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Thinking About Starting a Fitness Business?

Personal trainer helping a client; starting a fitness business
TrulyFit: Fitness Business Online Solutions Management Software

Frequently Asked Questions When Starting A Fitness Business

Are you thinking about starting a fitness business soon? Personal Trainer, Group Class Instructor, Fitness Coach, or any industry professional? This can be done quickly and easily.

However, becoming a financially successfully version is another story. There are sand traps in this industry. I have watched others fall into them or got myself caught in many. I am here to make sure you will avoid these.

Understanding the following will help you be more efficient and effective in your business from the start. We will get to your education and certifications soon. First, let’s mentally map out what an ideal day would be like for you. Write a few lines down or say it out loud.

Examples of starting a fitness business:

  • Teaching yoga on the beach to 50 people at 7:30am, and again at 6:00pm making $1000 a day…cash.
  • Personal Training in my in-home fitness facility working exclusively with 10 clients who pay you $500/each monthly to meet twice a week helping them improve speed and strength.
  • Running a sport specific clinic on the weekends for all ages charging $50/per person and having over 100 attendee’s per-day.
  • Coaching an outdoor bootcamp class at Noon to local retirees or stay at home Mom’s, 4 days a week with a $20/per class charge and an attendance of over 200 weekly.
  • Hosting weekly nutritional/wellness talks via webcam to hundreds of subscribers paying monthly fees.

Did you have anything similar in mind? If so, I’ve done all of this, and it was actually ridiculously easy. Now let’s go through some information so you can skip the first few years.

Those years are filled with painstaking trial and error, cancellations, low turnout numbers, and small paychecks. Before we start down your path to success let’s first clear up common questions.

How Much Do Trainers Make

Many will ask how can they shift careers, and expect to not take a pay cut? Do personal trainers and fitness pros make a lot of money? Do they do it quickly?

My financials year to year from training looked something like this: Year 1 – 15k, Year 2 – 20k, Year 3 – 25k. It took me 4 years before I made it over 30k, and 5 years before I made it over 50k, and 7 years before I made 100k. This wasn’t because I was, “earning it the hard way”, or that it was “part of the growth process”. I had great certification and good enough skills.

Well, what was I missing? I had zero guidance on how to actually run or on how I would go about starting a fitness business! 

Certifications give you little to no insight whatsoever on how to gain clientele, work with people, and earn money. I want to make sure you do not have to go through that arduous process I did in my first few years.

To give you some sense of how the financials work typically the hourly or salaried dollar amount itself is geographic specific. A Yoga class or a 5 pack of personal training sessions in Los Angeles, CA is double of what it is in Savannah, GA.

The market will adjust prices based on a host of variables. Cost of living, abundance of trainers, specialties, and personal popularity being the most important. A personal trainer charging as much as 85$/H in prime markets would not be unusual. However, it’s important to remember when you’re starting a fitness business that it is all relative.

I will go over the standard payment structures for how a fitness professional receives payment next.

How Are Personal Trainers Paid

Own Your Business: 

You can work in your home or from a facility you own, outdoors, or rent time/space from a facility. Many trainers prefer to pay a fixed monthly payment, like a rent to a facility and work with no boss doing their own marketing. They can then charge whatever price they feel appropriate and keep all of the profits.

When facilities allow you to work in their space while you run your own business, it typically is a great option. You do however have to account for your own taxes, but you also will get to write off many of the purchases.

Percentage Based Commissions: 

You will find most facilities structure payment this way, and will put you as an independent contractor. You can be hired on full time (benefits) and still make commission but that is rare in this industry (always look for that however). Most FIT (fitness industry teachers) are commissioned. These are based on how many sessions/classes/clients are worked with throughout a given time period.

You can also work as commission based employee part time. Percentages range anywhere from 35%-80% (but typically closer to 60%). The percentages depend upon the following; location, experience, skill level, facility type, negotiation power. The last one listed is important, and I will go over that later in future blogs.

Salary: 

Some FIT (fitness industry teachers) are salaried. You train people as part of the salary or make a very small percentage commission on top of your salary. This normally entails desk duties or other tasks outside of standard teaching.

What is the Best Personal Trainer Certification

You’ll get 10 different answers from 10 different people on this question. I want to be clear and emphasize this; Personal trainer certifications and fitness education gets your foot in the door. However, it does not represent your actual skill set.

