Get the Basics…

  • Learn from hardworking fitness industry pros and business experts on how to start a personal training business.
  • Learn how to invest in experience, tell your story, utilize online training, and more!
  • In the midst of the hustle, don’t forget to maintain your own health and well-being.

As of May of 2016, The Bureau of Labor Statistics the median income for fitness professionals at $39,210. That’s why we exist to help trainers break through these kinds of glass ceilings training anyone, anywhere in the world. Busting your hump in-person is great, but training online opens a whole new world of possibilities.

No matter if you just train in-person, train online, do both, or are considering which options will work best for you, starting a business is hard.

There are no shortcuts, no easy paths. Just a lot of hard work and elbow grease. If you’re willing to educate yourself and put in the hours, the fitness industry provides many opportunities. The BLS projects by 2024 a nearly 20 percent job increase in the fitness industry. This potential increase will only highlight the personal trainers who know their stuff and work towards excellence in their craft.

We asked some hardworking fitness industry pros and business experts for advice on starting a business as a personal trainer and here’s what they had to say:

Tip #1 – Get Started

#1 – Get your business on the map

Proactively list it on Google My Business, Bing, and sites like Manta, Yelp, and perhaps even TripAdvisor if applicable. A business Facebook page is also crucial, as that is often a great way to attract clients and to get your current clients talking about how you’re helping them.

#2 – Make sure to set up your business properly

A fitness business carries potentially high liability, so it’s best to form the proper business structure early — whether that’s an LLC, S Corp, or C Corp. (Here’s a 14 step checklist we created for making sure your business is legit.)

#3 – Separate your business and personal finances

This is absolutely crucial if you have formed a corporate structure, but even if you haven’t, it’s a good idea to set up a business bank account and to get a business credit card or charge card for purchases. This allows you to keep track of how well the business is doing financially and makes it a lot easier come tax time.

Plus, most business credit cards offer lucrative rewards and don’t report to the owner’s personal credit unless they default. That protects your personal credit if you do have some larger purchases up front– such as equipment– that you want to pay for over time. (This chart explains how business credit cards report to personal).

#4 – Get Help

Your local Small Business Development Center, SCORE office, Women’s Business Center or Veteran Business Outreach Center offers free counseling, low-cost training, and assistance. They can help with everything from creating a business plan to marketing help to setting up your books. Take advantage of it!

– Gerri Detweiler, Education director at Nav and author of Finance Your Own Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track

Tip #2 – Invest in Training, Education, and Experience

Talia Mariani, Owner of Trade Mark Fit in NYC, recommends,

What I’d first and foremost recommend to anyone wanting to launch a training business is to first invest in your education. . . . If you’re looking to build your own company, make sure you’re an expert in your specialty (i.e., kettlebells, hypertrophy, power lifting, functional training, rehab etc).

Rob Jackson, Exercise & Nutrition Coach and founder of minimalfit.co.uk, says,

Experience. Practicing what you preach (in my opinion) is critical. If you don’t know what it’s like to stay in shape, train well, and achieve goals, how can you expect anyone you work with to listen to your advice? So, go out and take on some challenges, document it all, and use it to show people you can do what you say you can.

Robert Eyler, Lifestyle Consultant & Owner of GetFit42, says,

While others are out partying on a Friday night, I am in the gym training my clients (or myself). While others are enjoying time off on the weekend, I am enjoying researching current personal training topics, kinesiology findings, reading books, expanding my knowledge on my craft.

Tip #3 – Create Value and Value Time

Rebecca Rodriguez, ACE Certified Trainer, says,

When I first started I was working out of a gym. They took a percentage out of what I made and I wish I knew the real value of my knowledge. I didn’t like charging too much for my services and perhaps it’s because I was young, but I could have been more aggressive with my prices.

I also should have been stricter with cancellation policies. It seems small but when you are essentially running your own business, time is absolutely money when you are commission based. . . . Start smart and work with faithful clients.

Also, Kyle Kranz, Running Coach, says,

Whenever I get asked how to become a coach/trainer, my first advice is to simply start providing value to people. One day I realized I was a running expert to people in my online and offline community.

I was spending time on forums and social media providing advice. This gave me the potential network I needed to get clients. Even if the people I knew didn’t need a coach, they possibly knew people who did.

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#4 – Utilize Online Training

Rob Jackson, Exercise & Nutrition Coach and founder of minimalfit.co.uk, says,

Not everyone is going to want or be able to afford to train multiple times a week with you. But the truth is that if they train more regularly they are likely to achieve better results.

