Starting a Personal Trainer Business

In all cases, you will need to get CPR certified. Experience will be important for any career choice in Personal Training. A well written, professional resume reflects professional character. In all aspects of personal training, a resume is a must. Marketing skills will be useful as an independent contractor as well as an employee for a gym. The gym will expect you bring in new clients in addition to training current gym members. Some personal trainers sell products as well as provide training services. Including products in your business model will help to expand and diversify your business. Keep in mind that your reputation as a personal trainer will not only be determined by the services that you provide, but the products that you sell as well. So avoid fad type products with no intrinsic value other than profit potential. Be careful to not hard sell products. You'll discourage clients from purchasing and alienate them as clients.

A great resource of information for starting and running your business is Business Mastery by Cherie M. Sohnen-Moe. You can purchase this book at Amazon using this link. This book covers every aspect of your business from startup through various operations intended to make your business successful.

As a Personal Trainer you have a few career opportunities:

  1. Work for a gym
  2. Work Independently
  3. Conduct Fitness Seminars (see Hosting Seminars)

Work for a gym

The best way for both novices and experienced trainers to build a track record and client base is to work for a gym. For the inexperienced trainer, working with a senior instructor or trainer will allow you to learn from them. In addition, many gyms may offer a training program. Some gyms offer benefits and some do not.

A gym may give you the option of working as an employee, which should include benefits or as an independent contractor in which case you will need to provide your own benefits and may be required to pay the gym a monthly rental fee. Essentially, you are running your own business in their gym with mutual benefit.

The advantage of being an employee of the gym is that you are somewhat shielded from liability and subsequently do not need to have E&O Insurance. E&O Insurance is the Errors and Omissions insurance that protects the trainer from lawsuits. As an employee, you are covered under the gym's E&O Insurance. Since you are under the direction of a supervisor, your liability is limited.

When reporting for an interview, be sure to have in your possession for the interviewer's review, your certification, a resume, and a CPR certification. You will also need proof of your liability insurance if you will be working as an independent contractor. Defibrillator training is a plus, but they will usually train you in its use.

If you are going to be working as an independent contractor, the standard monthly rental fee is about $150 to $300. It really is an inexpensive way to have a place to run your business when compared with having your own facility and the associated expenses of maintaining a facility and employees. Ask the gym if they have a "ramp-up period". This will usually provide you with a free first month, which will give you time to bring in some clients.

If you get to the interview process, you usually already have the job. It is usually what you say or do in the interview that will lose the job. The interview will depend on the position that you are applying for. If you are being hired to conduct cardio classes, then you will most likely be asked to conduct a class of about 30 minutes duration or so. Gym managers already know that what you did in the one minute practical exam is not indicative of your skill level. They will want to see you perform a bit longer routine, which is why IFA does not require a practical exam.

If you are applying for a position as a personal trainer, then you will be required to demonstrate a workout session to your prospective employer. Keep it impersonal and objective, but demonstrate people skills. You may or may not know it all; don't demonstrate that character in the audition. It is important to be yourself and let you friendly personality permeate the routine. Everyone feels good when you are upbeat. Never demonstrate any negativity. If presenting a problem, always present a solution or wait until you have one. Managers are looking for skill, approved technique and knowledge, but most of all they want those qualities it to wear a people oriented and positive face.

Don't be nervous. There is a strict psychological pattern to panic. It starts with being unsure of one's ability, which leads to nervousness and finally panic. Once you panic, you couldn't tie your show let alone conduct a training session; so never let it get to insecurity and you will always be two steps away from incapacitation and failure.

Work Independently

If you already have trainer experience then this may be an option. You will need to be certified by an insurance approved certification authority such as IFA or any one of the many others. Accreditation alone may not be enough. The insurance company will want to know that you are certified by a recognized authority. Accreditation is merely a mutual association to accept each other CEUs. It is not the same as an accredited university. Check with your insurance company. IFA has instructors in over 90 countries around the world, but we do not participate in the CEU program. You will also need a current CPR certification. A business license is usually required, which can be obtained from your local county or city administration office. If you will be selling products, you will also need a sales tax license or a license to collect sales tax. If you plan to incorporate, consult an attorney. A business that is not incorporated but using a name other than the owner's name requires a fictitious business filing. Again, the state or county office will provide the proper paper work and instructions for publishing your fictitious name.

