How to Start a New Personal Training Business: A Checklist

Why start a personal training business?

You have done your time at a big box gym, studio, or other fitness center and are ready to move off into your own personal training business. You want to set your own hours, manage your own clients, charge what you want to charge for your services, and most importantly you want to work with the people that YOU choose and feel you can best service.

Starting your own personal training business means you have the freedom and the capability to work on your terms with your best interests in mind. You could eventually bring your personal training salary to 6-figures with a little elbow grease and time.

At this point, you should have at least two years of experience in fitness instruction and at least one personal training certification under your belt.

What type of personal training and how to establish your target market?

Just like people come in all shapes and sizes, so does personal training! When starting your personal training business checklist, imagine starting at the top of the funnel with the broad scope of personal training and how to meet clients at their needs.

Then, as you have grown in experience and developed your niche, you can look further down the funnel into specializing. Specializing is where most personal trainers and fitness coaches find their own success and substantial reward for the hard work. For one, the reward comes from helping people make positive, impactful changes in their fitness and adversely their overall lifestyle. 

The second reward comes as money, money, money. As a personal trainer, your income depends on how well organized your business model is and how much time and effort you put into client retention and acquisition. 

Specializations and Target Markets

When you specialize, it helps you narrow down your target market for personal training to better attract the clients you will be most successful with. Having too broad of a target market can lead to a lack of new client acquisition or running into the issue of not finding clients that click well with your personality and training style. 

For example, someone who specializes in youth training is better off in attracting new clients because they know exactly the demographic that they best help and are not spending too much time and money on marketing to a wider audience.

What type of business structure?

When starting a business, it is important to make sure that your business is registered. The process is different in different countries and states. For example, if you are in Montana, you can form a Montana LLC. Furthermore, there are different types of legal structures that work better for some types of businesses more than others.  

For personal training businesses, the most common structure is an LLC or a sole proprietorship. 

What is an LLC?

An LLC or limited liability company is a business structure that allows for its investors/owner/member to not take full responsibility for the income and assets associated with the business. 

It’s essentially a label for a business to establish credibility and open the doors for more opportunities as a functioning business.

The only real downside of forming your businesses an LLC is lots of paperwork for tax filings and actually paying business taxes. However, LLCs can choose how they would like to be taxed. 

What is a sole proprietorship?

Sole proprietorship means you have sole custody of your business and all its assets. You can file as self employed. You will not have to worry about business taxes and licensing. 

However, your personal assets are on the line if your business fumbles. This means that you could lose your home, vehicle, and any other assets. 

You also do not receive the benefits of the business title like business tax credits, loans, people are less willing to invest in your business. 

Choose Your Personal Training Business Model

  • Hybrid – Will you offer training both online and in person to best meet the needs of your clients and earn a comfortable income?
  • Online – Do you want to only offer online personal training and establish that as your business model? This can be done using an app like FitSW to run online fitness challenges and other virtual means for on demand fitness.
  • In person – In person, one on one training is the most popular and typically generates the most income for personal trainers. 
  • Group Fitness – This is an option if you would like to coach multiple people at once. It’s had consistent growth in popularity for the last 10 years. Often, group fitness serves as a supplement to the 1 on 1 personal training business model. You will need specific certifications in group fitness before employing this model.

Successful Personal Trainer Business Plan

Before taking steps in any direction moving forward with your training business, hash out a personal trainer business plan. A personal trainer business plan should cover the following:

  • SWOT analysis of your business starting out. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Executive summary covering finances, the general idea behind the business, and business objectives.
  • Your background in training and what led you to start your own business.
  • What type of training you are going to conduct and sell and how you are going to sell it. Outline the business structure and model you have chosen.
  • The buyer personas and a full understanding and breakdown of the target market that you will sell your services to. This includes research on the community you live in and will service and the overall target market. A more broad understanding of the personal training and fitness market is also important to note in a business plan so that you can position yourself against other trainers. 
  • Understand and break down your biggest points of competitive advantage over other personal trainers and fitness coaches in your area.
  • Plan your business mission and your unique selling point that sets you apart from fellow trainers within your industry, location, and niche.

How to Start a Mobile Personal Training Business 

If you are on the go, then it can become difficult to manage taking your laptop to the park or gym or a filing cabinet chock-full with the information you need to keep on your clients. 