I have trained alongside people who have their Masters in Exercise Physiology, and held a dozen top level certifications costing more than 5k collectively who had trouble booking 10 sessions a week. I’ve worked with Yoga instructors coming off of 2 years of specialized training who couldn’t fill a class of 8. Additionally, I worked with Registered Dieticians who averaged one appointment a day. Why? Because they could not connect with people on a psychological level.

You are stepping into an industry where people trust you with their bodies, and subsequently with their mental health also. Learning (in the upcoming blogs) and enjoying the process of building connections will be of much more value than endless certifications. Not to mention most of which the paying clients won’t even be familiar with.

Do I Need A Certification?

If your plan is to work as your own boss in your home or elsewhere, you may not need any specific certification. If you decide to work for someone, the business typically requires you to have one. Which one? That depends on the specific business.

The nutritional counseling world is its own beast and very different from fitness. States have their own specific rules and regulations regarding getting paid to give out nutritional advice. The Fitness world however is an unregulated decentralized market. Meaning, you could actually have no qualifications or certifications and work with people in fitness provided the business approves of it. 

For the sake of professionalism a fitness business should have their own set requirements of which certifications they trust. Let’s go over how they decide that.

Understanding Bias Among Certifications

Do you own an I-phone or Android? After you answered that, you probably inferred that I was going to judge you on your choice. Why? Because people are tribal by nature and we instinctively pick teams.  Typically, the certification held by the highest level employee is the most respected for that specific business.

Let’s say I am a Director of a Fitness Facility and I hold an ACE certification for Group Fitness. I know what the ACE organization teaches. I understand their concepts, and trust them due to familiarity. Therefore, I am more likely to hire someone with the same certification. That is why it is important to dig into the businesses website of your preferred studio/facility or call them. Find out what certifications their managers or top level instructors hold.

For those of you who are aiming to be Personal Trainers, I have a detailed list of the top certifications, and rankings in various categories that can be found on my blog: Fitness Business 101 Blog

In my link above I rank the various certs in these categories: Price – Prestige – Difficulty. The price will give you an idea of the cost and annual fees. The prestige will give insight into the industries views on that particular cert. The difficulty will rank the difficulty in attaining the cert (tests, education, etc).

How to Start My Own Fitness Business 

Should you start your own business should be asked before “how”. Like anything else in life, there are pros and cons to running and starting a fitness business. Starting your own physical business for many can be fiscally daunting initially. You’ll have to have the capital for equipment, space, marketing, etc. That said, long term you won’t have to pay a percentage of your profits to whomever you work underneath. I have a list of questions that after answering will guide you to the proper path suited for you at this time.

Are You Ready To Run Your Own Business?

  • If given any equipment and space you desire, would you feel confident enough to run a class/session/training/teaching tomorrow?
  • Have you lived in your city/community for more than 2 years?
  • Do you currently part-take weekly in the fitness medium you are trying to teach? (i.e. I want to be a Yoga Instructor, do you take Yoga classes regularly?)
  • Do you have a social media presence?
  • Do you have a job or leisure activity which puts you in contact with the local community daily?

YES

If you answered YES to the majority of these, you most likely could jump right into owning your own physical location brick and mortar fitness business. Again, I would always recommend at least working part-time for someone. This gives you a chance to network and be around people who already love to do what you teach. It also allows you to learn from other instructors, and develop your niche.

NO

If you said NO to the majority of these, you will be much better off starting to work for a business/person who is already established or starting online. This will give you time to hone your craft, gain credibility in your community, and build a stronger sense of self confidence. It will also allow you to be focused on networking/learning rather than being burdened by your personal fitness financial investment. It is easier to land a job then you think. Here are my blogs on personal training internships and on interviewing.

How to Become a Successful Personal Trainer

Most beginners come to me with the same complaint:

-“I don’t think I know enough (exercises, information, routines) but I enjoy working with people. How can I get all the tools?”

Every New Fitness Pro

This is the easiest part. There is never a need to reinvent the wheel in fitness/health. You won’t learn everything by simply reading books, or getting certified though. You will learn the basics through attending sessions or classes, certifications, shadowing, reading, and researching.

