Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on March 2, 2022 Updated on November 15, 2023
$5,550 - $39,100
$66,000 - $190,000 p.a.
Time to build
1 – 3 months
$60,000 - $170,000 p.a.
Are you a fitness junkie? If you start your own fitness business you could make money with every rep. Whether you open a fitness studio or just start working as an online personal trainer, you can help others improve their health and meet their fitness goals while making a good living. Gyms and fitness clubs are a $36 billion industry in the US, so start doing some heavy lifting and grab your share of the market.
Before you jump in, you might want to do your entrepreneurial homework. Luckily, this step-by-step guide details the entire startup process and will put you on the road to owning your own successful fitness business.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Online fitness has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to the pandemic. The market was worth $6 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow to nearly $60 billion by 2027, expanding 10-fold in just eight years. Even brick-and-mortar gyms are now offering online work-outs.((https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/virtual-online-fitness-market))
An appealing new concept called hybrid gym membership has the potential to shape the future of the industry. Hybrid members have the option of taking advantage of the gym’s online offerings — from a personal trainer to a variety of yoga and fitness classes — or coming to the gym in person. Outdoor spaces for workouts and personal training are also trending, so gyms have been looking to use outdoor areas for classes and workouts.
The most popular fitness classes are yoga, Pilates, circuit training, and high-intensity interval training. New workouts are popping up as well, such as Pound, a cardio jam session inspired by the beat of drum-playing.
Challenges in the fitness industry include:
Sharp growth in the online fitness industry has led to a market saturated with online training options, creating a highly competitive environment for both online and in-person fitness businesses.
Member retention for gyms is an ongoing challenge. The same could be true for a subscription based online fitness business.
Average level of education – The average fitness director has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age – The average fitness director in the US is 37.2 years old.
How much does it cost to start a fitness business?
To start an online fitness business, you’ll spend about $5,500 for a computer, equipment, and fitness certifications. To open a physical gym, you’ll spend $40,000 or more.
It’s not required, but being personal training certified is one of the surest ways to attract clients; without it you’ll struggle to compete. You can get certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) in 12 weeks for around $700.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your fitness business, including:
For an online fitness business, you could charge $20 a month for unlimited access to your pre-recorded workout videos, and add new ones each month. You could also offer $300 subscriptions for monthly sessions of live online personal training. Your profit margin should be high, around 90%.
In your first year or two, you could get 200 basic monthly subscribers and 5 personal training clients, bringing in $66,000 in annual revenue. This would mean nearly $60,000 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. As your business gains traction, sales could climb to 500 basic subscribers and 20 personal training clients. With annual revenue of more than $190,000, you’d make a tidy profit of around $170,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a fitness business. Your biggest challenges will be:
The costs to get started
Competing in a saturated market
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a fitness business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research fitness businesses in your area and online to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews, as well as what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the market is missing an online Hula Hoop class.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as yoga or Pilates.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
The service options for a fitness business are endless. You could offer a subscription for live and recorded training sessions, personal training subscriptions, or on-demand personal training workouts. If you have a physical gym, you can offer memberships as well as in-person or online fitness classes and personal training.
How much should you charge for fitness services?
For an online fitness business, you should be able to charge about $20 per month and around $300 a month for online personal training packages. If you have a gym, membership fees average $500 per year. If you have an online business, you should aim for a profit margin of about 90%. For a gym, your profit margin will be about 20%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be fitness-conscious people, which is a very diverse group. You should spread out your marketing to TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Where? Choose your business premises
You can run an online fitness business from home, but if you open a gym, you’ll need to rent a physical space. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Fitness Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “online fitness” or “fitness classes”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “FitNation” over “Pilates Palace”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A brief overview of your fitness business, summarizing its mission, key objectives, and potential for success.
Business Overview: A detailed description of your fitness business, including its mission, vision, values, and the specific products or services it will offer.
Product and Services: An outline of the fitness products or services your business will provide, emphasizing their unique features and benefits.
Market Analysis: An examination of the target market for your fitness business, identifying potential customers, their needs, and the overall market trends.
Competitive Analysis: A thorough evaluation of competitors in the fitness industry, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and how your business will differentiate itself.
Sales and Marketing: A strategy for promoting and selling your fitness products or services, encompassing advertising, pricing, distribution, and sales channels.
