If you want to know how to set up a personal trainer business, don’t sweat it, we’ve got your back with our complete checklist for starting a personal training business in the UK.
Running your own business in the fitness industry is a brilliant career choice, and if you’re passionate about personal training then you can have a job you love and get paid well, too.
So, how can you get started? Below, you’ll find our personal trainer business checklist, complete with everything that you need to know to get set-up.
We’ve covered registering with REPs and CIMSPA, getting the right insurance, paying for tax, and everything else that you could need to know before you start training clients.
But before we get into it, have you thought about the benefits of adding to the qualifications that you already hold?
A level 4 course is the highest level of recognition in the fitness industry, so why not enquire for a specialised Level 4 course like a Lower Back Pain Management qualification or our exclusive Advanced Sports Nutrition qualification.
Also feel free to download your our "Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer" guide:
Download Our "Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer" Guide
What's it really like?
1. How to Start Your Personal Training Business: Get Qualified
If you’re already qualified as a Level 3 Personal Trainer, then you can skip this step and get straight to the points below where we explain how to set up a personal training business in the UK.
If not, then let us quickly explain a couple of points to think about when it comes to getting your qualifications.
Before you even think about starting a personal trainer business, you need to find a training provider that offers courses which are endorsed by REPS and / or CIMSPA and regulated by Ofqual.
Any old personal training qualification won’t do. Whilst it’s not technically the law to hold a PT qualification that is regulated and accredited, it is strongly advised - especially if you’re considering setting up your own personal training business.
Ofqual set the levels for courses, which indicate the specific job role that the course qualifies you to do. For example, if you want to work as a qualified personal trainer, you’ll need to complete a Level 3 personal training qualification.
As you’ll read more about below, you need to register as a personal trainer as part of the process of setting up your own business. In order to do this, the qualification you hold needs to be endorsed by REPs or CIMSPA (or even both).
But for now, the point we’re trying to make is that without the right qualifications, you won’t get very far with starting your own personal trainer business.
2. Register with REPS or CIMSPA (or both!)
Once you’ve got your qualifications in the bag, the next thing to tick off the checklist for starting a personal training business is getting registered as a personal trainer.
You can register with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) and / or the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).
Getting registered with REPs and CIMSPA shows your potential clients that you have the appropriate qualifications to work as a personal trainer.
It provides confidence and reassurance that you’ve got the proper training to carry out the services that you’re offering, plus, it’s a requirement of many insurance providers - but more on insurance shortly.
Plus, the majority of gyms and health clubs who ‘employ’ freelance personal trainers will require PTs to have an accredited qualification and REPs or CIMSPA membership.
For example, as stated in this job advertisement for a self-employed PT position at David Lloyds Leisure:
So even if you’re technically self-employed with your own PT business, if you still work out of a gym like David Lloyds, then you’ll need to be registered with REPs or CIMSPA.
How To Register With REPs & CIMSPA
Having a qualification that is endorsed by REPs is one thing, but it doesn’t mean that you are automatically registered with them.
Once you’ve received your qualifications, you’ll need to fill in the online registration form via the REPs website. To do this, you will need:
- Scanned copies of your Level 2 and Level 3 certificates
- A copy of your insurance policy (unless you are going to purchase your insurance through REPs)
- Your payment details
After you’ve sent over all of these details and filled out the online form, your registration should be processed within 28 days and you will receive details of your registration, a membership card, and a welcome pack.
To register with CIMSPA you will need to set up your membership online and pay an annual fee of £30 a year.
For both REPs and CIMSPA membership, you are required to carry out additional CPD training every year.
So if you want to continue to be a REPs member, for example, you’ll need to complete enough CPD courses to gain 10 REPs points within the year.
Most personal trainers achieve this by completing short courses throughout the year, for example a Circuit Training CPD or a Kettlebell Instructor course.
This might seem like a bit of a nuisance, but having REPs membership is well worth taking the time to do some CPD training.
