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How to Get Your First Five Personal Training Business Clients

Affiliate Marketing Disclosure

Millennials are among the healthiest generations in American history. With a more pronounced focus on exercise, combined with healthy and organic food options, millennials have a great potential to help others live healthier lifestyles.

One such way is through personal training.

If you're passionate about your health and helping others to live their best lives too, here is how to start a personal training business and sign your first five clients.

What is a personal training business?

A personal training business is a fitness-based venture where fitness trainers or coaches provides workout, fitness, and overall well-being guidance to individuals or groups of people. By helping others to achieve their fitness and health goals, fitness coaches can play a meaningful role in helping their clients make meaningful changes in their lives.

Common goals that individuals hire help to pursue include:

  • Weight loss

  • Building muscle

  • Promoting cardiovascular health

But it is okay to pick a totally unique niche too, so long as you avoid making unfounded claims or promising unrealistic results.

How to start your personal training business

As you start your business, you'll want to keep a few key considerations in mind:

  • Certification and licensing

  • Legal structure

  • A business plan

  • A location

  • An insurance policy

  • Marketing strategies to find clients

1. Certification

Most personal trainers have licenses and certification designed to show their clients that they are true experts in their fields. In the United States, the most common certifications are from companies like from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

American Council on Exercise

The ACE offers an exam for candidates seeking certification. There are a ton of self-guided study options online, and in many instances, you can get certified in as little as 3-6 months.

The online exam preparation resources vary in price but are likely to cost you less than $1,000 total. Plus, many of them offer money back guarantees if you don't successfully pass the exam.

The ACE exam itself is multiple choice by nature, and you'll take it electronically.

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Similarly, NASM offers a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Examination for those looking to join the world of personal training.

Currently, the exam preparation materials through NASM cost $899, but there are discounts from time to time. Additionally, there are other online resources designed to help you prepare.

The CPT exam covers multiple different subject areas, including physiology, anatomy, nutrition, program design, and client assessment. It does require you to have a high school diploma and a present CPR certification.

Once certified, you'll need to renew it every two years.


Of the two designations, the NASM is generally considered the more prestigious of the two, while the ACE is celebrated as the more affordable of the two options.

2. Legal structure

You may also consider establishing a business to help protect your individual and business interests and assets. Most personal training businesses will opt to establish a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability corporation (LLC).

Each of these business types have unique advantages and disadvantages, so you should be sure on what is best for you before jumping in. Attorneys and online research should help guide your decision, but here are a few things to keep in mind about each business type:

  • Sole Proprietorships are simple and allow you complete control over your business, but there is no legal distinction between your business and your personal finances, meaning your personal assets could be seized in the event of a lawsuit or business failure.

  • Partnerships are oftentimes used by businesses with two or more owners, and profits and losses are shared among all of those with an ownership interest, according to the agreement established when the business was established. On the flip side, partnerships can be challenging due to having multiple owners with differing interests, so you'll want to be sure to protect yours.

  • Limited Liability Companies have increased in popularity with small business owners, as they shield the personal assets of owners and typically mean you cannot be held personally liable for any business debts or liabilities that you may incur as a result of your personal training services.

3. A business plan and training program

It is also a good idea to have a well thought out business plan to help guide your business decisions. Your business plan should be the single guiding document that outlines your training company's:

  • Executive summary and explanation of services: What types of training services do you plan to offer? Strength training, cardio, yoga, or an all-encompassing program of sorts?

  • Mission statement and value proposition: What type of changes are you going to help you clients make? Are they physical, mental, or a combination of both?

  • Market analysis: What types of diet and exercise training does your competition offer in the area? How do you plan to stand out from them?

  • Marketing strategy: How do you plan to find and sign your first clients?

  • Financial projections: Give yourself a benchmark on how much money you think you'll be able to earn. Estimate the number of clients you think you'll be able to train per week or month and multiply by the rate that you plan to charge for your program or per cardio or strength training session. Also estimate your expenses, like money you may owe a gym for training there, as well as expenses you'll incur attracting clients.

My Side Hustle Accelerator course covers business planning in a very detailed manner. Just click the previous link to access my free, sixty-minute introductory lesson!

As for the training you plan to do, I recommend that you build a specific program designed to help your target clients make the very progress that they want to see.

A business coach once told me that the riches were in the niches, business advice that I still subscribe to today. With this in mind, it is okay to focus your services on a niche, or subset of the population. Examples that come to mind include:

  • Resistance training for seniors

  • Pre- and post-natal fitness work

Another angle is to pick a niched approach, rather than population. Things like mind-body wellness and corporate wellness programs have exploded in popularity over the past decade.

Use market research

No matter what program you ultimately decide to start, you should absolutely use market research to help guide your decisions. Otherwise, you'll have no way to know whether the fitness/diet program you're building will have enough potential clients to sustain a business.

