Anyone who says owning a business is easy is flat out lying. However, it’s common to hear successful business owners say how much fun they are having running their business and providing products and services that help people to solve their problems — and that’s 100 percent accurate. Nothing in business is guaranteed, and you will have ups and downs just like you do in life. So as not to catch you off guard during your journey, below you will find seven unexpected surprises to owning your own fitness business.
1. Insurance Companies Hate You
You have risk and liability in just about every industry, but the fitness industry it a completely different animal for small businesses. Don’t be surprised if you look everywhere for insurance on your fitness business and no one wants to cover you. Your best bet is to look at a specialty insurance company that specifically covers personal trainers and those in the fitness industry otherwise you’re either going to be paying an insane amount each year, or you’re simply going to time after time. This is due to the nature of the business.
Personal trainers and those in the fitness industry are working with individuals or groups in a one-on-one or group setting. Each individual has an inherent risk due to nature of exercise itself. Someone could have perfect form, you’re right there spotting them, and all of a sudden their muscle tears. Or maybe they are doing agility work as cardio and they roll their ankle. You didn’t do anything wrong, they didn’t do anything wrong, it was just an unfortunate accident. That client who you thought you were close with now decides they want to sue you because they have doctor bills, surgery bills, time off from work, etc. Now you’re looking at a potential six- or even seven-figure lawsuit on your hands for doing nothing wrong. This is the reason many insurance companies do not want the risk that comes along with the profession.
2, You’re Competing Against Unqualified Individuals Who Might Win
I’ve been in the industry for over a decade and I have pretty much seen it all — competing against unqualified individuals always takes the cake. It doesn’t happen all the time, but on some occasions, you will find a competitor (whether it’s body building, fitness, figure, bikini, whatever) who wins a competition and gets in a fitness magazine for their accomplishment. Congrats, that’s amazing. But by the time Monday morning rolls around, all of a sudden they think they are a personal trainer or nutrition coach. What credentials do they have? None. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to steal your clients. After all, they won a show and they're in Fitness Magazine — can you say that for yourself? Probably not, and that’s ok.
You have more power between your ears than they do. You might even see people getting hired who were only members of the gym and have no experience at all, yet they have an amazing body and the gym thinks the individual can train clients based off of that alone. While this isn’t a good business practice and puts a lot of liability on the gym, you need to be warned that you may see this happen and it will be frustrating. Without speaking negatively about that individual, explain to your clients and potential clients why you are the best trainer for them. Most of all, results trump everything. If your client is getting the results they desire, there’s no reason for them to leave your fitness business.
3. Content Is King
If you have an online training or fitness business, you’re going to find it's very expensive to gain new clients. There are so many competitors out there who are selling their services at rock-bottom prices that you’re going to scratch your head and wonder how they even make a living. Therefore, you’re going to need to put together an amazing marketing campaign, get the brand out in front of people, and hope people are willing to sign up for your services. I have a trick that can help ease the financial blow of a marketing campaign. The best thing that you can do is write content. Even if it’s once a week, you want to be able to post something that you can share via your social media platforms and direct people over to your website. If you are consistent with your content each week or multiple times during the week, it gives people a reason to continue going over to your website. From there you can try to convert a sale or sign-up.
4. You Need a Good Number of Clients to Make Money
If you open a personal training or fitness business, I’m assuming you already thought about this, but you’re going to need a fair number of clients in order to make a living. A trainer generally charges anywhere from $30-100 per client (sometimes more based on the location of the business, which I’ll touch on later in the article). However, you also have to factor in that some clients might only work with you once a week. It also depends on how you set up your fitness business. Do you have a studio that you’re selling memberships for? Do you train by appointment only? How are you bringing in revenue with your business? If you don’t have enough clients, what else can you add to your business to bring in another revenue stream?
The personal training industry is very competitive and corporate/franchise gyms across the nation employ many trainers that you’re going to be competing against. Think about how many gyms are in your area, and then how many trainers are at each of those gyms. You could potentially have over 30 trainers within a 10-mile radius of your fitness business. We haven’t even touched on the online competition you’re going to face. You’re going to need quite the following to pick up a fair number of clients online and own a piece of the market.
5. The Need for Differentiation
Here is what can make #4 easier. What makes you different than the other trainers/gyms out there? Do you cater to a niche in the industry? Do you structure your training sessions and memberships differently from your local competitors? If you are identical to everyone else out there, what would make someone decide to jump ship and work with you? You need to think outside the box and make sure (through marketing/advertising) that people understand your point of differentiation in the market. The fitness industry is overpopulated as is. The fact that you’re coming into the market doesn’t change anything, to be honest.
Therefore, you need to focus on creating a space that isn’t already oversaturated in the market, or create your own by thinking outside the box. Just because you built a better mouse trap doesn't mean people will jump on board with your new concept. Market and promote your fitness business to ensure people are aware that you’re not just like every other gym or personal trainer out there. If you can explain and show why your mouse trap is better, the greater the chance people will be knocking on your door and signing on the dotted line.
6. Seasonality Can Help (and Hurt) Your Business
We all know that as soon as January hits, everyone wants to get in shape and become healthier. This is great for the fitness industry, but it won’t last. Most of your new business from January will fizzle out within the next few months. Don’t get discouraged though. As soon as warm weather approaches and people start thinking about bathing suits, the masses will flock back. As summer approaches, people begin thinking about their insecurities. Maybe they put on a few extra pounds during the winter months. Maybe they have a summer wedding that they need to get ready for. No matter the reason, the closer it is to summer, the greater your chance of bringing in more clients. However, once summer hits, you’re going to slow down just a little again.
People will be outside more which gives them an opportunity to exercise for free while enjoying the weather, not to mention summer is a busy time for vacations. But as the cyclical pattern shows, once school starts and kids are back in the classroom, your fitness business will again pick up. You will need to understand these seasonal patterns so you can adjust your fitness business and your focus. Maybe you also sell supplements or other retail items in your location or on your website? During the slow periods, that would be a great time to focus on the other areas of your business and start thinking about your marketing plan for the next upcoming busy season. Don’t consider “down time” an area where you just settle for less income, work around it by expanding your business through different revenue streams.
7. Location of Business Determines How Well You Do
Take any location that’s out in the middle of nowhere, and then compare it to a place like Los Angeles or Beverly Hills. Which location do you think will do better business? If you are an online fitness business, you won’t need to worry about location as much as if you had a free-standing brick and mortar location. If you have a physical location, you’re going to need foot traffic. If you aren’t pulling people in your door, your fitness business will not last very long. Be selective with your location. Just because you have a location where no other gym is within close proximity, that doesn’t always equate to a booming fitness business. There might be a good reason why no one is there, as in someone already tried and failed. Be realistic with your expectations. If you think you’ll be as successful out in the country compared to a busy city, you’re wrong.
You also have to look at how affluent the area is. If you live in an area that is struggling and many people are without jobs, the discretionary income they have to pay for your services is very low. Yet if you are in a very affluent area where people have the means to use your services and businesses are thriving, your own fitness business can flourish. Do yourself a favor and look at the market research and area you are thinking to build your fitness business — how many people are in the area, what’s the average household income, what are the demographics, how many gyms are already in the area, etc. Don’t open up a fitness business without first understanding the landscape.
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Matt Weik is the Founder/Owner of Weik Fitness, LLC and is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. He’s a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. His work has been featured in over 85 fitness magazines and over 1,500 websites. You can contact Matt via www.weikfitness.com or on his social channels found on his website.