Plus, expanding on your existing knowledge and becoming qualified in specific areas of fitness training can’t exactly harm your business.
3. Starting A Personal Training Business Checklist: Find Somewhere To Train From
Before you can train clients, you’ll need to find somewhere to train them from.
This is a pretty important decision because where you choose to base your business has an effect on the type of clients you train, whether you have to spend any time working on the gym floor, and most importantly - how much money you earn.
In some big chain gyms, personal trainers are paid a set monthly salary or hourly rate. This is the case at Virgin Active, xercise4less, and Fitness First.
However, seeing as you’re searching how to set up a personal trainer business (UK), you’re obviously not interested in being hired directly by a club.
Instead, when you’re working on completing your personal trainer business checklist, your options are to either:
- Be an independent trainer, or
- Work freelance for a club
If you choose to become an independent PT, you’ll need to find your own space and buy your own equipment.
With this option, you’ll have an uncapped earning potential and unlimited room for progression. You’ll have complete control over your business, and you’ll be able to specialize in a specific area of the industry and target a niche demographic of clients.
However, if you’re just starting out as a PT then this option might not quite be in reach just yet.
Setting up a personal training business as an independent trainer will mean big start up costs, plus you’ll have a lot of work to do in terms of marketing, business admin, and sorting out insurance.
There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being an independent trainer, so it might be best to get some experience of running your own business in the fitness industry as a freelancer before you try to make it completely on your own.
Freelance In A Club
On the other hand, setting up a personal training business as a freelance PT working for a gym is a much more accessible option.
If you’re newly qualified, or only experienced in working as a PT hired directly by a club, then this is probably the safest option to start off with.
You won’t necessarily make as much money as somebody working as an independent trainer, but you’ll be able to reap all of the rewards of running your own business without the big risks of buying your own equipment, finding your own space, and investing a lot of money into starting up a personal trainer business.
The option of working as a freelance trainer in a club is available at a number of big name gyms, such as Puregym, The Gym Group, David Lloyd Clubs, and JD Gyms, to name a few.
With these options, you’ll receive 100% of the income that you generate from training clients, but in exchange you’ll either have to pay rent to the gym, or work around 8-15 hours on the gym floor, running inductions and holding classes.
You’ll be able to recruit your own clients and build up a good client base for your brand, but if you want to specialise in a specific area of fitness, then it might be difficult to get those clients into a big chain gym.
Undecided about which of the above options is right for your PT business? Check out our latest YouTube video where weigh up the pros and cons of each option in more detail.
4. How To Start Your Own Personal Trainer Business: Business Registration
The next thing you’ll need to do is register your business.
You’ll have to decide whether you want to register as a sole trader (this is the same as registering as self-employed) or as a limited (LTD) company.
Most PTs who are just starting out with their own business will become self-employed.
But, once your business starts to grow and your profits increase, having a LTD company might be more beneficial.
If you’re unsure about which is best for you, then check out our Business Registration for Personal Trainers blog post where we weigh up sole trader vs limited company and explain exactly how to set up a personal training business with HMRC.
5. Open A Business Bank Account
The next thing to tick off our starting a personal training business checklist is opening a business bank account.
Opening a business account that is separate to your personal bank account will make it much easier to keep your personal outgoings separate from your business expenses.
Unless you register your business as a limited company, you don’t legally need to open a business account - but it’s still a good idea.
So if you’re self-employed, freelance, or a sole trader, you could technically use your personal bank account for all business and non-business transactions.
However, some banks won’t allow you to use a personal account for business transactions, so if you choose to ignore our advice on this, the least you should do is double check that this is okay with your bank.
Regardless of whether you can continue to use your personal bank account, we strongly suggest that you open a separate business bank account.
For one, it will look a lot more professional to ask clients to pay money into a business
account as opposed to transferring their fees to your personal bank account.
This is especially true if your business name is not your own name, as asking clients to send money to ‘Jonathon Jones’ might get confusing if they associate their training with a completely different business name.
