You’ve always dreamed of taking your love for health and fitness to the next level. Not only are these important principles in your own life — you enjoy teaching others and guiding them to live a healthier lifestyle too. Working out is your passion, and showing others how to succeed is a close second. You can put both of these together and create a successful career at the same time by learning how to start your own gym. Once you know how to open a gym, your dream can become a reality!
How to Start Your Own Gym
In a lot of ways, opening a gym is really no different than building any other business from the ground up. If you talk to any business owner, they will say one of the most satisfying elements of entrepreneurship is seeing your vision come to life. The journey from an idea in your head to a living, breathing business can be a bumpy one, but once you open the doors for the first time and see your dream is now a reality, it’s all worth it.
That being said, we don’t want to scare you off of the idea in the first place. With the right help by your side, there will be far fewer bumps and fewer days until you open as well. We’re here to help you go from idea to goal to accomplishment, quicker than you can do 50 burpees!
Opening a Gym Checklist
In order to get you started in the right direction, it’s helpful to have a checklist of things you’ll want to focus on before you get to the more exciting aspects of gym ownership. Sure, decorating your space and deciding on your class schedule may be fun, but answering things like “What is the monthly cost of running a gym?” and “Do I need any capital to get started?” are important to get out of the way first.
Step 1: Develop a Gym Business Plan
More than likely, you’re going to need some financing. The bank isn’t going to simply hand you money because you ask nicely. A gym business plan lays the foundation for the success of your business by providing a roadmap to follow. It also shows potential investors that you’re serious enough to have put thought into it.
When you start up a gym, you will be diving headfirst into a choppy sea of issues that could sink you if you’re not prepared. If you have a plan written down that reminds you of the next step you have to take, you will stay swimming at the surface and keep going.
Step 2: Know Your Gym Startup Costs
Once you have an idea of what needs to be done to start a gym business, it’s time to give serious thought to the financial side of this. You can pay for future electric bills and staff wages with earnings, but what about before you have any members? What gym startup costs should you expect?
The startup costs for opening a fitness center or other workout-related business can vary greatly depending on the size, location, area, and the type of gym you open. It’s nearly impossible to give an entirely accurate estimation that represents all gyms. Your specific gym startup costs will depend on exactly what you have in mind. That being said, the basic initial costs can range from $200,000 to $400,000 on average.
The largest expense for a gym is the initial investment in gym equipment, which can cost upwards of $200,000 or more. This is a big chunk of your money, so some gym owners will try to lower their initial overhead by purchasing used equipment. This is a risky move, so be aware of the potential pitfalls of doing so. Gym goers want to see new equipment in a new facility. Used equipment may not be in top condition. If you go this route, make sure to have all used equipment thoroughly cleaned, inspected, and serviced prior to use so it looks as good as new, even if it’s not.
Rent of Your Space
The second-largest cost is probably rent, depending on the size of your business. The great thing about a gym is that it doesn’t have to be huge in order for people to love working out there. You’re going to look for a place that features an easy location with a high volume of traffic and no competitors nearby. Try to get a space with a parking lot!
Especially in the beginning, try to rent as small a location as possible while still offering all of the equipment and walking-around space that your members expect. A good rule of thumb is to provide 125 square feet of usable workout space per athlete. This does not count the front desk, bathrooms, etc.
You can’t open for business without anyone working there! Your labor costs, including recruiting, HR, salaries, insurance, and other costs associated with hiring your team, will come third. In order to keep labor costs low, you’ll probably do much of the work yourself in the beginning. If you’re busy offering personal training, you may find a business software can handle much of the administrative work you don’t have time to get to.
Tracking how much you are spending is just as important as knowing how much money you need to open your gym so you can survive those first few months.
Step 3: Determine the Monthly Cost of Running a Gym
There’s more to budgeting and finances than how much it takes to open a gym. The numbers mentioned above are a rough estimate for getting started, but what about keeping your gym going?
The largest ongoing expense is going to be paying the rent. Hopefully, you selected a location where the rent will be manageable for you, even in the first few months when you may potentially have only a few paying members.
After rent, it’s time to think about utilities. Just like at home, you’re going to start to get bills soon! Electricity, water, a music streaming membership, and WiFi are expected by your members, so these are bills you cannot avoid. You can try to keep your electric bill as low as possible, but be careful — an uncomfortable room is no place where people will want to work out again.
