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How to become a personal trainer

If you’re passionate about health and fitness, and want to work for yourself, consider starting your own personal trainer business. Find out the steps you need to take here

The key steps in learning how to become a personal trainer are:

What does your daily routine look like? Chances are, working out is a part of it – whether that’s a gym session, going for a run or taking a fitness class.

And you’re not alone – as a nation, we’re becoming increasingly health-conscious in the UK, suggesting the health and fitness industry is a potentially profitable sector in which to start your own business.

According to the State of the UK Fitness Industry Report published by Leisure DB in 2018, the health and fitness industry in the UK is worth £4.9bn.

The research also found that in the UK one in every seven people is a member of a gym.

So if working out is something you enjoy, and you want to teach others how to live a healthy lifestyle, why not consider turning your hobby into a business? We’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a personal trainer.

In this article, we’ll cover:

You can read the whole article for a complete overview of the steps you need to take to become a personal trainer. Or, you can skip to the section that interests you the most.

1. What does being a personal trainer involve? What are the different types?

We first called it back in 2014, and becoming a personal trainer is still a top business idea. Since then, there’s also been the rise of alternative fitness business ideas too, such as hooping and voga.

So why are so many people interested in becoming personal trainers? Part of the appeal of setting up your own personal training business is the flexibility it offers – you can run it part-time as a side hustle or work from home.

Being a personal trainer (PT) involves:

  • Offering short- and long-term advice and goals on training, as well as nutrition and well-being
  • Measuring heart rate and body fat levels, as well as assisting workouts
  • Ensuring the training equipment is used correctly

Mark Briant, director at MobFit, describes how he became a personal trainer, saying: “I've always loved training – I played semi-professional rugby for years but also enjoyed trying different types of training and events and naturally was interested in it from a young age, however I never thought it would be a career.

“I used to work in banking and after a few years of not really enjoying my job I decided I needed a career change. So, alongside my nutrition qualification, I decided to get my personal training certificate and then co-founded MobFit.

“At MobFit we offer one-to-one training, small group training as well as on-site group fitness classes for office workers. Each has their different benefits and suits people in different ways.

“One-to-one training is amazing for people that really want to go on a fitness journey with you. Whether that is preparing for a specific event or a weight loss journey – or even just their introduction to exercise in general – it can be a really powerful and amazing experience to be part of that with someone.

“The small group and larger group fitness classes for office workers are awesome and they're important for a number of reasons:

“1. They're great at motivating people. Having your friends or colleagues alongside you can be a big factor for people getting and staying fit.

“2. I think group training is actually really important for helping people feel connected with their colleagues. It's great for breaking down barriers, and also the social impact is massive.

“3. Having lived the office lifestyle we know just how important it is for workers to move more during their working day and it's something we're really passionate about helping people do.”

2. Personal trainer qualifications: What do you need to know?

You need to get a level two certificate in fitness instruction and then a level three diploma in personal training. You may need to gain some experience of leading classes in a gym to progress between the levels.

Once you’ve completed level three training, you’ll be able to work as a personal trainer.

Getting the necessary qualifications is essential to begin working as a personal trainer. You can research different courses to discover the options available to you.

To find the best personal training courses for you, complete the form at the top of the page to compare quotes now.

How are personal training courses delivered?

Courses are available over different time lengths, from full-time study over a number of days, through to part-time study of a few weeks or months. You can do one course after the other, or the two levels combined in one study programme.

Also, it’s possible to study in person or do distance-based learning, as well as study during the evenings or at weekends.

Course content is generally delivered as a mixture of online modules and in-person training sessions.

Where are the courses recognised?

In addition to being valid in the UK, most courses are internationally recognised too. This offers you the opportunity to take your business overseas when the time is right.

If this is something you’re specifically interested in be sure to double check your personal trainer certificate is valid abroad.

