How to Become a Personal Trainer | The Ultimate Guide

So, you want to know how to become a personal trainer. Well, the good news is that you’ve come to the right place to get started — welcome to The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer!

If you’ve taken the time to sit down and read (or skim — don’t worry, we get it) this guide, then you’re probably taking your first venture into personal training or looking to enhance your current business. Considering the job market for personal trainers in the U.S. is expected to grow 39% through 2030, and in the UK the industry is valued at over 626 million pounds, we’d say that’s a smart move.

At My PT Hub, we know the past two years have been tough for personal trainers. They’ve also brought many changes to the fitness industry. That’s why we wanted to provide a comprehensive, trusted, no-strings-attached resource to help you get on your feet, whether you’re just starting out or trying to grow a developing enterprise. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to start a personal training business — and succeed at it.

Let’s get started!

Choosing a Type of Personal Training

Traditionally, personal training used to mean a trainer and a client meeting up at a workout space — a studio, gym, health club, and so on — for a face-to-face sweat session. Over the last few years, though, online personal training has been steadily growing in popularity. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the growth of virtual fitness even further, with 68% of Americans reporting they plan to continue using the online fitness services they started during the pandemic, according to IHRSA’s 2021 Media Report.

So, as a new or growing personal trainer, you have a choice to make for your business: will you be offering services exclusively in person? Exclusively online? Both? This decision is a good place to start, as it will shape the formation, promotion, and execution of your personal training business.

To help you make the right choice, let’s take a look at the benefits of each type of training.

The Benefits of In-Person Personal Training

There’s a lot to love about a traditional face-to-face personal training session. For one, the social aspect of meeting in person is appealing for both parties. It’s the best way for you to get to know your clients and vice versa. Building rapport tends to be easier in person than through a virtual platform. Of course, rapport is crucial to forming those long-lasting relationships that turn into long-term clients, referrals, and growth for your business.

Another advantage of training with clients in person is they’re easier to motivate, engage, and hold accountable. When it’s just you and them getting down to business, there’s nothing to distract from their workout or your direction. It’s also easier for you to tell if they’re not giving 100% and push them until they do.

Finally, there are some practical benefits to training in person that might make it the best choice for your business or at least for certain clients. Not everybody has access to a full range of exercise equipment from their home or remote location, so you may face limitations when creating individual programs. It’s also easier to modify workouts as you go when you’re right there with them. You can correct form when necessary and make a workout more or less challenging based on someone’s progress. Accurately monitoring and assessing where a client is in their journey or individual workout is also easier in person.

The Benefits of Online Personal Training

Personal trainer recording online workout

Online personal training certainly comes with its perks for coaches looking to start a personal training business. The biggest advantage is having the freedom to work from anywhere you please. Whether you have your own home gym set up or not doesn’t matter because you can coach, prepare workouts, communicate with clients, and manage your business through your laptop, phone, or tablet from anywhere in the world.

Working online also gives you the freedom to work with more clients. You’re no longer restricted to just people in your area, and the time commitment per client won’t be as significant. Many online coaching products can give you the flexibility to create and sell custom workouts to customers and effectively leave them to it. Of course, some interaction is key, but you can create a plan that fits around your busy lives. You’ll have more time to develop your business and work with a larger client base.

With this flexibility, you’ll be able to improve your work-life balance. Many online coaches will offer a number of different products and services to achieve a better balance for not only their clients, but also themselves. Plus, these online offerings save you money too. Not only are your travel costs reduced, since you’re not meeting up with clients, but you also don’t have to pay rent on an expensive physical space.

Another key benefit of online personal training is that when you have more time and resources at your disposal, you can expand your service offerings. Increasingly, personal training clients are looking for more than a couple of hour-long sessions a week. People want more lifestyle coaching, such as supporting their mental health or helping them create healthier long-term habits to improve their overall wellbeing.

By using an online software like My PT Hub, you have the ability to implement these additional services through features like the Habit Tracker and programs that allow you to check-in with clients from anywhere to offer more holistic support.

