How to set up a Personal Training business from scratch

So you want to start a Personal Training business from scratch.

Well before I take you through the ten steps showing you how to start a Personal Training business, I just want to give you a quick insight into the industry so you understand exactly what you are letting yourself in for.

This year, more people are training to become Personal Trainers than almost any other industry, which means that personal training is one of our fastest growing industries in the UK – it also means that there is an awful lot of competition. This competition might go some way to explaining why 80% of Personal Trainers drop out of the industry within their first two years and why most struggle to earn more than £15k a year.

Having said that, it isn’t all doom and gloom for Personal Trainers! If you’re passionate about what you do, prepared to work hard and are able to deliver results for your clients – then Personal Training is a fantastic industry to be part of. It’s one of the few industries where you can make a comfortable living from doing a job you love. Let’s face it; there aren’t many jobs where you get to transform people’s lives.

The vast majority of Personal Trainers in the UK work on a self-employed basis. It doesn’t matter whether they work in one of the big box gyms, deliver classes, work freelance as a mobile trainer or set up their own studio – most are self-employed. So nearly all Personal Trainers have to go through the process of setting up a business from scratch.

Starting your Personal Training business is like any big project; it requires a whole range of skills including: planning, organising, finance, graphic design, writing, printing, web-building, legal, sales, presenting, marketing and product creation – basically everything that all big companies have in place – only smaller and with fewer staff!!

So unless you’ve done something similar to starting a Personal Training business before then the first, and most important, decision that you need to make is – where are you going to get the help that you need?

None of us have the knowledge, experience or the time to do everything completely on your own. Successful people get the right help at the right time and that’s where the mefit team would love to help you. If you’re thinking about starting a Personal Training business and want experts to show you exactly how to do it and support you every step of the way, then please come and find out a bit more about what we do.

So here are the 10 steps to starting a Personal Training business from scratch:

Step 1: How to start a Personal Training business - Get qualified

It may sound obvious but the first thing to do is to get qualified. There are lots of different options from huge organisations training thousands of PTs a year to small independent companies only training a handful at a time. The one thing to understand is that they all deliver the same course and offer the same qualification: a Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training. Having said that, how they deliver it can vary enormously, so you need to make sure that you choose a training provider that suits you.

Level 3 Diploma courses cost in the region of £2500 - £4000 and can take as little as 6 weeks to complete if you do it full-time. Once you complete your Level 3 Diploma, it’s possible to advance to a level 4 or attend other specialist training courses.

Before you complete your course, I strongly recommend that you find out exactly what forms of training you are and are not qualified to deliver – get it wrong, and try to deliver something that you aren’t qualified to deliver, might result in your business being over before it ever really got started.

Step 2: How to start a Personal Training business – Set up & register

Once you are a qualified Personal Trainer there are a few things that you need to get in place before you start to train anyone:

  1. Take out adequate insurance - I suggest that you have at least £5m cover (both public liability – to protect against accidents, and professional indemnity – to protect you if something goes wrong due to the advice that you have given).
  2. Register as self employed with HMRC ready to pay your income tax & National Insurance. You can either do this over the phone or via their website. 
  3. Prepare for emergencies – it is your responsibility to look after your clients and to take all reasonable precautions to keep them safe. You will therefore need an adequate first aid kit, accident forms, emergency procedures and to have carried out a risk assessment for your training location(s).
  4. Open a business bank account – although you don’t have to, I strongly suggest that you do, as it makes managing your finances far easier.
  5. Prepare to do your book-keeping – once you have registered as self-employed, you are legally required to keep accurate accounts (for at least five years!). You must issue invoices for any work that you do, keep receipts for anything that you buy (for your business), complete your self-assessment tax return and pay your income tax and National Insurance contributions. You can either set up your own simple spreadsheet or buy one of the many accountancy packages that are available – but you must have a book-keeping system in place.
  6. Understand Data Protection – most Personal Trainers collect and store routine information about their clients: names, email addresses, telephone numbers… but most also collect what is called sensitive data; including medical histories and body stats. It is really important that you have a system in place for storing this information securely.
  7. There are other practical things that you should get in place including: somewhere quiet to work on your business; a decent computer / laptop with excellent internet access; a smart phone and a diary.

Step 3: How to start a Personal Training business – Gain experience

Now this third step is optional, as occasionally some newly qualified Personal Trainers know exactly what they want from the outset. However, most new trainers are less sure and don’t know who, where and when they want to train. So our suggestion is that you try to get as much personal training experience as possible, try to get some work in a gym whilst training other clients outside or in their own homes. Take some classes, small group and 1-2-1 sessions and see what you prefer. Train as many different people as you can, young, old, men, women, with a range of training objectives – you will quickly find out the type of training that you enjoy delivering and the type of client that you like working with.

Step 4: How to start a Personal Training business – Decide what you want.

