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How to Open a Gym in 10 Simple Steps

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Axel DeAngelis

Updated on: May 6th, 2023
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Are you passionate about fitness and looking to start your own business?

Opening a gym can be a challenging and fulfilling experience. It takes consistency and planning, but the reward is starting a business where you can work out and get paid while doing it!

By following our ten simple steps, you can learn how to open a gym and turn your passion for fitness into a profitable business.

Read on to learn how to get your gym up and running.

What is a Gym or Fitness Business?

A gym or fitness business provides services and products related to physical health, exercise, and wellness. It can range from a small home-based operation to a large commercial facility with multiple locations.

Gyms come in all shapes and sizes depending on the owner’s budget and target market. Some gyms are designed for general use, while others specialize in specific activities such as pilates, rock climbing, or weightlifting.

Here are some examples of common types of gyms:

  • A boutique fitness studio that offers specialized classes

  • A 24-7 gym that provides access at any time

  • A corporate gym that caters cater to employees

  • Martial arts dojos

  • Boot camps focused on group exercises

  • Senior centers with tailored programs for older adults

10 Steps to Open a Gym or Fitness Center

Here are ten simple steps to help you start your gym or fitness center.

Step #1: Find a Gym Name

Choosing a name for your gym is an essential first step in starting and growing your business. It’s critical to pick a name that reflects the values and mission of your business while also being flexible enough to accommodate any changes you may make down the line.

When selecting a name, it’s best to avoid anything too specific or limiting. For instance, if you plan on offering bootcamp classes and traditional gym services, including “bootcamp” in your name could be restrictive. 

You’ll also want a gym name that fits your target audience.  Equinox is a fantastic name for a luxury gym, but 24-Hour Fitness isn’t.  Very few of Equinox’s preferred clients would attend the gym if they had 24-Hour Fitness’s name.

To find a catchy gym name, check out the gym and fitness name generator on our sister site, NameBounce.  There are many additional naming resources on NameBounce, so it’s a fantastic place to start your name search. 

Step #2: Create a Simple Business Plan

Creating a business plan is essential for any entrepreneur looking to start or grow their business.  A well-crafted business plan will provide direction and help you stay focused on your goals.

Here’s a list of items to include in your business plan:

Startup Costs

Estimate all expenses associated with starting up your business such as equipment purchases, legal fees, and rent/mortgage payments. Make sure to factor in taxes that may be applicable to certain items or services purchased.

Services & Pricing

Outline what services you’ll offer customers and how much they’ll cost. Consider different pricing models, such as monthly memberships, class packs, or charging for add-ons like hydro massage or infrared sauna usage.

Target Market

Identify potential customers by researching demographics such as age range, income level, and location.  By knowing your target market, you can tailor marketing efforts towards individuals most likely to purchase from you.

Competitive Analysis

Research other businesses offering similar products/services in order to understand the current market conditions.  Determine how to best position your gym business, such as offering different price points or unique offerings that set your gym apart from competitors.

It’s also a good idea to research the other gym owners and their backgrounds.

Customer Acquisition & Retention Strategy

Develop strategies to acquire new customers while keeping existing ones engaged and continuing as members.  For more details on customer acquisition, skip to Step #8: Get Customers.

Growth & Expansion Plans

Determine short-term objectives (1 year) and longer-term goals (3-5 years).  Think about ways to scale up operations in terms of product offerings, geographic reach, franchising, or adding employees.

Step #3: Choose a Business Structure

Next, you’ll want to choose a business structure.  Below is an overview of the most common types of business structures.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common type of business structure. It’s owned by one person who controls all decisions, finances, and operations. The owner is personally liable for any debts or legal actions against the business.  This isn’t the best idea for a gym because of the liability involved and the investment required.

LLC (Limited Liability Company)

An LLC combines the liability protection of a corporation with the taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship. The benefit of an LLC is that it shields your assets from liability.  It’s very affordable to set up, so it’s typically an excellent approach favored by many small businesses.


A partnership involves two or more people who share ownership of the business and its profits/losses. Each partner can be held legally responsible for any debt incurred by the other partners in the business.  You can file an LLC with multiple owners and have it be taxed as a partnership, protecting the owners’ personal assets.


Corporations are separate legal entities that exist independently from their owners.  Owners own shares in the corporation and receive dividends based on how much stock they hold.  A corporation also shields your personal assets.

To choose the proper business structure, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer or accountant.  LegalZoom and Taxfyle are great options for getting legal and accounting help at a low cost.  If you need help forming an LLC, there are several LLC formation services that will help you complete the process at an affordable price.

Step #4: Get an EIN and Open a Business Bank Account

After you choose your business structure, you’ll need an employer identification number (EIN) and a business bank account.

An EIN is a unique nine-digit number that identifies your business to the IRS.  It’s used for filing taxes, hiring employees, and applying for loans or credit cards. You can apply online through the IRS website or by mail.

Opening a business bank account is important as it helps you separate your personal and business expenses. 

Many banks offer bonuses if you open an account with them, such as free money if you deposit a certain amount or connect to direct deposit.  Switching banks is difficult, so make sure to compare rates, features, access to ATMs, and other items that are important to you in a bank.

Once you’ve chosen a bank, setting up an account is relatively straightforward.  You’ll fill out some paperwork with information about yourself and your business, provide proof of identity, and deposit funds into the new account.  Be sure to read all documents carefully before signing anything so that you understand what kind of service agreement you’re entering into with the bank.

Step #5: Create a Logo, Branding, and Website

Creating a logo, branding, and website are essential steps for any business. A professional brand and website increases trust and credibility with potential customers, and also helps them remember your brand. 