The Benefits of Hybrid Personal Training

The nice thing about helming your own personal training business is that you don’t have to limit yourself to either in-person or online training. With a hybrid business model, you and your clients can get the best of both worlds!

Supplementing traditional in-person training with online training, whether live or via prepackaged or assigned DIY workouts, allows you to make the most of your time to maximize profit and optimize the client experience. With both options, you can take on more clients, offer them more services, and have some flexibility in how you run your business. Hybrid fitness is becoming a preferred and expected opportunity for many club members already — as of 2021 1 in 5 gym members also subscribe to a premium online fitness service.

Hybrid personal training is also a great way to make your services more accessible to clients. People who can’t afford or don’t have the time to see you in person as regularly as they would like can meet with you once or twice a week in person, then continue the program on their own at home. All they’ll need is the custom workouts you send them or even on-demand video sessions recorded ahead of time. They’ll be able to be more consistent, producing better results, and you’ll save time and increase sales. What’s the downside?

What You Need to Become a Personal Trainer

Personal Trainer wearing shirt that says "personal trainer"

Okay, now that you’ve decided which type of personal training you want to offer, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need to be qualified to train! Especially if you’ll be going into business for yourself, there are some bureaucratic requirements you have to check off your list before you can start assigning burpees and deadlift sets.

Since your passion is fitness, not business, this part can be a little intimidating — but that’s why we’re here! Check out our rundown on what you need to get started as a personal trainer.

Personal Training Prerequisites

Let’s start with the basics. In the US, you need to be 18 or older and hold a high school diploma or GED to qualify as a personal trainer. Although it’s not required for all companies you may work for, many will also require you to have a CPR and/or AED certification.

In the UK, you can enroll in the first skills test at 16 years old and even teach at many gyms. If you plan to start your own PT business though, you’ll have to be at least 18 years old for insurance purposes.

For aspiring PTs in Australia, you’ll need to hold at least a Certificate III and Certificate IV in Fitness. Most courses require you to be at least 16 years old.

Personal Training Certifications

In the US, UK, and Australia, there are many different accredited companies and programs for you to choose from for your PT certification. The right certification for you will depend on a few different factors. Here is what you should consider as you research your options:

  • Type of clients you want to work with
  • Specializations
  • Program price
  • Existing knowledge/experience
  • Time required to study
  • Where you want to work (e.g., for a gym, for yourself)
  • Training style
  • Career goals
  • What you want to learn

If you’re not sure where to start looking, check out some of our partner programs! My PT Hub members and trialists have exclusive access to our Marketplace, where you’ll find industry-leading certification and education courses. Some of our top education partners include Future Fit, Future Practice, and Hyperice.

Personal Trainer Legal Forms

Although the legal and administrative aspects of owning a personal training business aren’t exactly riveting, they are necessary. Legal compliance protects you from liability and ensures a quality experience for your clients. Here are the legal forms you’ll need to get your PT business off the ground:

  • Certificate of Insurance: Most gyms and fitness centers require independent PTs to have insurance. But even if you’re working for yourself, it’s a good idea to get insured anyway. It’ll make you look more professional and cover you financially if a client gets hurt.
  • Liability Waiver: Having a liability waiver for clients to sign provides another layer of protection should someone get hurt under your supervision. Ask all clients to sign one before you start training.
  • Personal Training Contract: A new-client contract is a useful document for setting expectations and preventing misunderstandings. Your contract should outline payment, your services, and policies for cancellations, late arrivals, and no-shows.
  • Consent and Disclaimer: A disclaimer form is similar to a liability waiver. The difference is that a consent and disclaimer covers you in situations where clients are unhappy with their results, rather than injured. It also serves as a client’s consent to assessments and exercises you have them perform.

In addition to our partner certification programs, My PT Hub also partners with Insure4Sport to help you get set with your personal trainer insurance for a discounted price. Trialists and members can head over to our Marketplace and log in to take advantage of the deal!

Deciding How Much You Should Charge

Woman checking in at the gym

So, your paperwork is signed, and you know what services you want to offer. Now comes the tricky part — how are you supposed to price them? If “how much should personal trainers charge” is in your Google search history, then you’ve come to the right place for answers!