For example, if you want to operate your PT business in the US, you’ll need a course that is recognised by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Similarly, check if a course is endorsed or recognised by a relevant trade body or organisation for additional credibility, both in the UK and internationally.

What specialist qualifications or courses are available?

If you want to offer a specialism (for example, bootcamp training, nutritional advice or outdoor training) you can take a specific course for this as part of your continuous professional development (CPD).

If you want to be able to accept referrals from GPs, you’ll need to take a level four course to get an advanced personal trainer qualification.

How much do the courses cost?

The diplomas cost between £500-£1000+ approximately, depending on the level and expertise achieved upon completion.

Briant says: “To be a personal trainer you would first need to become qualified as a level two fitness instructor and then after that you would need to become a level three personal trainer.

“You would also need public liability insurance to work with your future clients, as well as first aid training.

“I think it's also really important to have a natural interest in health and fitness and a inherent curiosity to learn more about the industry.

“The personal training qualification is a great stepping stone into training clients but in my opinion it's just the first step – the real learning starts after!”

Which regulations must PTs comply with?

To work as a personal trainer, you must have:

  1. Personal training qualifications
  2. Personal trainer insurance cover for you and your clients
  3. First aid training – specifically, the cardiopulmonary resuscitation certificate (CPR)

What professional organisations are there?

You can also register with organisations, such as the:

  • Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)
  • National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT)
  • Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMPSA)

Briant continues: “One that has been big in recent months – and one PTs may not think applies to them – is GDPR. If you are taking any client information (which you should be with PAR-Qs and other personal data), you'll need to be GDPR compliant.

“You obviously also have to have the correct insurance in place.

“There is also REPs, the Register of Exercise Professionals, which outlines general ethics and rules to abide by when in the industry.”

3. Costs and making money: Top tips

While you may be interested in starting your own personal training business as it’s a business format with minimal expenses, there are still some costs to consider and different ways of making money.

Personal trainer business costs: a breakdown

Here’s what to factor into your personal training budget and fees:

  • Equipment costs
  • Gym space rental or other location fees (if applicable)
  • Travel/petrol and transport expenditure
  • Training and knowledge
  • Insurance cover

How much to charge clients

You’ll need to take into account your level of expertise and experience, along with your location and type of training. Generally, here are some points to consider when it comes to price:

What structure will you use?

For example, will clients have to pay a deposit and then the balance after the class, or will all charges be required in advance? Additionally, you’ll need to think about a refund policy, such what would qualify for a refund.

How will you be employed?

When you’re just starting your personal training business, you’re likely to be self-employed. This means no holiday or sick pay that you may be used to if you’re working as an employee, so be sure to factor this into your fees.

Where will you operate your business from?

If you choose to rent space in a gym, then you’ll need to balance this expenditure into the prices you charge your clients.

Alternatively, if you work with clients in their homes or offices, then you’ll have lower expenditure and so could lower your fees accordingly.

Regional variations also play a part in personal training prices, so research the market in your target location.

How much does a personal trainer earn? What is a personal trainer salary like?

How much you’ll earn can vary – generally, personal trainers earn £20-£100 an hour. Personal trainers earn by the hour on a per session basis.

The higher end of this scale is likely to be for more experienced PTs who work with high profile clients, or if you offer small group training then you’re likely to charge a higher fee.

Personal trainers in London are usually in the middle of that bracket, around the £40-£70 an hour mark, although you’ll have to factor in more competition in the capital too.

Briant adds: “If you're prepared to put in the hours then there’s money to be made. The early stages can be hard work, especially trying to form that initial client base. But like with any new business, prospective clients need to be able to trust you and your brand before they commit to investing their own money in training with you.

“So initially be prepared to work hard; don't be afraid to potentially give away some free sessions or pointers with the view that it may lead to future paid work.

“Also there are a million and one trainers out there – think of a way to differentiate yourself to stand out and be the best at that particular style of training or method. Make sure it's a genuine passion of yours and you're far more likely to be successful and the money will come.”