You can complete this research in a number of ways:

  • Interviewing others

  • Reading articles online

  • Surveying your target population

My course covers this entire process in depth, but you'll want to continue with your research until you reach a healthy consensus on what your ideal clients are looking for.

4. A location

Personal trainers in 2023 have three separate business models to choose from:

  1. In-person coaching

  2. Virtual coaching

  3. A combination of the two

Of course, an in-person coaching model will be the most logistically challenging, since you'll need some gym space to train in. This doesn't mean that you need to buy or finance your own gym, but you should be prepared to make alternate accommodations.

One popular option is to work out an arrangement with a gym in your area, where you may be asked to pay either a monthly fee or a percentage of the revenue that you generate.

Other gyms may be more flexible and allow you to work with your own clients there. Either way, you'll need to be aware of the risks in doing so. Should a client be seriously injured during a workout, any legal fallout or proceedings could get messy. This makes it incredibly important to have insurance and have your clients sign liability waivers.

5. An insurance policy

Speaking of insurance, liability insurance can be a great way to protect yourself and your training business should the unexpected occur. There is no shortage of affordable policies online for you to browse, and while you hope you never need it, it could be the difference between an accident ending your business or not.

These policies are not ridiculously priced, either. Policies that I found online through ACE Liability Insurance were as low as $172 per year for coverage up to $1,000,000 per occurrence (or $3,000,000 annually).

6. Marketing strategies to find training clients

Your clients aren't going to come straight to you. Rather, it will take some work on your end to find them. The best ways to do this are by building a website and using social media wisely.

Building a fitness and exercise site

The most powerful long-term decision that you can make for your business is to start building a website as soon as possible.

Getting eyeballs on your site will be a challenge for awhile, but once you've got significant traffic, you'll find it much easier to run your business from day to day. Writing content regularly is key in the early months. Luckily, in the fitness niche, you have more options than you can imagine.

The key is to put yourself in your ideal clients' heads and write about topics that they're likely to search for. For example:

  • The 10 Best Exercises to Build Stronger Shoulders Fast

  • A Four Week Training Plan to Running Your Best 5k

  • 5 Foods to Eat to Supercharge Your Workouts

Using Google's Keyword Planner Tool or a paid SEO service subscription (like SERanking, Ahrefs, or Moz) will also pay dividends by helping you to pick topics and keywords with high search volumes but low competition.

Don't forget to check out my guide to monetizing a blog.

Using social media to your advantage

The other thing that you can do for shorter term marketing results is to use social media properly. Since you're looking for clients to train, either virtually or in-person, Facebook seems like the logical place to start.

In-person clients can likely be found in local Facebook Groups. Things get a little more interesting if you're looking for virtual clients, since you have more opportunity. In these instances, it is a good idea to also post on Instagram and TikTok in order to encourage others to hire you.

Producing content for a website and social media accounts can be challenging, so I recommend that you use your written content to create your social media content from.


These are the basics of what you'll need to get your training business off the ground, but there are still other logistics to think through, like:

  1. Receiving payment via cash, check, or credit card

  2. Whether you'll include home strength exercises or cardio workouts on days that you're not working together

  3. How to assure that your clients are satisfied and keep working with you

How to get your first five clients

The hardest part about starting your personal training business will signing your first five clients. After this point, you'll find it easier to sign additional clients as your marketing efforts grow and word of mouth referrals begin to take off.

Luckily, here are three tips for you to consider as you search for your first clients to sign:

  1. Offer a free session

  2. Provide supplemental resources

  3. Blend accountability with support

1. Offer a free training session

Offering a free session can be an excellent way to show leads and future clients everything that your training is about.

In this free introductory session, you'll want to touch upon your methodology, beliefs, and your general coaching style. Of course, make sure you do so in a way that shows your clients what they stand to gain by working with you.

For instance, by following your training and diet program, your clients tend to build the muscle required to enjoy a higher quality of life later in life, just to come up with one example. I'm always a little apprehensive about weight loss guarantees or metrics, but you can talk about the improvements to their health in more general ways.

2. Provide supplemental resources

To sign more clients more quickly, you'll want your leads to feel like it is easier to make progress with your program and teaching than anyone else's.

Building and offering a library of supplementary resources can be a great way to add substantial value without

I am NOT suggesting that you need to go out and write your own cookbook or anything like that, but providing useful information can be an excellent way for you to build a more loyal following.

3. Blend accountability and support

Ultimately, everybody has a different preferred method of being coached. Holding clients accountable is undoubtedly part of your job, but providing support without being abrasive is as well.

Most people prefer a coaching model that strikes this balance well, so this is something that you should consider.


For those passionate about diet, exercise, and overall wellbeing, starting a personal training business can be an excellent way for you to follow your passions and maybe even build a full-time income.

Is it a side hustle and business you'd consider jumping into? Or is it just not for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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