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How To Build Your Own Personal Training Business

Building a Personal Training Business the Right Way

If you’re like most fitness pros who have yet to go out on your own, you’ve wondered how to start building a personal training business.

Even if you’re a great employee it’s a normal thing. You think about the upside of being a business owner: the potential income, the prospect of more freedom and the lure of controlling your own destiny.

Building A Personal Training Business

But when you’re thinking about building a personal training business, don’t overlook that you need:

  • Strong self-motivation
  • Focus
  • A willingness to work hard
  • Self-reliance
  • A support system
  • A commitment to getting everything done that needs to get done (not just the things you enjoy doing)
building a personal training business

Building a personal training business takes determination, perseverance and self-discipline. Beware if you are starting for negative reasons, such as dislikinge your boss at the facility that you currently work at or not wanting to have to answer to someone every day. Owning your own personal training business is a big step. Take time to consider and plan.

Being a business owner is not just working when you want to work and taking vacations when you want. When Nick and I went out on our own I took a $40,000 pay cut the first year. There is a lot of administrative work and responsibility to address when you own your own business. And in case you didn’t realize it, the client now becomes your boss, and they pay your wages.

Being a fitness business owner requires a different mindset than being an employee. Just look at the following statistics.

Building A Personal Training Business

Of all the thousands of people who start service businesses in the U.S….

  • By the end of the first year, 40% will have failed.
  • Within 3 years, 56% will have failed.
  • Within 5 years, 76% will have failed.


Of those who go past 5 years, there’s no guarantee they will survive the next 5 years. So what are the common problems that you need to consider as you outline how to build your own personal training business?

  • Owners work too hard and for too many hours.
  • Personal objectives of the owners such as spending time with their family end up low on the list of priorities.
  • The owners spend too much time doing the day-to-day technical work rather than planning and managing the business.
  • The owners don’t understand the "behind the scenes" work associated with running the business.
  • The owners don’t understand that in order for a business to have a good resale value it must work without them.
  • Many owners get frustrated and simply give up and go back to being an employee.
  • The rewards don’t match the effort.


They often face common problems in managing their business:

  • No consistency in delivery of their services if they have more than one person delivering them.
  • Can’t depend on their employees to get it right.
  • They focus on hiring experienced trainers rather than having systems, which creates problems when the people leave and can lead to a lack of continuity in service.
  • Systems that are in place are not documented but instead are in the head of the person who leaves.
  • The owner ends up doing everything.
  • Employees are not as diligent as the owners.
  • The owner spends too much time being reactive rather than proactive
  • The owner always has to supervise and guide employees but doesn’t know how.
  • They have no idea what a successful business should look like with respect to financial performance or non-financial areas such as human recourses, production, marketing, etc. They therefore don’t know where there are areas for improvement.
  • No system for projecting income and expenditure.
  • No system for measuring key financial indicators against their business plan (if they have a plan).
Building A Personal Training Business

With regards to marketing, these are common problems for small business owners:

  • They do things haphazardly rather than in a systematized way.
  • They don’t know what works.
  • They don’t fully understand why their clients buy.
  • They don’t know who their most profitable clients are.
  • They don’t measure their marketing results against costs.
  • They lose sight of marketing to their existing clients.
  • They only market when they need new clients.
  • They forget the fundamental truth that it is irrelevant how good you are at providing a service without clients.


So, why am I telling you all this?

Simple: I don’t want you to go blindy into being a business owner.

If you don’t recognize these things now, they’ll smack you in the face later.

Once you’re aware of those things andon your way to building a business that addresses them, you can start building your own business by reverse engineering the type of fitness business you want to own, rather than building one that owns you.

And that starts with systems.

Building A Personal Training Business: Systems

See, when most people talk about building a personal training business, they think about first training clients (what they hopefully are already good at) and getting clients (something they’ll need to get good at).

But when you’re building a business, I’m guessing that your goal is to have something that:

  • Runs at peak efficiency without you.
  • Delivers great service consistently time and time again to your clients.
  • Is consistent across the board at doing things the right way – every time.


With that in mind let’s take a look at a business that is the epitome of systems (and the arch rival of the fitness industry in many people’s eyes) McDonalds. Even if you don’t like what McDonald’s sells, there is no denying it is a hugely successful business. Besides, as an industry, we need to know what we’re up against.


At McDonald’s…

  • The owners don’t work in the business flipping burgers.
  • You know you’re going to get the same consistent burger, with the same customer experience every time, which is why people go there. They give the customer exactly what they are expecting every single time, and there is no disappointment, and so the customers return.
  • The burgers are what McDonald’s has found customers will buy. They’ve found their best formula and they use it consistently, only changing it when they find an even better formula. And that is true for every part of the McDonalds experience from the food, to the greeting, to the cleanliness, to the kids meals, etc.
  • Everything works and is done the same way until they find a better way to do it. It doesn’t matter who does a task; they always follow a system so that it’s done the same way every time and the customer gets the same experience every time they return.
  • They have systems in place that don’t require people with extensive foodservice backgrounds to deliver the same product as people who’ve worked in foodservice for years.
  • When one-person leaves and another joins, the system is still executed exactly the same way.
  • Although McDonald’s provides a seemingly low quality product, it is an extremely high quality business which customers value and have great loyalty to.

McDonald’s attracts the entrepreneurs with the vision to move the business forward, the managers who manage the franchise locations and the technicians who work in the stores and they all work together seamlessly.