When it comes to pricing strategy, the goal is to pull a Goldilocks and land on a number that’s juuuust right. Go too expensive and you’ll price out too many prospects. Go too cheap and you’ll devalue yourself and lose credibility.

There are 6 questions you need to answer to evaluate your offerings and come up with a fair, but competitive price:

1) How much are you worth?

The starting point for any pricing strategy is to identify and attribute value to all the benefits you offer for your clients. First and foremost, you’ll need to evaluate your experience as a fitness professional. Ultimately, this will shape how much you can reasonably charge.

No matter how many fancy certificates you might have, your years of experience will be worth more to your clients. This doesn’t mean if you’re new to the game you can’t aim high, you just need to be sensible.

Along with how many qualifying years you have under your belt, look at other factors that have an impact on your experience, expertise, and reputation. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How long have you been training or working in the fitness industry?
  • Have you played sports or done competitions that support your experience?
  • What qualifications do you have in fitness and other areas, such as business or leadership qualifications?
  • Do you have any specialties? What makes you a specialist?
  • What is your current status/profile? Do you have a large industry following or network?

Be sure to single out any factors that differentiate you from the competition. Your unique attributes will help build consumer confidence in your brand that translates to financial value.

2) What type of service are you offering?

The next question to answer is exactly what type of service you’re offering and how that impacts your pricing. The higher the quality of products, services, and content you have available, the more you can expect to charge. For example, clients will be willing to pay more for a customized meal plan with target calories and macros than they will a packet of generalized nutrition recommendations.

Also, take into consideration whether your services are in person or online. Since online training isn’t as hands-on, it should be at a more affordable price point — ideally about 20-25% less than your in-person services.

3) Who is your target audience?

Identifying your target audience is a crucial step in building your personal training business. When you know who you’re trying to convert into your customers, you can think about the best marketing tools to reach them.

Understanding your audience will also ensure that your marketing efforts are aligned with what your potential customers want and need. Ultimately, this will help you make the most impact.

Follow these three simple steps to define your target audience:

  1. Think about the type of clients you want to work with. What is their persona? To answer this question, take a look at demographic and lifestyle information of potential clients such as age, gender, location, and employment status.
  2. Determine your unique selling point. Choosing a PT niche will help you stand out and be viewed as an expert in your area. Your niche should be something you’re passionate about and that plays well to your strengths as a trainer.
  3. Ask yourself why you want to target this audience. Your answers will largely point to what you want to specialize in. If you’re not sure, then think about what your target audience wants you to specialize in and how you can leverage that when designing your services.

To help you define your target audience we created a downloadable worksheet that goes over the three simple steps above in detail with room for your notes. To download and save the Defining Your Target Audience Worksheet click here.

Once you’ve defined your clientele, consider how much they would be willing to pay for your services. If your target audience is mostly 30-40-year-old adults from a wealthy suburb, for instance, they’ll have the means and willingness to pay more for packages. However, if you’re targeting college-aged students without a steady income, you’ll have to look at a lower price point.

4) What are you actually offering?

After you answer question number 2 and have a general idea of the type of services you plan to offer, consider your offerings more closely in terms of value. How much time are you personally spending with the client for each service? How much of that time is face-to-face versus online? Are you contacting clients with personalized messages or automated communications?

The less time and personal touch you offer with your service packages, the less value your product will have. The more time and attention a client gets from you, the more you can charge.

5) What does your competitor analysis look like?

This one is simple: check out your competitors. Visit their websites or inquire to find out what they’re charging for services similar to yours. Then, compare!

Just make sure you’re only looking at direct competitors, i.e., coaches offering similar products and services to you and to a similar target audience. If you look at personal trainers who are not aligned with what you’re doing, you may find your pricing structure is wrong. Then you’ll end up either overpricing or selling yourself too short.

6) What are your running costs?

Finally, you need to look at the nuts and bolts of your incoming versus outgoing money. In other words: how much does it cost to run your business? Once you know that, then you can determine how much you need to bring in to make a profit.

