SETTING UP YOUR OWN PT BUSINESS
Starting Up a PT Business - Costs
Once you have achieved certification with an accredited fitness qualification, the good news is that the costs associated with starting a personal training business are relatively low!
- You will need to purchase liability insurance in the country that you wish to operate. Costs for this vary from approx £50 in the UK, to around €150 in mainland Europe.
- You may wish to join your national regulatory organisation such as CIMSPA (£30) and/ or REPS (£40) in the UK, EREPS (€30). Membership is on a yearly basis.
One of the real advantages to setting up a personal training business is that you will also have minimal ongoing expenses.
The additional costs that you will need to factor into your monthly expenses will depend on how you will conduct your personal training business...
- If you are going to set up as a personal trainer at a commercial gym, you will have to make an agreement for the “rent” of their space, for you to use the facilities with your clients. As discussed previously, PT rental may come in the form of a £ rent payment, a % commission of the personal training price you charge your client, or time worked on the gym floor for the gym in a fitness instructor role in lieu of rent.
- If you decide to work as a freelance PT, then you will also need to factor in the cost of buying some equipment and any fuel costs for travelling to clients.
- Do not neglect the potential of an online presence - running a website and social media pages will increase your visibility and can be set up relatively cheaply.
Starting Up a PT Business - Steps
Once you’re ready to start your business, follow these steps from the offset to ensure that everything is correct and in place to allow your business to grow.
- Plan your business (do the maths - consider your initial and ongoing monthly costs, your target market and how long it will take you to break even). This will help you to determine how many sessions you will need clients to commit to upfront.
- Register for tax (HM Revenue & Customs in the UK) and make provisions to meet your future tax liability. This will vary from country to country, so get specific guidance about the tax burden and allowances from your local tax authority. A rule of thumb is to expect to pay approx. 25% of your earnings in tax.
- Register with the your national regulatory body (eg CIMSPA, REPS, EREPS, etc)
- Open a business account - this will help you to organise your finances and as well as giving off a professional image to your customers. On this note we advise selling training packages up front, rather than charging clients on a per session basis.
- Set up business accounting. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts will simplify your annual tax filing.
- If you plan to use outside public areas to train clients, obtain the necessary permits to do so. Check with your local council to see what arrangements are required in your neighbourhood as it will vary from country to country. Securing the relevant licenses will prevent you from suffering from fines, or worse, being shut down later down the line and could even lock out future competition.
- Get public liability insurance. If you plan to employ staff then also employee compensation insurance may also be required.
- Research the competition to determine the local pricing structure.
- Define your brand. A strong brand will help you stand out from other PTs and get noticed. One way to stand out is to specialise in a niche market of the fitness industry (eg weight loss, bootcamp etc). If you have skills learned from a specific area (eg athletic training, martial arts) of the fitness, look to use them with networks of people that share the same interest.
- Establish an online presence. A business website allows potential clients to learn about your business and the specific services that you offer. You should also set up business social media pages with Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, as this will help to build trust with the public and online confidence with Google search engine.
- Be a good role model. First impressions count and you are the best possible advertisement for your brand. Building the right brand is more than just looking in shape - its how you dress and how friendly and approachable you are with your clients.
Starting Up a PT Business - Getting Clients
The PT Business Supremacy course is available free to all EPTI Advanced and Master Personal Training students and takes a more detailed look into how you get your first PT clients.
Needless to say, It’s not just about your knowledge of fitness; it’s your business acumen that will play a big part in getting your brand out there and known to the wider public. Fortunately, business acumen can be learned!
Let’s have a quick look at online marketing.
At first this might seem a challenge, however focus on the positives...
In this digital age, it has actually never been as cheap or easy to promote yourself as it is now... The challenge in these times however, lies with getting potential customers to take notice and engage with you because of the abundance of content out there on the internet.
Contrary to what many new business owners think, online marketing isn’t just about having a website. You also need social media pages (see above) to help drive traffic to your website.
It is therefore imperative that the content that you put out is going to get your visitors interested in what you have to offer. Quality content helps you build trust and promote your brand by providing value to your audience.
Like any other part of your business this has to be worked on and the focus of your online marketing should be to make your website and/or social media pages easier to find for people searching up for help with their fitness goals.
