How to start a personal training business: keys to success

Your step by step guide to starting a successful personal training business. Learn how to earn clients, how to write a business plan, and why software will help.

There's no better time than now to go all-in on starting your personal training business. Whether you're just starting out or have wanted to become a fitness instructor for some time, fitness clients are more motivated than ever to find the business and trainer that can get them their desired results. If you want to be the person that eager clients choose, you first need to learn how to launch a successful PT business and the necessary steps to get started.

In this step by step guide, we have laid out everything you need to know about building your business and how to set yourself apart from the rest. Don't wait any longer to start pursuing your dream of helping people achieve their fitness goals. Let's get started.

hunt fitness personal trainers

Photo Credit: Hunt Fitness

Step 1: Get your personal training certification

To become a personal trainer you must first pass the certified personal trainer exam and obtain your official certification. During the certification process, you will need to obtain several accreditations including First Aid, CPR and AED certifications and enrol in a personal training course with one of the certified agencies recognised by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) for the US and the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPs) if you live in Europe. Some of the most popular include FiTOUR, ASFA, NFPT, NASM, ACSM, and CIMSPA.

Once you have selected a certification program, you will participate in their required courses and prepare for the certified personal trainer exam which will be administered by the individual program. Each program has its own requirements and fees, so be sure to do your homework to select the right program for you. When you have passed your exam you will receive an official certification letter and card and be qualified to apply for any fitness professional position or start your own fitness business.

Step 2: Launch your business and create your business plan

With your training certification in hand, you now have several paths to explore as a newly qualified personal trainer. The two most common options are going to work as a trainer or instructor in an already established facility and business, or launching your own PT business as a contractor or LLC. For the purpose of this article, we will explore launching your own business. There are several things you need to consider when launching your own business including:

  • Will you operate your business out of a facility?
  • Who are your services fit for?
  • Where do you want to be located?
  • Will you offer your PT services online?

Once you have decided on some of these key aspects you can begin putting together a business plan which will include your goals and revenue projections. Remember, establishing these key goals, in the beginning, is important in figuring out how to get started, but they don't have to be set in stone. During the process of planning and mapping out your business, you might decide to make changes and adjustments, and that's ok. But once you have clients and have officially launched, commit to your plan of action and the promises you make to your clients. Those early clients will appreciate your consistency and you can start building with retention secured if you learn early on how to keep your clients happy from the start.

Step 3: Consider running your business online

Over the past year, online personal training has opened the door to a vast variety of clients and new markets that personal trainers hadn't previously had access to and vice versa. If you are launching a brand new business and finding clients is at the top of your priorities, considering running your business online or a part of your business online is a great way to optimise the number of clients you can gain. Offering your sessions and classes online, whether privately or in a group can help you reach motivated clients who do not live locally or clients who need a more flexible schedule. Starting out with a few online opportunities and services to supplement your in-person classes and appointments will open the door to more possibilities and allow you to explore working with more clients who otherwise wouldn't be able to take advantage of you and your services.

Step 4: Select a speciality and identify your ideal client base

Next up is determining what your speciality will be and who your ideal client base is. Every fitness client is motivated differently, and ensuring you're training clients who will benefit from your sessions is an important step. Whether you want to help clients to lose weight, train for a specific event or race, improve their health, get stronger, boost immunity, be a member of a team or community, and so on. Selecting a speciality will allow you to narrow your search and help you identify the people that will benefit most from your services as a personal trainer and become a loyal client.

If your goal as a personal trainer is to help people lose weight, you can market yourself as a weight loss coach and tailor your programs and services for clients who are looking for ways to lose weight and improve their health. If you want to train clients to participate in athletic events and competitions, you can tailor and brand yourself as a professional personal trainer for elite athletes and show them how you will help them achieve their goals. Once you specify and identify the type of personal training you want to offer, you can begin looking for clients who seek your services.

Step 5: Target marketing to your ideal clients

Now that you know what you want to offer and to who it's time to find and market to those people. Understanding who your ideal client and target market is and who would benefit most from your business plays a significant role in gaining and retaining clients. You would never want to spend your valuable time trying to convince people who would never need your services to be your clients which is why knowing your audience, demographic, what they like, where they spend their time, what are their interests are can help you earn their business. If you are not only able to help them with their fitness goals, but attract them based on shared interests and commonalities you will gain their trust more than if you were only trying to sell them your services.

