This article about running a personal training business was written by Taylor Simon for the PTDC.
X clients = X$ – rent = Lots of money. Way more than you’re making working for a gym. Seems like owning a business is a no-brainer.
Are you sure? Have you really thought about it?
I ask because I’ve found that most people who think about making the leap into owning a fitness business don’t actually sit down and think about it. I don’t mean the usual superficial glazing that trainers often do.
The majority of small business owners worked for a larger fitness company before coming to the conclusion that they can do it better. And just why are they giving all that money to someone else when it is their reputation on the line, their clients, and their hard work?
There are two themes common to those of us in the industry who decide to leave the perceived safety nest of the big established personal training businesses. Most people have some grandiose ideas about owning their own business. Wake up in the morning heading off to their own facility, working with smiling clients who are excited to follow your perfectly crafted exercise program, chatting with fellow fitness people, and then pursuing some kind of personal pursuit after a day of work. All for more money than they are making now and the freedom to do it how they want. Utopia or dystopia?
For the really ambitious trainers out there, this idea then usually morphs into the ultimate dream of having a group of trainers working for them as they change the way fitness is done. These happy clones keep their business running smoothly, their clients happy, and take care of things while they head off on vacations and to spread the good word of fitness as an in demand fitness guru!
It all sounds awesome: Save the fitness world from sales, pay trainers more, do everything better. Everything will be a unique and fresh approach to fitness, of course. It will blow people’s minds and the entire fitness industry will beat down your door to learn the ultimate secret!
A Reality Check about Running a Personal Training Business
Here is what is actually going to happen when you strike it out on your own.
You will open your own place:
- Fewer clients than you thought will follow you.
- The ones that do will expect equivalent service and facilities that they had at their prior facility even though you’re new and 1/10th the size.
- All of the family and friends of your current clientele promised will sign up are nowhere to be found.
- Everyone you know will have amazing advice as to how to run your business (even though they’ve never ran a business before. Yet when you ask them to cough up some real support to back up their ideas suddenly they will disappear.
- Everyone will have a connection to someone or to some service that will help you out. You will find out quickly that these friends of friends really suck at what they do, which is why they are only ever recommended by their friends.
- Negotiating commercial space will drive you crazy and landlords will suck the blood out of you if you don’t watch them like a hawk. They are never there to help you – they are only in it to make a profit from you and they will every step of the way.
- Construction will take twice as long as you expect, cost 50% more than you thought, and you will have to put in 100% more labour of your own than you expected. And it still won’t be perfect.
- Suppliers and equipment will arrive late and stuff will be missing.
- You will try design your own logo and website and think they are awesome (Note: they aren’t).
- You will join the chamber of commerce and donate your time to a variety of events, which will give you no new business but will open you up to solicitation for more services than you even knew existed (Apparently I’m paying too much for my wireless internet…)
- You will make business cards and brochures which you will hand out all over the place and then never see them again. You will put up ballot boxes and put ads on free websites, which will bring you a few bargain hunters and no quality long term clients.
- You will pay your trainers a bigger cut than anyone else. Then you will then realize what running a business really costs and realize that you can’t make the bills.
- You won’t pay yourself for all of your time, which will give you a false sense of how well your business is actually doing.
- You won’t have time to train and design programs anymore. When you aren’t face to face with your clients you will have 500 other things that need to get down. You will tell yourself that you will get to it by the weekend. But after 6 days of working 15 hour days you will have a regular bedtime of around 9pm and the last thing you will want to do is write a program.
- You will want to get to a conference but will have to wait for the next one as you just don’t have the time or money right now.
- Eventually you will realize that you just have a job that pays poorly, for with twice as much stress.
This will be the first year of your life and there will be many make or break points. You will shut things down or realize that you need to make some changes. At this point one of two things will happen:
1. You will give up and go out of business.
2. You will get a business coach, revamp everything you are doing, and really get down to running a business. (Don’t forget to create your personal trainer business plan.)
Does this sound like fun now?
So I ask again:
Do you want to own your own personal training business?
Those of you reading this who have started your own business will understand. Those of you thinking about striking it out on your own will either think I am completely wrong or will now be rethinking your decision to become an entrepreneur.
Good, that’s exactly the purpose of this tirade (I mean article). To get you thinking. To pull the wool off your eyes and inject a little dose of reality into your planning. The purpose is not to scare you off or stifle potential competition, it is to describe the road ahead in a way I wish someone had done for me years ago.
People reading this will have fallen into two groups. The first group will still want to open their own place and think I’m completely wrong. They believe they’ll do it better than me. The second group are those who want to start their own place and are now totally discouraged and and asking: What is the point?
If you’re part of the group who don’t believe me. Good luck. Call me in a couple years.
For everyone else I think it is a lot like having children. No I don’t have children but the vast majority of people I know do, and I am struck by uncanny parallels. At first it’s exciting and everyone encourages you to jump in. Congratulations come at you from every angle, advice seems to show up on your Facebook wall hourly, and you are more and more excited about something that really is a huge mystery.
READ ALSO: How to Make Money in the Fitness Industry
Then you actually have a baby
Your life completely changes and nothing could have really prepared you. You don’t sleep, you don’t go on vacations, ‘Treehouse’ replaces adult TV and you know more about Dora the Explorer than what’s happening on The Walking Dead. You haven’t seen adults for months and all the support and advice that was so kindly lavished on you before the birth, seems to have disappeared. You question why you did this in the first place and don’t even realize that 4 years have just gone by and you haven’t left the house past 6pm in that entire time.
While you no longer know the meaning of a full nights rest or have time to go on vacation, everything about it’s awesome. You can’t really explain why, it just is, and you wouldn’t have things any other way. And as time goes on things get a little easier and more and more exciting. Yes, there are pitfalls and setbacks, there is stress and many challenges. But your child is a part of you.
This is exactly what owning your business is like. You hear all the wonderful parts and accolades about being a business owner, then you get into it and it is nothing like you expected. It is ten times the work with seemingly no reward and you wonder what the hell you are doing. But you work hard, learn, adapt, and keep going. Suddenly you realize that 4 years have gone by and you have built something awesome. Sure there are pitfalls and setbacks but you constantly evolve and move forward.
It is the most satisfying and rewarding experience in the world. It allows you the opportunity to change the lives of so many people, clients and other fitness professionals. I would do it all over again (well maybe a little bit differently).
It is awesome.
What I want is for you to go into this with your eyes wide open. To really understand what you are embarking upon. Not to scare you away from opening a business, but to show you the reality of it. If you simply want to build fitness programs and train clients everyday, running a business may not be for you. Instead find a facility that matches your goals.
If you want to create a philosophy, build it, grow it, and help create a group of fitness professionals who become a part of that vision and help you further those ideals while working harder than you have ever worked in your life for the next 5 years, then starting your own business may be in your future.
We all do this because we have a passion for fitness and a passion for changing the lives of our clients. Whether or not you own your own business does not determine how well you accomplish that. Either way you have the ability to make the lives of other people better. All you have to do is decide what is the best way for YOU to do that.