Guide to Starting a personal training business


man using a back exercise machine during a pt session

It’s a good time to start a personal training business. With so many people hiring personal trainers, turning your dream of a personal training business into a reality is more achievable than ever. But with so much potential competition, knowing how to start a personal training business is only half the battle.

Starting a personal training business is simply the first step. Starting a successful business as a personal trainer is a little more challenging. So if you’re ready to begin the process of starting a personal training business, here’s everything you need to get started.

Get Certified

The first step to starting a personal training business is to get certified. You’re not going to get very far without an accredited training qualification! Getting certified isn’t just about getting everything right from a legal standpoint. It’s the key to ensuring that a) you know what you’re doing, and b) you can give your clients more confidence in your ability to help them reach their fitness goals. 

So alongside your Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification, you’re also going to need some additional certifications, such as First Aid, CPR and how to use an automatic defibrillator. So it’s not enough to simply decide to start a personal training business. You have to ensure that you have all of the necessary qualifications and certifications before you get started.

Think About Your Clients

If you’re thinking about how to start a personal training business, the chances are that you’re thinking a lot about the practical aspects, such as marketing and managing your budget. However, overlooking the needs of your future clients is going to seriously limit your potential. 

People use personal trainers for many reasons, and their goals are not going to be the same as your goals. They want professional, expert guidance, and many will lack the motivation needed to reach their goals themselves. So starting a personal training business will mean spending some time thinking about what kind of teacher you’re going to be. 

You’re going to have to find out as much about each client as possible. From their daily routines, bad habits and what they love doing, to the kinds of atmosphere they work out in best, and any limitations they face due to age or health conditions. You’re going to have to ask questions, manage your time well and find the answers that your clients need.

woman training arms with kettlebells

Develop a Niche

It’s always good to offer something that your competitors aren’t. Offering some form of specialist training or advice is always a good idea, even if sign-ups for that niche don’t end up making up the bulk of your client list.

To develop your niche, you have a couple of options. You could sign up for additional training, such as a Level 3 Award in Supporting Pre and Post Natal Clients with Exercise and Nutrition. There are many options to choose from, with everything from KettleBell Instruction courses to Spin.

The alternative option is to think again about the types of clients you can help the most. Consider your own health and fitness journey and the kind of help you would have needed. So if you’ve had to fight to stay healthy due to pre-existing health conditions, seeking out clients with the same conditions can be extremely useful to both parties. 

From personal trainers who are mothers that help other new mothers regain their health levels after giving birth to people who have struggled with their weight and now help others to do the same, tailor your niche to the people you can help to excel. So that could mean you focus on:

  • Older clients
  • Teen athletes
  • People with a specific disability
  • Clients whose only goal is weight loss
  • Busy professionals who are pressed for time.

You can spend a lot of time developing your niche. Narrow down your target audience, and your chances of starting a personal training business that stands out are much more likely.

Get Your Insurance Sorted

You’re going to be running a business, and that means you’re going to need to get insured. It’s easy to overlook, especially in the early stages of starting a personal training business. But getting the right insurance is all about protecting yourself, and it’s simply too dangerous not to have that cover.

Never consider starting a personal training business without having the right insurance. It’s a bit like carrying on driving your car without auto insurance you’re simply asking for trouble. So get your liability insurance all set up before you start signing up clients and heading with them to the gym.

Get CIMSPA Registered

The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) was launched in 2011 and is now the professional development body for the sport and physical activity sector in the UK. The organisation provides support and leadership for health and sports professionals. So when you’re starting a personal training business, it’s always best to register with them.

In fact, you may struggle to find a gym that will let you teach in their facilities if you’re not CIMSPA registered, and you might not even be able to get the right insurance cover either. You can get CIMSPA registered online, and the annual fee is only around £30 per year.

Personal Training Courses

Open a Bank Account

A business bank account is going to be essential when you’re starting a personal training business. You’re going to want to keep your business and personal finances separate because money management is going to be very challenging otherwise! 

Opening a business bank account isn’t something that’s legally required, so you can continue to use your personal bank account as your only choice. However, when it comes to paying taxes and working out your budget for the next few months, having those finances in a dedicated account will make everything considerably easier.

Learning About Your Taxes

Anybody wanting to start a new business, including those that are starting a personal training business, will need to think about paying taxes. Fail to get your taxes right, and you could end up in a lot of trouble with HMRC, which is never going to help the future of your business.