The solution: Use client management software because you will have access to mobile apps for managing and tracking your clients’ progress. This will reduce the time you spend fiddling with different software on your computer or physically writing information that you will have to transfer over to the computer later.

Make sure that you have reliable transportation and set meeting areas that you and your client are comfortable with

Be present in local events where you could attract new customers and increase awareness for your business.

Establish a clear reason for going mobile and a target market that would be interested in purchasing services from a mobile personal trainer. Ask the question – “Why is it important to the client that I come to them?”

How to Start a Personal Training Business Online

Rely completely on automated features that apps like FitSW offer to speed up the process of managing clients.

Why do these clients seek a virtual personal trainer instead of someone in person?

What are the limitations of virtual personal training? 

  • Cannot cater to certain special populations that would require in-person guidance.
  • Bridging the gap in connecting with the client because the relationship is entirely virtual.
  • Establishing credibility and trust is more difficult.
  • Ensuring proper form can be a challenge.
  • Your clients must purchase their own equipment.

Professional Liability Insurance

Do not take on a single client until you have your personal trainer insurance squared away. There is no need to put your business in jeopardy from the start.

Fill in the gaps of what your insurance does not cover with other legal forms and documentation

Purchase insurance at a discounted rate through the certifying body that you received your personal trainer certification through. Otherwise, get quotes from multiple different insurance companies

Previously, online personal trainer insurance did not exist, but now a few programs exist to choose from so that you can train without worrying about the worst-case scenario.

Insure your equipment and the place where you conduct your training, like a yoga studio, if you have one.

Starting a Personal Training Business From Home

Have a clean, professional space in your home that is welcoming and allows for a full range of movement for activities your client participates in. 

Investing in home gym equipment will broaden your options for workout routines. This will help you keep innovating your training so that your clients do not become bored.

You will need to establish a stronger sense of credibility so that clients will feel comfortable coming into your home to workout. Do this by posting regularly to a blog and sharing your articles with clients through email campaigning. 

Create professional marketing materials with well branded and streamlined messaging to let clients know that you are professional and well-versed in all things fitness and health.

Costs involved

The costs of starting a personal training business are comparably low to many other types of businesses. You have a few key items that you need to spend money on to initially get started. 

Personal training costs are fewer and farther between, as opposed to other types of fitness businesses. 

You might ask how to start a personal training business with no money to your name. This requires you to become resourceful with what you already have to work with. 

Do you have a phone? A computer? If yes to either, then that’s all you need. Google Suite is free to use if you create a free Google account. There you can create documents, spreadsheets, slides, and other documents you need to start your business. 

Starting your web presence is free too! Log on to social media and start creating posts to share about your business. Follow and use the top fitness hashtags and other community-related tags to get your content out to potential clients.

Not to mention employing the actual exercise aspect of your business. Bodyweight exercises can go a long way for the average personal training client. In fact, mastering bodyweight exercises is arguably more important than jumping right into weights, machines, and other equipment like home gym packages.

Equipment

At first, all you need is very basic equipment to train clients and track their vitals. You can use public spaces to your advantage like calisthenics gyms and local parks! Get creative. 

Personal training equipment, as your business grows, could be an important factor in your unique selling point. If you have the equipment and the tools that other trainers do not have, that adds value to your business.

Business Licences 

The cost of business licenses depends on what state you live in. Typically, they cost anywhere between $50 and $400 a year depending on what state you live in. When self-employed, it’s extremely important to have a business license so you do not have to pay a massive amount of money to the IRS at the end of the year, nor have the IRS come looking for you for any other reason!

Software to manage your business

Software and automation for management tasks are the two most important factors in keeping your business ahead of the competition. 

Reduce the time you spend on tedious tasks for client management, financial management, and the creation and sharing of workouts, tasks, and nutrition plans. 

When spending less time on managing these different business tasks, you can spend more time in the field with your clients. You will find yourself more organized and less stressed. 

Personal trainer software does not have to break the bank either! You can start hosting up to 15 clients in FitSW Fitness Software for as little as $19.99 per month.

What To Charge for Your Training

Develop your unique selling proposition to establish your value for whatever price you decide to charge.