Consider costs such as equipment, rent for your space, marketing and advertising, and your management software. The good news on the software front is that it doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars for a quality system. With My PT Hub’s simple pricing plans, you can get started for less than $50 a month. If you sign up for our annual paid monthly plan, you’ll save more!

Bonus Tips for Pricing Your Personal Training Services:

  • Be consistent with pricing for every client. For example, don’t charge a new client more than a long-term one, unless you’re raising prices across the board.
  • Stick to the cancellation, late arrival, and no-show policies you outline in your contract. Don’t bend the rules for a client just because you like them at the expense of your livelihood.
  • Require advanced payment (one session ahead) to increase accountability and reduce the likelihood of same-day cancellations.
  • Consider using the psychology of .99 pricing. Although they’re essentially the same price, the human mind processes $8.00 and $7.99 very differently — and the latter as a better deal — since we read from left to right.

Average Personal Trainer Salary

While we’re on the topic of dollars and cents, you probably want to know how much you can expect to earn as a full-time personal trainer. Check out our salaries below for yearly average earnings in the US, UK, and Australia. Keep in mind that these numbers are just an average though, which means you have the potential to make more or less depending on many different business and geographical factors.

Get Personal Training Billing Software

As you devise your pricing strategy, you will also need to figure out what your payment process will be. Consider offering flexible pricing to accommodate as many clients as possible. For example, many trainers will break down their services into hourly, per session, weekly, monthly, and retained basis prices. Something else to think about is how you can reward your long-standing customers or clients who commit to longer-term payment plans, such as offering discounts as an incentive.

Top Tip: Use the My PT Hub Finance feature to make your payment process simple. Through our app or online software, you can easily create packages, take card payments, track money in/money out (including cash and check payments), and create receipts.

How to Create Personal Training Workout Programs

As a personal trainer, your workouts are half of the core of your business (the other half, of course, is your clients). Now, you could spend hours a day researching exercises, coming up with circuits, and creating workouts for each individual client move by move. Or, you could use My PT Hub’s Workouts feature to streamline program creation. Wouldn’t you rather spend those hours you would’ve been making workouts from scratch building relationships with clients (or just getting your own workout in)?!

The Workouts feature allows you to create unlimited custom workouts and deliver them directly to your clients on your branded app. You can build your programs using our library of 7,500+ exercises, upload your own custom ones, or mix and match. Your clients will also be able to see their exercise history, keep time during workouts or individual sets, and sync their favorite fitness wearables directly with the program.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown on how to use the My PT Hub’s Workouts feature:

The Best Apps for Personal Trainers

When you own and operate your own business, you need plenty of tools in your arsenal to kick-start, maintain, and grow your enterprise. Being your own boss is a lot of work, but thankfully today’s technology can significantly lighten your load. There are over a million apps available for your smartphone and laptop, which means you can be the accountant, marketer, graphic designer, content creator, and operations manager for your personal training business too.

Let’s take a look at the top apps and software every personal trainer should have at their fingertips!

Canva

Having your own custom branding is essential for making your fitness business stand out. Images, colors, and other design elements help define your brand, make you look professional, make a positive and memorable first impression, and improve content readability.

Canva is an excellent tool for personal trainers to play graphic designer for their business, especially if you’re just getting started. You can create a free account or sign up for a paid plan to access more features, but the free plan will usually suffice for all your basics.

Another great thing about Canva is that they have plenty of pre-designed and easy-to-use templates for business deliverables. These include logos, business cards, email campaigns, social media (e.g., Facebook covers, posts, and ads, Instagram posts and stories), posters/flyers, and so on. If you’re more design-savvy, you can also build your own designs from scratch.

Adobe Video Editing Software

In IHRSA’s 2021 report, “The Next Fitness Consumer 10 Key Findings”, their research found that although consumers have gradually returned to their gyms, the use of at-home workout options is still greater than that of clubs and studios. What does this mean for personal trainers? That video content is more important now than ever.

Creating video content for your clients and prospects improves your brand and expands your reach. Especially if you’re offering online and/or pre-recorded services, a good video editing software is crucial. Adobe is a great option for trainers and fitness coaches with a number of different packages — Premiere Rush, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Spark Video — for you to choose from based on the features you need.