If you register as self-employed, you’re going to need to submit a self-assessment tax return to HMRC every year. You’ll need to make payments annually, but you can pay by direct debit every month if you prefer. 

Aside from your National Insurance contributions, you’re also going to have to meet other tax liabilities. So keep around 25% of your monthly earnings separate from your main bank account. You will have a personal allowance that you won’t get taxed on, but if your earnings are higher than expected, then your taxes will be too. 

A smart move here is to use some form of accounting software. This will make managing your cash flow easier while ensuring that you always have the funds to pay any taxes you owe.

Register Your Business

If you’re learning how to start a personal training business, the chances are that you’ve come across the idea of having to register that business with HMRC. You will have to contact them to register your business. You can do this by phone (0300 200 3504) or online. You will need to do this within three months from the end of the first month that you’re open, or you may get a penalty.

Where to Work?

Where you base your personal training business will have a big effect on your client options. You’re going to need somewhere to train those clients. This is one of the most significant decisions you’ll have to make when you’re starting a personal training business, so spend some time thinking about it before you make a final decision.

You could aim to get hired by a gym, but if you’re researching how to start a personal training business, this probably won’t appeal. Your options are to either set yourself up as an independent trainer or work freelance for a gym or fitness club. 

An independent trainer is going to have to have their own dedicated training space, complete with all of their equipment. While this is a great option for potential earnings and gives you maximum control over your business, it will mean spending money. The cost of setting up your own gym can be prohibitive, even on a small scale.

Most people start their personal training business by first working freelance for their local gym or fitness club. This is the preferred option for recently qualified personal trainers. You’ll still be running your own business, but you’ll have avoided the start-up costs of being more independent. 

Most of the large chain gyms in the UK offer this option. However, check the terms and conditions before agreeing to use a gym. They tend to charge you rent or require you to run inductions or classes. That can take you away from paying clients, but when you do get those clients, you’ll take home 100% of the income. 

man weight training arms

Marketing Your Personal Trainer Business

This is a big area to cover, and there are plenty of marketing strategies that can help you grow your personal training business. Without strategic marketing, you’ll struggle to find new clients, so it’s worth spending some time over.

An online presence is vital, so having a website is a requirement. You should take the time to learn some basics of SEO while also learning a little about:

  • Content marketing (you need to have a blog on your website)
  • How to use social media as a personal trainer
  • Getting professional help from marketing firms if your budget allows. 

With such a massive subject, it’s likely you won’t learn everything about marketing while you’re also running your business. However, knowing some basics can take you a long way and could be the key to outperforming your competitors.

Take Time Off

One mistake that many entrepreneurs make is never switching off. If you’re passionate about health and fitness, then you’re probably passionate about your personal training business too. But that shouldn’t prevent you from taking time off. You might be excited as you start getting everything in place before starting a personal training business, but burnout is a real issue.

Of course, when you’re working for yourself, any time off that you take means that you won’t be earning money. That’s why budgeting and preparing your cash flow is so important. Overworking will leave you too exhausted to help your clients as effectively, so taking breaks and holidays is more important than you might think.

Don’t forget that if you do take a break, let your clients know as early as possible. Have plans set up for them to follow while you’re away.

Get Paid

The final stage of starting a personal training business is to ensure you have established your payment methods. You need to be very clear about how your clients can pay you, and the more payment options you offer, the better. You could take cash payments, PayPal, bank transfers, direct debits and cryptocurrency. 

Ask your target audience which payment options they prefer, and get those set up as a priority. The more you know about the ways your clients can pay and the ways that they prefer to pay, the more painless you’ll find it is to get paid.

woman weight training upper body

How to Start a Personal Training Business Today

Starting a personal training business takes time and patience. Even though personal trainers are once again in high demand, there’s also a lot of competition out there. So if you want your business to be a success, it’s going to involve a lot more than knowing how to use a bench press or a chest fly machine. 

You’ve got the health and fitness knowledge. Now it’s time to start learning as much as you can about the business side of things. From marketing to taxes, it can be a lot of learning. But the more you learn, the more likely it is that you can grow your business and your profits.

At The Fitness Group, we provide our students with business skills tuition and free access to our Business Skills Workshops. We work with all our students to ensure that they know not only how to start a personal training business but how to make that business a success. If you’re ready to get started on this exciting new stage of your career, or you have any questions, contact The Fitness Group team today.

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