How to Start Your Own Gym, Fitness Center or Personal Training Business

Getting fit, losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is a priority for many of us. From new diets to innovative exercise regimes, we all want to find interesting ways to be active.

If you’ve got an interest in exercise or personal training and want to turn that expertise into a business, then opening up a fitness-based business could be right for you.

You’ve got plenty of choices depending on your budget, target clients and ideas for marketing your gym or personal training venture.

The question is, just where do you start?

Here at Incfile, we know the answer, and we’ve shared it with more than 500,000 people who we've helped to form their businesses. Since 2004, we’ve supported gym, fitness or personal training entrepreneurs just like you, and we’re proud to have been a part of the healthy lifestyle business revolution.

From validating your business and doing the research to filing your paperwork and running your business, this guide will help you out. We’ll talk you through the main things you need to do to get your fitness business off of the ground.

Read on for some insight into creating your own gym, fitness center or personal training business and becoming an entrepreneur. In this guide we will cover:

Statistics on why you should start a fitness-based business

How to choose the right business structure

Ideas for the type of healthy lifestyle venture that you could create

How to validate your gym or personal training business idea

Business plans for fitness companies

Helpful software for gym, fitness or personal training business owners

How to start your gym, fitness or personal training business with information on equipment, employees, location, permits, finance, taxes and more

Learn if a gym, personal training or other type of fitness business could be right for you

Why You Should Open a New Gym or Personal Training Business

You might wonder if now is the right time to open your own gym or get into personal training. The answer is a resounding “yes.” Here’s how the fitness industry is performing:

$26B - $27.5B

Increase of U.S. revenues from gym, personal training and related businesses between 2015 and 2016

4% - 7%

Growth of fitness industry in the U.S. a year.

$40K

Approximate numbers of gyms, fitness clubs and similar businesses in the U.S.

Around 1 in 5 Americans has a membership to a fitness club, gym or studio

(over 60 milion people)

Boutique studios providing specialized fitness and well-being services are becoming increasingly popular

Budget-friendly gyms are becoming more popular for those who do not want to pay an expensive monthly membership

This is why gym, fitness or personal training businesses are so exciting — how can you be part of that success? We're here to help you figure that out.

Is a Fitness-Based Business Right for You?

Although it can be exciting to form a gym or personal training business, there will be significant demands on you as a small business owner. Here are some of the things you can expect.

A Day in the Life of a Gym, Fitness Center or Personal Training Business Owner

Here are some of the typical tasks you’ll be performing for your business on a daily basis.

Signing up new members and taking them through fitness orientations

Checking out your facilities and equipment to keep everything clean, tidy, hygienic and safe

Staying up-to-date with the latest thinking on exercise and fitness industry trends

Scheduling appointments for classes or personal training

Teaching classes and providing personal training

Dealing with staff and members of the public

Maintaining and buying equipment and other products

Administering your business including paying suppliers, charging customers and other operations

Promoting and marketing your gym

Skills Needed by a Fitness Entrepreneur

The following skills will be very useful in your role as a fitness-based small business owner.

A good understanding of human anatomy and fitness needs

The ability to tailor exercise to individuals so they meet their fitness goals

The right approach for inspiring people through exercise

Good interpersonal skills for dealing with gym members, staff and the public

Strong administration for scheduling and finances

The ability to identify and capitalize on fitness trends

Marketing your fitness products and services based on member needs

What Your Gym Members Are Looking For

Although many people have the same basic needs from a fitness business - losing weight, building endurance, getting stronger and improving general health - your clients' needs can vary widely beyond that. Think about the types of customers you’re appealing to:

Some might be training for a specific event like a marathon, Ironman or other medium- to long-term goal.

Some might have personal bests that they’re trying to beat, every day.

Some may want training to deal with particular life circumstances, like recovering from injury or getting in shape after the birth of a child.

Some may need help to maintain a general level of fitness and stay in shape.

The key is to meet the various needs of each type of member. They will want a place they can go where they trust the trainers, have access to the latest equipment and are able to achieve their personal goals.

What Type of Fitness-Based Business Should You Start?

There are lots of different options for the type of fitness business you can start. We’ve provided several suggestions below.

1

General Gym and Fitness Center

This would be your standard type of gym. You will likely have standard fitness equipment like cross trainers, stationary bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, resistance trainers and weights. You’ll also probably provide fitness classes in special rooms and event spaces.

2

Specialized Gym

This type of gym might focus on specific types of training. For example, you might have a gym dedicated to weight training or endurance training, with equipment designed to achieve focused results.

3

Low-Cost Gym

Many gyms have very expensive monthly membership fees. You might choose to go another direction with more basic equipment and a lower fee. Rather than having monthly memberships, you might even go with a “pay-as-you-go” approach.

4

Low-Impact Fitness

This type of business may focus on fitness-related activities that help maintain health and well-being rather than a relentless focus on getting fit. This could include activities like yoga, Pilates, dance and similar approaches.

Personal Training

If you don’t want the considerable expense of opening a gym, you might decide to go down the personal trainer route. You have several good options:

  • Provide one-on-one training with individual clients to help them meet fitness goals
  • Instruct specialized classes like aerobics, Zumba, Pilates or spinning
  • Get the blood pumping with circuit training or high-intensity interval training

You’ll need the right skills and experience — and if you don’t want to go it alone, there are plenty of franchise opportunities available to personal trainers.

Validating Your Fitness Business Idea

Remember, the ideas above are just a starting point. You can define and tweak exactly what type of gym, fitness or personal training business you want to run through conducting your own research.

Every fitness-based business will have many competitors, and you need to stand out - you should deliver superior fitness classes and excel in your chosen area. Here's how:

Identify your gym or personal training business’ unique selling points (USPs)

Once you know what type of fitness business you want to run, list the key benefits it will provide to members and what makes it unique compared to your competitors.

Look at who your competitors are in the space

You will have plenty of competitors. Get a good idea of all the fitness services they provide, and see if you can compete effectively — or if you need to find a slightly different fitness niche.

Understand your market

One of the best ways to get started is to find out exactly what type of people will want to use your fitness services. Work out what part of the community you’re going to serve, and start building personal training and gym services around that.

Talk to possible members

Talk to the types of people who might want to use your fitness services. See what their needs are and how your gym or training can help to meet them. Tweak the classes you offer so they’re of most benefit to your members.

Not every idea you have will make it through to becoming a gym, fitness or personal training business.

There are all sorts of reasons to say “yes” or “no” to specific businesses, so think about what your strengths and weaknesses are so you can choose a business you’d be great at.

Your Gym Needs a Business Plan

Gyms and other fitness businesses have lots of moving parts and administrative needs. If you want your business to be a success, you need a solid business plan.

You will need to define how you’re going to run your gym, fitness or personal training business, market yourself, sign up members, collect fees, provide services, buy equipment, make a profit and grow. This can only come about through creating a watertight business plan. It will help you get your thinking in order and show your commitment to your fitness or personal training business.

You will also need to look carefully at financial projections for your fitness business.

What are your expected member counts, dues, sales and revenues? What is your profitability? How much money will you keep in the business to grow it? How much will you pay yourself and others?

Business plans do vary slightly, but they should all cover the following areas:

1

An executive summary with the most important points from your business plan

2

Your goals and what you hope to achieve with your gym or personal training business

3

A description of your fitness business, background information and context

4

A market analysis and likely demand

5

An overview of how your gym, fitness or personal training business is structured

6

Your business model

7

How you will market and sell your offerings

8

Financial projections, revenue and profitability

9

Appendices

We’ve got the perfect guide to writing your business plan.

Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your Travel Agency

There are five main business structures you can have in the U.S., and it’s important to choose the right one. We’ve shared your options below. They are:

Sole Proprietorship

If you don’t choose to form a legal business entity for your gym, fitness or personal training business, you will be a sole proprietor by default. This won’t give you the legal protections you need, so we do not recommend this.

Partnership Company or LLC

Similar to a sole proprietorship, if you go into business with someone else without forming a legal business entity, you will be treated as a partnership. This doesn’t give you limited liability protection, so we don’t recommend it for your gym or personal training business.

Limited Liability Company or LLC

As the most common type of business entity, an LLC is fast, simple and inexpensive to set up and maintain. It protects your personal finances and assets and is a great way to start your personal training or gym business.

S Corporation

This is a more complex type of business and isn't generally recommended for smaller organizations.

C Corporation

These are the largest and most complex types of businesses and are typically far more than the average fitness entrepreneur will need.

For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of businesses, please see our in-depth guide. If you’ve still got questions, we’ve answered them to help you choose the right business structure for your gym personal training business.

In most cases, our recommendation for a gym, fitness or personal training business would be to create an LLC. We’ve got a complete guide to everything you need to do. LLC formation does vary from state to state, but we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.

Start Your Business with Us, Today!

Setting up Business Operations

Once you've legally created your gym, fitness or personal training business, you’ll need to get some other things in place.

Location of Your Gym

If you’re running a gym, the location will be vital. You’ll need somewhere that’s easily accessible, with enough space for all the equipment you’ll need and classes you want to run. These types of spaces can be hard to find, so engage a commercial real estate agent who can provide options for renting and leasing space. Remember to take into account specialized needs like flooring for classes, reinforced areas for weights and multiple power points for fitness equipment.

Equipment for Your Gym

One of your main expenses for your gym will be fitness equipment. You’ll need special training devices for cardiovascular workouts like treadmills, rowing machines and cross trainers. You’ll also need other equipment like weights, balance balls, resistance machines and much more. Don’t forget to budget for all your fixtures and fittings, together with computer equipment and entertainment systems to keep members happy while they work out.

Employees

If you’re a personal trainer, you probably won't need to hire anyone else. If you’re running a gym, it’s likely you’ll need to take on some staff to help you with administration, providing fitness classes and other tasks.

Software and Process

The right software and processes will make running your gym, fitness or personal training business much easier. See our list of the best apps and software at the end of this guide.

Location of Your Personal Training Business

If you’re running a personal training business, you’ll have more flexibility. You may be able to rent a hall or event space when you need it for classes, or work with a local gym owner to provide services at their location. Some personal trainers may choose to provide classes in the great outdoors, but beware of weather changes.

Marketing Your Gym, Fitness or Personal Training Business

Marketing will be a huge part of your gym, fitness or personal training business. Naturally, you will need an awesome website, but you'll also need to get branding, newsletters, digital ads, social media accounts and other channels in place.

Finances and Taxes

You will need a separate business bank account for your gym or personal training business. You might also want to consider a business credit card. Additionally, you will need to keep careful bookkeeping records and file business and personal taxes. Here at Incfile we can even help you file your taxes.

Equipment for Your Personal Training Business

As a personal trainer, you’ll need far less equipment. Your exact needs will vary depending on the type of training you offer, but you will at least need some good sets of gym clothes and shoes, a mobile device to track signups and schedules and a reliable mode of transportation.

The Complete "Start Your Business" Checklist

A Clear and Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Business the Right Way

Rules, Regulations and Taxes for Your Fitness Business

All businesses will need to adhere to licenses, permits and regulations. You will need to explore local, state and federal licenses and permits, and we can also help out with researching your business licensing needs. You may also want to look into relevant qualifications for personal trainers and others providing fitness services.

Taxes

Taxes are a fact of life if you’re in business, and there are various ways you will need to file and pay them. This can include self-employment tax, state income tax and federal income tax. Depending on where and how you’re selling products and services, you may also be liable for sales and use tax.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend holding back around a third of your earnings to pay your taxes. We can also prepare and file your tax returns for you.

Insurance for Your Gym, Fitness or Personal Training Business

Most fitness businesses should have comprehensive business insurance. There are various types.

Workers Compensation Insurance for Your Gym or Personal Training Business

Workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for job-related illnesses, disabilities or injuries that affect employees. Regulations for this insurance vary from state to state. It typically covers areas like medical costs, loss of earnings, compensation and retraining. Although you may not need this as a personal trainer, if you’re employing others as a gym owner, it’s likely a necessity.

General Liability Insurance for Your Fitness-Based Business

This insurance protects your gym or personal training business from claims due to being sued. This may include injury to members of the public, property damage, personal liabilities, legal defense and more. It can help protect your business from financial penalties and bankruptcy. This type of insurance is especially important to gyms and personal trainers — since you’ll be putting clients and members through physical training, you will need to make sure your insurance covers potential injuries.

Home and Auto Insurance for Your Gym, Fitness or Personal Training Business

If you are working from home on the administration of your gym, fitness or personal training business or driving a vehicle for work, check whether your existing home and auto policies cover you for work use of your home or car. If not, you should either expand your policy so you’re covered or get dedicated business insurance.

Maintaining Your Gym, Fitness or Personal Training Business

There are certain forms and legalities you need to follow to keep your fitness-based business in good standing.

1

File an Annual Report

Most states require all businesses to file a report once a year. This report has details of any major changes to who owns a business and other major impacts on a business’ legal status. We can file your Annual Report on your behalf.

Annual Report
2

Pay estimated taxes

You will be expected to pay estimated taxes on what you plan to earn in the current business year. Typically, you will need to pay estimated taxes in April, June, September and January (of the following year).

3

Renew Business Permits and Licenses

Your business will probably have several licenses, permits and other regulations. These typically need to be renewed every year.

4

Prepare Your Taxes

You will need to work with your accountant to prepare all the taxes you need to pay.

5

File your taxes

You will need to file your taxes once a year.

6

Pay payroll and sales taxes

If applicable, you will need to make payroll and sales tax payments on a regular basis.

Groups and Forums for Fitness Business Owners

Here are some useful places where you can connect with other gym, fitness or personal training entrepreneurs.

Useful Online Tools for Your Gym, Fitness or Personal Training Business

Here are some really great online tools for managing your gym, fitness or personal training business. They will reduce the time you spend on administration, help you to collaborate with others and free up your time to grow and manage your new venture.

Conclusion

The need for engaging, powerful ways to build our strength, endurance, fitness and well-being isn’t going away. Build on these opportunities by starting your own gym or personal training business and turning it into a success.

Start your Gym, Fitness or Personal Training Business with us, today