For health and fitness lovers, there’s no better career than personal training. It gives you a chance to share your passion for wellness and self-improvement with others, and help them achieve their personal goals. This may mean watching someone transform their body to look and feel better, or helping someone live free of pain as they start a healthier and more fulfilling life.

One-on-one, group and outdoor classes are all great places to start, but as you learn and grow there will be opportunities to expand your business into other areas. Eventually, you might consider moving into sports science, nutrition or even physiotherapy, but there are countless other places you can take your business.

As with any project, this venture will require a lot of research, planning and hard work, so we’ve put together a list of the 10 most essential steps to help you set up your personal training business.

Ask Gary Vee: Fitness Entrepreneurs & The Business of Fitness

1. Get qualified and experience the job

Before you run you must learn how to walk, which for this industry, also applies literally!

Knowing what the industry is like to work in and the expectations of personal trainers is something you need to be comfortable with before starting your own business. Start with a few clients in a gym, developing programs and tracking their progress.

In Australia, in order to become a personal trainer you will need a Certificate IV or Diploma in Fitness. Before planning your business, check the qualification requirements in your country.

2. Research, research, research

How would you feel if you put hours of time and energy into a client, and they suddenly quit with no explanation? How do you handle long hours? Do you like doing laundry?

There are so many expectations and demands on personal trainers, and they only become more abundant when you start your own operation. You should do your own research to ensure you know what you’re getting into, and make sure you consider:

  • The hours are long and irregular, with very early morning hours and late sessions
  • Weekend work is standard
  • You’ll be dealing with many types of personalities, learning styles and motivation levels
  • You’ll be up against bad habits, a lack of motivation, negative influences and frustration
  • You may have to travel regularly
  • You may be working outside, in all types of weather
  • The work can be mentally and emotionally taxing
  • You may be dealing with injuries

With all of that, however, comes career fulfillment, a fast-paced and unique working environment, and the chance to change lives for the better. Just be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly.

3. Plan and budget

Your business plan, in whatever format you choose, should include a business overview, market analysis, the problem you’re uniquely qualified to solve, a marketing plan, a budget, key metrics, your target market, and a general summary of how your business will run. Laying our budget will also help determine what you need to buy, and change your expectations and plans.

Pro Tip: Seek offers a fantastic career guide for personal trainers, which includes expected salary guidelines, key tasks and responsibilities, and qualification requirements. 

4. Join an association and get insured

Insurance is non-negotiable, and protects you from damages that can destroy your business, reputation and the safety and livelihood of your employees. Companies like Fitness Australia works to offer comprehensive insurance packages, that include professional indemnity, public liability and products liability cover, among other things. Keep your budget in mind, but be sure you’re protected before meeting with clients.

Registering a membership with a company like Physical Activity Australia will provide you with insurance, as well as access to training, the opportunity to connect with other professionals and more. A quick search online with connect you with insurance and membership opportunities in your country of residence.

Find inspiration with some pumping workout tracks.

5. Decide on a business type and theme

You may be a sole trader, part of a partnership, a company or something else entirely, but you’ll need funding no matter how you’re setting up your business. Options include having investors, obtaining a business loan or applying for a government grant.

Your business plan should guide you, as should the type of business you’re planning to run.

6. Choose your niche and identify your market

For those reasons and many more, it’s important to choose a niche. Are you a classic gym with free weights aimed at bodybuilders? Are you planning on having a focus on group classes? Is functional training more your speed? Will you be taking one-on-one clients through basic Pilates at your local park? Choose your niche, become an expert, and be clear on your messaging so prospective customers know what to expect.

Once you know what kind of gym you’re running, it’s time to identify your market. You should already have any idea from your business plan, but you can start to drill down and consider what the needs of your chosen group are. Busy professionals looking to lose weight will have different needs to seniors ready for the flexibility yoga brings.

Pro Tip: offer special discounts and free trials to new members to incentivise them to try your service.

7. Choose your location

If you’re setting up a mobile business and have your transport organised, you’re ready to find the right location. Many trainers choose local parks as their outdoor work space, but be aware that most require a permit and/or ongoing fee.

Another option is to set up a business in another gym, which often requires paying rent to the main gym owner. Although this means you need to make payments on an ongoing basis, you will be able to recruit clients on your own and through new gym sign-ups, and keep all of the income you receive.

If you’re setting up your own space, finding a property is your next step. Work with a real estate agent to find suitable places that fit your budget, class type and space requirements. Also consider:

  • Fit out requirements and costs
  • Foot traffic
  • Signage and advertising options
  • Council approvals
  • Opening and closing time restrictions
  • Location demographic, including age and average income

8. Purchase equipment

The equipment you need should be dictated by your niche and business type. Our ideas:

For an indoor gym:

  • Resistance bands
  • Foam rollers
  • Medicine balls of varying sizes
  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Benches
  • Boxing equipment: boxing gloves, shields, pads and ceiling balls
  • Weight bags
  • Pull-up bar

For an outdoor gym:

  • Exercise mats
  • Skipping ropes
  • Tyres
  • Battle ropes
  • Boxing gloves and shields 
  • Sandbags

General items:

Pro Tip: approach local businesses and invite them to partner with you through special offers for their customers. You can drive traffic to each other’s businesses and get some free publicity in the process.

Tips on designing a personal training program

9. Set up your website and pricing structure

Setting up a website is really easy, especially if you take advantage of the templates and themes available online. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on your website, just ensure you have the clear and well-written information so potential clients have every reason to sign up.

By now you’ve already determined your budget (and therefore, how much each client will need to pay to make the business viable). Options for pricing to consider:

  • Casual sessions, or pay as you go
  • Single sessions
  • Weekly memberships
  • Monthly memberships
  • Yearly memberships
  • Bulk sessions
  • Group class rates
  • Specialised personal training programs

You can map out all of these options in your scheduling app, which will enable clients to book in with just a few clicks. Use the Cogsworth Recurring appointments addon to take the difficulty out of regular personal training sessions.

10. Adverise and get started

You don’t need a lot of money to start advertising, especially if you know how to use social media. Start social pages, offer launch discounts, initiate partnerships and always be ready to network. Getting the word out is the most important thing, and once you have people in the door, a referral system will encourage them to spread the word to their own networks.

The only thing left now, is to start!