HOW TO BECOME A PERSONAL TRAINER
Probably the most important step if you're serious about becoming a personal trainer is to ensure that the course you sign up for is an "Accredited" course.
As explained previously, CIMSPA & REPS provides a framework that recognises the qualifications and expertise of professionals in the fitness industry.
Therefore, all credible UK personal fitness training courses will be accredited by CIMSPA &/or REPS.
Choosing the right course:
Depending on your current circumstances, you need to choose a course that suits your needs. There are a large number of personal fitness trainer courses out there, but choosing one doesn’t need to be difficult.
Only consider courses that are accredited by the national REPS (or if in the USA, one of the main certification bodies such as NASM, or ACSM for example). The qualification must also be at the relevant accreditation level for you to be able to become a certified personal trainer upon completion.
Also check to make sure that the qualification is recognised worldwide. There are so many endless opportunities to work where you want within the fitness industry - so don’t impose a glass ceiling on your opportunities with a certification that is only recognised at a local level!
You then need to search out a course that fits in with your needs. There are different types of personal fitness training courses available that vary from online, part or full time courses and residential courses that are blended between online study and practical elements of the course.
Blended Learning Course:
If you are currently working and have a busy schedule, or you wish to get the qualification completed quickly, then maybe a blended course might suit you better. The online part of the course benefits the students with being able to progress through the theory at their own pace. Many students like to attend a residential campus to complete the assessment part of their qualification as the intensive nature of the course and being together with fellow students creates a positive and concentrated learning environment. This helps students to focus their mind and get the qualification completed on a single training/accommodation campus site within a desired period of time. A face to face training component allows students to learn from experienced professionals, practice the newly learned skills and techniques and then receive constructive feedback on ways to develop this.
Part-time courses also allow you to complete much of your study at home, however you may need to attend regular practical courses and assessments over a number of weekends and the courses tend to take a long time to complete.
Full-time courses require students to attend a course on weekdays for up to 6 weeks. This can be a problem if you need to take time off to attend one of these “fast-track” courses. Due to the length of time students are with the training provider, this is the most expensive option.
There are a few leading personal training course providers that afford their students the opportunity to train real clients as part of their learning experience, as opposed to them just practising practical skills on fellow students. This allows students to build up their confidence with instructing strangers in a real training environment away from awkward student role play client/ trainer relationship which most fitness courses have to make do with.
PT clinics provide students with an opportunity to iron out their PT delivery style and put into practise for “real” the theory and practical skills that have been studied. This ensures that the first few PT sessions of a student’s new career are not with fee paying clients!
First aid certificate:
This qualification is not a legal requirement to become a personal trainer and nor is it a requirement to become a member of REPS, but it’s good practice for trainers to attend at least a basic first aid course, in the event that a client has any health difficulties or emergencies while they are training them. The first aid certificate, sometimes known as an emergency first aid at work qualification, is a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognised certification and counts towards a fitness professional’s CPD. The course lasts one day and covers practical elements of safe & effective first aid practice and usually costs between £125-£175 and is valid for three years before it needs to be renewed again.
The trend recently is for more and more gyms to have a requirement that all job applicants hold a valid first aid certificate when applying for a fitness position as this reduces the cost to them for their own staff training.
Public liability insurance:
Although not a legal requirement in the UK, all members of the Register at levels 2, 3 and 4 are required to hold adequate public liability insurance which covers your legal liability for death, injury or illness to others and loss of, or damage to, third party property. The Register requires you to hold an annual liability policy. To become a member of REPS, you must be able to show that you are either insured through your employer, or have an insurance liability policy with a minimum indemnity of £5,000,000. Insurance packages can be purchased for approxiamtely £55 per year.
Finding a job once you have qualified:
Once you have obtained your personal fitness training qualification, the next step is to find a job in the fitness industry. It is a good start to get yourself on the cover lists for studio classes at the gym for the areas that you are qualified to instruct. This is an excellent way of working your way into a position at a gym and you also have a large pool of potential personal training clients that you can “advertise” your skills to during the class.