In this blog (LINK) we go over the, “Central 7”, which are the 7 bedrock movements of fitness. Once you understand the basics and the central 7, you can use a handful of variables interchangeably to have an endless bag of tricks. Let’s go ahead and get specific. For one exercise (Push-up) I can give you 10 different ways to do it without blinking and eye.

3 second eccentric (controlling it on the way down), 3 second concentric (controlling it on the way up), half push ups, feet on an unstable surface (ball), hands on an unstable surface (bosu), diamond push-ups, wide arm push-ups, push-up to clap, push-up to knee ups, push-up to pike toe-touch.

This isn’t simply because of my knowledge in personal training. It’s about understanding a few key variables and interchanging them. It will give you exponential options for exercises when combined with fitness toys.

Starting a Fitness Business as a Career Change

“Am I wrong for feeling like I do not have the time or money to just change careers?”.

Every Potential New Fitness Pro

Yes, you are. Very wrong in fact, but it’s normal. I felt the same way, and was scared out of my mind during the whole process. I can break this down in multiple ways.

First, you are here because you deserve better. Forget about the fact you will be making more money in a short period of time, but if you don’t currently love what you are doing, do you want to still be there in 10 years? Who is to say your current employer couldn’t just let you go tomorrow.

Tim Ferris describes an excellent fear exercise in his book, The 4-Hour Work Week. You imagine and then write out, the worst possible scenario before you make a job related decision. I recommend this. For me, the worst possible scenario if I quit my job and moved across the country at 26 was that in 6 months’ time I would have still been unhappy and found my way back home, exactly where I left off. Wait, exactly where I left off? YES. Why wouldn’t I take that risk then?

Give it a shot, and write out your worst fears about starting or changing your current model of being a FIT. In fact, make it a yearly resolution to do this. Moonlighting and learning/working part time is always an option when you’re first starting a fitness business. At worst, finding your way after reading these blogs will allow you to have a back-up plan if you don’t decide to jump in with two feet. At best, you can transition into your ideal day to day life. Finally doing what it is you love and making more money then you did in your previous rat race job.

Not Just a Career Change

Secondly, starting a fitness business isn’t just a “career change”, it’s a long term investment. 80 billion US dollars, read that number again, was put into the health/wellness industry by consumers in 2017. That number does not include the billions spent on surgeries that require rehab and subsequently working to get stronger with FIT. This number is only going up.

People are paying a lot of money for health and fitness professionals. From 4 year old children taking golf lessons, to 84 year old seniors in Parkinson’s Boxing classes. Charging for lessons, teaching, coaching is easier than ever.

Look at your Instagram, Facebook, billboards, etc, fitness and health ads are everywhere in the teen, young adult, and mid adult age ranges.  Not to mention the growth curve is on the verge of shooting up exponentially due to the baby boomers.

By 2030, more than 20% of the US population will be over 65. That means right now, in the next 9 years 20% of the population is trying to stay young and fit going into retirement! This is our key. That is the age range that has the most expendable income to work with you (or to pay for their family members to work with you). Majority of my clients are in this age range, and I will go over targeting that clientele specifically in future blogs.

Can I Start A Part Time Fitness Business

Yes, of course. Every piece of information I will give you, or have given you thus far can be used for part time as well. It will be more difficult from a time management perspective, but if you aren’t in any rush you can still implement all the techniques and strategies. The goal should actually eventually be to only work part time hours while making full time money. Online fitness is typically the best avenue for part time fitness professionals. However, I still recommend shadowing a few hours a week at a local facility to increase your knowledge of the business.

How to Become an Online Personal Trainer

Can I make money becoming an online personal trainer?

Every Potential New FitPro

Thousands of people make great money in the fitness industry while never being face to face with clients, or even leaving their own homes. Online fitness is becoming the single hottest sub-market of the industry. It costs almost nothing to set up a camera or blog, and no certifications are needed so they pop up in droves. However, in the past the vast majority of the people making videos, and claiming to be coaches or experts on Social Media sites were not making any real money.

Becoming an online trainer was always three sided: You had to be a great trainer, a slick marketer, and business savvy. Now, with the advent of TrulyFit, you can simply just be a great fitness pro. You list your services via a bio page and TrulyFit handles to financials and marketing side by advertising on your behalf. Their fitness business solutions software was built to streamline your business.

Instagram alone will not do it. It doesn’t provide value, it simply provides pictures. Building your social media is important and I will go over key tactics in later blogs. However, it’s typically a mistake to focus on that when you’re starting a fitness business.

