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How to Become a Self-Employed Personal Trainer: 7 Essential Tips

Personal trainers are ten-a-penny nowadays. They’re everywhere. Go down to your local gym, open up your Instagram feed, or take a look in your local newspaper and you’re likely to find adverts promising everything from washboard abs to beach-ready bikini bums.

As a personal trainer, you’re faced with a lot of competition. That’s why it’s essential to have a solid business plan and a strategy that pushes you ahead of your rivals. The market for personal trainers is out there. You just need to find it, understand it, and make sure your positioning is spot-on.

In this post, you’ll learn seven essential tips for making it big as a self-employed personal trainer.

1. Take Care of the Basics

Before you jump in at the deep end as a personal trainer, you’ll need to take care of the basics. Nothing will destroy your fledgling business more quickly than failing to account for practical and legal necessities.

Depending on your jurisdiction you’ll likely need a certification, first-aid training, and business insurance.

Company requirements vary from country to country, but organizing the legal structure in which you’ll operate now rather than later will save you time further down the road. The last thing you need when you’re inundated with clients is a heap of overdue paperwork.

2. Sign Up for High-Paying Referral Programs

One way to monetize clients in addition to training fees is by recommending products and merchandise from brands that offer affiliate programs.

A lot of personal trainers are reluctant to engage with what they perceive as multi-level-marketing and commission-based schemes because they want to remain unbiased.

This is completely understandable. But it’s possible to take an ethical approach when making product recommendations, opting only for brands that your trust and products that your clients are likely to benefit from. What’s more, programs like Beachbody, for example, gives you access to offers and discounts (which you can pass onto your clients) when you become an affiliate.

If you’re interested to explore this path for your business, there are numerous online tutorials on how to become a Beachbody coach, you should start there. Getting started earlier will provide you with a nice side income as you build your client-base.

3. Specialize, specialize, specialize!

The market for personal trainers is expected to grow by more than 8% by 2024. This is good news for two reasons. First, the straightforward fact that there will be a larger pool of prospects available. Second, it makes it much easier to specialize. And specialization is at the heart of a successful fitness coaching business.

The fitness market is stratified into a number of distinct sections each with their own unique needs: athletes, time-stretched office workers, seniors, overweight people, housebound pensioners with limited mobility, and so on. Honing in on which one you’re best-suited to serve will allow you to tailor your positioning for optimal results.

4. Gather Testimonials

Studies show that testimonials are one of the most effective tools available to marketers. Video reviews, for example, can boost conversions by nearly 90%.

As a personal trainer, it’s a good idea to build up an arsenal of testimonials, before-and-after success stories, and client images. The reason these materials work so well in the fitness space is that they work.

Whenever you’re pitching new clients, crafting a sales page, or creating content for your social media account, you’ll have access to an array of materials that will build your authority and draw in new clients.

Don’t wait. Start asking for testimonials from the get-go.

5. Offer and Incentivize Subscriptions

Subscriptions will form the backbone of your business. Signing new clients up to a monthly plan, preferably in the form of a direct debit, is a far more sustainable business model than offering one-off or pay-as-you-go sessions.

It only takes two dozen or so clients each paying a monthly subscription for you to have a reliable source of income.

The key to netting high-value subscriptions is to offer incentives and keep clients apprised of their progress. An initial promotional offer, such as a discount or free monthly diet plan, will encourage people to sign up. Regular updates about their progress will maintain their motivation and stop them from questioning their commitment.

6. Find Your “Traction Channel”

In the early stages of starting a business, it’s easy to get shiny object syndrome. You see a new social media platform or promotion opportunity and think it’s the answer to your dreams.

But this is almost always a mistake.

It’s far better to pick one promotional channel – whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Google local search results, print media advertising, or any other example – and stick with it. Figure out which content works best, when to post, which features you can leverage, and so on.

It’s better to be a master of one platform than a jack-of-all-trades. As your business grows, you can venture out and take advantage of new advertising opportunities.

7. Expand…but Not Too Soon

Here’s a simple and inescapable fact: your time is limited. Even if you increase your rates, there are only so many clients you can handle.

Like it or not, the real driver of value in your business isn’t you. It’s your personal brand, your audience, and your ability to build systems that scale.

If you want to grow, you’re eventually going to have to start hiring. But don’t preempt this stage. You’re only ready to expand once you have a solid brand and a secure source of income. By that stage, you should have top-quality talent practically begging to come and work for you.


Building a fitness brand is challenging. It takes work, commitment, and more than a little luck. But with perseverance, it’s entirely possible. Top-level entrepreneurs make millions from their fitness empires. Often, it all started with one person.

Just remember to start small, capitalize on your initial successes, and focus on growing an engaged, high-quality audience. Now, time to get to work.

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