My personal training career began, as so many do, at a big box gym.
I worked my way up to management, then regional management, and eventually struck out on my own. Soon I opened a small gym, which progressively grew into a bigger gym over the next six years.
A natural evolution maybe, but no accident. It happened because I had a plan.
A business plan helps you stay focused. It puts you in control, leading you where you want to go, so you’ll end up happier and wealthier.
Yet lots of trainers don’t think to make one, or assume they don’t need one. You do. Taking the time to carefully craft a business plan can give you an edge, regardless of where you are in your career.
To help you get started, I’ve outlined a personal trainer business plan template with six basic steps:
We’ll hit each of those in a moment, and share a downloadable worksheet for you to craft your own business plan. But first, you probably have a few questions.
What is a personal trainer business plan?
A personal trainer business plan is a written description of your business’s future. Think of it as your North Star. It will help guide every aspect of your business: services, products, people, location, competition, costs, and income.
Who needs a personal trainer business plan?
Anyone who makes a living as a personal trainer. Don’t wait until you’re self-employed. It’s never too early to think about your future trajectory, even if you’re still a gym employee.
What is a personal trainer business plan used for?
A business plan articulates what you do and why you’re doing it. Having it in writing helps you stay focused.
But depending on your needs and goals, you might also use it to impress potential investors, attract employees or customers, or deal with suppliers.
How long should a personal trainer business plan be?
A typical plan is about 10 to 20 pages, but there’s a lot of room for variation. It can be as simple as a few notes on the back of an envelope, or as complex as 50 pages with detailed projections and analysis.
What’s the purpose of your plan? If you’re trying to score financing, err on the longer side. But if it’s just for you, make it as brief or detailed as you like.
How do you start?
Easy: Just write. Tailor the language to your prospective audience. If you’re writing the plan for yourself, make it as casual as a conversation with a friend. If you’re writing it for a bank or private investor, be more formal. If it’s for clients, be professional, avoiding jargon or slang.
I remember agonizing over my first business plan, making a million revisions. I felt stuck because, as hard as I tried, my plan wasn’t perfect yet.
Then I realized something: Perfection isn’t possible, and you can’t let the pursuit of it keep you from moving forward.
The goal is to think about your personal training business in a more mature way. As you move through your career, stretching your abilities and learning from mistakes, you’ll gain the perspective you need to refine it.
Put another way, as you get better, your plan will too.
Personal trainer business plan template
Step 1: Write your mission statement
This is two or three sentences explaining what your company aims to do, and why: “I help THIS group of people do X, Y, and Z. And this is why I do it.”
Don’t skip the second part. Clarifying why you do what you do is essential for setting your business apart. It starts with two things:
- Your core values
- Your training philosophy
Core values are your personal beliefs: who you are, and what you stand for. Your training philosophy is what you believe about training.
Why is training people important to you? Why is the demographic you work with important? What are the two or three most important things you believe about training that are nonnegotiable?
If you can answer those questions, you’ll have a much easier time conveying your value to others, and creating a coaching avatar that helps people connect with you.
READ ALSO: How to Get More Personal Training Clients
Step 2: Assess the fitness industry and your competition
Before you can figure out where you fit in in the fitness industry, you first need to know what that industry looks like. That takes research into the two most relevant market tiers for fitness pros:
To understand what’s happening locally, hop online and look up all the gyms and fitness facilities in your area. Visit a few. Talk to the locals, and pick their brains about what they’re interested in and why they chose their current gym. Gauge sample size.
For a national perspective, you could turn to Google. Even better is connecting with our fellow trainers through Fit Pros Unite, our free online community.
Now think about where you fit in, both locally and nationally. What gap do you fill? What do you offer that someone needs but no one else provides? An honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses will help you find those answers.
Finally, determine your biggest threat. Think you don’t have competition? You do. Look at it this way: In the absence of your product or service, how do people fill that void? Where do they go? What do they buy? That’s your competition.
Step 3: Map out your revenue streams
This one is simple. Just answer one question: How are you going to deliver your service? Will you train clients one-on-one, and also lead a group class a couple times a week? Or will you do small-group training at your gym, and supplement your income with online training?
Start with only one or two income sources, and see how they work (or don’t work). Maybe you’ll find that one (like online training) generates enough revenue for you to focus on it exclusively. Maybe you’ll find that another (like teaching group classes at 6 a.m.) doesn’t pay well enough for you to continue. Maybe you’ll have so much success with one demographic or style of training that you’ll decide to create and sell a product related to it.
But don’t feel you have to add revenue streams. Some of the most successful businesses in the world offer only one or two products. A sharp focus lets you excel at one thing. Sometimes that’s better than being kinda good at several.
Step 4: Plan for operating costs
Jot down all the expenses you need to run your business: rent, equipment, insurance, software, business license, and any administrative fees. Add it all up, and you get your operating costs, the minimum income you need to exist. Keep in mind that some percentage of that income will go to taxes.
Now tackle revenue projections. Make a high-low chart, with one column for worst-case scenario, and another for best-case.
Your best-case scenario is what would happen if you absolutely crushed it, and kept a full book of paying clients all year. Your worst-case is the opposite, the least amount you would make if things don’t go according to plan.
Comfortable with those numbers? If not, rejigger the plan until you are.
Step 5: Create your sales and marketing plan
- Start with your assets—your skills, talents, and strengths. Maybe you’re really good at videos, or you’re great face to face.
- Now determine your arsenal, the tools you’ll use to deploy those skills. If videos are your thing, social media might be the way you share them. If talking to people is your strength, focus on networking.
- Finally, create an action plan, taking care to define exactly how often you’ll deploy those resources. Maybe you’ll post a new video every week, or attend a networking event once a month.
Over time, you’ll refine this section as you figure out what works and what doesn’t. But this is a good start.
Step 6: Honestly assess your risk
There’s a reason why, in Step 4, I had you draw up a worst-case scenario alongside your sunniest projection. Too many personal trainers are overly optimistic, and write up business plans that assume things will always be awesome.
The problem with projecting 365 days of sunshine is that you’ll be blinded by the imagined glare. You won’t be ready for the bootcamps that get rained out, the clients who move on, the rent that goes up, or the car that breaks down.
Try pretending it’s your friend’s business plan. What would you say to that friend? Even better: Seek feedback from a fitness industry mentor or someone whose business advice you value. A neutral expert can give you much-needed perspective on the realities of running a business in an often-unpredictable world.
That brings us to risk. How much risk is written into your plan, and how much can you tolerate?
If you’re just starting out, your risk tolerance is probably pretty high, simply because you have less to lose. You could also pivot and try something else if your plan doesn’t work out.
But as your business grows, and you have more people who depend on you, the decisions will be harder, and your appetite for risk will probably drop.
Ready to get started? Click here to download our free Personal Trainer Business Plan worksheet.
What happens now?
A business plan is never complete. Even if you never need a detailed, professional version for investors, and you’re the only one who ever sees it, it’s still something you revisit as needed.
Every time your business shifts direction, your financial outlook changes, or you launch a new product, you’ll need to revisit your business plan.
But you don’t have to wait for a major change. Even a successful plan will eventually run its course, and need to be updated. If you think it’s time to revisit your plan, you’re probably right.
Want to achieve financial success as a personal trainer?
Since 2011, Jonathan Goodman has been helping hundreds of thousands of trainers do better jobs, run better businesses, and have better lives. In his free mini-course, available below, he’ll teach you how to:
- Rest easy with the 3 (super obvious) time management strategies that burned-out fit pros wish they knew
- Maximize your profit with the perfect pricing model
- Avoid crippling (and embarrassing) mistakes when asking for referrals
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