How to start a … personal training business


The UK fitness industry is currently worth over £4bn – and that figure is climbing fast.

Get your paperwork in order, research the competition and don’t promise miracles, say the experts

Get your paperwork in order

While (worryingly) you can legally advertise yourself as a personal trainer without any qualifications, most gyms require at least a level 3 personal training qualification. Personal trainer Giles Henry recommends registering with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) and ensuring you have the right insurance for type of training you’ll be offering.

Don’t promise miracles

Everyone responds to exercise in a different way, so make sure you treat every client as an individual and create a programme that is achievable for them. Gary Daniels, a fitness presenter and Reebok master trainer, says: “There is no point in having a single pre-planned workout that you are going to give to every client.

“You have to meet with them and discuss their goals and targets. Be honest with them and agree the goals and the deadlines by which they can be obtained – that way they are not under any false impressions.”

Research the competition

“You should do your research and understand what the fees are like in your area,” adds Henry. “Many trainers charge too little when they qualify and it can be hard to increase from that. Likewise, don’t go charging £60 a session when experienced trainers around are charging £40 to £50.”

A bit of healthy competition is no bad thing, but make sure your prices are roughly in line with the average, particularly when starting out. Your approach and compatibility with the client is what will set you apart, so consider offering cut-price or free trials to let potential clients assess whether you are the right trainer for them.

Decide on your niche and talk to as many people as possible. Avoid wasting time on people that are in shape and look like they know what they’re doing – help the people that need it most.

Avoid the ‘pay-as-you-go’ approach

Before you take on any clients, do the maths. If you’re training within a commercial gym, you’ll probably have a monthly rent to pay and you need to consider your preparation time as well as the hours you actually spend with a client. How many clients do you need each week to cover your expenses? With this in mind, consider how many sessions you need your clients to commit to upfront.

Personal trainer Tom Kynaston believes going down the “pay-as-you-go” route is one of the most common mistakes made by new trainers. “They’re a nightmare,” he says, advising new trainers to at least sell sessions in blocks. “That way you don’t have to talk about money all the time,” he explains.

Be a good role model

If you want to build a business as a personal trainer, it’s worth remembering that first impressions count: you are the best possible advertisement for your brand. If you want someone to work hard for you, follow your advice on what to eat and trust in your expertise.

Then you have to look the part. “Appearance is very important,” admits Aine Gallagher, trainer and founder of Sana Vita Health. She believes building the right brand isn’t just about being in good shape but also being “smartly dressed with a friendly approach”.

Part of this friendly approach also means letting your guard down occasionally. Kynaston says that while it’s obviously important to maintain authority by practising what you preach, it’s equally important not to alienate people. “I’ve got no immediate plans to become a fitness model and neither do the people I train,” he explains. “I’m honest with them. If I go out and sink a load of beers I’ll let them know.”

Think about how you can grow your business

If you get so busy with bookings that you can’t take on any more clients, don’t stop there – this is the point at which you can grow your brand. You could simply pass on clients to other trainers and take a referral fee or employ them under your brand.

This was the approach favoured by Ricky Berry: “I grew my client base through referrals and once I got to a point where I couldn’t manage any more clients myself, I employed other personal trainers to deliver sessions for my business.”



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