Starting a Personal Training Business
There are three steps to starting a PT business. In this instance we are talking about starting a PT business within a fitness club setting - usually as an independent contractor.
At the outset I should say that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. If you want to start a personal training business remember – it is a business and you will need to work at it – but it’s a lot of fun!
Step One: Get qualified and skilled
This is usually done through a formal qualification of some sort that includes practical skills development in the training techniques you'll need as well as the business skills of lead generation (marketing), conversion (sales), and client care.
I can not stress enough that a well-rounded qualification that includes technical and business skills is necessary if an aspiring Personal Trainer wishes to avoid losing their shirt and/or having a very slow growing business while they develop the breadth of skills they'll need to succeed.
What do you need to be capable of
As a guide to the fundamental tasks you need to learn to do as a personal trainer consider the breakdown in the diagram below.
We use this diagram to help aspiring personal trainers understand the breadth of the skill set they’ll need before their business will become viable. We also use this diagram to help existing personal trainers identify their most pressing development needs.
This ‘business chassis’ to PT ‘task’ view allows us to look into a PT business (new, old, pink or blue) and diagnose very quickly what areas need attention. We explain the business chassis and it's link to business performance in this short video analysing four PT business cases. Watch this video if you want a better understanding of how the business chassis works.
Suffice to say, there is a lot to get good at. Qualifying is just the first step. Being good at something is a lot more than just having the piece of paper – it’s about building yourself up professionally to deliver great value and developing a solid set of business skills at the same time.
Most of the failures we see with people starting a personal training business come from three areas;
- Understanding of the business of personal training, why clients train, what they are looking for, how they want to be looked after and what they are trying to achieve.
- A clearly defined target market that relates to the PT’s natural personality and skills including a plan to engage with, sell to, and professionally serve that target market.
- Inability to confidently perform the basic PT tasks to the standard required by a paying customer.
I'd like all personal trainers to have these three areas under their belts before they start a personal training business – it removes a lot of the risk and gives each personal trainer the best chance to get exactly what they want from personal training.
To check you're ready to launch your business see if you can answer ‘yes’ when you ask yourself each of these questions:
- Do I understand exactly why the people I want to train would use a personal trainer?
- Do I have a very clearly defined target market (or a few) that is present in the fitness club I'm looking to work from in great enough numbers to give me a viable business and do I have a detailed plan to work from for building my relationship and business with them?
- Am I able to flawlessly and confidently deliver exactly what those people will most want just the way they want it?
If you want help answering questions 1 and 2 above you should take a look at our comprehensive business planning template. In this document we step you through identifying your target market, show you how to build a plan and quickly get you on the right track.
Once you are ‘qualified’ to start your business you then need to look for a place to hang out and drink coffees, read the paper, do your own exercise, and chat to the best looking people you can find… YES I am being sarcastic!
Step Two: Find a place to Personal Train from
This is not as simple as it sounds.
Where you set up your Personal Training business has a massive impact long-term on your happiness and financial returns.
For a checklist which will step you through some of the major considerations when looking for a club to personal train from use our 'fitness club analyzer tool' - you can download it for free.
Culture is king
Having helped a lot of personal trainers into the business the one thing I’ve learned is that long-term ‘culture is king’.
The culture of a business is simply defined as the set of behaviours that are customary within that business or group. Within the fitness club analyser tool we show you how to assess the culture of a club and several other key areas.
By far the unhappiest personal trainers I’ve ever met were running their businesses in places where the culture didn’t fit their personal expectations. Some were running successful businesses and therefore were stuck between moving on to a place they’d be happier turning up to each day versus retaining all of their clients in an already established business setting. It was rock and a hard place sort of stuff.
So, the advice here is carefully analyse where you will work from, just as you would if you were an employee with lots of options for employment and therefore you were looking for the best employer and situation. Building a business in a place where your gut tells you you won’t be happy long-term is not a good way to start.
Organisational strength and viability
The other two areas we look at within the club analyser tool will help you to understand how mature and well run the club is and what the viability for a new personal trainer is given the membership numbers, number of PTs and retention/sales within the club.
Both these factors, organistational strength and PT viability, are important. You must establish that the club is well run so that your business is sustainable longer term and so that you know your business will be ‘easy to run’ and not ‘cumbersome to push along’. Having a capable organisation to work with can greatly ease the load when you are starting and maintaining a Personal Training business.
The viability analysis will immediately give you a view of the true financial opportunity in the club. It digs down into the club’s membership numbers to produce an indication of whether there are enough potential PT clients available in the club for you to build a viable business.
By using the club analyser tool you will be able to compare several clubs against each other to help you make a decision. This gives you a balanced view of the opportunities available and allows you to set up in the best suited club for your brand of personal training.
We produced the club analyser tool as we found a significant number of personal trainers were either setting up in the wrong place, failing and then moving on to be successful in another club more suited to them, or were failing and leaving the industry all together even though they would have been excellent personal trainers.
We trust this tool will help you make a calculated choice in where to site your personal training business or, if you are already set up, will give you insight into the club you are already working with.
Step Three: Create and execute a sound business plan
First word of warning here; for a variety of reasons traditional business planning doesn't work that well for Personal Trainers.
You need to complete a business planning process that is custom designed for Personal Trainers because Personal Trainers are in a unique situation because PTs;
- promote a ‘future result’ that a client invests in
- run a business that depends almost entirely on their skill base and business savvy
- need extremely clear action plans to quickly bring their business beyond break-even point to enable them to pay for their living and business expenses .
This situation usually arises because most Personal Trainers are very under-capitalized (read - don't have a lot of money) when they start out.
We recommend this free business planning tool as a superb start to business planning for Personal Trainers. The comprehensive PT business planning template is a free download and comes with complete video instructions as well.