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How to Have a Successful Personal Training Business

Setting up your personal training business can be incredibly rewarding. Not only do you have the opportunity to train clients in a location that suits you, but you can specialise your training and see a real difference in your client's life and wellbeing. Unlike being an employed pt, a self-employed personal trainer can set their working hours and charges, meaning uncapped earning potential.

If you think this sounds like an exciting prospect, you wouldn’t be the only one. In fact, in 2018, there were 13,770 registered personal trainers in the UK alone, with personal training businesses hitting 23,143 in 2020.

While this can sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Following a few simple steps can help you set up an industry-ready fitness business, allowing you to make the most of your talents and focus on growing your client base. We partnered with elite personal trainer Heather Smith who gave some valuable insights into how, if you view yourself as a small business from the start, you can have a successful foundation for a successful career in the fitness industry.

Read these helpful tips on how to set up, market, and manage your business; as well as how to adapt your training to online platforms to extend your personal training business.

The blog will cover:

  1. Getting an Accountant
  2. Registering your Business and Getting Insurance
  3. Getting Creative with Marketing
  4. Managing Your Time Effectively
  5. How to Think Big and Diversity Your Training
  6. Importance of CPD Courses


Step 1 - Get An Accountant

This one is an often forgotten (or overlooked) step when people consider setting up a personal training business – how to manage your money:

‘You will need to have an initial meeting to explain what receipts you will need to keep. My accountant saves me more than he costs me every year. You’ll be surprised at how cheap they can be (and of course, they are a tax-deductible expense).’ Heather Smith

Keeping track of your finances becomes more vital if you have rent to pay on a studio or employees. Having a dedicated person to watch your bank account and tax returns may seem like an expense, but this will save you a considerable amount in the long run and take some of the pressure off.


Step 2 - Register Your Business and Get Insurance

Being a self-employed personal trainer isn’t as simple as finding clients and being an excellent motivator; you will need to be an accomplished businessperson. As well as having an accountant, as recommended by Heather, we have also created a 6-step checklist of things you need to tick off to make it as a self-employed pt.

One of the most important steps is making sure you’re registered. To register as a self-employed personal trainer, you will need to register with HMRC after the first 3 months of ‘trading’ to register your business. This can be done by calling 03002003504.

You will also want to register with CIMSPA to safeguard the standard of your training and guarantee you are up to date with their CPD requirements. You can do that by clicking here.

You will also need to check what level of insurance you need. This is an essential step whether you are self-employed from home, freelancing in a health club or fitness centre, or have your own space.

ou will need:

  • Public liability insurance – covers against claims of injury, damage, and client injury.
  • Professional indemnity insurance – protects against bad professional advice that results in harm

For a more detailed insurance breakdown, and to see some price comparison points, read our insurance blog here.



Step 3 - Get Creative with Marketing

There are online marketing tools that can help you set up. Most online website creators and blogging platforms offer marketing tools to help you produce the best content to attract customers. Creating social media groups and building a client base that can share your message is a great way to build up loyalty and promote your business for free, especially if you freelance in a gym where you may also teach classes.

For Heather, the power of word-of-mouth cannot be understated:

‘You need as much free publicity as you can get. The best way[s] to ‘accidentally’ advertise is to:

  • Get in your local paper or on the radio (it’s free!) Hound your local paper with ideas for articles on ‘New Year, New You’
  • Team up with a local beautician offering tips between you to tone up, lose weight, feel great, and look great.
  • Train the breakfast show DJ on your local station for free – they will talk about their sessions on-air and may even invite you to the studio to talk about it.
  • Offer to do the warm-up for the Santa Dash/local 5 Km run/Race for Life. You’ll probably get a mention or a photo in the local paper.
  • Do a charity or sporting event and let your local paper know.’

Use your creativity and build up a client base that’ll be proud to promote your service to their friends, or that you would promote yourself. Think about what sets you apart from the other trainers and use that to guide your marketing.


Step 4 - Block Sessions

When starting out, being excited about offering your health and fitness services to as many people as possible seems like the best idea. This can, however, have a damaging effect on your business in the long run, and people tend to come and go as clients depending on their level of commitment:

‘I run my classes as 6-week blocks. Clients pay upfront for their 6 weeks and if they don’t come, it’s their loss. You’ll be amazed at the commitment people suddenly have when they have already paid! If you let one person off, you'll gradually see less commitment, which means less benefit and your number one marketing tool (word of mouth) suffers. You are a business. You aren’t running classes or training people as a hobby. '

Wherever possible, if people are away on holiday, I try to let them attend another class or change their PT session to a different day or time. However, when they join you, the agreed goal should be 6 consecutive sessions in 6 weeks as a minimum.’ Heather Smith

Step 5 - Think Big

With the rise in online personal training, traditional gym hours of 6:30am and 5:30-8:30pm don't need to be the restrictive cap on your working potential that it used to be. You will still have your core hours, but the number of people you can teach can be extended from a socially distanced class to anyone with an internet connection!

Teaching online allows you to improve your outreach. You can record sessions for paying members that they can access anytime, reducing the need for live sessions. Set yourself up with a Zoom or Skype account and offer it to your clients as a great alternative to gym-based training.

You can also consider setting up your own boot camp style workouts and fitness programs, which could even be taught at your own facility or at a local fitness centre! Always keep expansion at the back of your mind when you start working as a personal trainer on your terms to know where you would like to be in 5/10 years.


Step 6 - Never Stop Learning

Being a qualified personal trainer isn't enough. CPD courses are essential in business to keep you up to date with the latest knowledge and fitness trends. The broader your understanding of the fitness industry, the more clients you will be able to help. Try and make time for at least one course a year (courses are tax-deductible!) We offer a wide range of CPD courses to help you diversify your training, which you can see here.


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To Conclude

Setting up a personal training business is a great way to maximize your client base and earning potential. Having the flexibility to work on your terms, especially with the rise of online personal training, allows you to continue your professional development and work from anywhere with an internet connection rather than just clients you see on the gym floor. Follow these steps to cover the basics of business, and free your time to focus on helping people reach their fitness goals.

Don't forget to check out the blogs listed above and our 6 point checklist about setting up as a self-employed personal trainer.