Once you have gained some training experience you are in a position to decide exactly what type of business you want to create. Do you want to be a mobile trainer doing 1-2-1 training out and about and in client’s homes, or do you want to work from within a busy box gym? You might want to set up a bootcamp or open your own studio, or a combination of all of this – it’s really up to you. But the only way that you are going to create a Personal Training business that is going to work for you in the long run is to start by having a good think about what you want.

So set your objectives, decide who you want to train, where you want to train, how much money you want to earn and create a plan, because only when you know where you want to go have you got any chance of getting there!

Step 5: How to start a Personal Training business - Identify your customer

All successful businesses know their customer, they know who they are, where they are, what they do and what they want – only by knowing all of this, can they create products that their customers want to buy. The same applies to you and your business, so you need to define your customer. Who is it and what do they want from you?

Now the secret here is to play to your strengths, by now you should know who you enjoy working with and where you deliver your best results so my advice is to stick to what you’re good at.

You’re now halfway through the list and hopefully it all seems to be making perfect sense. What I am explaining to you is our mefit PT Roadmap; our model for helping Personal Trainers start a successful Personal Training business. If you join our mefit programme – we’ll not only tell you what you need to do, we’ll also show you exactly how to do it, and a whole lot more.

Step 6: How to start a Personal Training business- Create your products

Now comes the really fun part, the reason that you got into Personal Training in the first place – the training! Now that you have clearly identified your customer and you know what they want, it’s time to create products: training programmes, nutritional advice, support materials.. and wrap them up in bundles perfectly suited to your customer.

For example if it’s a 12-week female weight-loss package, you need to plan exactly what’s included, how it progresses from week to week, what assessments are done, how you keep your clients on track between sessions and how you are going to reward success.

Once you have planned your product you need to price it up. Only then will you know how much you need to charge in order to cover your costs and make a profit. When you know exactly what’s in your product and how much you’re going to charge for it, you’re ready to trial it. During your trial, you can make any adjustments that you need to and hopefully collect some great testimonials from your guinea pigs.

Step 7: How to start a Personal Training business - Market your products

Now that you know who your customer is and what they want, and you have created a product perfectly suited to them, you’re ready to tell them about it! It’s widely accepted that most customers will need to hear about, or see a new product up to eight times before they finally decide to buy it – so don’t be shy! Get your message out there.

Brand your business, so choose colours, fonts, a tone of voice and images that will appeal to your customer. Decide on your call to action and whether you are going to offer a promotion or guarantee and then get on it. Create: flyers, posters, a website, lead boxes, networking groups, business referrals, prizes, presentations, brand your car, PPC, Facebook ads – anything and everything to get your product in front of potential customers.

If you want some more ideas then read our: 25 ways to get more personal training clients blog

As with any marketing, it’s really important to monitor what works best for your business, so always ask new clients where they heard about you. That way you will be able to focus more time, effort and resources on the particular forms of marketing that work best for you.

Step 8: How to start a Personal Training business - Sell your products

Marketing is all about telling potential customers about your products and inviting them to contact you so they can buy them. So next you need to plan how you are going to sell – do you want clients to buy direct from your website or are you going to offer a free consultation? It’s completely up to you, but you must plan what you are going to do; where you’re going to do it; exactly how you are going to present your products; and how a customer is actually going to buy from you. Finally, plan what is going to happen immediately after a new client has bought from you, what are you going to give them? (A welcome pack, thank-you letter, referral vouchers & invoice), and how are you going to book them on to their first session?

Step 9: How to start a Personal Training business - Deliver with bells on

Selling Personal Training products is one thing, but your customers are paying you for results. The future of your business depends upon your ability to consistently deliver the results that your clients want – so make sure that you do.

If you have promised a 12-week fat-loss programme, then your customers will expect to lose fat. So you must do absolutely everything that you can to deliver fat loss and just as importantly, you should be able to prove it.

As a rule, you should aim to exceed your customer’s expectations. So always start your programmes by explaining exactly what you are going to do - and then do more. This is how fantastic reputations are made; get it right, and your business will start to gather momentum and grow organically through word-of-mouth – and there is no better marketing than a recommendation from a happy client.

Step 10: How to start a Personal Training business – Monitor & review

You will never stop working on your Personal Training business, there will always be something that can be improved; a system that could be made more efficient or a new market to tap in to. So the final step in this ‘How to start a Personal Training business’ blog, is to plan how you are going to monitor the progress of your business.

You need to decide whether you are on track to achieve the goals that you set out in Step 4? We recommend that you use a wheel of success – a model that includes every aspect of your business and then regularly sit down and evaluate how effectively every part of the wheel is working and identify what needs to be improved. It’s a simple technique but our trainers have found it to be very effective.

So there you have it – the ten-step plan outlining how to start a Personal Training business from scratch. You’ll see it’s quite simple, but I can assure you, it isn’t easy – especially if you try to do it all on your own.

So the most important thing to decide before you start to set up a Personal Training business is where are you going to get the help that you need? And that’s what we at mefit do, we help Personal Trainers set up and run successful training businesses, so please come and find out a bit more…

If you’re already a Personal Trainer, or thinking about becoming one and have any questions, please get in touch and we’ll do what we can to help.


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