As a new personal trainer, the market for trainers is heavily saturated. Despite the growth and the demand continually increasing, you undoubtedly will have ample competition anywhere you go. 

These days, you also have to compete with the numerous online platforms that people use in lieu of personal trainers. Some examples are Les Mills Classes On Demand, Peloton, Alo Moves, and so many more. 

Thus, brings us to the point of your unique selling proposition. This is an important concept to build your business model around as this is the significantly unique aspect of your business that sets you apart from the competition. 

Your USP must build value around your personal training business. It helps you to formulate your mission statement for your goals as a personal trainer or fitness coach.

As mentioned before, the amount of money you make depends on how well you manage your time and clients. A key in starting off on the right foot is pricing your sessions just right. Survey your other local trainers and coaches for what they charge for their services.

Set specific guidelines for clients and your boundaries

From the start, you want to set your own standard of professionalism for yourself and your clients. Personal training is a tricky field and holds misconceptions and assumptions about the nature of training sessions. 

  • Cancellations
  • Rescheduling
  • Inappropriate conduct by the client
  • Refunds for services

Place of business?

If you have the funds to get started with your own training space outside of your home, then more power to you!

Often trainers travel to their clients or have their clients come to them in a public space or a home gym set up. These days people are becoming online personal trainers or virtual health coaches. This mitigates the need for a place of business entirely. 

Therefore, you have plenty of options for bridging the gap between client trainer connections. 

Business Bank Account 

Separate personal assets from business accounts. You absolutely do not want to get sued and lose all your personal assets.

For one, keep your business and your personal life separate to ensure there are no muddled moral lines. 

Second, when you keep these worlds apart, especially financially, your personal assets are protected by your personal finances. In the case that you are sued or have blowback on your business, your personal assets could be at risk if you had not separated them from your business.

It looks more professional to clients and your peers when you have a business bank account. 

Digital Marketing for Personal Trainers

Your web presence does not have to cost you much, if anything at all! These days, there are plenty of places where you can host your site for free with just enough features to make your web presence look professional and unique. 

Apps like FitSW Fitness Software will actually host a page for you where you can sell your training services to the public. You can skip all the mess of learning how to build out a web page on sites like Wix or WordPress and just simply fill out all the necessary boxes with your information in your trainer profile. Then, the app will automatically put that data into a nice looking template for you to share with the world! Now, you can start raking in the leads.

Consistent email marketing as you grow will be important to converting the leads you generate from your web presence and other marketing tactics. This keeps potential personal training clients in the look about what type of training you offer, establishes your credibility through sharing relevant information, and prompts them to take one step closer to purchasing a session with you.

Content marketing for personal trainers improves credibility and provides for a more logical marketing funnel to boost your conversions.

Well thought out marketing funnels for personal trainers make the startup process much easier so you can hit the ground running with client acquisition.

Social media presence, particularly Instagram marketing, is vital to maintaining your reputation as a personal trainer in your area. Often, people look up tags in their community to find services like personal training and health and wellness coaching. 

Not to mention that in the fitness, health and wellness field, looks are often of high importance. Therefore, you can establish credibility by sharing about your fitness journey and other relatable content to get traction on your personal training business social media. 

Use on online fitness eBook as another way to establish credibility among potential clients. 

This is also an effective medium for sharing ads and other strategic marketing efforts like fitness challenges.

Branding and Other Marketing Efforts

Consistent and clear branding is vital to success, especially when it comes to personal training where the market is saturated with competition. Branding your new personal training business is THE most important aspect of your marketing and awareness-building tactics. 

Business cards work and they do not have to break the bank! Brand your business cards and come up with a catchy slogan that people can remember about you and your business. 

Brochures and flyers are great to leave in local fitness centers for people who may already be interested in hiring a personal trainer but have not made the action to do so.

Get involved in community events to share your marketing materials and establish connections with the people in your community.

Print ads print some ads in local publications or mailing lists. Do you ever get a packet of coupons in the mail for local services at a discounted rate? Well, that is the prime opportunity for getting the word about your brand new business.


Give people something to talk about with merchandise displaying your logo. The more you can get people to ask questions about your business, the better. 90% of people who have a piece of branded merchandise can recall the name of the brand.

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