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How personal training studios can become cash guzzlers in a bad economy

Updated on June 20, 2011

Tough Economic Times Are Here

As someone who hires faculty to teach health and physical education courses at the college at which I work, I have noticed a rather disturbing trend in the health and fitness industry. It used to be that when it came time for me to create the schedule for each coming academic semester, I would struggle to find qualified people that I could hire on a part time basis. This past year, however, something changed. It seemed that every week or so, I would receive either an email or a phone call from someone in the field inquiring about a part-time teaching job. “Wow”, there are so many people looking to make an extra buck. Not only that, but these folks were well-qualified and highly credentialed folks. As I followed up with each person, I began to notice something very interesting…it was that the overwhelming majority of these people were owners of their own businesses. More importantly, I learned that they also owned their own personal training studios. I thought…this is good for me that they’re so eager to teach for me and my college, but not so good for them in that they’re having to look elsewhere for extra income so that they could pay all of their bills. Such is the economy we live in.

As one who owns my an in-home personal training business, I was intrigued and wanted to look into this further…and this is what I found: This economy has caused much panic and fear for many people, causing them to re-evaluate their budgets and cut back on the non-essentials in their lives. This is not to say that a studio/personal training membership is not important, but to say that people have decided that they can find other fitness-related activities to engage in without having to pay a per-hour personal training fee. Some were even paying membership fees on top of that. Unfortunately, as we all know in education…when things get tough financially, the two things that always get cut from the curriculum are Music (which is actually what my wife has her degree in), and Physical Education (this includes fitness memberships and personal training fees). My wife and I have a running joke about this, since both of us are are in professions that get little respect, and might eventually send us to the poorhouse. It’s a labor of love, I guess.

By reading this article, you will be able to make a more informed decision about whether to open up your own personal training studio, or whether you should consider in-home training as an option for your business. You’ll also be able to understand the costs associated with opening up a personal training studio and with starting your own in-home personal training business. You’ll be able to recognize all of the issues surrounding advertising and marketing your personal training studio and in-home training business. You’ll understand why in-home training is easier to start-up and less costly to maintain than training from a studio. You’ll also be able to recognize why in a good economy, club owners can do well with studios, but in a bad economy, they can become ghost towns and can end up going out of business. You’ll be able to understand the value of not being tied down to one facility, day in and day out, which can end up draining energy and using up valuable time which could be used for marketing information products and spent with family.

The Economic Slow-Down Has Affected Us All

Many Personal Training Studio Owners are Feeling the Impact of our Ailing Economy.
Many Personal Training Studio Owners are Feeling the Impact of our Ailing Economy.

Are you considering opening up your own personal training studio?

Well, if you are, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.  First, where will you get the funds to get your new business off of the ground.  For many who are starting out, that means that you will need to either secure a bank loan, or find a family member or friend who would be willing to invest in you and your venture.  In some cases, there would be an independent “financier” so to speak, who would be willing to take a look at your business plan and make a decision whether it is worthy of financing.  At any rate, almost all personal trainers who look to open a studio, need a little help financially.  That’s a big consideration for you…and a decision you should not make lightly, especially considering the current state of our economy.

Opening a Personal Training Studio Will Be Costly

You Will Most Likely Need to Secure An External Funding Source.
You Will Most Likely Need to Secure An External Funding Source.

Have you considered all of the costs associated with starting up your own personal training studio?

As a personal trainer and the owner of a Fitness and Nutrition business, the thought of being in your “own place” is very attractive. That was once a big dream of mine. If that’s a big dream of yours, it is very important that you consider what it is going to mean for you day-to-day. Let’s assume that you do secure financing to get your facility up and running…and it is everything you imagined. There is the reality of the daily upkeep of your studio. When lights need to be changed, or plumbing and equipment issues arise, where will those funds come from? Additionally, you must consider the time and energy that you will be required to spend to attend to all of those logistical issues as you work to keep your clients happy. When people are paying money for a service, they can get pretty picky and demanding. Be prepared for that. Probably more importantly, be prepared for the fact that you will most likely not be earning a salary for whatever period of time that’s been determined by you and your bank (or financier). That means that if you do happen to start turning a profit, that money will be dedicated to paying off your debt…however long it takes. One last, and a big consideration here, is whether you will be successful enough in those early months-to-years to keep your doors open. In this economy, many fitness facilities are needing to close their doors because business has slowed dramatically.

Is Marketing and Advertising an area of great weakness for you right now?