Of course, it’s because they have an organizational strategy and a system for everything they do. It is the ultimate systematized business that runs just like clockwork.

Just because your personal training business or future training business isn’t McDonalds doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. It is what is known as a franchise format. This is the type of approach that works throughout the world across all industries and it’s no surprise that franchises are far more likely to succeed than any other start up business.

When a McDonalds franchise is taken, the franchisee gets far more than a brand name. They get a system that works, and they don’t get the keys to the door until they’ve learned the entire process.

Whether you want to leverage a proven franchise system like Fitness Revolution or not, you need to learn from that type of approach to make everything in your business function at the highest level. If you could do that you’d have the type of business that I’m guessing you want.

The key is to work ON, not IN, your business. If you are a one-person company and don’t want to grow, this perhaps isn’t true to the same extent. Even in this case, you should still place a premium on consistency with your clients and services and efficiency with your time and resources. Still, a one-person operation is more of a job than a business. It might be a well-paid one, with clients as your boss, but it is still a job because it relies on YOU, not SYSTEMS.

This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the one-man operation. The world is reliant on many one-person operations; it’s just that some of these principles apply less to them.

Building A Personal Training Business

For every other fitness business owner who wants to improve, you’ll only do so if you get to work ON your business as well as (or possibly even more than) working in it. An analogy that can help with the understanding of working on, rather than in your business, is a game of Monopoly. If you are a piece in the game, you are simply a token and you don’t make the decisions, you just react. However, by being a player in the game and being able to see the whole board, you can start to put strategies in place that will have far greater influence. You are now working on the game rather than being in it. It’s exactly the same for your business. You can have far more impact by working on it.

To build the type of business that you want you need to be systems dependent rather than people dependent. That’s not to say the people you hire aren’t critical because they are, but you want them to operate the business to match your vision, not to suit their mood or the mood of your clients. In this way, the systems run the business, and the trainers run the systems.

You can’t do without trainers, but the more you systematize, the less dependent you become on the trainers.

A system needs:

Creation: The starting point is the development of a system that will allow you to do what needs doing, provide what the client wants and do it in the best possible way. So you need to create a system.

Measurement: Once you’ve created a system you can only know if it is the best system by measuring the results of the system, so you must measure how the system performs.

Consistent Implementation: The system must be implemented so that it is done the same way every time.

For example, when you take phone inquiries, you would create a system for answering the phone and dealing with the inquiries. You would then measure how successful this was in comparison to other ways of answering the phone.

Once you have measured and found the best way, you then consistently implement this system until you find a system that is better. You only know if the new system is better by measuring it.

You’ll need systems for a whole lot more. Here are just a few:

  • Generating leads
  • Converting leads
  • Designing programs
  • Implementing programs
  • Managing training sessions
  • Performing assessments
  • Managing payment collection
  • Measuring trainer performance
  • Hiring and developing staff

When one employee leaves, if the system is properly documented, it’s a lot easier for someone else to take over the system.

A system can’t be in someone’s head; otherwise, when they’re ill or leave, you have no system, and your people-dependent business could stall – or worse, fail.

In designing a system, it helps to specify the result you want and draw the system in a flow chart or completion plan to document it. The completion plan or flow chart helps to ensure you don’t miss any stages.

The full logical process to design a system is as follows:

  • Identify the needed system
  • Specify the outcome
  • Allocate responsibility for the system
  • Set a deadline to implement it
  • Identify the time/resources needed to implement it
  • Document the system

Really, everything in your business is a system, although they’re usually not documented…yet. 🙂

Building A Personal Training Business

Personal Training Business: Positioning Strategy

Plenty of new training businesses jump into their local market only to find that they’re not different enough from the competition to stand out, so they settle for competing on price.

With that in mind, I believe that your best chance for success is to build your business model based on a strategy of positioning yourself as something different in your market.

Your positioning strategy is how you plan to stand out from the competition and how you plan to use the resources available to you to build an ongoing case that your business is the obvious choice for your ideal client.

Once you’ve decided to stand out in your market, ask yourself the following questions to clarify what you’re unique position in the market will be:

  • What about training are you passionate about?
  • How does / will your business serve your clients in a way that others don’t?
  • What value do you really bring that benefits your market in ways that your competitors wouldn’t dream of proposing?
  • What does an ideal client look like?
  • What is the simple 15-word BIG IDEA or core message that explains your business and excites prospects about it?
  • How will your market become aware of your business?
  • How will your market come to trust that you are the best solution?
  • Can you describe the perfect client experience someone will have when working with you?
  • What do you need to overcome to achieve your strategy?
  • What would the ideal result of using this strategy to run your business look like?


Personal Training Business: In Conclusion

Obviously, there is much, much more that goes into building a successful personal training business than what we covered here. The goal of this post was to address the things that most new fitness business owners don’t give enough thought to: the challenges and negatives that must be considered, the systems that are needed to have a business that you own rather than that owns you, and a position in the market that will allow you to stand out. If you consider the information that was shared in this post you’ll be ahead of 95% of the fitness pros who start their own business and poised to be a successful fitness business owner.

Finally, in a post about building a personal training business, I’d be negligent if I didn’t suggest that you should consider Fitness Revolution to help you own the type of successful fitness business that you want.

Many of the top fitness pros in the world lean on Fitness Revolution as their team to help them address the things I shared in this post and all the other factors that go into building a personal training business. While I’m admittedly biased, I’d suggest you do too. You can learn more about Fitness Revolution here:
Fitness Business Plan and Forms

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