The larger and more successful your gym becomes, the more employees you’ll need. This is a good thing! As long as you’re hiring at the same scale as you’re bringing on new members, an increase in your costs here means you’re running a thriving business. Congratulations, boss!
Best Practices for Starting Your Own Gym
In order to know how to open a gym business, you’ll need a few pieces of advice from experts who have been there and done that. They know what it’s like to walk in your gym sneakers. Now that you know some of the financial aspects you need to consider in the beginning, it’s time to focus on some best practices for ensuring your business is a success.
Best Practice #1: Partner With Another Small Business
Allowing another small business to operate in your gym, as space permits, is a great way to add supplemental revenue. This other company will pay you rent, a portion of their profits, or both. For example, you may decide to lease space to a chiropractor, a tanning company, a massage therapist, a nutritionist, or a food services business to handle making the protein shakes. You make more money, your members have access to more products and services, and a second small business thrives. Everyone wins!
Best Practice #2: Differentiate Yourself
More than likely, you’re not the only gym in town. Simply saying “You can work out here” isn’t going to cut it. Catering to a specific group of people is a great way to carve out your niche. For example, you could market your gym to busy professionals, athletes looking to stay in shape during the off-season, or stay-at-home moms. You could also set up your gym to accommodate female members in particular.
Best Practice #3: Create a Website
Just like any other business, your gym is going to need a website. Today’s best gym websites are more than just good-looking. If you really want to surpass your competition, it’s crucial that you have a and meets both new visitors’ and members’ expectations. This means listing your hours and location, staff, class schedule, photos, and so much more.
Common Issues When Starting Your Own Gym
Even with the best practices in place, this process will not all be smooth sailing. Any new business, whether in the fitness industry or anything else, is going to have a rough first few months. It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur and get a brand new company off the ground; otherwise, everyone would do it! Understanding the unique issues faced by small businesses can help you be more successful.
By planning for the most common issues, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them:
Issue 1: Member Satisfaction
For any business that relies on monthly memberships, retention is the name of the game. Keeping all members happy all the time is sure to be the most difficult part of owning a gym. What can you do to keep them pleased? The only way to understand your members’ wants and needs is to ask! You may want to do this by sending out regular emails with surveys. You can put a suggestion box by the front door. You can also simply ask them! This will give your members the opportunity to voice their opinions, experiences, likes, and dislikes.
Issue 2: Engagement
Even if a member isn’t necessarily unhappy, they’ll eventually stop paying for a gym they aren’t actually attending very often. For this reason, engagement is an important issue to tackle head-on. You can boost engagement by:
- Sending a monthly newsletter to keep your members informed of what’s going on at your gym.
- Hosting a mobile app where your members can set their fitness goals and track their progress along the way.
- Sending push notifications, texts, and emails with information and reminders.
- Informing them of any changes in gym hours or class schedules.
- Sending reminders for scheduled personal training sessions.
- Offering and informing them of discounts on snacks and apparel.
- Hosting gym-wide challenges.
Issue 3: Managing Duties Outside of Workouts
A lot goes into running a gym beyond helping people work out. You don’t have time to run your business, plus update your website, check social media, write ads, and track marketing performance all by yourself. There aren’t enough hours in the day. That is why we encourage you to simplify your life by letting a professional team, like the UpLaunch Agency, handle your digital marketing efforts.
Develop a Plan for Success: Starting Your Own Gym
Now that you’ve read our advice and ideas, it’s time to brainstorm about your own start-up! What is your vision? What is your future gym going to be like, and who is it going to attract?
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, know that you don’t need to handle it all alone. Running a gym is a team sport, one we’re happy to support you in. Zen Planner offers a variety of services that make both establishing and handling the day-to-day aspects of owning a gym much easier.
Our gym management and billing services include:
- Integrated payment processing
- In-depth reporting
- Memberships and programming
- Class scheduling
- Automated communications
If you’re looking for a streamlined, simplified approach to managing all aspects of your gym, Zen Planner is here to help. We pride ourselves on catering our proven gym management and billing solutions to the particular needs of your gym. Reach out today and book a live demo of everything Zen Planner has to offer!
Zen Planner is a management and billing software for boutique fitness businesses.
We help gym, school, and studio owners streamline their day-to-day tasks so they can get back to doing what they love — helping their members. Enjoy all the features you need to manage your fitness business, including robust reporting dashboards, automated payment processing, skills and belt tracking, attendance history, and online retail.