When starting a new business, it’s important that a business plan be created, but along with that, it’s important that you create a Marketing plan as well because that will guide your business activities and provide you with direction and focus for growing your business. If this is not a strength of yours, it is very important that you get help with this! Marketing your new business effectively will be paramount to your success because if you cannot get people to find you and give you consistent business, then your new venture will ultimately fail. As a new business owner, be consistently looking to grow in your knowledge and skill in the area of marketing and advertising. Take courses, read books, find a mentor who can coach you in this area. Doing this will serve you extremely well and propel your business forward in a way that will accelerate your results.

Perhaps, you should consider the cost of running your very own in-home personal training business

A very viable option for personal trainers who, perhaps, cannot find financing for a personal training studio, or who do not want to deal with the challenges that come with securing financing and/or managing their own studio includes providing in-home personal training. This is the option I chose for my business, mainly due to the fact that I did not want to be beginning a new venture already in the hole financially. That creates a ton of pressure, and it can cause lots of anxiety when business projections for initial and ongoing income do not match up with reality. That’s a major issue for many who choose to open a personal training studio in our current economy.

When you start an in-home personal training business, you will have an insignificant initial investment, and you can start making take-home money right away. You will still have business expenses, and will need to have reliable transportation along with equipment which can be transported without too much trouble, but there is really no comparison when you consider the financial, time, and energy expenditure required to effectively run a personal training studio. In addition, it will provide you with time to grow and develop in the areas of marketing and advertising your business and services to the masses. The big thing is that when you choose in-home personal training as a business model, you are operating from a position of strength as opposed to weakness. Sure, in any business venture, there will be some measure of risk, and this will be no different, but should you struggle early on, you are not risking business disaster by defaulting on a huge bank loan. You will work extremely hard, as in any new venture, but you will be able to recoup your initial investment within a few months, and will then be able to see actual business profits from then on. That will most likely not be the case when you start a personal training studio.

The Economic Impact on Personal Training Studio Profits

Some Facilities are Having To Close Their Doors...Forever.
Some Facilities are Having To Close Their Doors...Forever.

Have you considered the impact of our current economy on fitness facilities and Health Clubs?

Right now, things are getting pretty scary. Many great personal trainers who have done extremely well with their own studio in the past, are now feeling the impact of our economy on their bottom line. Fitness facilities are closing down, and many are having to let go of less-essential staff and services just to get by. Things may change for the better soon, but none of us really know whether it will…and we certainly don’t know when. It seems that we’re going to struggle along for a while longer, and at some point things may, again, start to look up for those who want to own their own personal training studio. My recommendation for now, is to consider in-home training for the time being, and if you are still wanting to pursue your dream to have your own place, then by all means, go forward with it…but make sure the timing is right.

If you consider and apply, wherever possible what you’ve learned in this article, you’ll make the best decision for you and your business which is to pursue in-home personal training as a viable option for your business due to our present economic conditions, and their impact upon small businesses that rent or lease space and equipment to operate effectively. You’ll be able to make better financial decisions and plan more effectively for the eventuality of running your own in-home personal training business. You’ll be able to see the need for, and seek out ongoing marketing and advertising training so that you don’t end up wasting money on ineffective methods. You’ll be able to see why in-home training is far more economical and will yield results in a much shorter time span than opening up a personal training studio.

It was pretty clear to me as I talked to these business owners that there was a sense of desperation that was just not there in the past. Just two years ago, I was chasing them down, trying to sell them on the opportunity of teaching for me at the college-level. I guess they were just too busy servicing their existing clientele to take on another job. Well, have the times changed. Now, they’re literally knocking down my door trying to sell me on the benefits of having them come teach for me. Good position for me to be in, but not for them, I’m sure. The fact that I happen to own my own fitness business which is also being affected by this economy, I am keenly aware of the need to minimize operating expenses during these tough economic times, but for me, there are far fewer expenses to be cut, thus making is easier for me to pay my bills and still be able to provide a great service for my clients. For these folks, they can only cut back so much. They must be able to pay the electric and light bills. If they are renting or leasing space, those bills must be paid, and if they are leasing exercise equipment or paying for ongoing outside services such as housekeeping, massage or chiropractic services, they must be continued if the business owner is to be able to provide high value to their clients. In a nutshell, they’re in a tough situation. This is what causes businesses to close, never to re-open again. This is why in-home training is so much more desirable right now…it allows the business owner to go out into the community and seek out new business while having little to no overhead. This will permit them more of an opportunity to ride out this recent recession and benefit more readily when things change for the better in our Country.

Contact me at or at 770-881-7733 if you’d like to learn more about how you can cut your business’ overhead and still get ahead during this uncertain economy, and if you’d like to learn about how to grow your business while everyone else you know is shutting their doors. You can also check out my Blog dedicated to the success of personal trainers for related articles or other valuable personal training business resources.



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