Branching out on your own to start a personal training business is an ambition shared by many professionals working in the sports and fitness industry. It’s an achievable goal, but there are a number of considerations and important steps required to ensure that your business has the best chance of success.
The UK is one of Europe’s fitness hotspots, but trying to live a fit and healthy life can be a constant battle. Whether due to a lack of confidence, knowledge, motivation, or self-discipline, many people turn to personal trainers for tailored expert advice, exercises, and support to help them through their fitness journey.
So, let’s look at how to go about setting up a personal training business in the UK.
1. Gain professional qualifications
To work as a qualified personal trainer in the UK, you should obtain an Ofqual regulated Level 3 Personal Training qualification that’s endorsed by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).
Whilst there’s no legal requirement to hold a Level 3 certificate, it is strongly advised, particularly for anyone who is planning to set up their own personal training business.
Without such professional qualifications, you’d struggle to make a success of your business – and you would be doing a disservice to any clients with whom you do work.
2. Register with CIMSPA
Before setting up a personal training business and taking on clients, you need to register with CIMSPA, the UK’s professional development body for the sport and physical activity sector, at a cost of £30 per year.
This membership will provide professional recognition as a personal trainer, assuring clients that you are appropriately qualified and maintain your skills and knowledge by completing continued personal development (CPD) every membership year.
3. Choose a business structure
The next step is to choose a business structure and officially register your new personal training business. The two most suitable options are to operate as a sole trader or a private company limited by shares.
Many professional trainers start out as sole traders. This would mean that you’d be self-employed and required to register for Self Assessment with HMRC.
Each year, you’d be responsible for completing a tax return and paying any Income Tax and National Insurance you owe to HMRC through Self Assessment. It’s the easiest type of business structure to set up and maintain, with very few regulations and administrative requirements.
However, you will have unlimited personal liability for business debts and any legal claims brought against you. Furthermore, you will not enjoy the same level of prestige or tax-saving options as a limited company.
The other popular option for many personal trainers is to register a limited company with Companies House. This business structure provides you with greater professional status, limited liability for any debts or legal claims your business may face, and a range of tax-saving and tax-planning options that could save you money.
In exchange for these benefits, limited companies are subject to stricter regulation and you’d have more filing, reporting, and disclosure obligations. You’d also be required to register for Corporation Tax as well as Self Assessment.
4. Open a business bank account
When you have registered as a sole trader or limited company, the next step is to open a business bank account. There’s no legal requirement to do so, but it’s highly recommended.
Aside from making it easier to monitor your business income and expenditure for accounting and cash flow purposes, a business bank account adds professional credibility and provides greater assurance to clients.
5. Get insured
Public liability insurance is so important for all types of businesses, but more so for those whose services have a greater risk of causing injury to their clients or damaging third-party property (e.g. fitness equipment at a gym).
Whether you’re training clients at their homes, in fitness premises, or outside in a park, public liability insurance will provide cover for any claims brought against you and your business. Furthermore, you’ll find that it’s common for gyms and sports centres to insist that any personal trainers using their facilities have this type of insurance as standard.
We would also recommend that you protect yourself further by taking out personal accident insurance and income protection cover. These policies will provide compensation or cover if you suffer an accident or are unable to work due to illness or injury, which is crucial when running your own business.
6. Maintain accounting and tax obligations
Whether you decide to operate as a limited company or a sole trader, you will be responsible for your own bookkeeping, accounting, and tax obligations. You may find it beneficial to hire an accountant to deal with these tasks on your behalf, but it’s perfectly legal to do all of these things yourself – if you feel that you have the know-how!
If you set up your personal training business as a sole trader, you are self-employed and must:
- Register for Self Assessment with HMRC online
- Keep records of all sales and expenses generated through the business
- Complete a Self Assessment tax return each year
- After the end of each tax year, pay Income Tax and Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions on your income
- Register for VAT if your turnover is greater than £85,000 (2022-23 threshold) in a 12-month period, or register voluntarily if it’s beneficial to your business but your turnover is below the threshold
If you set up your personal training business as a limited company, you must:
- Register the company for Corporation Tax
- Keep financial and accounting records of all income, expenditure, goods bought and sold, assets, debts, and liabilities
- Keep evidence of all money spent and received, all credits and debts, and all assets acquired or disposed of, including receipts, invoices, contracts, and bank statements
- Send accounts and a Company Tax Return every year
- Pay Corporation Tax every year
- Register for VAT, if required, or register voluntarily
- Register yourself for Self Assessment, file a personal tax return annually, and pay the Income Tax and National Insurance you owe to HMRC after the end of each tax ear
You will also have a number of additional obligations to fulfil when running a limited company, which we discuss in the following blog post: Limited company directors – everything you need to know.
Final thoughts on starting a personal training business
The aforementioned steps required to set a personal training business should give you a good idea of what you need to do to get started.
However, you will need to invest time in developing a clear business plan, researching the industry and your target market, planning how to finance your new venture, and determining where your business will operate.
You can find help and support for your startup at GOV.UK, which provides a range of invaluable resources for new and existing businesses in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.