There are a number of options when it comes to deciding which type of personal training business you’ll run. You could offer general training or a specialism, such as thinking about:

  • The format of training – it could be virtually, such as via email and Skype
  • Where the training takes place – traditionally this is in gyms, although parks, offices and homes are other options too (be aware of some public parks charging PTs)
  • How many clients you work with – you could offer one-on-one and/or small group sessions, or offer larger bootcamp style classes for community or corporate organisations
  • Which advanced qualifications you may want to achieve – for instance, the level four course to work with medical patients
  • A specific niche – such as providing specific pre- and post- natal training sessions

4. How to find clients

After completing a personal training course and creating a budget for your business, the next step is to actually find clients to train! How? Here are some of the key ways to promote your personal training business.

Create a website

An online presence is essential for every business, as it acts as a central resource for key information about your company, such as the types of training you offer. It also is an opportunity to showcase your qualifications and experience.

When it comes to designing a website, you can opt for a professional web developer to do it, or you can create your own site – have a look at our best website builders for some inspiration.

Use social media

At the time of writing there are 293.7 million posts with the #fitness on Instagram.

Today, one of the key ways to promote yourself as a personal trainer is on social media, in particular Instagram and YouTube, to show people what you can do and which services you offer.

For example, if you’re the go-to person in your friendship circle or family for training advice or nutrition tips, you could use these as posts on your social media accounts, or create a blog.

While you may offer this for free initially to build awareness and raise your profile, in time you may consider monetising these channels through ads or affiliate links as an extra source of income. Although it’s worth noting that you’ll need to build a big following before this is an option – you can find more information on our Instapreneur business idea page.

At the time of writing, the #personaltrainer has 18.2 million posts on Instagram.

Sign write your vehicle

If you’re going to be driving between clients’ homes and offices, as well as other training locations, then it makes sense to turn your vehicle into a mobile advert. You should include your business name and contact details (and ideally a logo or image too) on your vehicle.

Referrals and recommendations

Once you do secure clients, ideally you’ll want to foster long-term relationships with them. In turn, this could generate other clients for you as referrals from their network who are also looking for a personal trainer.

You may consider offering discounts or rewards for those that find your services this way, which could also be an incentive for your existing clients to recommend you in the first place.

Be aware of seasonal demands

While you’ll want to have clients all-year round, it’s also likely that people are more motivated to start training at certain times of year.

For example, new years’ resolutions in January may mean more people are interested in maintaining a fitness regime, while in the spring months people may be wanting to get in shape for the wedding and summer holiday season. Additionally, summer means longer days and warmer temperatures – ideal if you offer outdoor PT sessions.

On finding clients, Briant advises: “It can be hard to do so in the early stages. If you start off working in a commercial gym it's about building trust with prospective clients on the gym floor without necessarily being too pushy in terms of sales (nobody likes that style!).

“The first few interactions you have with them, I wouldn't even mention you are looking for clients. Get to know them, ask them questions about them and their training and give them some quality advice they can use. Once this has been established then you can think about approaching them about sessions.

“Other options if you're not working in a gym or just looking to build up some confidence, I would think about getting some friends/family together for a group training session. Working with people you know and are comfortable with means you can feel less embarrassed about making mistakes which you inevitably will in the early stages, and it also allows you to get more comfortable with your own training style. This will ultimately lead you to being a better trainer, more confident and thus able to attract clients.

“These days social media is also a powerful platform for finding clients. Make sure yours is set up well, posting relevant content to the type of clients you want to attract.

“If you love body transformations then make sure you're posting tips and advice on that particular area. The same goes for if you're into strength training – make sure your content is specific to the clients you want to attract.

“Instagram has far too many profiles with topless photos – give people some useful, practical training tips so that they again start to trust your brand.”

