How to become a personal trainer – a guide to starting your own business

Personal training session

If fitness is your passion and you have a knack for teaching, becoming a personal trainer could be just the ticket for a new and fulfilling career.

We’ll run through the importance of networking, how to assess your market and build your client base, plus the possibility of joining a professional body.

What does a personal trainer do?

This really depends on the type of fitness you have expertise in, your motivation for teaching, and the kind of clients you want to train. For example, you might be interested in getting people ready for a big challenge, like a solo marathon, or you could be geared towards new mums looking to build back strength after having a baby.

Whatever your goals, you’ll be using up-to-date knowledge and strong teaching skills to design safe workouts for your clients. You’ll know how to motivate, watch for injury and build strong working relationships.

Personal trainer qualifications – what do you need?

These are the minimum-level qualifications to look into:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Training (Gym)
  • Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness
  • Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness and Exercise

Increasing your skill set to take on a Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training, for example, will give your business the edge.

Where to find personal trainer courses

Personal recommendations are often very helpful. If you know an established personal trainer, ask them which courses they’ve completed, and what they’d suggest. Instagram and Facebook are also great for research.

These groups, academies, and colleges run popular personal trainer courses:

UCAS and Reed are also good entry-level places to start your research, with lots of specific information on personal trainer qualifications and courses.

Personal trainer certification – how long does it take?

It depends on the course you decide to take, and how it’s run. Some full-time personal trainer courses take as little as five weeks to complete, or you could go for a bootcamp-style intensive certification – but you’ll need to dedicate the time and energy.

Alternatively there are part-time weekend personal training courses, as well as lots of online options available.

What personal trainer certificate is most respected?

When doing your research, factor in CIMPSA (The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity) and REPs (The Register of Exercise Professionals). A quality personal training route will be recognised by CIMPSA and your instructor or provider should be registered with the REPs.

What equipment does a personal trainer need?

From the basic essentials to the high-tech, what goes in your kit every day will depend on your client, and the kind of work you’re doing.

Get going with this top 10 list:

  • resistance bands and/or tubes
  • exercise mats
  • stability straps
  • stopwatch
  • scale or device for measuring body mass index (BMI), etc, and/or callipers
  • adjustable dumbbells
  • kettlebells
  • trap pads and basic lifting equipment
  • medicine balls
  • skipping rope

You’ll also want a few practical essentials handy – towels, a clipboard, paper and pen, flexible tape measure are all helpful, and you can build your bag from there.

What about personal trainer insurance?

At the heart of a personal trainer insurance policy is public liability insurance, which can cover compensation costs and legal fees if someone sues you for injury or damage.

There are other covers worth considering too, including employers’ liability insurance if you have any employees, and business equipment insurance if you want to cover your personal training equipment.

How much does a personal trainer earn?

According to Payscale, you can plan to start on a yearly salary of around £17,115. But it’s a wide-ranging scale and how much you earn (and keep) will depend on whether you’re contracted by a gym, completely freelance, or a mixture of both.

The qualifications you have and your location are also big factors when it comes to how much you could earn.

With experience, a niche, and quality client contacts, personal trainers can charge a lot for their expertise.

Do you need a personal training business plan?

Writing a business plan is an important step for many businesses, helping them to come up with a long-term strategy.

A business plan allows you to:

  • answer key questions
  • identify potential challenges.
  • monitor the personal training market in your area
  • identify your strengths and weaknesses
  • take a closer look at your competitors

A business plan can also help you to get investment funding and it’s a valuable tool to refer back to as you grow.

Download our free business plan template to get started.

Personal training business tools

As well as a business plan, we have a range of tools and templates you can use to help manage your personal training business:

How to grow your personal training business

Once you’ve got the right qualifications, equipment, and your first clients, your attention will soon turn to how to grow your business.

As a personal trainer, it’s important that you have a strong personal brand. Posting tutorial videos and useful information regularly on platforms like TikTok and Instagram can expand your reach.

Another good way to drive business is through targeted social media adverts, plus offering discounts and deals through flyers.

Read our comprehensive guide to marketing a small business for more tips on SEO, email newsletters, and online reviews.

Best names for a personal training business

Many personal trainers use their name to promote their business, but could a unique business name make yours stand out more?

Get some light-hearted inspiration with our Business Name Generator and read about how to register a business name.

In 2022, we ran a competition to find Britain’s best small business name. Find out more about the names that attract attention and get people talking.

Are you looking to get started as a personal trainer? Tell us your motivation in the comments.

Looking for self-employed insurance?

With Simply Business you can build a single self employed insurance policy combining the covers that are relevant to you. Whether it’s public liability insurance, professional indemnity or whatever else you need, we’ll run you a quick quote online, and let you decide if we’re a good fit.

Jacob Lund/

Jessie Day

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