Personal Trainer Business Course Introduction

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The Business of Personal Training

Why Personal Training?

Personal fitness training isn’t a new field. It’s becoming less and less thought of as a luxury service. There are many niches and populations of people you can serve in your area. And with the aging population of baby boomers, you stand to have a readily available market for your services.

First of all, it will probably have to be something that you’re interested in and passionate about. If not, it probably won’t work no matter what business it is. Realize that you’ll have even more work to do in addition to regular technical training of clients. You’ll need to be proficient with sales, marketing, prospecting, networking, and maybe even hiring and firing of staff and employees. There is a lot more to running a personal training business than just the training. That’s the reality of it. I have more of an interest in running a quality and efficient business. I just so happen to have built up good technical training skills too. For most people, it is the reverse. But, that’s not to say that if you lack experience in those other things you can’t get into the field. There aren’t too many reference books on the subject like this. Many of us get into business and fly by the seat of our pants and learn as we go. Sometimes they are some hard lessons, but the point was that we took action and did it and persevered through the mistakes.

Luckily, the field of personal training is still relatively easy to get into. There are low barriers to entry, low or no costs, and virtually no regulation depending on the state in which you live. If you have an interest in it, it can be a great way to make extra money or have a nice paying career if you’re able to fill your schedule with high paying clients. It’s a fairly high ticket item still usually ranging anywhere from $60-$150 per hour. We have charged at several price points within that range and done quite well. You can too. There are elements of art and science to it. The science is relatively easy and doesn’t take long to learn how to prescribe programs for certain kinds of clients. The art part comes with more experience and likely can’t be taught. Most of it centers around your ability to think critically and adapt to situations presented by clients. Your ability to foster and cultivate positive relationships with clients will also feed into the art side of this field.

Typically, if you have a day job or if you’re still in school as a college student, a part time job as a trainer can serve you well while you build a clientele. You’ll make a high amount of money per time and clients usually tend to be able to make appointments before and after work saving the middle of your day for your other job or classes. In fact, that’s how I worked my way through college. Other benefits include not needing to have a brick and mortar facility. You can travel to client’s homes or work places. You can rent or contract with larger facilities saving you thousands in startup costs. It is far more about the knowledge you can acquire and the service you can deliver rather than the tangible assets you bring to the table.

Now, it isn’t always rosy. There are some drawbacks. The hours can be long and start in the early morning and go late into the evening. The good thing is, you can make your own hours if you’re self-employed as long as you’re still able to serve clients at those times. Knowing all of that, if you still have interest and think it’s something you’d like to pursue, let’s get started and explore what you need to succeed.

Choose a Model

Let’s break this down into three different models you can choose from in personal training. We will look at them from the perspective of lowest cost and easiest to set up to more complex. In each case, it will still be your own business and you’ll be self-employed, but the environment will be different.

In Home or Mobile Personal Trainer.

In this model, you’ll have little start up costs and capital expense. However, your efficiency can be compromised as you’ll be eating up time driving and running up expenses in gas. You won’t need a lot of equipment, you’ll focus your programming around body weight training and devices you can carry with you and manual exercise. This can be a viable option to start in and some trainers never leave this stage. Others use this as a spring board to take them to the other models. This type of model can allow you to charge a premium due to travel time and personal attention in the privacy of the client’s home.

A Personal Trainer who Operates in Someone Else’s Facility.

The option for this model is an autonomous personal trainer operating the same way as in the first scenario, but you primarily operate out of someone else’s facility. This may be a commercial or corporate facility you contract with. In this model like the first, you will also have low up front costs as you won’t have to buy or rent a larger facility and won’t have capital expense in filling it up with equipment. However, you should be prepared to pay as much as 40% of each session’s revenue in rent or shared revenue with the facility owner. You can still charge a premium or you may choose a lower price point to appeal to a wider audience. You may be able to afford to do this as you’ll now be able to see clients back to back without wasted driving time in between. They will be able to come to you. You’ll want to make sure the place in which you choose to rent or operate is a good location for your target market. But, again, remember, up to 40% of your revenue can go to the facility owner in exchange for you being allowed to operate there. You need to balance that and factor it into your calculations when establishing your pricing structure.

A Studio or Club Owner.

This is usually the ultimate for most aspiring trainers. The in home trainers usually get tired of having limited access to equipment and the trainers who rent other spaces get tired of not having their own space to make the rules. This model will have significantly more up front costs associated with it in the form of rent and capital expense in equipment. It may take more time with the prospect of adhering to zoning laws and regulations and acquiring signage and other administrative things required for you to actually open and operate. Once all of that is satisfied, you’re the boss and make the rules. You can run it as you wish. Location will be extremely important in this model. Most clients don’t like to travel beyond a 15 minute radius of where they live or work. This type of model will firmly root you down in place. If you are unsure of your near future plans, it will be harder to move. You will have a finite capacity so your estimates on space needed and revenue it can produce will be critical. You will want to plan for future expansion should you need it. This can be a very good self-contained model and once mastered, replicated over and over again. Ideally, it could be documented and licensed or franchised for other business owners to purchase. See the office space lease checklist tool in later topics.

It is very important while considering these options that you try to establish as clear of a vision as possible. We will get to your vision for your business, but you also want to consider how your business will feed or support your personal vision. I have personally been guilty of conflicting personal and business visions. You often don’t realize it until there is a conflict. If you can, try to envision the whole picture ahead of time.

For example, if you are unsure if you will move away in three years or not, setting up a brick and mortar facility with a five year lease is not a good match. Don’t look at your business and personal lives as so different. One exists to support the other even though they may overlap dramatically in some areas. If you end up with a major conflict in the two, it can result in a high degree of stress and unhappiness. But, not to fear, as you reconsider your vision and mission periodically, you have time and room to make some changes. More than likely, it will change significantly in the first five years. That’s perfectly ok. You learn and stay agile as you go.


Objectives: To begin to learn the standard and proven business practices that make up successful ventures in our economy and in our industry.  This is an incredibly important piece to our operation of fitness business ventures usually not taught with your technical education from schools or certifications.

Assessing if the Fitness Business/Entrepreneurship is Right for You.  Market Research.

Know why most small businesses fail in America.

Assess your mindset, skills, and risk tolerance to see if the model you choose is right for you.

Briefly lay out a 5 year vision for your life.  Not professional, but personal. To determine if your business will be able to support and fit your life.

Complete know your why exercise. 

What makes you come alive regarding fitness?

What are your inborn strengths?

Natural talent + Skill + Personal Passion = Productive, Personal, and Professional Fulfillment.

Where do you add the most value?

How do or will you measure your life? By what standards do you define success and happiness?

Market research:

Briefly assess competition in your market.

Roughly get an idea of what market price for your service is currently going for.

Feasibility study.

Informally survey your network of family, friends, and any people who might resemble potential customers.

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