Using effective marketing strategies such as social media to target these groups and markets can help you reach more people at once and allow them to investigate your services. Checking out your local area, asking friends and peers to recommend your services, and identifying effective methods for attracting and communicating with potential new clients are great ways to start winning clients over.

Step 6: Create your brand and reputation

Creating your brand is also a very key piece of business planning and of attracting the right clients. Your ideal client is going to get to your social media pages or websites and know right away whether or not they want to investigate what you have to offer. Get your messaging and branding wrong and risk losing clients. Get it right and not only gain valuable clients, but people who will believe in not just what your business has to offer, but what you have to offer them. Not to mention that clients typically extend that value by sharing how much they value your services with their peers.

In every stage of running a business, but especially in the beginning, building a strong brand reputation can have a major impact on the success of your business early on. Once you feel comfortable and your clients start seeing the results they wanted to achieve you can ask them to leave you a review or refer their friends and family to your business too. We'll touch more on how software can help you in this in the next few steps.

Step 7: Invest in the right personal training management software

Next up, investing in the right personal training management software. Professionalism and ease of being your client are valuable parts of the customer experience that can contribute to your brand reputation and legitimacy. Providing your clients with a place to purchase memberships, register for classes or sessions, and manage those registrations and memberships will make all the difference for your client's investment in you.

The right PT software will not only make it easy for you to seamlessly run your business but also for your clients to be your clients. It's an added bonus when your software allows you to offer a hybrid version of your business as well by integrating with platforms including Zoom for online classes and Vimeo and Youtube for on-demand content...(PSST. TeamUp does!) You and your clients will appreciate not having to exchange cash in hand and that from the moment you launched your PT business, how smoothly all of your business processes flow together under one platform.

Step 8: Decide where to conduct your business and if equipment is necessary

In the process of building your business plan, you decided if you were going to train your clients out of an already established gym or facility, if you were going to train your clients in public areas like a park or beach, or if you were going to open your own facility. Remember that no matter what you choose if you require your customers to have certain equipment for their workouts you either need to be able to provide it or instruct your clients on what they need if you do not provide it.

Also, take into consideration that if you are running your business out of a gym that requires memberships your customers will need memberships for that business as well as yours. To get started, do your homework and weigh your options for what makes the most sense for both your and your clients' budgets. Many very successful establishments start out with outdoor programs in public areas and go on to open facilities or choose to continue outdoors. It is your business and completely up to you, so once you find the best option, build that into your business and run with it. If you decide to start outdoors, you can check out our guide to running outdoor classes that includes information regarding the steps you need to take including permits and chatting with local park councils and departments.

Step 9: Investigate fitness liability insurance

Something you do not want to overlook in the beginning is the need for fitness professional liability insurance. As a business owner, when your clients are training with you they are under your care and responsibility, and liability insurance can protect you in the case a client injures themself while training. Operating your business uninsured can lead to accidents that you are not covered for and thus could put your business in danger. To protect both you and your client, and ensure you are covered investigate fitness insurance options and have one less thing to worry about.

Bonus step: Establish a customer referral program

The best referrals come from your current clients. Once you start earning clients and growing your list, you should also encourage them to tell their friends who share similar interests about your services and ask them to bring friends and peers along so they can see if you are right for them and them you. Building a customer referral program that can incentivise your customers for referring new clients is a great way to motivate your current clients to assist you in successfully building your business. TeamUp's software includes an already built-in customer referral program that will provide each of your clients with a unique referral code that can be easily shared and used at sign up.

To sum it up

While there are many steps to go through when creating and launching a personal training business, the rewards that come with being a PT make the hard work worth it. Nothing happens overnight and just like your clients will need to be patient and determined to achieve their desired results, you need to as well while your business grows. Don't be discouraged if during the process things are not going as you have hoped.

Take your time, do the work to figure out what is going to work best for you, and learn from the challenges you face along the way. Going through the process and learning will only make you smarter, a better business owner, and help you create a successful business.

To learn more about running a personal training business with TeamUp, check out our dozens of resources and guides.

Do you have a success story to share with us about your experience running your PT business? We'd love to hear it. Send us your story to marketing@goteamup.com and we'll get in touch.