Working independently is different from working as an independent contractor. You are similarly running your own business, but you are doing so from your own facility or your home. You may train clients at your facility, your home (check with your homeowners insurance), or your client's home. Conducting a workout session in the privacy or your home or your client's may present liability problems through misinterpretation, misrepresentation or misadventure. Ideally, working with a partner or assistant is preferred especially when working with the opposite sex. Remember to maintain a professional demeanor at all times. Think like a doctor and keep it objective, impersonal, but people friendly. Zoning restrictions may prevent you from making this an option. Working out of your home may not provide a professional and focused environment especially if you have children in the house and people coming and going with noise from the television, phone, etc.

First, you will need to determine the target population. Do you plan to train general the population or specifically youth, women, men, or older populations? Once you have determined your target audience, you will need to spread the word, which can be done by advertising in community newspapers, magazines, hosting seminars and even radio. Keep in mind that you do not need to advertise to people in the next state, just in your immediate area. Business cards, stationary are brochures are a necessary part of working as an independent trainer. Doctors, Physician's Assistants and Nurse Practitioners may recommend personal training when physical therapy is not indicated. So it is a good idea to make yourself known to these medical professionals. You may also offer to recommend them for clients needing a pre-training physical or medical clearance.

A first meeting with a potential client should be in a place other than your home. This way if you are not comfortable with them, they don't know where you live. As an independent, you have the advantage or turning away clients who will be problematic. Take the time in this first meeting to establish a working relationship and convey to them that your primary focus is their health and safety in reaching their fitness goals without giving them the feeling that you are prioritizing your fee.

Choose a semi-private area to discuss the client's goals and history. During this initial interview you will be able to assess the client's level of motivation and their ability and willingness to follow your workout plan. This first meeting should be without cost. Here you will provide them with a basic information packet which should include the following:

You can find all the necessary client forms in our Fitness ABCs manual. If there are any medical indications that might jeopardize the client's safety or health, you should review these items with the client's medical professional. The first session should mainly be a series of tests to determine the client's fitness level. Once the forms and the fitness tests are completed you can begin to make a workout plan.

The second session should be the first complete workout. Many trainers will attempt to maximize the session in order to demonstrate their training prowess. This is not a good idea. The first workout should be enough for them to feel muscle discomfort afterwards, but not to the extent that they are in pain or incapacitated; do so and you will lose clients. The client must look forward to training sessions and not become apprehensive because of them. Keep the first session at a reduced level. It helps the client psychologically adjust and allows the trainer to observe any unforeseen physical limitations. The training session may seem simple and easy to the trainer, but may be an intense session by the client's standards. Base the intensity of the workout session by the client's reaction and not what it might look like to observers or by comparison with your own workouts. Periodic progress measurements should be made to help determine training effectiveness and motivate the client.

You will need to maintain a client database, progress reports, and a scheduler. There are a number of programs available that will provide this functionality. Take a look at our Fitness Links page and click on Software or click here.

Allow clients the flexibility to reschedule training session appointments, but a penalty should be assessed if an appointment is missed without a call at least 24 hours in advance. It is standard to assess anywhere from half to the full amount of the session. In the interest of fairness, an assessment of half or less will discourage missed appointments, but still maintain a sense of fairness in your client/trainer relationship. A full 70% to 80% will drop out of an exercise program within the first two months. So it is best to encourage them to continue as long as possible.

Contracts and Rates

You should determine whether you will want to train clients on a term contract or by session. If you have them sign a term agreement for a fixed number of sessions, you may provide a reduced cost for the option of paying in advance. However, it should be stipulated in the contract what is refunded, if anything, on cancellation of the contract. Some clients may be uncomfortable with prepay, give them the option, but provide an incentive for prepaying. Set your rate according to general market conditions, demographics and the amount of travel time to a client location. You would think that contracts will help motivate the client. However, when a client has had enough, a contract will only make things worse. In some cases, you may want to simply charge on a single session basis. Some trainers will put together packages for group training. This may work out for husband/wife clients or friends, but I would limit it to no more than two people. The rate should be adjusted so that each person is paying about 25% less than usual. You would still be making more than you would if you were training a single client. For example, if your rate is $50 an hour. You would charge 25% less for each person or $12.50 less. So, you would still be getting $37.50 x 2 or $75 total for the husband/wife team, which might be a nice marketing incentive.

Basic Workout Room

If you plan to train clients a home, you will need to maximize in a minimum of space. The other option is to open a storefront and train clients on a schedule. This is basically a gym and trainer by appointment located in either a mall or strip mall where there is high visibility. The following are the absolute essentials to begin your training business. You will need cardio equipment as well as weight training equipment. Instead of buying new, you might find a used equipment store. Gyms periodically sell older equipment for the newest and latest. Many of these machines are still very usable and in some cases better than what you can buy for the home market.

Successful Business Model

Most businesses fail within the first five years. The reasons are usually the same; they try to grow too fast or not at all. Keep these points in mind: