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The Challenges of Starting a Personal Training Business


by Matt Weik

Many people think that owning your own business as a personal trainer would be great. You get to train people all day long, constantly growing your client list, and get people the results they desire. Just think of all the money you could make! Or not. That’s up to you. But if you think it will be easy, think again!

Personal training is an amazing career choice—if you’re in the right market, have the right credentials, and have the right business model and gym/studio to train out of. There’s more to starting your personal training business than you would think. Simply getting people to work with you could be the easiest part of your business venture.

Filing your paperwork

This is where it would be ideal for you to hire and work with an attorney (I’ll touch on this in greater detail later in the article). Filing out the paperwork for your LLC or Corporation (however you choose to set it up) is extremely time consuming and if it’s not filled out correctly could lead to several headaches down the road. Are you forming this business alone? Do you have a partner? Will you have employees? Figuring out your business structure in order to complete the paperwork should be well thought out ahead of time.

Another roadblock is waiting for your state to approve your paperwork and get it back to you. While most of the time it gets approved quickly, it could also take a month or two just to get the paperwork back. Like in my case when I started my LLC, I waited over a month for the state to finally approve my paperwork due to them being understaffed because of budget cuts (as if our taxes aren’t high enough). This delayed the official start of my business, gave me some gray hair, and probably took a solid year off my life.

Website design

How hard can it be right? Well, for most, harder than you think. Hiring a web designer can immensely speed up the process and get your site live fairly quickly. Be sure you have everything laid out in a contract of what you are getting for the money and what the responsibilities of the web designer are. In my case, my web designer didn’t do everything he was contractually obligated to do (and this was a contract HE put together). After questioning him on all the missing parts of his responsibilities, he was quick to point the finger and get angry for me calling him out.

I learned a valuable lesson over this. Never pay for a service in full before it is completed and if someone pushes you to pay the invoice before their work is done, start questioning his/her motives and business practices. For me, the guy bounced without ever finishing the website and his contractual obligations. Then when he came back asking what else I needed done and I told him. He then sent me an invoice for the extra work he did when he never completed the stuff originally in his contract. When I questioned him about it, again he got all defensive. So needless to say, I’ll never recommend this individual to anyone and was more than happy to break free from working with him as he left me with the shell of the website and nothing more.

After figuring out how to manipulate and add content to my website on my own, I was getting things done fairly quickly and adding all my content to the site. It took a good solid 2 weeks of working on my site myself to get everything situated. I’m constantly reworking things and adding content to the site, so depending on your business model, you too might find yourself working tirelessly on your website. I was also clueless when it came to SEO (search engine optimization) so I had to do a lot of research as well as trial and error to see how to engage more people through search engines.


In my particular instance, the personal training side of the business isn’t my primary focus as compared to other areas of my LLC services. However, just saying “personal training” seems to make insurance companies slam on the brakes. Let me be clear about one thing I found out. Insurance companies HATE personal trainers. And I guess that’s for good reason. There are good trainers out there, and then there are the idiots who tell everyone they are a guru who have no credentials or education to back them up. It’s the latter who cause good trainers to have a nightmare when trying to get insured.

Thanks to some terrible trainers out there who don’t know the first thing about training protocols, proper form, designing workout plans, etc., trainers are forced to pay way more than they should for liability insurance. Personal training liability insurance already without the help from complacent trainers is high due to the risks involved with the profession. Be aware of this ahead of time so when you are out shopping around for business and professional liability insurance for your newly formed business you aren’t shocked at how many people won’t want to insure you and those who do, how expensive it could be.


It goes without saying that you definitely need to separate your business finances from your personal. Make sure the money going into your account for your business hits your business account and does not get deposited into your personal and vice versa. This is very important. Without separation you are risking “piercing the corporate veil” which could open up the possibility of a judge allowing someone suing you to get to your personal assets which are normally protected through a LLC.

Another thing you definitely need to do is apply for an EIN. The application can be done online and takes no time at all and you will receive your EIN number immediately. This will help separate you from your business. It also gives your business its own identity rather than it being put under your name and social security number. You want as much separation as possible between your business and you personally. This will help ensure (assuming you formed an LLC) that your personal assets are protected should any legal judgements be filed against your business.

Make sure you get business checks as well. Some institutions will hook you up with free checks so be sure to ask how that is handled. Do not write personal checks for business expenses and do not use business checks to pay off personal debt.

To make life easier, I also recommend getting a business credit card. This again separates business and personal finances and ensures there’s separation. Don’t simply use your person credit card because you get better perks or cash back, take the time and find a business credit card that gives you about the same perks as your personal and charge business expenses to your specified business credit card.

Using a software program such as Quickbooks Self-Employed can also save you a bunch of time in the long run with your financials. It allows you to connect all of your business accounts (checking account/credit cards/etc.) and updates your software every time a transaction takes place in a particular account. You can use it to categorize your revenue stream as well as your expenses. You even have the capability of attaching digital images of your receipts should you wish to do so. This also allows you to at the end of the year when you are getting everything put together for tax season, the ability simply send the saved file over to your CPA (or upload it to Turbo Tax) to streamline the process and save time and energy.

Attorney / CPA

Having people on your side can make your business life a lot easier. Having a knowledgeable attorney who works with businesses like yours as well as a good competent CPA to look over your finances and do your taxes in my opinion is worth its weight in gold. Not that some of the stuff you couldn’t do on your own, but trust me, the investment in both will help ease your mind and save you a lot of money and possible frustration in the long run.

Speaking to both prior to starting your business is also a good idea so you know what will be expected legally once your business paperwork is approved. The CPA will also sit down with you and help you understand what you can do to minimize your taxes at the end of the year. This will be anything from tracking your business mileage, having a home office, business/office expenses, equipment purchases, depreciation, write-offs, marketing costs, legal/professional services, etc.

A big piece of working with a CPA and using software such as Quickbooks Self-Employed is figuring out your quarterly taxes. No longer are you paying half of your taxes while your employer pays the other half. ALL those taxes now fall on your shoulders. The whole amount. Paying the correct amount of quarterly taxes is extremely important so you don’t owe a ton of money at the end of the year and wind up paying a penalty for not paying enough during the year.


It’s only fitting to insert this topic after just touching on attorneys. Make sure you have your attorney draft up business and liability contracts for you and your business. You want to protect yourself and that’s what you pay an attorney to do (protect your butt from being sued). On top of the liability involved that you would want a client to sign off on, you also want to have a payment contract in place that spells out your costs, payment methods, when payments must be rendered, and the consequences of not paying or not showing up to a training session. Your attorney can very easily draft this up for you and help you protect yourself, your time, and your assets. Make sure every single one of your clients signs a contract—that means your friends too. Leave nothing on the table that could potentially cause you to spend time fighting a legal battle.

Building your business

No one ever said it was going to be easy. But with hard work, determination, some sleepless nights, and long hours, you can be very successful. Making a name for yourself by getting your clients the results they desire will be your greatest marketing material ever. When people see the transformation your clients went through, your name is going to be brought up a lot. Word of mouth is your best form of marketing. So never half-ass what you are doing. It’s your reputation on the line. If you can’t get your clients the results they are paying you to get them, the opposite will happen to what was just mentioned with word of mouth. You don’t want your name to be in the mud, so take your business and your training seriously.

You also have to consider how you will run your personal training services. Will you create your own gym or studio? Will it be out of your house or in a commercial setting? Will you decide to work a deal with a local gym to allow you to use their facility and in return money made from your clients training there will be split between you and the gym (they take an agreed upon percentage of your revenue)? Those are things you need to think about. If you are forming your own studio or gym, you will have considerable overhead due to purchasing or renting equipment to get up and running not to mention rent for a space if you don’t own your own building (which is an even greater expense).

And last but not least, have FUN. You’re working for yourself. You don’t answer to anyone. You don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder and asking you how long of a lunch you took. Or how many hours you put in this week. You don’t have to punch in and out of the clock every day. You have way more freedom than you would ever have working a corporate 9-5 job. So remember that. With that extra freedom comes a lot of responsibility and hard work. Your earning potential is based off of how hard you work. You have the ability to determine how much (or little) money you make every single day. I wish you the best of luck in starting your own training business and hope you find it as enjoyable as I have.

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