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Your Legal Checklist: Starting A Personal Trainer Business

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Starting a Personal Trainer Business - Legal Checklist

So, you’re thinking of starting a personal training business? Excellent idea! You’ll spend your days keeping yourself fit and healthy and you’ll be helping others who want to improve their health and fitness too. Before you get started though, there are a few things you'll need to do to set up your business properly. Such as ensuring you have all the right legal documents in place and know what to do to stay compliant. You’ll also need to go through some fairly simple processes to protect yourself and your business.

To set up a PT business you should:

  • Register Your Business Or Set Up As A Sole Trader

  • Register Your Domain Name

  • Secure Insurance

  • Ensure You're Set Up To Comply With Data Protection Laws

  • Draft Terms and Conditions for your Clients

  • Open A Business Bank Account

  • Consider Protecting Your Brand with a Trade Mark.

As a personal trainer, your insurance and your terms and conditions will be two of the most important things you set up, so we’ll get into some detail over those. First though, let’s look at how you might set up and structure your personal trainer business.

Sole Trader vs Limited Company

Many people starting small or independent businesses, choose to set up as sole traders initially and then decide if they want to become a limited company later down the road. This is because running a limited company is more involved. You need to register the company with Companies House and you will have to file your company accounts and declarations with them annually, usually in addition to reporting to HMRC. Whilst you are allowed to prepare accounts yourself, most people use an accountant since the Companies House filing process can be complex.

However, there are benefits to registering as a limited company. As a sole trader, there is no legal distinction between you and your business, making you personally responsible for all business profits but also any business debts. Setting up a limited company though, can offer you more personal protection. Limited companies are the better option for those planning to employ staff, secure investment and who may have, or hope to acquire, shareholders. As the owner, you would set yourself up as a Director and may derive a salary from the business and/or opt to be paid in dividends.

To set up a limited company you will need to register your business with Companies House. Setting up a business with Companies House will also register you for Corporation Tax.

Sole Traders are essentially self-employed individuals and operate fairly independently. You’ll be in charge of reporting your income and expenses and paying your tax and National Insurance but, as a sole trader, your accounts will be kept confidential.

To set up as a sole trader, you will need to head to Gov.UK and register as self-employed which is free of charge and a quick process. This will take you through registering for Self Assessment which is how you will submit your yearly tax returns

Qualifications And Certifications

Technically, you don’t need formal qualifications to become a personal trainer, but you're going to struggle to attract clients without them. Many gyms will insist on a minimum level 2 recognised qualification, but many will insist on level three if you’re offering personal training services. NHS referrals are also made only to PTs with a level three qualification or higher.

Not obtaining proper qualifications leaves you vulnerable and could put those in your care at risk which is why you will also struggle to secure insurance as an underqualified instructor.

One other certification you will likely need to have is your first aid certificate. Hopefully, you’ll never have to put what you learn into practice but since individuals may be more prone to accidents or health scares during physical activity, it's wise to be prepared in how to handle potential situations. St Johns Ambulance offer regular and affordable courses across the UK.

Public Liability Insurance

If you are starting a personal trainer business then you will want to secure public liability insurance to protect your business. Many studios and spaces you operate in, both indoor and outdoor, will also insist that you have the relevant insurance.

When shopping around for insurance, it’s wise to compare providers, ask a lot of questions and read the small print. Insurance, especially when you’re in a physically demanding profession, shouldn’t just be a box-ticking exercise, but should be robust and financially safeguarding you.

Things You Should Know When Starting A Personal Trainer Business

There are a few areas of running a business that are legislated but that you didn’t need to undergo any formal training in. This means small business owners can find themselves non-compliant with rules and guidance they didn’t know existed. Since ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law but is perfectly understandable, we thought it would be useful to point you to a few things you will need to know about:

Data Protection

You will likely be collecting and storing customer data and as such you will need to comply with the Data Protection Act. Whether you are collecting customer information on paper forms or whether data is stored on your website when an enquiry or booking is made, you will be responsible for keeping this information safeguarded. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) website has some useful guidance for organisations and sole traders that you will need to know, especially since your data protection commitments will need to be covered in your website’s privacy policy and possibly some other documents too. Also, it is likely that you may be collecting health data about your customers - which is regarded as 'special category data' which requires a higher level of security and processing obligations. You may need to get explicit consent from customers to collect this type of data - so your new client on-boarding forms may require a tick box to allow you to get this type of data from them. Get in touch for any queries about data protection.

Advertising Guidance

As you build your business, you will probably need to promote yourself on social media, on your website and maybe also using more traditional marketing materials. You may even run paid adverts. Whether paid or unpaid, any promotions of your business must be honest, non-offensive, transparent and comply with ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) best practices. Unfortunately, some in the health and fitness industry have made claims found to be either false, misleading or oversimplified, particularly in regard to the results they promise to achieve for their clients/customers. Whilst some businesses may be seen to be getting away with this, it is neither ethical nor is it compliant with the CAP Code (UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing) so do not be tempted to lean into this way of promoting your business. Aside from the risk of legal action being taken against you, it is the damage to your reputation that is the potentially bigger threat to your business, especially in this digital era where public opinion travels fast and is unforgiving.

Read through the CAP Code before you start advertising your personal training services so you are familiar with the rules and get in touch with me for specific queries about advertising codes.

Terms And Conditions For A Personal Trainer

Terms and conditions, also known as Terms Of Business, may cover a wide range of stipulations and commitments aimed at protecting both you and your signing client. Terms and conditions typically include agreements regarding payment terms, cancellation policies, and the responsibilities of the client and the supplier (PT). It may be wise to set out what can and cannot be reasonably expected from the PT experience/programme as well. There are a lot of consumer laws and regulations that require you to provide your clients with informaion about you, your fees, how to book, how to complain, and so by having proper terms of business in place, you can cover off a lot of these requirements.

As a personal trainer, you will need to include some kind of health waiver as well. This may be incorporated into your terms and conditions or be provided as a separate document. Health waivers can act to protect you from unfair claims, yet they also let your clients know that you have considered their safety. On this note, a risk assessment is always worth doing, especially in active environments.

Terms and conditions should reflect the interests of both parties and be fair and reasonable. They may be part of the booking process or be presented to clients before their first session or when they are signing up for a PT programme or package. Generally, the earlier you can get your T&Cs agreed to, the better.

It’s also important to know that just because terms and conditions have been signed by the client or customer, doesn’t mean they will necessarily be enforced if there is a dispute. To be enforced, the contract must be deemed reasonable. Therefore, it may be worth getting your terms and conditions drafted by a commercial solicitor.

If you're starting a personal training business and need legal advice or contracts drafted, then my Start-Up Package is a fixed-fee solution that will provide you with everything you need and can be tailored to suit your requirements.


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