Using an online training app can help you deliver workouts to them without you needing to be there. It also helps to track their progress and holds them accountable as they know you’ll be checking if they’re checking in for workouts.

Editor: We happen to know a great platform that fits the bill. If you’re a trainer looking to break into the online space, we can help you unleash your potential earnings by training anyone, anywhere in the world.

Tip #5 – Tell Your Story

Jamie Logie, a Certified Personal Trainer, Owner of Regained Wellness, and Author of Taking Back Your Health, recommends:

What makes you unique and what got you on the road to health and fitness and what got you to where you are now? This makes it more personable as after all, the people are essentially buying you as much as they are buying the service. They have to know, like, and trust you (KLT) before they are going to want to commit and spend money.

This is what I wish I had known beforehand.

Rob Jackson, Exercise and Nutrition Coach and founder of minimalfit.co.uk, says,

Differentiate yourself. Ask yourself what makes you different from other trainers. There are thousands of good PTs out there, so why would someone want to train with you? Is it your experience? Your qualifications? Your personality?

Tip #6 – Know Business Basics

Kyle Kranz, Running Coach, says,

There are two sides to being a trainer — the athletic knowledge and the business knowledge. I had the athletic know-how but lacked the business background. The Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC) and Jon Goodman’s books have been essential for me to have made a good amount of income training people on the side.

With the launch of the Online Trainer Academy, I was able to grow my business even further with the knowledge I was provided.

[But] my next step is to hire a business coach. I wish I would have gotten a mentor earlier on. The free content at the PTDC was a good start, the entire Online Trainer Academy was incredibly helpful, however, I have little doubt a business mentor would have been the absolute best decision I could have made earlier on.

Rachael Novello, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Owner, Rachael Novello Fitness, recommends:

One of the first things I did when I started to look for space was to create a budget. I looked at what my current revenue was, based on clientele, and I used that as my starting point.

Dave Dreas, Owner of Arizona Training Lab and Creator of DaveDreas.com, says,

Make sure you keep your overhead low. There are a lot of things that start to add up when it comes to your monthly expenses. You’ll have rent (either to gym or landlord), billing system, email system, insurance, equipment and more. The lower you keep your expenses the more money you can keep in your pocket.

Tip #7 – Have a Web Presence

Robert Eyler, Lifestyle Consultant & Owner of GetFit42, says,

What I wish I knew when I started: To be completely honest, I wish I knew how important it is to have an established presence on the web (i.e. website, social media, etc.) I waited for quite a bit of time before I pulled the trigger on creating a legitimate website.

I dabbled in social media, attended various networking events, and tried to expand my business through word of mouth and with people I met during travel, however, nothing truly compares to having a professional, well-established website where people can view your mission, background, strengths, and core services.

Rob Jackson, Exercise & Nutrition Coach and founder of minimalfit.co.uk, says,

Document your journey. When creating social media profiles, you need good content. If you have inspirational stories to share, progress pictures of you or people you have trained, testimonials, etc that will help you build that content much more easily and gain credibility.

Tip #8 – Be Organized

Lesley Logan, Fitness Business Coach, PMA Certified Pilates Teacher, and Lead Teacher Trainer for Equinox, maintains,

Use a scheduling platform from the beginning! Have a set schedule and let people know you have “this time _ or this time_” don’t let them just pick what ever they want. For example, “I’m free all day Thursday. What time works best for you?” People like a busy restaurant. Have a clear cancellation policy and stick to it. I know you don’t want to lose a client but you also don’t want a client that doesn’t value you.

Robert Eyler, Lifestyle Consultant & Owner of GetFit42, says,

I am huge on timeliness, organization, and communication. I believe that without these three imperative qualities, a business will fall flat on its face. Every night, I take one hour and plan out my next day. I write down to-do lists like it is nobody’s business. I cross items off once I complete.

I set reminders on my phone for meetings or training sessions, I add notes in my phone when I come across an interesting fact, a workout I can use during a PT session, or inspirational quote. We must approach this business with an open mind, willing to absorb the vast amount of knowledge out in the world that we do not yet know!

Tip #9 – Never Stop Hustling

Nick Mitchell CEO of Ultimate Performance has built a global personal training business believes.

You’ve been told that if you hustle you’ll make it. Here’s the problem – just like creating your own ideal body, hustling is never enough. It is merely the start.

To be successful in any endeavour is not about “life balance” – it is about doing what is necessary and prioritising your goals above all of your own desires.