How to grow your personal training business

Once you’ve secured a few clients and you’ve got a steady schedule of training sessions, you may want to consider expanding your business further. Some ideas include:

  • Develop an app – offering sessions and workouts via an app means that you can reach potential clients all over the world. You’ll need to hire a web developer to create the app itself.
  • Target international customers – if you’ve always wanted to work abroad, then consider offering your services overseas. Just be sure that your training and qualifications are recognised outside of the UK too.
  • Accept medical referrals – if you complete a level four qualification, you’ll be able to offer personal training sessions to medical patients.

Business case study: Funmi Olatoye, Funmi Olatoye Personal Training

How did you become a personal trainer?

“I did my personal trainer qualifications with a provider called Origym. All the learning was online, but I did have a tutor who I met with throughout the course. As there are two parts to the qualification, I had to pass two sets of exams and assessments that took place in a gym.

What type of personal training do you offer and why?

“I offer training to the general population, males and females who want to get in better shape or improve their fitness.

“I like to work with beginners because they have so many misconceptions about exercising and nutrition and I like educating them on how they can make small changes to get big results.

“I am also qualified to work with pre- and post-natal women because I want to help women understand the importance of exercising during and after pregnancy.

Which qualifications and certifications do you need to be a personal trainer?

“You need a level two gym instructor and level three personal trainer qualification obtained by an official examination body such as Active IQ.

Which regulations do you have to comply with?

“You have to have insurance before you train any clients to cover you for any eventualities.

If you are going to be part of a professional body such as REPS or CIMSPA you will need to meet their CPD (continuous personal development) points requirements. That means you need to do a certain amount of courses every year to update your skills.

What advice do you have for our readers about making money as a personal trainer?

“It can be hard initially, especially if you need to replace a full-time salary, and the hours might not be for everyone as you might have to be up to train your first client at 7am before work and your last client at 8pm after work.

“For some, the best way to ensure they make enough money is to work at a gym that offers a base salary and then pays some money for every client that you train.

“Another way to supplement your income, if you’re working for yourself, is to teach classes in a gym or studio.

What are the best ways to find clients?

“I either get clients through recommendations from friends or current clients or through a freelance website where I have my profile. Clients put up their requirements and I can contact them to see if we can work together.

“I also work out of a gym a few days a week where I have access to all the gym members as I pay a monthly licence fee to operate there.

What are some of the costs that you need to take into consideration when running a personal trainer business?

“You'll need to get insurance which you need to renew every year. This usually isn't more than £60 per year.

“If you’re a mobile trainer then you’ll need to buy some equipment as well. This cost can vary hugely, depending on how much equipment you can afford and are able to carry around.

“Every year you’ll want to invest some money into further learning. If you’re doing some standard CPDs then you are looking at around £140 per one day course. It's important to learn new skills to make sure you offer your clients the best.

What advice do you have for our readers about working out how much to charge clients?

“You want to look at what other trainers are charging in your area as a benchmark. A trainer in central London can charge more than double what a trainer in Kent can charge.

“You’ll also need to take into account if there are any costs to you, such as travelling to and from your clients or if you pay to use a gym to train your clients.

“Many trainers initially set their prices too low to start with and usually end up increasing them over time as they realise the cost to them.”

– Funmi Olatoye, personal trainer

What are the next steps?

From reading this article, you’ve learned more about what you need to do to become a personal trainer, including the different types of personal training available and which regulations you need to comply with. Plus, we’ve looked at the costs involved and potential sources of income, as well as how to find clients to work with.

So where do you go from here? The next step is to actually get going and start your personal training business! Startups.co.uk can help with this too. Simply complete the form at the top of the page to compare quotes for personal training courses now – it’s easy, free and quick.

Scarlett Cook
Scarlett Cook

Scarlett writes about a wide range of topics on the site, from business security to digital marketing and EPOS systems. She can also be found writing about diversity and sustainability in business, as well as managing the Just Started profiles.

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