More importantly, having separate accounts will make it so much easier to keep track of those payments from clients, and it means that you can easily deduct any business expenses, such as travel costs or paying rent to the gym, from your taxable income.
We can almost guarantee that if you decide to skip this step when you're first setting up your personal training business, you will definitely open a business account after you’ve completed your first tax return.
Stick with us because we’ll talk more about completing your tax return shortly.
Download Our "Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer" Guide
What's it really like?
6. Getting The Right Insurance
Before you take on any personal training clients, you need to get insured. At the very least you should get public liability insurance.
Insurance providers will almost always ask to see your certificates, and they might even get in touch with the awarding body to check that you have a regulated qualification with the right level of accreditation.
This is another reason why we can’t stress enough how important it is that you get the right qualifications.
Setting Up A Personal Trainer Business? Get Public Liability Insurance
Public liability insurance covers you for claims from a third party. For example, if one of your clients gets injured during your session, public liability insurance will cover you if they choose to make a claim against you.
Obviously you’ll do everything you can to make sure that your clients are safe during your sessions, but sometimes these accidents can happen, and not having insurance can leave you in a tricky financial situation.
Public liability insurance also covers you for any damage caused to third-party property by yourself or your clients. This applies to all self-employed PT’s, but especially if you’re thinking of starting a personal training business where you’re based in a gym.
Say your client damages a machine whilst you’re training at a big chain gym, and then the gym makes a claim against you for the damages. Without the right insurance, the cost of repairing or replacing will be your responsibility.
An accident claim or the cost of replacing equipment can be pretty expensive (very expensive in some cases), so it’s always best to have your back covered with the right insurance.
Starting A Personal Training Business Checklist: Professional Indemnity Insurance
It’s also recommended that you have professional indemnity insurance. If you’ve heard of professional liability insurance, then this is the same thing.
Professional indemnity insurance covers you if your client feels that you’ve given them bad advice or if something goes wrong as a result of advice that you’ve given.
Even if you’ve done everything right, you might be unfortunate enough to have a client who makes a claim of negligence against you.
For example, if they think that your advice was bad or didn’t help them reach their goals, they could make a claim for negligence that resulted in financial loss.
Regardless of whether you’re in the right or the wrong, defending yourself in court can be a really expensive ordeal so again, it’s good to be covered.
What Other Insurance Do You Need?
Outside of the two kinds of insurance we’ve mentioned, you also need to think about personal accident insurance, employer liability insurance, getting your equipment insured, and how to get insured for online personal training.
Once you’ve finished reading about our starting your own personal training business, read more about the types of insurance that personal trainers need here.
7. How To Start Your Own Business As A Personal Trainer: Paying Tax and NI
As we mentioned earlier, when you’re self-employed or you have your own business, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that your business pays the right amount of both national insurance and tax.
So, the next thing on the list for setting up your own personal training business should be getting on top of your bookkeeping and making the right provisions to meet your tax liabilities.
Filing Your Tax Return
Assuming that you register as self-employed, you’ll have to submit a self assessment tax return to HMRC every year.
This tax return tells HMRC how much of your earnings should be taxed and how much national insurance you need to pay.
Simply put, you’ll pay income tax and national insurance on all of your profits. Your profits are defined by all of your business’ income minus your business expenses.
That means that any outgoings which are necessary to run your business, such as paying rent to a gym, travelling to clients for home sessions, a work phone, or the costs of running ads on social media, can be deducted from your total income, giving you your taxable income.
When it comes to filing your tax return, we strongly recommend that you get an accountant to do this for you. This will cost you about £300 initially but you’ll more than that by cutting down your tax bill.
One of the best things about choosing to become self-employed when setting up a personal training business is that the bookkeeping is very basic.
Having an accountant file your tax return is a really good idea, but when it comes to your everyday accounting you should be able to manage that yourself.
In a nutshell, you’ll need to keep a record of all of your incomings and outgoings, which can be done using something as simple as a list or a basic spreadsheet. For example, a list of all client payments, and a separate list for all business related expenses.