You can probably do it for a day or three, just like most people can follow a diet. Can you look inside yourself and say you can do it for decades? I’ve been doing it for 10 years and I am shattered – the really successful people I know have been doing it for at least double that.

Talia Mariani, Owner of Trade Mark Fit in NYC, encourages trainers:

Be prepared to hustle. Again, bigger gyms provide a funnel of clients for you — when you’re on your own you don’t have that crutch to rely on. You’ve got to actively pursue new clients in order to fill your schedule.

Word of mouth and referrals are always your best resource, and again, this is where continuing education comes in handy. Committing yourself to valuable certifications gets you in the room with other like minded individuals/trainers. It builds your network of people who can refer new clients to you and vice versa.

Robert Eyler, Lifestyle Consultant & Owner of GetFit42, says,

When plans fail, KEEP GOING! I am HUGE on perseverance. I have failed hundreds of times. There were times when I wanted to up and quit my entire business because it became too hard, I wasn’t attracting enough clients, money was tight, [and] stress and blood pressure was high.

But I continued onward and became a much better entrepreneur and human being because of it. That is the best advice I could give. Don’t listen to the negativity that our world is so used to spewing out and absorbing. Focus on the positives, constructive criticism, and bettering yourself as (1) an individual and (2) an entrepreneur!

Rachael Novello, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Owner, Rachael Novello Fitness, recommends:

[O]ne of the things I learned was that persistence, determination, and faith in yourself/brand will ultimately get you to where you want to be.

I knew I had something amazing, I knew I wanted to share it with people, so I dug in my heels and kept moving forward.

When I opened my doors on January 1, 2017, I was elated. All my hard work had come to fruition! Looking back, I wish someone had told me how hard it was going to be and how many sleepless nights I would have. . . .

When you put your heart and soul into something, and you believe in what you’re doing there really are no limitations to what you can accomplish!

Tip #10 – Know Your Market and Be the Expert

Rob Lagana, Owner of Lagana Fitness, Certified Personal Trainer with NASM, and nutritionist, recommends,

The best business advice I can give is to know your target market and specialize in helping them specifically as individuals. As an example, specialize in women over 40 who want to lose body fat and get fit.

Trust me, women over 40 have unique physiological systems. There is no catch all program or generic program for them as each are very individualized.

Dunte Hector, Certified Personal Trainer and Director of Education for Primal 7, says

If I were to start my first independent personal training business again, I would figure out exactly one type of client to whom I could deliver outrageous results, and then I would find one client who met that profile and train her for free.

How specific would the profile be? I finally grew my business as a trainer when I identified married, professional women in their early forties who had a favorite exercise hobby (attorneys and company directors and business owners who loved surfing, tennis, yoga, cycling, etc.) and focused all of my writing, social media posts, and conversations on their issues.

The best business advice I ever received was from a software company founder in Lubbock in 2010: When you don’t have any money, spend all of your time building relationships. That statement captures how training one or two of those women for free and delivering on my promises earned me dozens of referrals and built a sustainable business.

Lesley Logan, Fitness Business Coach, PMA Certified Pilates Teacher, and Lead Teacher Trainer for Equinox, says,

What was the best business advice you’ve ever received? In the beginning, you’ll have one client. Focus on getting that one client to get all the results you know they need and what they feel they want. They will send you all their friends!

Tip #11 – Take Care of Yourself

Dave Dreas, Owner of Arizona Training Lab and Creator of DaveDreas.com, says,

When you spend all day in a gym it can be difficult finding time for your own workout. Do not neglect your health. You are a representation of your brand/business so be fit, active and energetic. People look at you for resources, advice, guidance, and knowledge and you want to represent that.

Editor’s Note: These answers have been edited for clarity.

References:

  1. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm#tab-6
  2. https://www.nav.com/blog/a-14-step-checklist-to-make-your-business-legit-20000/?
  3. https://www.nav.com/resource/do-business-credit-cards-report-to-personal-credit/
  4. http://www.nav.com
  5. https://www.amazon.com/Finance-Your-Own-Business-Financing/dp/1478935324
  6. http://www.trademarkfit.net/
  7. http://minimalfit.co.uk
  8. http://www.getfit42.com
  9. http://kylekranz.com/plans/
  10. http://www.regainedwellness.com/
  11. https://www.amazon.com/Taking-Back-Health-Jamie-Logie-ebook/dp/B00SXL4S7Y
  12. https://www.theptdc.com/
  13. http://www.aztraininglab.com
  14. http://www.davedreas.com
  15. http://www.profitablepilates.com
  16. http://laganafitness.com/
  17. http://www.primal7.com/

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