Personal trainer assisting a client with dumbbells
Personal trainer assisting a client with dumbbells
Personal trainer assisting a client with dumbbells

Starting a Personal Training Business

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The personal training sector, which represents around 13% of the wider health and fitness industry, is a growing marketplace that is fast outpacing the rest of the UK economy.

£0bn+

Estimated UK fitness industry net worth

£5bn £4bn £3bn £2bn £1bn £0

0m

Members of a gym, health club or boutique-style fitness studio

10m 8m 6m 4m 2m 0

£0m

Personal training gross revenues exceeds £650m per year

£650m £520m £390m £260m £130m 0

The UK fitness industry is now estimated to be worth more than £5bn with more than 15% of the population, that’s over 10 million people, now members of a gym, health club or boutique-style fitness studio of some description.

Personal training is big business with gross revenues exceeding £650m per year. With this in mind, there literally has never been a better time to start a personal training business.

Starting any new business can be daunting and it’s certainly no different in the fitness industry. In Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare wrote: “be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. The same is likely to be true about those starting their own fitness business. Some are born entrepreneurs and will take to it like a duck to water, whereas others, many at times, find themselves frantically paddling to stay afloat. Whichever of these groups you fall into, rest assured that, with a little guidance, a touch of determination and a whole lot of hard work, you will be able to make your fitness business a thriving success.

This article is primarily written for those looking to start their own personal training business. It is therefore written from that perspective and while much of the content may be of interest and relevance to those looking for a job in personal training, some of the information will not apply.

HFE personal training tutor using an iPad with a student

This article does not seek to provide you with a step-by-step guide to follow. This would not be possible given the diversity of the role and the almost endless number of ways in which it is possible to work as a personal trainer. Rather, this guide will provide you with a few key areas to focus on in order to ensure you get your personal training business off to a flying start.

Some of these areas are expanded on in considerably more depth in the Business Acumen for Personal Trainers section of our personal training courses. There is also much more applied guidance contained in our must-watch PT Business Mastery with Matt Roberts programme.

Do your research

Starting a business isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. It is important to take your time, do your research and absorb all of the facts before you take that leap of faith. Depending on where you are with your career, it may suit you better to gain some experience first.

If, however, you are set on starting your own PT business then some important questions you’ll need to answer include, who will be your target market, where will you work and what will be your legal status? (e.g. sole trader, limited company). These are all questions (and many more) that will need answering honestly and without any emotional bias.

Personal trainer using boxing pads and gloves with a client

Many new businesses fail to succeed because they simply don’t take the time to gather the necessary facts, understand the landscape, then clearly define their proposition (the promise you make to your clients). All business propositions are essentially a solution to a customer’s problem (e.g. they can’t lose weight, gain muscle or adhere to their programme) so it’s important that you know what the problem is before you present the solution. The following equation might sound overly simplistic but it does illustrate the success formula for any business: FOWTW + GI + GITT (find out what they want + get it – give it to them)

Lay the Foundations

You wouldn’t want to build a house on an unstable foundation so why would you want to build your business on one? Take the time to think about your values, what you represent and what you believe in. It’s important to ensure that your business shares the same values and lives up to them in everything that you do.

Once you know precisely what personal training services you will be offering, you’ll also need to decide how much will you charge for your sessions, what discounts and incentives will you offer for bulk purchases, what the limitations of your PT service are and what is your position on cancellations? It’s important to define and document these from the start so that you don’t have any miscommunication with customers. Also, as your PT business starts to flourish, you’ll probably have to sacrifice training with your clients or time with your friends and family in order to squeeze this work in.

This is also a good time to start to consider some other more practical issues like insurance and taking time off for holidays. While we do have a separate guide on insurance for personal trainers, we cannot stress enough the importance of having the right type and level of cover. Public liability (for accidental matters) and professional indemnity (for if/when you get it wrong) are both essential for any personal trainer because exercise and fitness training is laden with risks. Insurance is the only way that you can mitigate these risks and safeguard yourself, your clients and your family against these.

Insurance policy for a personal trainer

Every business owner will need a break from time-to-time and if you are self-employed, you won’t get paid for your holidays. You, therefore, need to decide early on how much time you want to take off and how much you need to be paid for your time off. You’ll then need to put money aside to fund this!

Focus on what Matters

Too many personal trainers think that they can just get away with showing up. The truth is that successful personal training is more about customer service and less about exercise science. While it’s true that you do need to have a sound understanding of anatomy, physiology, training methods and nutrition, the personal trainers who have successful businesses are those who focus on serving their client’s needs with laser-like focus.

It’s undeniable that there are elements of the personal training world that are quite vain and egotistical with many trainers competing to have the best physique, the biggest bench press or the most social media followers. Some trainers may even have celebrity clients that give them access to press and media coverage that other trainers don’t have. Matt Roberts, celebrity personal trainer and founder of Matt Roberts Personal Training says:

I’ve worked with people in amazing places, including leading politicians, international film stars, musicians, pop stars and rock stars, but the main stay of the business is always about regular people achieving results. Personal training is a results business and we’re here to ensure our clients get what they want from their hard-earned money.Matt RobertsCelebrity Personal Trainer

Matt Roberts is a renowned celebrity personal trainer and content creator for HFE

PT Business Mastery with Matt Roberts

2 minutes

Key points

  • Personal training is a results business, we’re here to ensure our clients get what they want with their hard earned money.

  • The fitness industry requires hard work and diligence and motivation.

  • As a trainer and a business owner it’s vital that you have a passionate start point and that you use that to drive yourself and drive your clients forwards to achieve great things.

It’s best not to get too carried away or distracted by ego and extrinsic factors – simply focus only on serving your clients to the best of your ability. Ensure when you are with them that they are your sole focus and that impress upon them the fact that during their time, nothing else is more important to you than them. In the words of Ray Kroc, the modern founder of McDonald’s as we know it today, “look after the customers and the business will take care of itself”.

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