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The Everything Guide to Starting your Own Gym or Fitness Studio

By Alex Parker

So you are dreaming of going on your own to start a gym? Many personal trainers and coaches have a dream to open their own gym, or maybe you have done your research and know why opening a gym is the smartest business opportunity. Whatever your reasons are, you need to put together a realistic plan and if you’re to make it a reality. 

Opening a gym takes a large amount of capital to begin with and there are numerous recurring expenses to consider as well. How your investment will fare depends almost entirely on how much and how well you’ve thought things through.

You can read from start to finish or skip to a section you prefer. 

Have a Vision for Your Gym

Do your Research

Create a Budget

Legal Considerations


Accumulate Clients

Gym Equipment


Have a Vision for Your Gym

Many club owners never go through the process of developing a vision for their gym or fitness center.

You have to define a clear vision before you start your own gym. Are you trying to build a community center where anyone can come for a workout? A power-lifting gym or an elite, high-end gym?

Gym Vision

Successful gym owners have always defined their target markets well. Once you know your target market and your overall vision, you can begin crafting specific plans.

As you build, define, and sharpen your vision, consider crafting a mission statement. A mission statement offers insight into what you view as the primary purpose for being in business.

Do your Research

A huge amount of planning is needed to see if it’s possible to start your own gym. Once you have defined a vision and a mission statement, you need to start your research to get all the numbers together, and then put them down in a business plan. This is ground zero, now its time to talk with other gym owners across the country, make at least 5 calls a week, you'd be surprised that most gym owners are very open to helping others.

Find a suitable time to contact and put it on your schedule. For you it will be a listening session, so keep a list of questions ready. Ask well thought out questions, and take notes during these calls/meetings.

Research for gym-1

I'd suggest you focus your questions on these three key areas:

  1. Style of gym along with the number of clients and all sources of revenue generated.
  2. Expenses and operating costs.
  3. Hurdles in starting the venture, or unforeseen problems that did arise.

Over time your questions can be targeted to what relates to your plans. After the first month, you should only be talking to gym owners of the same style gym you’re planning to open. Once you have spoken to 20-30 different gym owners, the picture would start getting much clearer for you to initiate budgeting.

Create a Budget

Your research and planning phase should include a complete budget. Now, two important variables to consider are; the amount of capital needed to kick start the venture, and the amount of money needed to sustain the business running expenses for a year.

These are known as your startup and running costs, and they will help you find out how much capital you need, to start your own gym.

Startup cost is the amount you need to set up the gym. Running costs are recurring costs that you will incur once you open your gym doors.

Create a Budget

Your gym will need the obvious things; a location, a marketing plan and equipment, but make sure to include items that most people miss out. Things such as insurance, accounting, attorney fees, cleaning services and utilities, can add up to be major expenses over time.

Budget in a professional to do your services because you want to rely on the unbiased advice of a professional when making critical business decisions.

It can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000, to get going. Here's a budgeting template that can tell you how much money does it take to open a gym.

Budget Template.

Do I need a license to open a gym? the answer is yes! Like any other business, it's necessary to obtain the proper licensing to operate your gym legally. However, this process may get complex because different countries can have different requirements, and specific licenses may be needed to own and operate a gym.

The tax situation at the state and local level depends upon the location of your gym. Consult your state and local tax agencies for specific tax registration information.


Another important thing you have to address as a gym owner is the possibility of someone getting seriously injured or even death on-site. Scary as it may sound, high intensity workouts are a near constant occurrences during business hours and injuries are always a possibility even if extensive safety precautions are in place. It’s a wise idea to have a liability insurance (depending on your state and local laws, and this may even be a requirement to operate a gym in certain states).

  • Most gyms include a clause in members' contracts preventing them from suing in the event of a self-caused injury.

Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your gym is sued.

Pick a Name

You will also have to register your gym name. Pick a name that stands out and is self-explanatory. Keep in mind that the name has to be unique and make sure you can secure your social channels and web domain.

To check name vanity for the social media channels, you can go-to www.knowem.com


The most important decision you have to make about your gym is; its location and there are many factors to consider while making this one. 

Is your gym going to be formal and elegant? Or kicked-back and casual? Your location should be consistent with your gym's particular style and image. 

The location of the gym should be based essentially on the population group that you want to target. People don't like having to go far out of the way to fulfill their fitness needs. Conduct door-to-door surveys or make phone calls to determine not only the age and gender of individuals in the area you wish to target, but also the physical activity level of these residents.

Consider who your customers are and how important their proximity to your location is. For a gym, this is critical; for other types of businesses, it might not be as important. The demographic profile you have of your target market will help you make this decision.

Another important factor in making the choice for your gym's location is, foot traffic. You don't want to be tucked away in a corner where people are likely to bypass you, and even the best areas have dead spots. Monitor the traffic outside a potential location at different times of the day and on different days of the week to make sure the volume of pedestrian traffic is healthy.