There are a number of options available to you as a personal trainer:
Personal Trainer employed by a gym:
This option tends to reduce the potential money that you can earn because the personal training fee is fixed for clients and a percentage of it must be paid back to the gym. The PT tends to be paid a salary and work for the company and not themselves. The benefit of this method is that you have full access to training the gym’s client database and most gyms provide liability insurance for their trainers.
Personal Trainer renting space at a gym:
In this scenario, the personal trainer doesn’t actually work for the gym, but pays a monthly rent (in either £ or time on the gym floor as a fitness instructor) to the gym to train their PT clients at the gym’s facility. In some cases, the gym will offer leads from their members to you. Trainers will be required to pay for their own insurance since they are working for themselves, but are free to attract clients how they wish and to charge whatever payment they deem appropriate for their services.
Freelance Personal Trainer:
The final option that trainers may opt for is to stay out of a commercial gym all together and run their own personal fitness training or boot camp training business. They may either construct a gym unit or studio; or just use open places, such as parks, or even the client’s home as the setting for training. In this type of situation the trainer is again able to control how much money they charge. They are liable for everything, from finding the location to train, purchasing equipment and obtaining liability insurance and target potential clients by marketing themselves.
Whatever option you choose to pursue, once you have become a certified personal fitness trainer it’s time to get your name out there. One of the most effective marketing tools in the fitness industry is word-of-mouth. So start spreading the word.
Set up a media account for your business, make some flyers, create a newsletter and buy good quality business cards. Start with people you know and places that you frequent and move outward from there. At the beginning, you may need to offer free consultations and taster sessions to attract new clients. Once you start to get results with clients, advertise this with before/ after photos and testimonials. The fitness industry is constantly evolving. Research is constantly being updated and new products introduced. It’s your job to stay up to date with continuing education, which is not only vital to your relevance as a personal trainer.
In order to stand out among the competition, try to find a niche personal trainer interest and develop your specialism in it.
CAREERS IN FITNESS
An Overview of the Fitness Industry
In terms of revenue, the fitness industry in Europe has become the largest worldwide, topping even the United States and Canada. The value of the health and wellness market within Europe tends to be much higher in western European countries than in eastern European countries, nonetheless both show a steady increase. The revenue of the health club industry of European countries show that the United Kingdom and Germany are clearly on top, followed by France, Italy and Spain.
The fitness industry has seen growth year on year and the market size is estimated to reach approximately £22.8 billion by 2020 in the UK alone, with personal training growing at 2.8% annually and accounting for a staggering £631 million in revenue.
A career in fitness is a great choice for someone who is a "people person" as the job will involve you interacting with a diverse range of clients.
The roles within the industry have been constantly evolving with its growth over the past 20 years. The career path within the fitness industry for those with the accredited fitness qualifications is to take either a role based on the gym floor or fitness studio (fitness instructors, personal trainers, group training instructors); or a career in management (health club managers, duty managers, personal training/studio managers, etc). Management roles can often be seen as a natural career progression, after a few years experience gained from hands on fitness instruction.
The hands-on roles of those instructing fitness to clients on the gym floor is traditionally split between gym instructors and personal trainers.
There are various levels of exercise professionals:
Level 2 Fitness Instructor:
The Level 2 (Level 3 Europe) Fitness Instructor certificate is seen as the first step to obtain a job as a Gym Instructor and will be required as a prerequisite for study to obtain further fitness qualifications such as Circuits Instructor and Personal Training.
The role within the fitness industry of those qualified to level 2 Fitness instructor was to be present on the gym floor and to provide general help and advice to a large number of people (ie the gym members). Their purpose is to ensure that everybody on the gym floor is training safely. This is achieved by demonstrating how to use the equipment correctly and teaching the gym members into independence with their use. Depending on the induction policy where they work, it is usual for gym instructors to also provide fitness and health appraisal and a basic fitness programme for new gym members as part of their gym induction.
If the gym instructor has other level 2 fitness qualifications, then they may also provide group training classes (eg circuits, TRX, spinning, body pump etc) in the gym studio.
You should choose a course provider that offers an accredited Level 2 Fitness Instructor (Gym) qualification from an examining body such as Active IQ or YMCA (CYQ).