Management Team: An introduction to the key individuals involved in managing and operating the fitness business, emphasizing their qualifications and roles.
Operations Plan: Details on how your fitness business will operate, including day-to-day activities, facilities, equipment, and any partnerships or key suppliers.
Financial Plan: A comprehensive financial projection for your fitness business, outlining income, expenses, cash flow, and financial forecasts.
Appendix: Additional supporting documents and information, such as resumes of key team members, market research data, and any other relevant materials that enhance the business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to fitness businesses.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your fitness business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a fitness business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your fitness business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as PushPress, GymMaster, or PerfectGym, to manage your memberships, classes, and payments.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your fitness business, whether it’s a gym, a personal training service, or a specialized fitness studio (like yoga or pilates), the marketing strategy should focus on highlighting your unique approach to fitness, the qualifications and expertise of your trainers, and the transformative impact of your services on clients’ health and well-being. Emphasize the supportive and motivational atmosphere you create, along with any specialized programs or state-of-the-art equipment you offer.
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey energy, health, and positivity. This includes your logo, the interior design of your facility, your website, and all promotional materials.
Direct Outreach: Network with local businesses and community groups to offer corporate wellness programs or group discounts. Participate in local health fairs and community events to increase visibility.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop an engaging website that showcases your services, class schedules, trainer bios, and client testimonials. Use SEO best practices to rank well for local searches related to fitness centers, personal training, and health and wellness.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to share workout tips, client success stories, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into your fitness community.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Fitness Blog: Share informative content on fitness tips, nutritional advice, and wellness strategies to establish your authority in the fitness domain.
Email Newsletters: Regular newsletters can keep your clients engaged with health tips, updates on new classes or services, and motivational content.
Video Tutorials: Post workout videos or live stream classes to engage your audience and provide a taste of your training style.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Open House Events: Host open house days where potential clients can try out classes for free, meet trainers, and experience your facility’s environment.
Community Fitness Challenges: Organize fitness challenges or local charity sports events to engage your community and create a buzz around your brand.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Businesses: Collaborate with health food stores, wellness clinics, or local athletic wear shops for cross-promotion.
Corporate Wellness Programs: Develop tailored fitness programs for local businesses to promote employee wellness.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Referral Programs: Implement referral incentives that reward existing clients for bringing in new members.
Loyalty Rewards: Offer loyalty rewards or discounts to long-term members to appreciate their commitment and encourage retention.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Local Advertising: Use local media, community bulletin boards, and online platforms like Google Ads to reach potential clients in your area.
Seasonal Promotions: Run special promotions during New Year’s, summer, or other times when people are more likely to focus on fitness goals.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your fitness business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your fitness business could be:
Workout on your time with our on-demand classes
Online personal training tailored to your fitness goals
Zumba your way to health and fitness!
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a fitness business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in fitness for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in fitness. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you have an online fitness business, you may not need any employees. If you have a gym you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a fitness business include:
Front Desk Clerk – greet customers, sign up members
Fitness Trainers – Run fitness classes, personal training
General Manager – Staff management, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media, other marketing
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Fitness Business – Start Making Money!
Americans are more health-conscious than ever, and more willing to go online to get fit. Online fitness is booming, which means this is the perfect time to get in on the action. You’ve done your business homework, now it’s time to get out there and start building your fitness empire.
Fitness Business FAQs
Can an online fitness business be profitable?
Yes, an online fitness business has strong profit margins, as high as 90%. But the crucial element will be your services. Your online fitness business is unlikely to make money if you’re not a knowledgeable and enthusiastic personal trainer who inspires clients to achieve their goals.
How do I differentiate my fitness business from competitors?
You can choose a niche for your fitness business, such as a trending new type of workout. You can also offer hybrid memberships where people can participate in person or virtually.
How do I expand my fitness business to other markets or distribution channels?
You can create online fitness classes to reach customers everywhere or expand to new locations in your area. You could even start a franchise.
How do I get clients for my fitness business?
You’ll have to do some marketing on social media and other digital channels to get the word out. You can also ask current customers for referrals.
How do I measure the success of my fitness business?
The success of any business is measured in dollars. However, with a fitness business, you can also measure results by the results your customer’s experience.
How to Start a Fitness Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Fitness Business Name
Create a Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Licenses/Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Fitness Business - Start Making Money!
Fitness Business FAQs
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