Personal training is a fast-growing segment of the $35 billion fitness industry, with a 21.5% increase in certifications since 2012. And that rapid growth is predicted to continue well into the new decade. So if you’re asking yourself if now is a good time to start a personal training business, the answer is yes. Here’s everything you need to start a wildly successful personal training business in 2020.
1. A solid business plan
While business plans have a tendency to evolve over time, being intentional about your strategy before you launch should be the first step for any aspiring small business owner — even in a low overhead industry like personal training.
A well-thought out business plan should include:
Remember to research and consider both one-time costs — like equipment, business registration fees, certifications, branding your business and building a website — and ongoing costs, like equipment maintenance, liability insurance, space rental, and marketing.
Your focus and the services you’ll offer
Will you offer group sessions, one-on-one appointments, or both? Do you have expertise in helping clients bulk up, slim down, train for a marathon, or build a healthy lifestyle? You might think offering it all is a great approach, but potential clients tend to respond better to brands that speak specifically to them, vs. ones that try to serve everyone.
Research the local fitness market. How many gyms, yoga studios, crossfit programs, and personal trainers are there, and what types of customers do they seem to serve? Is there a gap in the market that your expertise could fill? For instance, are there tons of options for college kids, but none that are great for busy professionals?
The target market for your focus and services
Who needs the specific services you’ll offer? And what kinds of clients will relate well to your approach? For example, if you specialize in training clients to build muscle efficiently, your target might be busy professional men, from ages 30-50. Fill in as many specific details about your potential clients as possible in your plan because it will help you build a brand and market your business that will appeal to them.
The average annual income for personal trainers is estimated from $42,000 USD on the low end to $72,000 on the high end. But it will take you some time to find your niche, build up your client list, get referrals, and have a steady flow of work. Think about how much you can realistically bring in over the course of your first year of being in business, and then over 3-5 years in business as you grow. Make sure you have some savings, a loan, or a second source of income that can help you get through your launch phase.
2. Certification from a nationally recognized program
Personal training certifications and qualifications from national programs send a message to your clients that you take your business seriously. Some programs can also get you lower rates on liability insurance, which is another bonus (we’ll talk more about insurance in a moment).
There are several well-respected personal training certification programs out there in the U.S. and the U.K. Different programs have different initial costs, but most of them offer discounted self-guided programs starting around $500. The good news is that recertification is easier — usually requiring only continuing education credits with no additional exams — and cheaper. But be sure to the research initial, as well as ongoing time and money investments before deciding which program is best for you.
As a starting point you should look into the following programs:
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
Additional training certifications you’ll need for certification, and that may be required by your local business bureau or insurance provider are:
- Adult CPR training
- AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) training
3. A business name and bank account
Registering your business name will give you some protection from another local business opening with the same, or a very similar name. And setting it up as an LLC can offer you some additional legal protection since it creates separation between your personal assets (like your vehicle, your home, and any personal savings) and your business.
A separate bank account is also a good idea since it makes it much easier to track business expenses that you can deduct from your taxes from personal spending. It also means you can accept credit cards from your personal training clients and have your business name show up on their credit card statements, which is one of the number one ways to minimize charge disputes.
4. Any permits and licenses required in your area, and liability insurance
Depending where you live, you may need a permit to operate a personal training business. In the U.S., check your state’s Small Business Association to find info, and call or visit the website for your town, city, or county clerk’s office to research any permit or license requirements.
No matter how experienced you are, clients can get injured during training sessions, so you’ll also want to have a professional liability insurance policy. At around $150 USD annually for a solo personal trainer, and $1,500 for a studio with multiple trainers, they’re a minor expense compared to how much they can save you if a client ever sued. If you lease studio space, having a policy may even be part of the rental terms.
5. A marketing plan
At the very least you’ll want a website (preferably with online scheduling), and probably a Facebook and Instagram page. Use real photos of your equipment, and yourself so people get a sense of who you are — as a small business owner you are your brand.
You can also create a simple email template that you can personalize and send to your clients after your first session, and one to repeat clients thanking them for their business and asking them to review you on Google or Yelp.
Try new client specials to get your first few clients in the door, and create some simple pre-paid packages to encourage repeat business, or give your best clients a discount for referrals.
Post a flyer at your local health-food store if you can’t afford advertising.
Think outside the box, and set aside some time every week to promote your business.
6. A mobile payment app so you can accept client payments wherever you are
Finally, think ahead to how you can make your payment process super simple for your clients. Many people today don’t carry cash, and it’s easy to forget a checkbook. Don’t fall into getting paid late because of this. Set up a Stripe account, and download the ChargeStripe app and you can use your smartphone to accept credit card payments from your personal training studio, the local park, your client’s home, or over the phone.