When it comes to filing your tax return, HMRC requires that all of your records are then supported by documentary evidence. So, keeping hold of things like bank statements, invoices, and receipts, is all absolutely necessary.
This is where having a business account to keep your personal and business finances separate will make your life a lot easier.
When it comes to completing your tax return, the last thing you want is for your personal finances to be mixed up with your business incomings and outgoings.
This would make it really confusing to manage your finances and separate your business expenses from your personal outgoings. Which could cost you time and potentially money if you miss a business expense and end up paying more tax than you need to.
Save For Tax Each Month
After setting up your own personal trainer business, you won’t pay tax every month in the same way that you would have back when you were in full-time employment.
Instead, you’ll pay tax and national insurance after filing your yearly tax return as explained above.
You’ll get two tax bills every year, one on the 31st of January following the end of your first tax year, and another payment on account due on the 31st of July.
After first starting your own personal training business, there can sometimes be a long delay before you pay any tax. You could go upto 18 months without receiving a tax bill, but that’s not to say that you’ve got away with a tax free year.
If this happens, you’ll still be hit with the full tax bill for the time that you haven't paid tax, so it could be a fairly pretty big bill to pay all in one go.
The last thing you want to do is leave yourself struggling to cover the cost of a big tax bill.
Instead, plan ahead by saving around 20-25% of your income in a separate bank account every month. Remember, that you do have a tax allowance of £12,500 (2020/21), but it's always worth it to save a little extra than to leave yourself short.
On the other hand, if you expect that you’ll earn over £50,001 a year, which is around £4,000 a month, then you’ll need to save a little more as you’ll pay the higher rate of 40% tax on any earnings over £50,001.
If you have any other questions about paying tax when you’re self-employed, check out this Q&A blog post from Money Donut by following this link: moneydonut.co.uk/tax/self-employment.
8. Plan For Time Off
Now that we’ve got the essentials out the way, there’s one last thing to tick off the checklist for starting a personal training business, and that’s planning for time off.
When you’re first starting your own business, it's obviously a really exciting time. You’ll be your own boss, which means that you will have plenty of flexibility with your working hours, control over the kind of clients you train, and you’ll have an uncapped earning potential.
However, one thing that a lot of people forget about when wondering how to set up a personal training business, is that being in full control of your income means that when you stop working, the money stops coming in.
No matter how much you love your job, having a break, going on holiday, or just taking some time to relax is still really important.
Far too many people overlook the importance of planning for time off when they’re first starting a business as a personal trainer, mainly because taking time off for a holiday can be a pretty daunting prospect when getting holiday pay from an employer is a distant memory.
Not only that, a lot of PTs with their own business aren’t too keen on the idea of leaving their clients too long between sessions
Nevertheless, overworking can lead you to get burnout and feel exhausted, which can actually end up being worse for your business than taking a couple of days off in the first place.
Outside of holidays, getting sick is completely unavoidable so from time to time you might need to take time off work and that will be completely out of your control.
The best thing to do is accept that we all need a break from time to time, and that no matter how fit and healthy you are, you probably will have to take a day off sick at some point.
From there, you can plan and prepare for time off. This doesn’t need to be anything overly complicated, simply save up a small percentage of your earnings each month to and make sure that you give your clients as much notice as possible if you’re planning to be away for a week or two at a time.
Before You Go!
Now that we’ve covered everything that goes into setting up your personal training business behind the scenes, you need to start thinking about marketing, advertising, and selling!
Fortunately for you, we’ve got tons of useful blog posts covering these topics. So, if you want to learn more tips and tricks for starting a PT business, check them out below!
If you want to expand your businesses and increase the range of services that you can offer, then why not enquire for a specialist course, such as our GP exercise referral qualification?
To learn more about how you can grow your business by expanding the range of qualifications that you hold, give us a call on 0800 002 9599 or download our latest course prospectus.
Download Our "Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer" Guide
What's it really like?