Of the several steps needed to create a successful small group training business, just giving it a go is the most important.

For aspiring personal trainers – and anyone interested in living a ‘dream’ lifestyle by being a business owner – there is a key plan of attack: work less, earn more.

Like most, I thought this wasn’t actually possible for ‘normal’ people and that you had to be some sort of Richard Branson in-waiting to make it a reality (and, frankly, I wanted to be that guy!). The truth, however, is that you don’t have to be an entrepreneurial genius to make it work – you just have to get started.

And so I did. Drawn to the concept of small group training, I decided that throwing my lot in with this business model was going to be the game changer for my fitness career. Coming from a one-on-one training background, I had no idea how to run small groups, how much to charge, how to structure the workouts – nothing. But I was prepared to give it a crack.

I decided to start with a 6-week program for no better reason than it sounded good to me. I called my ‘female fat loss’ program ‘6 Weeks to Sexy’ because it was a catchy name. To be honest, a girlfriend came up with the name, so I can’t even take credit for that stroke of inspiration!

Then it all began, and frankly I felt pretty disoriented. Even though I had been a trainer for nine years, this was completely different. My first program started with six people training five days a week for six weeks at a cost of $350 per person. Doing the maths I worked out that I was earning $70 per session. That was less than I charged for one-on-one sessions, and here I was looking after six clients – but I had to start somewhere.

This first incarnation of the program taught me some valuable lessons and allowed me to work out what I did and didn’t like about it. The second time I ran it I trained eight people, this time at a cost of $399 per client. Subsequent versions of the program saw the price increase to $450, then $499 and $549. As it stands now, 50 people are paying $599 to do the 6-week program in Sydney (not all 50 are training at the same time with the same trainer!) and 32 people are paying $449 to do the training in Adelaide.

If you are anything like most trainers, you are probably waiting for that perfect moment to embark on your next career step. Such a moment doesn’t exist. You just have to start. The first program was all about learning: I kept the prices low and let the participants know that it was a trial program, hence the reason for the low cost. ‘6 Weeks to Sexy’ is now looking to expand into Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and a second location in Sydney.

Over the past two years I’ve worked by a set of rules to get the business up and running, and into a strong enough position for me to be able to easily earn a great income running just these sessions first thing in the morning and last thing at night. This has allowed me to free up my days to work on my mentoring of other personal trainers, health coaching and online membership programs. Here are those rules.

1. Get started. Your first program is going to be only OK (at best) – but you’ll learn. If you’re scared of ‘losing’ potential clients because you haven’t got the formula perfect yet, get your friends in for the first program for a trial run.

2. Take measurements, do tests and snap photos before and after the program. Prior to the program starting, each participant has three stops: first, me for their measurements and body fat testing; second, Em (one of our trainers) for their ‘before’ shot; and third, Trimmer (our running coach) for their fitness and strength testing. At the end of the program these processes are repeated. ‘Before and after’ shots with a testimonial are amazingly effective resources to use in your marketing material, and testing is awesome for participants because at the end of the program they can clearly see that not only has their body completely changed, but they’ve also got stronger and fitter. With such tangible results, a large percentage of participants sign up for another round of the program.

  • Small group training opens up a potential new market and revenue stream for personal trainers
  • There is no ‘perfect moment’ to take the next step in your career – you need to take action now
  • Your first foray into small group training will be a valuable experience in trial and error
  • Take measurements, do tests and take ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos
  • Build a community both online and offline, reward referrals, seek feedback and continually improve the program you offer.

3. Build a ‘crowd’ through Facebook. I don’t spend money on marketing. I post photos of the participants working out on the Facebook Page, I tag them when possible, and I frequently talk about them to create interest amongst their friends.

4. Encourage and reward referrals. Word of mouth referrals are the best leads you could ask for, and if the service you’re delivering is fun and effective then your participants will tell their friends about you. Don’t take this for granted though: give your trainees an incentive to bring people to the program. As a gesture of our appreciation we give participants a 25 per cent discount for recommending people.

5. Create a community. Our participants have serious FOMO (fear of missing out) if they miss a session, let alone a whole program. Once they see the other girls and guys working out in the pictures I post on the Facebook Page, they want to jump back in to the next program and get involved. If you’re doing the right things and you’ve created an awesome culture and community, 80 per cent should come back for at least one more program.

6. Keep improving your program. Every time we run the program I look for new ways to improve it. For example, we have added new food programs and bonus workshops as our programs have evolved. We have also introduced a much funkier ‘welcome pack’ with singlets and bags (which also works as a branding and marketing tool) and we revamped our ‘introduction process’ so that I spend half an hour talking each new participant through the program prior to the testing and measuring components.

7. Get feedback. If you can’t handle feedback well you might struggle to grow your business. I continually invite feedback, so I’ve created an atmosphere in which most participants feel comfortable telling me exactly what they think does work, doesn’t work and would work in the future. If for some reason they don’t feel comfortable telling me directly, we have two other team members who have been involved in the program since day one that the participants will talk to about the program and make suggestions.

All seven of these rules have been critical to the success of my small group training programs – but without the first rule the others are worthless. If you want to make a serious impact and earn some serious money in this amazing industry, you just have to get started. Try something – if it works keep it, and if it doesn’t ditch it. This is how you can keep improving your program and keep adding value. By doing so you’ll carve yourself out a more successful fitness career than you ever thought possible.

Looking to launch or boost your small group training program?

Australian Fitness Network is holding its Network Intensive Training Summit on Sunday 19 October at Sydney Olympic Park, NSW. This 1-day summit features a strand containing a wealth of tips and tricks to help you build a successful business from small group training. The presenting faculty will take you through the business side of this training model and put you through your paces with some incredible new workouts. Find out more and register at networksummits.com.au or call 1300 493 832.


Blake Worrall-Thompson has owned and operated a number of personal training and boot camp businesses. He now divides his time between his fat loss programs ‘6 Weeks to Sexy’ and ‘6 Weeks to Shredded’ and his mastermind group for personal trainers ‘6 Weeks to Success’. 6weekstosuccess.com