Level 3 Personal Trainer:
If you want to qualify as a certified Personal Trainer, then the course needs to be at Level 3 (Level 4 in Europe). Again, both Active IQ and CYQ Level 3 Personal Trainer qualifications are popular.
Level 3 qualifications are designed to provide an advanced level of exercise and fitness knowledge and these qualifications provide the basis for careers working 1:1 with clients.
Personal trainers work with individuals to help facilitate diet and fitness goals. A personal trainer will not work with as many people (they will only train their own PT clients), but the significant difference between themselves and a fitness instructor is that personal trainers will have a far deeper and meaningful impact on their clients’ route towards health and wellness. Together, client and trainer will agree long term goals and destination the client wishes to arrive at. The personal trainer will use their knowledge to plot a fitness journey through lifestyle analysis, training programme design and nutrition guidance for their client to achieve success.
It is important to note that the fitness industry has been evolving so that an individual performing just the role of a fitness instructor only is becoming less common. Many health club business models allow personal trainers to work a set number of hours a week as a gym instructor in lieu of “rent” and allowing them to personal training clients on the gym floor at other times. Pro-active PTs can use the time spent in this role to market their services and show the advantages and service they would be able to provide during these induction sessions with the gym’s new members.
Level 4 Personal Trainer:
If you wish to further develop your learning, there are various courses at Level 4 designed to deliver GP referral fitness training to special populations. This is the highest level of registration available on REPS, placing the Level 4 Specialist Exercise Instructor at the pinnacle of their profession.
Gyms and health clubs would not be willing to employ anybody that are not registered to the appropriate level for their role.
Employment Opportunities as a Personal Trainer:
Once you graduate with a recognised Personal Trainer qualification there are a number of opportunities and niches within the fitness industry for you to work in.
Working as a PT within a gym environment is an excellent place to start for a recently qualified personal trainer and has a number of benefits, as well as providing an immediate, regular income.
You will have the opportunity to interact with lots of potential clients and have available all the equipment at the gym to train them. Many of the larger health club chains also have PT business strategies which identify that newly qualified PT are time rich rather than have cash readily available, so PT “rent” is often in the form of providing a set number of hours per week as a fitness instructor, rather than paying a £ rent. This helps to keep set up costs relatively low.
Many health clubs provide support for their PTs with building up a client base and as this grows, operate a sliding scale for rent, where you can elect to pay more £ for your PT and reduce the number of hours you work for free. This allows you to maximise your time to earn money from personal training sessions.
Working within a health club also provides the opportunity for you to instruct group training classes on their studio timetable which provides an additional regular income stream.
You will also find new doors open to you, such as networking with other professionals working at the club and longer term opportunities to a management position role within the health club (PT manager, duty manager, centre manager, etc).
Many personal trainers decide to set up their own personal training business and become self-employed. One of the driving factors directing you towards considering a career as a personal trainer might be the chance to be your own boss and work for yourself.
As a freelance PT, it is more likely that gym based training with your clients will take place at smaller health club chains or stand alone gyms. The “rent” payable for using their facilities is usually more favourable to the PT than those for larger corporate health club organisations.
However, as the fitness industry moves towards more functional training methods, with less emphasis and need for traditional cardio and resistance machines, there has been an evolution towards personal trainers providing client training sessions from their own space - such as their own, or shared PT studio specifically set up for personal training. Unlike health clubs that are populated with every machine conceivable, swimming pools and spa areas etc, PT studios comprise of a stripped down, practical training space comprising of essential equipment only at a premises ranging anything from a small retail unit to larger industrial use sized facility.
Another appeal to begin a career in personal training is that you don’t need to be stuck indoors all day. A small investment in some equipment will allow you to travel to clients’ homes for training. Personal trainers also have the ability to get outdoors with their clients, in a variety of formats - on a 1:1 basis, small group training or scaled up to group training bootcamp sessions that often provide a personal trainer with their best income return per hour.
One of the biggest growth areas of recent years has been the advent of online personal training. As consumers turn to the internet for their purchases, personal training is no different and a website allows personal trainers to attract online customers allowing you to set goals with them, plan programmes, provide nutritional guidance, monitor and track their progress remotely.