Consider how accessible the facility will be for everyone who'll be using it. If you're on a busy street, how easy is it for cars to get in and out of your parking lot?


Accessible Location

Cost will vary depending on size and location of your gym, as well as your decision to rent or purchase the building.

Here’s a list of location considerations you should keep in mind:

  1. High ceilings and natural light
  2. Clean sight-lines from one end of the space to the other
  3. Ample waiting space
  4. Sufficient Parking
  5. Street front visibility
  6. Spacious waiting area


Having a professional, certified staff is a big plus. Some certifications to explore include: American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Computer Network and POS System

You’ll have to set up a point of sale system to accept modern forms of payment, as well as proper gym management software to ensure things go smoothly.

Accumulate Clients

After you’ve invested money and time into building your facility, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is opening your doors and just waiting for people to come. Start marketing BEFORE your gym’s opening so you can get sales going and have cash to cover costs including rent, equipment, design, and more.

Everyone within a 3-mile radius of your facility may be a prospect for your gym membership. Identify friends in your circle who have a large network, influence or credibility when talking about exercise and fitness. For example, this could be that talkative, friendly lifter at the gym who seems to know more than trainers; or a lecturer you met during your studies. The goal is to get to know the people who are already doing what you would like to do. You may think you don’t know anyone like this, but you know who does? Someone in your network.

Accumulating dedicated clients comes down to two things: relationships and value. If you are a personal trainer or coach, these have to be clients that are willing to move with you regardless of the costs.

Tip: Accumulate Favors from Friends and Family  

No one cares more about you and your success than your family and friends. Ask them beforehand whether they’d help you out as far as marketing is concerned, if you were to go out on your own. This is the time to call in favors and get other people to do your marketing for you.

Opening a gym on your own is a thrilling adventure, but at the same time, it’s the most daunting move you’ll ever make. With the right plan, we’ve seen thousands of fitness professionals open their own facility and get profitable in as little as 100 days.

Favors from Friends and Family

You should also consider offering a referral program that rewards your existing customers for recruiting their friends and colleagues to sign up for a gym membership.

Follow the steps above to open your own facility whether you’re new in the fitness industry or you’re already a fitness professional. Not only will you take your business to the next level… but you’ll make it easier to continue growing your business in the months and years ahead!

Remember: Fitness is an industry that relies on contacts and word-of-mouth more than it does on plain marketing tactics. Never ruin your relationship with other gym owners simply because you want to get ahead. In the long run, this will only do more harm for your reputation than good.

Some Effective Marketing Tips

You need to have a solid plan read and you should be ready to improvise it. Sales and Marketing will let you succeed financially in this venture, and should be your primary goal.

Guerilla marketing works very well along with co-marketing with your neighboring businesses. There are plenty of creative ideas. It is not necessary to buy a billboard that stays over everyone’s head. All you need is to just stay on top of their mind.

We have pinned some helpful and successful techniques that have worked for many facility owners:

  • Cross-promoting with neighboring businesses (giveaways to the wait staff at the local eating establishments, product giveaways like water bottles, t-shirts, bags, etc.)
  • Sponsor some local marathon race or fitness festival
  • Setting up a tent at local festival
  • Flyers on cars
  • Direct mailers

You need to roll up your sleeves for promoting your own gym. One day you might be able to laugh about handing out flyers in a supermarket parking lot. But until then, it’s better to do what needs to be done. 

Gym Equipment

Equipment is the foundation of the gym experience, some gym owners try to lower their initial overhead by buying used equipment. This is a double-edged sword. New gym goers want to see new equipment. Used equipment may not be in the best condition. If you go this route, make sure to have all used equipment thoroughly inspected and serviced prior to use. So, the question arises, how much does gym equipment cost for a gym?

Start-up fitness equipment costs can add up to anywhere between $100,000 - $500,000, the cost of equipment for a new club averages $17-$24 per square feet.

Gym Equipment

Service, warranty fulfillment, and support should be your number one criteria in choosing an equipment supplier. Durability and aesthetics are also an important consideration. The look of the equipment contributes to the look and experience of the member. You don’t want something that looks chunky or outdated. You want something sleek.

The best gyms offer a wide variety of exercise opportunities to their clientele. These exercise opportunities should cater to the naturally varying interests of the people who use the gym.

Members of your gym with serious fitness goals will often want to develop muscles, strength, and flexibility. This almost always refers to performing strength building exercises with "free weights" — dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, and other resistance training tools.

End Note

There’s a lot more that goes into getting a gym off the ground. Most businesses fail during this initial phase of planning because the owners jumped straight into the process without first conducting proper research.

As long as you have a proper plan in hand and it is implemented effectively, you’re more than likely to get to a point where your gym starts paying for itself. 

Tags: Gyms & Clubs

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