Your work should drive people to your social media, rather than your social media drive people to work with you. It is only done the other way in rare circumstances. Build your trust as an authority and then transfer it to the social media aspects. If you feel you already have a large following and name recognition in your social media circles concerning your expertise, you can certainly take advantage.

I understand that it can be difficult to show authority when you haven’t had actual real world experience. However, if your time and energy is spent online, trying to convey to people that you are an expert, you’re forgoing the actual opportunity of learning skills to become that expert you desire to be. So, make sure you are in person shadowing and continuing to learn as you start your online business.

TrulyFit Will Help Your Fitness Business

TrulyFit is a must for your journey. It sets itself apart from the others and will guide you into being a successful online personal trainer.  Why? Promotion, advertising, and marketing take up most of the online trainers time. TrulyFit will help handle the marketing aspect by driving clients to you. They will also set up your automatic zoom links to be sent to anyone who signs up for your services.

In addition to those features, you will also not have to worry about haggling over pricing or taking payments. You set your price on the site via TrulyFit’s site credit system and TrulyFit handles the payments through their industry specific POS systems. Focus on being a great fitness professional and let them handle the business & marketing side. Starting a fitness business should begin with signing up to be a part of TrulyFit.

How Long Does it Take to Make Money as a Personal Trainer

Honestly, if you’re driven, you could make money tomorrow. However, it’s not about short term profits. It’s about building your reputation, skill set, and coupling that with a few key marketing and business strategies.

You benefit most from zeroing in on people who want to work with you, and whom you want to work with. This way, you’ll have less client turnover, be recommended at a furious rate, and be gaining clientele faster than you can manage. If you start working with people before you are ready, or the wrong people, you will rob yourself of a constant & consistent revenue stream.

Your goal is to maintain a handful of loyal followers for life, not to keep chasing down one and done sessions. There is a difference between motion and progress. You are going to only take the steps that help you move forward here and let your business build itself passively.

You want people to be spreading the word about your skill-set while you’re working, it’s free marketing. If your focus is on finding the next person, rather than truly honing your craft and being the best FIT (fitness industry teacher), you’ll always be chasing down business, rather than letting it come to you.

Tips To Earn More Quickly

Let’s talk about how to make more money online since we already touched on using TrulyFit for your online training. Many who are working as an on-site personal trainer or FIT currently, find that there are only so many hours in the day. So, they transition online for purposes of scalability to grow their clientele base and their wallets.

If you work for yourself or online, you have a few options:

  • Charge More! – Your time is of the utmost value as it is limited. Even if you have clients who refuse to pay more, you will fill that time with people who are willing eventually. You are worth, whatever you believe you are worth. You can always take the prices down if you feel things are not going well, but do not shy away from high priced hours as long as you are providing what you and your client believe are truly high value experiences.
  • Become a Boss! – You may need to start hiring people underneath you and taking a percentage. After reading these blogs and understanding the strategies to gain clientele, you can then off-load them to people underneath you. This will allow you to be making money passively, and allowing your business to truly flourish. You need to gain the trust of your clients before you offload them to others, and you’ll have to make sure you use techniques taught here when training your future employees so that they keep a consistent structured business model that mirrors yours.  Remember three key factors when going about this process: Create organizational hierarchy, develop a detailed position description, and personally train the employee properly.

If you work for a private gym, fitness studio, fitness company, brick and mortar, etc:

  • Negotiate! – If you are working for a large chain on site facility, you have way more value to them then they do to you. Chances are for every dollar they are paying you, you are making them two back. On top of taking a large percentage of what you make during each hour you work with someone, they are also benefiting from your connections and professionalism in keeping people happy which in turn leads to them paying for other costs (memberships, packages, food etc). That means, you are essentially costing them nothing yet keeping their doors open. Review average percentages in your area, present your credentials, and negotiate what you believe is fair.
  • Use the connections you have made inside your company. The people you work with are friendly and familiar with you, and will become your greatest allies. They can aid in your negotiation if they know they are likely to lose you due to the company’s stubbornness to not give you a raise. Losing an employee and having to retrain and reestablish personal connections with members is difficult for the company.

Look for more blogs in the future covering similar topics including unpacking each sub-topic here and really getting into the details of personal training and starting a fitness business.

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