HOW TO ACE A PERSONAL TRAINING JOB INTERVIEW
So what is the process?
Once you’ve submitted your CV and covering letter, you’ll be called in to the club for an interview so that the Fitness Manager and/or General Manager can meet you. Initially, the first skill they will be looking for is to see how you talk and interact with people.
You may be asked to provide a PT session plan &/or deliver a PT session at the gym. Stick to what you’ve learned on your practical course in terms of exercise programming and balance.
Keep things relatively simple but structured with advanced overload training so that it is an effective session. Use your knowledge of anatomy & physiology to educate the “client” and remain genial throughout the session.
Later on in the interview, you’ll be asked to provide a self-evaluation of this session to feedback on how you thought you performed and to give justification for your programming and exercise choices.
Once complete, they will be looking to see if you’ll make a good fit into their PT team and ask questions to determine your background knowledge of their company, personal training and the industry as a whole.
Questions that they’re likely to ask you therefore will be around the subject of what you know about their PT services…. they way it is structured, their standards, expectations and service levels etc..
You’ll need to have checked this out beforehand with some relevant research.
They will want to find out what you believe is important towards becoming a successful PT in a club setting and will also be interested to learn about how you intend to keep up with the latest trends within the industry.
You’ll need to have put some thought into the generic “are you a good team player?” question before you come to answer it…
Prepare scenarios of when your contribution helped a team to succeed using examples from work (fitness industry or other), sports, social or anything else you deem appropriate.
Remember, they also want to find out if you are suitably prepared to put in the necessary hard work to make it as a PT at their club. Make this a two way question and use this opportunity to find out more about what they will do for you if you become a PT in their club and what their expectations of a PT are.
You’ll be asked to tell them what aspect of PT you’re most passionate about and why… and provide situations/ examples of where you have exceeded the expectations of a PT client (or any other relevant customer situation example)
You should be aware of how you’ll provide a superior PT customer service, beyond the session itself, hopefully your PT course covers this as part your training:
Make sure that you’ve also done some research into the club’s PT pay model and what they require from you moving forwards–> e.g. Some of the larger health club chains will expect to stop PT elsewhere or with your own freelance clients should you be successfully selected to become part of their PT team, so don’t appear surprised when they tell you!
Business Plan Proposal
For most health clubs, the bottom line is how much money are you going to generate for them through your PT – therefore this requires that you’re going to be very busy and ultimately successful for yourself and them.
When you write out your proposal, you’ll need to provide details for the first quarter of your employment of how:
- You’re going to generate new clients
- The specific activities you intend to perform when in the club
- Your target niche – the people who you will influence in the club
- Your sales and activity plans on the gym floor: marketing/offering taster sessions/specific events etc
- The days and times you plan to be in the club
- Your expected number of sessions to be delivered per week
You also need to be able to tell them how you will fit in with their corporate health club PT brand.
They’re going to want to discuss your business plan in the interview and ask for your specific strategies that you’re going to adopt to start, grow and maintain your business as a PT (and what experiences you’ve had with targets)
Your success/ failure at interview will depend on the following factors:
- Your business plan
- Your knowledge of the industry and their company
- Your PT session plan
- Your PT delivery
- You – Are you approachable and able to fit into their current PT team?
Prepare sufficiently for numbers 1-4 to help you to remain calm and confident during the interview process and number 5 should look after itself!
One of the biggest fears and doubts that potential students have when I speak to them on the telephone before they sign up for a course, is whether they will “make it” as a personal trainer once they graduate.
Maybe this is what you are thinking right now?
You’ve read the motivational quotes… “If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life” and this idea sounds great. You really want to follow your passion and do something that you love, but what it really comes down to is, “Can I make a career out of training people for money, will clients really pay to train with ME?”
Well, as I said before, I’ve had this conversation with countless students over the years. It is true, many personal trainers do fall by the wayside and never reach their potential within the industry - they maybe didn’t get the results they’d hoped for with their clients, or maybe they struggled to find enough clients...there are many reasons for this, but usually it’s because they chose a certification that cut corners, that only offered the minimum in terms of providing an assessment which didn’t prepare them for the role of a personal trainer once they had their certificate in hand.