensive accessories, or scheduled sessions prove useful long-term.

Commercial Office

Leasing standalone commercial suites within shopping plazas or office buildings better suits established training agencies. Expect monthly rents between $1,000-$5,000 based on square footage, location and built-out requirements. Owning a centralized hub to meet clients, produce online content, manage staff and house equipment makes scaling dramatically simpler.

10. Source Your Equipment

Outfitting a personal training operation with the necessary gear carries significant upfront costs. However, sourcing equipment through the secondhand market and rental options helps minimize initial outlays while still securing essential assets.

Buy New

When buying new, leading retailers like Rogue Fitness offer commercial-grade strength and cardio machines ideal for studios and garages. Packages come with product warranties and maintenance support. But avoiding high markdowns requires careful shopping for sales or special packages. Expect to invest $5,000-$15,000 filling even modest spaces.

Buy Used

Scouring local postings on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Offer Up can yield huge savings on quality used gear often priced at 50-75% discounts. Expand searches regionally if lacking local inventory. Test items thoroughly and have a transport plan when buying bulky apparatus. Just budget for minor refurbishing.

Rent

Renting or leasing equipment also warrants consideration to conserve capital for other startup costs like marketing and insurance. National rental houses offer flexible short-term rental agreements on huge selections of products delivered directly to your facility. Pay only for the month’s equipment gets utilized rather than tying up cash long-term in owned assets.

Lease

For personal trainers operating on tight budgets out of homes or rented spaces, carefully sourcing equipment through discounted online listings, resellers and short-term rentals keeps overhead manageable without sacrificing access to professional gear needed to properly train clients and stand out as an elite service provider worth premium rates.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinctive brand identity helps personal trainers attract the ideal clientele by clearly conveying their unique value, expertise, and service personality through visuals, messaging, and experiences. A thoughtful branding strategy should permeate every touchpoint, from business cards to websites to custom training programs.

Get a Business Phone Number

An essential first step is claiming a dedicated business phone line using a provider like RingCentral to enable seamless call routing, voicemails, SMS capabilities, and cloud-based communication features through any device. Expect starter plans from $19.99/month per user. Portable numbers reinforce perceptions of professionalism when meeting prospective training clients.

Design a Logo

Designing a recognizable logo also helps establish brand awareness critical for standing out in competitive markets. Services like Looka simplify exploring styles and iconography that communicate brand values around personalized fitness coaching. Expect one-time fees between $20-$65 for custom art.

Print Business Cards

With a logo set, create branded templates for websites, advertisement layouts, apparel, signage, and collateral like business cards consistently sporting a distinct visual identity. Leading online print shops like Vistaprint enable affordable, high-quality production of items like postcards, banners, and presentation folders that reinforce cohesive images during client interactions.

Get a Domain Name

Concurrently, purchase a domain name and launch a lead-generating website to capture online interest 24/7. Recommended registrars like Namecheap make registering domains affordable at around $9/year. Use your URL across all platforms.

Design a Website

Building sites through user-friendly drag-and-drop platforms like Wix costs little, or hiring freelancers at Fiverr for custom designs. Well-crafted pages explaining credentials, services, results, and booking processes convert visitors into high-value clients.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Beyond digital marketing, personal trainers should leverage local communities both online and offline to establish critical connections in the fitness industry. Surrounding yourself with like-minded professionals facilitates trading insights, discovering referral opportunities, and gaining visibility.

Local Associations

In most metro regions, active organizations like the California Fitness Alliance offer affordable memberships starting around $50/year. These groups host regular events, lobby local government on health initiatives, provide job boards, and nurture general community building. Getting involved raises your profile quickly.

Local Meetups

Sites like Meetup also list regional fitness networking events, seminars, and continuing education gatherings trainers should attend. Expect mostly free meetups focused on specialized modalities like yoga, pilates, strength training, etc. The face-to-face interactions spark future business collaborations.

Facebook Groups

For wider reach, search Facebook for targeted industry groups like Motivated Fitness Community which enables crowd-sourcing guidance or feedback from international peers. When exploring new program ideas, these crowds can provide quick validation.

13. How to Market a Personal Training Business

Implementing a multifaceted marketing strategy is non-negotiable for personal trainers striving to continually expand their client roster and business revenues. While digital platforms offer extensive reach, nothing replaces word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers.

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Personal Networking

Leverage existing social circles and local networks at first. Offer friends/family free assessments or discounted sessions to showcase your skills. Request testimonials and referrals if they enjoyed their experience and results.

Incentivize longer-term clients to endorse you online by providing 1-2 free sessions for every new paying customer they direct your way. Organic praise and lead generation accelerate growth exponentially.

Digital Marketing

Ongoing digital marketing should focus on:

  • Google Ads targeting localized fitness-related keyword searches to connect your services with prospective clients already seeking personal training assistance. Expect to pay $1+ per click.
  • Facebook/Instagram ads help narrow hyper-targeted promotions to key demographics likely needing specialized programs, like busy parents or serious athletes. Budget $5-$10 daily.
  • Start a YouTube channel publishing weekly home workout videos and tips to establish expertise and approachability, driving channel subscriptions over time.
  • Guest posts on local fitness blogs to link back to your website and exhibit niche authority around training topics you specialize in.
  • Send monthly e-newsletters with fresh workout ideas, client success highlights, program offers, and company updates to continually engage your audience.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional options like:

  • Running fitness boot camps or workshops at local parks/rec centers to demonstrate your coaching skills and personality to prospective new clients.
  • Distribute of glossy flyers and mini-program guides at health food stores, yoga studios, or athletic events attended by target demographics.
  • Partnering with healthcare providers, physical therapy offices, or gyms to offer joint services catering to shared patient/member goals.
  • Donating personal training sessions to charity fundraisers, securing public acknowledgment for community-focused philanthropy.

Blend digital convenience and in-person interactions across both existing networks and targeted outreach campaigns. Stay visible and convey expertise/empathy until reaching client capacity goals. Then focus on retention strategies to sustain referrals and loyalty long-term.

14. Focus on the Customer

Delivering exceptional customer service must remain every personal trainer’s top priority when working with clients. Keeping your roster satisfied not only leads to better retention and referral rates but also facilitates charging higher premiums as word spreads about your dedication.

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For example, readily answering questions via email/text outside of sessions exhibits your commitment as a trusted fitness advisor clients know they can rely on. Similarly, always starting appointments on time and structuring regiments based on their unique goals and constraints shows you respect their busy schedules.

Checking in about progress, diet, general wellness or even just life events makes each person feel valued beyond merely executing exercises. Simply remembering meaningful details and proactively adjusting programs to overcome plateaus further strengthens loyalty.

When clients feel heard, important and authentically cared about by someone guiding their physical and mental health transformation, you earn evangelists for life.

They will eagerly share experiences with friends when impressive results or fitness breakthroughs happen thanks to your shared journey. Over time, the majority of new business can stem directly from referrals if you continually overdeliver on customer service and dynamic, personalized coaching.

So while mastering exercise science and broadening modalities keeps your skills sharp, obsessing over customer happiness through genuine compassion and accountability cements five-star reputations and waitlists of new clients. Never take long-term patrons for granted.

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