A step-by-step guide to becoming a freelance personal trainer

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Whether you’re a gym instructor looking for more flexibility or considering a complete career change, being a freelance personal trainer means you get to choose your hours, customise your workouts, and have unlimited earning potential.

While all of this sounds great, starting a freelance personal training business isn’t a walk in the park. It takes time and dedication. If you’re thinking about becoming one, you probably have lots of questions. Do I need any qualifications? How do I source clients? How do I register my business? Going it alone might seem daunting at first, but don’t sweat it! We’re here to help with our step-by-step guide to becoming a freelance personal trainer.

Here Kate Miles from Bark provides a step by step guide to becoming a freelance personal trainer for those looking to take the next step.

Step 1 - Understand the role

Before embarking on a career as a personal trainer, think about whether it’s the right match for you. If you like the structure of having a regular nine to five job, then it probably isn’t the best option, as your earning potential depends on how many clients you source each month.

Step 2 - Get certified

To practice as a freelance personal trainer in the UK, you’ll need two qualifications. The first is the Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing, which teaches you the basic principles of health and safety, fitness and anatomy. Once you have passed this you can move onto the Level 3 Qualification in Personal Training, providing you with the knowledge and skills to practice as a personal trainer. While a degree in a related field isn’t required, it can give you the competitive edge to stand out from the crowd. Having first aid training is handy too!

Step 3 - Work in a gym first

If you start by working in a gym, you’ll gain the knowledge, connections and experience to build a successful career as a personal trainer. To grow your clientele, start by networking with customers. Be friendly. Talk to people. Offer advice. Don’t hard sell, but if they register more interest in private coaching, take them on! Working in a gym while you launch your personal training career will also allow you to have a steady income while you’re finding your feet.

Step 4 - Find your niche

With so many different personal trainers out there, it's important to have your area of expertise. This will help you to stand out from the crowd and build a name for yourself. You might want to specialise in injury recovery and rehabilitation, or strength and conditioning training. Having a niche will also make marketing yourself easier as you’ll be able to target specific audiences.

Step 5 - Go online

Once you’ve built up a few testimonials and results from clients, you can start advertising outside of the gym. The best way to do this is by putting yourself out there online. You don’t have to be a social media expert - creating a simple Facebook page or Instagram account is all you need. Showcase your skills and experience to prospective customers by writing short blog posts and fitness tips. Share examples of success stories with previous clients. If you want to really build your online presence and stand out from the crowd, why not create your own business app? It’s pretty easy to do using a free online editor. An app will enable you to communicate with your clients and schedule in classes more effectively.

Step 6 - Register as a sole trader

As soon as you have enough interest and clients to survive on your own, you can start working as a self-employed personal trainer. To classify yourself as self employed, you will need to register as a sole trader. You can do this on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website. It will give you guidance on how to pay the correct amount of tax and which records you need to keep. You will also need to choose the name you want to trade under. It sounds complicated, but it’s a simple process.

Step 7 - Set up a business account

Although you don’t need to set up a business account to manage your finances from your personal training business, it's much easier to have everything in one place, and you’ll appear more professional to clients if you have an account with a business name. It’s also easier to keep track of calculating your tax at the end of the year.

Becoming a successful freelance personal trainer requires talent, commitment, and elbow grease. If you put in the hard work at the beginning, you’ll reap the benefits later down the line.

More on starting up as a freelancer and sole trader pros and cons.

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