5 Proven Business Models for Personal Trainers

Feb 24, 2021 - 7 min read
Personal Trainer with Client and Tablet - Virtuagym

Personal training used to mean that you were one to one with clients. Not anymore! Over the past decade or so, we’ve seen partner training, small group training and other types of business models becoming increasingly popular. That isn’t to say that it’s the end for one to one’s though. For example, research conducted in the UK suggests that 1-1 training still provides the greatest income for personal trainers, and it is likely to remain that way.

Nevertheless, every year the fitness industry evolves and develops further, and if you do not want to get left behind you need to adapt. Today there are hundreds of different ways that successful professionals are serving their clients and growing their business.

But how do you know what works? What are the differences? Is there a superior business plan/model for achieving your goals efficiently? And, can you combine more than one model?

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out, trying to improve your current business, or want to discover how to add another level of service (and source of revenue) to your already successful operation: this article will help you match the right business model to your goals.

How Business Models Impact Success

After asking a sample of our clients that work with our all in one  fitness software solution, we noticed three factors were always present. While there are many reasons why businesses fail, these three factors are at the foundation of every successful personal trainer business:

  1. They work with a profitable and abundant target audience
  2. Their business model is clear, simple, and continuously refined over time
  3. The exercise modalities used were in line with their audience and their business model.

Hold up. Business model? Modality? Let’s take a step back.

Simply put, with exercise modality we mean the type of exercise, equipment, etc, that you use to provide services to your clients. Think “free weight” or “outdoor cycling”.

business model, in short, is the mechanism through which a company generates profit. If you want to sell products your business model could, for example, offer an online store or “home goods retailer”.

An example: A cross fit gym aimed towards fitness enthusiasts versus a pilates class for an older audience have different concepts, but their business model is the same: both offer group training with a model aimed at group instruction which is sold as a monthly subscription.

Proven Business Models for Personal Trainers

Here are five ways of setting up your business that can be successfully used by any type of trainer.

Private Training

Private training has been big in the fitness world since the 1980s. The sessions, done one to one, can last anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes (sometimes even more) depending on the goals of the client. One to one training includes assessing the client, writing a program, setting goals, supporting them during training, and lastly reassessing and adjusting the programming as needed.  Programming  can include many different forms of fitness: sport, nutrition counseling, etc. But the model is always the same: one instructor shares their time with one client.

While the demographic is flexible it depends on who your target audience is. From newbie to professional athlete it’s up to you.

  • Price: $350-1,000+/month
  • Pros:
    • There is ALWAYS a market for private training.
    • If you work independently, you can narrow your target market and work with the client base you love most, with the training (or dieting) style that you are most passionate about.
    • The length of the session can be adapted to the client’s needs.
    • Startup costs are minimal, depending on the location where you deliver your services. This could be in a shared space, outdoors, or even at home.
    • Depending on your pricing, you do not need a very big customer base to make a good profit.
  • Cons:
    • This model is very intensive in terms of labor and you won’t have much leverage other than raising your prices, which will eventually hit a limit. It’s also important to keep in mind your competitors market.
    • Small fluctuations in client base can affect monthly income when clients drop off, are on holiday, etc.

Group Training

Group exercise was first introduced as an added value to the membership model and became all the rage in the 1980s with the rise of aerobic classes. It’s been around for much longer than martial arts, though. It later evolved into outdoor military-inspired boot camps, yoga, kettlebell classes, cross fit, and lots more.

Clients pay a monthly subscription service and are normally in groups of 10 to 25+ clients per instructor. These are usually done in one-hour blocks.

  • Price: $100-250+/month subscription fees
  • Pros: A good advantage for delivering your program to many. The model has a low startup cost, and the social component supports client retention.
  • Cons: Low startup costs lead to lots of competition entering the market, with many offering discounts in an attempt to steal the market

Semi-Private Training

This is a hybrid model of group training and private training. Generally, there are 3 to 4 clients to every one instructor. Clients may receive an individual assessment and program design. However, their training is done in small groups. This add’s to the social advantage of this model. Session length is typically 30, 45, or 60 minutes.

  • Price: $300-500+/month
  • Pros: If session times are increased, it can be a very profitable model. Because of its pricing, individualized subscription, and social component, retention rates tend to be good.
  • Cons: It is your responsibility to increase the number of clients in each training slot. If only one or two clients are training in the slot, then leverage and profitability are greatly reduced for that block of time.

Online Coaching

In recent years this has become an incredibly popular form of coaching through fitness coaching apps .

Coaching is generally delivered through a number of platforms. It can be done by email, over the phone, through Skype. The more platforms you use, the better. An online membership platform with knowledge resources  is often included as well. An online forum or group can also be used to build a community around clients with common goals. It can be hard to engage clients and keep them motivated, which is why it can be easier with an intermediary for advanced clients.

    • Price: $150-300+/month
      • Pros: Flexibility and freedom and an unlimited market potential with the ability to serve anyone that can be reached online.
      • Cons: It requires advanced skills in sales and marketing to grow an online client base in comparison to growing a local client base. The model can be more difficult to scale beyond the 1-1 model.

Challenge-Based Training

Like online training, the rise of social media has made  challenge-based training  a very successful model. This approach involves selling standardized packaged services to support the client in achieving a short-term goal like body transformation, training for a big race, or even climbing a mountain. It’s basically anything that challenges the participant to become a better version of themselves. This is normally offered in 4-12 week packages.

      • Price: $100-500+ one-time fee
        • Pros: It can be marketed and sold at specific points of the year like new years or before summer. It offers great leverage and the defined term length of the program keeps clients highly engaged in the pursuit of their short-term goals.
        • Cons: Requires a big enough market to support ongoing sales of the program due to the short-term nature and lack of recurring revenue with clients.

Wrapping Things Up

No matter the model you use to deliver your quality training, there are always three keys factors that are at the foundation of every successful business:

      1. They serve a profitable and abundant target audience 2. Their business model is clear, simple, and continually refined over time 3. The exercise modalities used were in line with their audience and their business model.

A key point to remember is that the models mentioned above can complement one another. You can offer 2, 3, or more at once if you do it correctly. It will take some trial and error to find the right models and balance for your particular business. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are successful businesses.

Prepare for Success

Would you like more in-depth tips and information about what it takes to set up a personal training business that’s ready for success? Download our free ebook, The Essentials to Setting Up a Successful Personal Training Business today.

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Neesha Kanaga

Neesha is a copywriter and wanderer who currently finds herself bound to the weather-challenged Netherlands due to the unforeseen circumstances of 2020.