How to Become a Personal Trainer: Step-by-Step Guide

Thinking about embarking on a new career? In this guide we take you through each of the steps required to become a qualified personal trainer. We also share some bonus tips and advice for finding your feet in the industry.

Written by
Alex Pellew
Published on
December 13, 2023

Whether you’ve been thinking about becoming a PT for a long time or you’ve recently decided that you want to try something new, countless opportunities lie ahead of you in this industry.

In this guide, we unpack the basic toolkit you'll need to get your qualifications, get insured, expand your reach and start training clients on your own. Whilst everyone’s journey will be unique, these are the key steps that you’ll need to take to start your exciting journey and become a personal trainer.

What We'll Cover

Step 1: Get the right qualifications to become a personal trainer

The first step to becoming a professional PT is getting the right qualifications. You don’t need a degree, but there are 2 key qualifications that you need to start with in order to become a certified personal trainer. These are:

Level 2 Gym Instructor Course

Before diving into the world of personal training, you’ll need to start by getting your Level 2 gym instructor certificate. This is the foundation of your fitness career and will give you the basics of gym-based exercises.

With this qualification you’ll be able to work in a gym as a fitness instructor, but not yet as personal trainer. It’s aimed at beginners and can be completed by anyone over 16 years old.

Level 3 Personal Training Qualification

This is the primary qualification that you need to work as a personal trainer in the UK. In your level 3 course you’ll delve deeper into anatomy, nutrition, and the essentials of personal training.

You’ll need to have completed your level 2 gym instructor course before you can apply for this one. Once you’ve got both, you will be officially qualified as a personal trainer!

After these there are various courses and qualifications that you may choose to explore further, depending on which area of personal training that you want to specialise in.

If you're interested in specialising in strength and conditioning, check our guide: How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Step 2: Get Insured as a Personal Trainer

After receiving your qualifications, you’re ready to start helping clients 1-1. This means that you’ll be responsible for looking after the safety of your clients when they are under your supervision, so it's only right that you prioritise your own protection as well.

Having the right insurance is not just a good safety net to have for personal trainers, it’s a legal requirement in the UK. Below are the 2 types of insurance that you will require:

Public Liability Insurance

This covers claims made against you in case a client gets injured during training or damages property.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

This protects you against claims if a client isn't happy with the advice or training you've provided.

For more information on this, check out our guide: What Insurance do Personal Trainers Need?

Step 3: Decide on your employment status

When starting out as a PT in this industry you have two clear options. The first is to seek employment by working for a company, usually at an established gym. Or you can choose to be self-employed, which offers freedom and flexibility but is not without it’s challenges either.

Let’s explore both options in more detail below.

Seeking employment as a personal trainer at a gym

Many personal trainers start by working for established public gyms and receiving a fixed wage. This gives you access to a large membership base of health-focused individuals, and you’ll typically be given clients to work with by your employer.

If you choose this route, you’ll have the security of a regular income and you won't need to worry about overheads like equipment and rent, so it can be a good place to start.

However, the downsides to being employed by a gym are that you are restricted to working when and how your employer wants you to, and your earning potential will be limited.

You’ll need to weigh up all of these factors when deciding on which career path you want to take as a personal trainer. It’s common for PTs to start out at a gym while they gain experience, and then progress to being self-employed.

Becoming a self-employed personal trainer

Becoming a self-employed PT will offer you more freedom and the potential for higher earnings. When you’re self-employed you get to choose who you work with, when you work and where you work. You’ll also keep all of the money that you earn, though this will need to be factored into your costs.

This all sounds great, but there are challenges here too. The main one being that you need to find and manage your own clients. When you are self-employed you’ll need to be your own: marketer, salesperson, bookings manager, finance director, and on top of that, deliver a world-class service to your clients. The hardest route is usually the one with the biggest rewards!

If you do choose this path, joining a community like UNTIL can really help. You’ll have access to premium gym spaces which you can rent on a flexible basis, and you’ll work among a network of like-minded fitness and health freelancers who regularly cross-refer clients. You'll also have access to industry leading personal training equipment.

Step 4: Find Your Clients

Once you’ve got the essentials in place such as your qualifications, insurance, and a choice of employment, the next step to being a successful PT is building up a client base.

If you work in a public gym this is more straightforward since you’ll be able to rely on their pre-existing membership base and marketing efforts. However, if you work for yourself, you’ll need to use various marketing tactics to find your clients.

We’ve published an in-depth guide covering 10 proven ways to get clients as a personal trainer here. Whether you are new to personal training or already established, we highly recommend giving that a read after this one.

We’ve summed up 3 of the best tactics to help new personal trainers find clients below:

Use social media

All of your future clients will be on social media in one way or another, so this is one of your best chances of getting seen by them. Start posting content regularly and interacting with prospective clients, as well as other professionals in the industry. Try different types of content across different platforms to see which works best.

You can also use paid social media advertising, such as with Meta ads, to further your reach. These ads work on a pay-per-click model and you can be really targeted with who you advertise to. So if you’re willing to spend some money to get a return, it’s worth a shot.

Use other digital marketing strategies

As well as social media, there are other digital marketing tactics that you can leverage too. Firstly, we recommend setting up your own personal trainer website to promote your services online and provide a way for clients to learn more about you. You can take this a step further by using SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (pay-per-click) to get relevant traffic from search engines.

A bonus tip to help you appear for relevant online searches in your local area is to create a Google Business Profile listing. This is a great way to rank high on location-focused searches around any keywords relating to personal training. This is such an under-rated channel and approach for health and wellness professionals that takes little time to set up and pays back dividends!

Get referrals from friends and family

Referrals are the most common way to get new clients as a PT. But when you start out, your network will likely be small so you need to use the people around you as best you can.

One thing you could try is to offer discounted or even free sessions to family and friends. Afterwards, ask them to spread the word and to give you Google reviews and testimonials to use on your website. Then you can use these to help fuel more new leads.

You could also offer a referral kick-back for anyone that sends a new client your way. This will encourage the people around you to go out to their network too and promote your services.

To learn more about how to maximise and expand your network, check out our in-depth guide: Personal Trainer Networking: How to Grow Your Network.

Join the UNTIL community

At UNTIL there are countless examples of new and established personal trainers who continue to grow their businesses. Starting out isn’t easy, but joining the UNTIL community will give you the tools and the network you need to push forward. Some of the benefits include:

  • Work in an environment that enables you to define your product and niche.
  • Deliver a world class experience for your clients using UNTIL’s private gym’s with top spec kit
  • Build a tight-knit network to share learnings and develop powerful cross referral services.

If you’re interested in developing your personal trainer business in a fresh environment, apply now and speak to our membership team today.