Personal training may seem like a glamorous profession, but in the end it's based on two types of grunt work: the actual sweat you and your clients put in at the gym, and the behind-the-scenes work it takes to start a personal training business. Although you won't find professional licensing requirements for personal trainers, you should still educate yourself about your responsibilities and potential liabilities as a personal trainer, including the scope of your practice, before you even hit the gym.
Pursue a personal training certification from either a reputable, accredited local university or a nationally recognized program accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or NCCA. Expect to dedicate at least six months, often more, to a program of study. As of January 2011, the cost of study materials and a certification exam can easily total $600 or more.
Register your business name through your state government. If you're operating as a sole proprietorship, you can use your own social security number or obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number, through the United States Internal Revenue Service. If you hire employees, obtaining an EIN is obligatory.
Register your business name with your State Revenue Agency, too. Note that tax and registration requirements vary from state to state. Next, obtain a business license. Although no licensing regulations exist for personal trainers, you still need a business license to legally operate as an independent business.
Purchase liability insurance. Often, the organization that certified you may offer good prices on liability certification for personal trainers. If you train out of an established gym, they may offer some liability coverage, especially if you work as an employee. Check your contract terms carefully. Carrying your own liability insurance is a good idea, even if the gym insures you, because the gym's insurance won't cover you during your work outside the gym. If you decide to open your own personal training studio, you'll need to insure the premises and equipment as well.
Approach a gym about working as a personal trainer. Starting at a gym gives you access to plentiful equipment and a wide potential client base. You might be allowed to promote yourself by teaching seminars or making yourself available on the floor to answer questions. Other places you might find employment -- or contractor work -- as a personal trainer include physical therapists' offices, hospitals, sports teams, spas and community health centers. If you work independently of a gym in your own studio or clients' homes, you will have to be more creative about your marketing strategies. Word of mouth promotion is one of your best tools, but before you can have satisfied clients you have to have clients, period. See the Tips section below for some ideas on how to promote yourself.