Adobe is considered user-friendly and also provides step-by-step guided edits that are perfect for beginners. With many of the package options, you can edit on any device (phone, laptop, tablet), share videos directly to social, and use graphics templates to enhance your videos.

Constant Contact

Email marketing is a must for any modern business. For personal trainers, email campaigns are an opportunity to engage with clients on a regular basis, which helps them feel that they’re getting more value out of your services. Ultimately, this will help boost your retention rate.

Constant Contact is an easy-to-use solution for implementing professional and engaging email campaigns. You’ll also have access to email performance metrics for sent campaigns such as open rates, who opened, click-through rates, and which links subscribers clicked. The best part? You can automate all your email communications to save yourself a lot of time and work, and ensure no clients fall through the cyber cracks!

Mint

Part of running a business is actively and successfully managing your money. Once you start a personal training business, you’re going to have more accounts and more money to keep track of and organize. This can be overwhelming, especially when you’re also trying to focus on serving clients and getting your business off the ground. Fortunately, the Mint app is here to help!

Mint is a straightforward platform anyone can use to manage their money. Simply link all of your personal and business accounts, and you can easily organize your finances, see in and out cashflow, and manage money from one convenient dashboard. You can also create a budget, get alerts for bills due, track your credit score, and even download information from your account to file taxes more easily.

My PT Hub

Having a software specifically designed to manage your PT business is essential to your success. The right app will do most of the bureaucratic legwork required to run your business, stay organized, and continue to grow — and that’s where My PT Hub comes in.

My PT Hub is an all-in-one management solution for personal trainers and fitness coaches, available as a mobile app and desktop software. It covers everything you can’t get from the apps above that you need to operate your business smoothly. Here are some of the top features you’ll come to rely on:

  • Create unlimited client workouts from scratch or our convenient templates and exercise library.
  • Build unlimited nutrition plans complete with an expansive food database, custom meals, a macro calculator, a barcode scanner, and a shopping list feature.
  • Manage unlimited clients with instant chat, progress photos, social sharing, client notes, and PAR-Q forms.
  • Create your own virtual storefront with MySite and implement preconfigured, optimized, and targeted Google ad campaigns.
  • Create and sell packages, accept client payments, manage billing and accounts, and store important documents online.
  • Let clients book their own sessions in your public-facing calendar with waiting list, attendance register, and group and recurring booking options.
  • Get a custom branded app clients can use to receive workouts, communicate with you directly, book and pay for sessions, integrate with other apps and fitness wearables, and track their progress.
  • Access PT resources on our Marketplace such as workouts, programs, nutrition plans, and Masterclasses that teach you how to build and scale your business.
  • Stream live or on-demand events online and on mobile.
  • Help clients build sustainable healthy lifestyles with the Habit Tracker.

How to Grow a Personal Training Business

Now that you know how to start your personal training business, your next job is to give it some traction, so you can expand your client base and increase revenue. Yes, we know this is an undertaking that is much easier said than done. But we believe in you and, of course, we’re here to help you! We’ve got some more good news too — if you completed all the steps above to get your PT business off the ground, then you’ve already taken your first step toward growth.

Remember earlier when we talked about how to define your target audience, so you could price your services more accurately? That’s the first step! Once you know who you’re targeting, you can work on choosing and using the best tools to convert them from strangers into clients. It’s best to focus on a smaller audience now, so you can build a formidable foundation to work off of, then you can expand later.

Next Steps on Building a Successful Online Fitness Business

Group working in a gym

Congratulations — you’ve made it through The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer! If you’ve made it this far, you’ll soon be well on your way to successfully starting, running, and growing your personal training empire.

Developing a personal training business that can support your livelihood and transform the lives of your clients is a long journey. Getting started is the biggest and most stressful step, so you should feel good about completing it. And now, you’re ready to move on to the next one!

As you continue your learning journey, don’t forget to start uncovering and harnessing the power of My PT Hub to help you along the way. Sign up for your free 30-day trial today and get ready to propel your business to greatness!