Designing a Logo 

When it comes to logos, there are two affordable options: using an online logo maker, or hiring an agency.

Tailor Brands is a great option to get started on a budget: you can get a logo and brand assets like social media covers for under $10.  You can access a 30% discount with Tailor Brands by using our link.

You can also hire a freelancer using a platform like Upwork.  I hired a freelancer to create Jumpcoast’s logo and was very happy with the results. 

Creating a Website

When it comes to websites, there are two main options: website builders and WordPress.

Website builders such as Wix or Squarespace are easy to use, but are less flexible.  On the other hand, WordPress has a slightly steeper learning curve, but offers greater flexibility in terms of design and customization capabilities. 

Step #6: Get Licenses, Certifications, and Gym Insurance

When starting a gym, it’s important to ensure you have all the necessary licenses and certifications.  Without a business license, you won’t be able to open for business.

To find the licenses that you need, start by contacting your local county offices for more information.  They’ll be able to tell you about what is needed to open your gym.

You should also consider getting business insurance, which can protect you from potential liabilities that could arise due to accidents or mistakes. 

Considering people can get hurt at gyms, purchasing business insurance is important for peace of mind. There are a variety of insurance products that can work for your gym, such as general liability insurance or property casualty insurance.

If you want to compare quotes, check out InsuranceBee.  They will allow you to compare quotes from different insurers and find the best coverage at the most affordable price.

Finally, depending on where your business operates, there may be additional licensing requirements such as permits or zoning restrictions for your gym to legally operate.

Contacting local government agencies will help ensure compliance with all relevant regulations and provide peace of mind knowing that everything has been taken care of properly when setting up shop.

Step #7: Get Financing, a Gym Location, and Fitness Equipment

Next, you’ll need to get a location and purchase fitness equipment.  You might be able to fund the costs out-of-pocket, but if not, you’ll need to get financing in order to pay for them.  Here’s how you do all of these things:

Obtaining Financing

For the typical local gym, the best way to obtain financing is through a small business loan. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has a Lender Match service that helps connect entrepreneurs with lenders.  You can also check out Fundera, which allows you to compare multiple small business loan options at once. 

Finding a Location

Location is another key factor in starting your gym. Consider factors such as accessibility, parking availability, visibility from the street, zoning regulations and rent costs when selecting a suitable space.

It may be beneficial to speak with local real estate agents or browse online listings of commercial properties in order to find an ideal spot.

Another option is starting a mobile personal training service, where you work out with clients in local parks.  I did this when I lived in New York City and loved getting outdoors, especially when I was inside an office all day.  The owner also benefited by not paying NYC rent prices!   

Purchasing Gym Equipment

Equipment is essential for any gym; however, it can be expensive depending on what type of machines you need and how many you plan on purchasing initially.

Start by getting the minimum viable amount of equipment needed to open your doors.  This will help keep costs down while still providing customers with enough options so they have an enjoyable experience at your facility.

Just getting free weights, benches, and TRX bands is a great way to get started at a low cost.

When shopping around for equipment, compare prices between different vendors before making any purchases.  This way, you can ensure that you get the best deal possible.  You can also use your own equipment or purchase used equipment to get started.

You’ll also want to consider equipment maintenance costs, so make sure to do your research on the equipment’s durability.

Step #8: Get Customers

Getting customers is the most important step in starting and growing any business. It’s essential to have an effective marketing strategy for new customers, as well as retaining existing ones with great customer service and an engaging community.  Here are some strategies to acquire customers for your gym:

Co-Marketing with Local Businesses

One way to get more customers is by partnering with other local businesses that serve similar target markets. This can be done through co-marketing campaigns, where each business promotes the other’s products or services to their respective customer bases.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO involves optimizing your website so it appears higher in search engine results pages.  By doing this, you can increase organic traffic from potential customers who are searching for keywords like “gyms near me” or “best bootcamp in Chicago.”  For help with SEO, check out our how to increase organic traffic blog post.

Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC advertising allows you to bid on keywords and pay only when someone clicks on your ad. This type of targeted marketing can help drive qualified leads directly to your website and increase sales conversions over time.

Participating in Local Events or Trade Shows

Participating in local events or trade shows is another great way to meet potential customers face-to-face and build relationships.

You may also be able to generate some immediate sales at these events by offering a free personal training session, a free class, or coupons.

Advertising in Local Media

Finally, consider advertising in local media outlets, such as the websites of local newspapers. These ads should include a way for potential customers can contact you and learn more about your gym.

Step #9: Complete the Work, Get Paid, and Pay Taxes

After you secure customers, you’ll need to give them the services that they pay for.  It can help to post your class schedule to your website, so customers have an idea of what to expect. 

Another idea is to implement gym management software like PunchPass, so clients can schedule one-on-one sessions or classes with you.  Most gym owners end up doing this, as it can be difficult to manage clients, billing, and scheduling without it.

Getting Paid

Many businesses send invoices, but managing all of that can be an enormous hassle.  Typically, fitness businesses will accept payments through a platform that integrates with a popular payment processor like Stripe.

PunchPass integrates with Stripe, so you can handle scheduling, booking, payments, memberships, and a lot more all in one place.

Paying Taxes

As a gym owner, it is important to pay accurate taxes to the IRS or your taxing authority.

Depending on where you live and the business structure you choose (sole proprietorship vs LLC), there are different tax obligations that must be met each year. It is best practice to consult with an accountant or tax professional who can help guide you through this process. Taxfyle is a great option if you need help filing your taxes.

Step #10: Scale and Expand

Scaling and expanding your business is an exciting step in the journey of entrepreneurship.  It’s a sign that your business is successful, and can be a super rewarding and gratifying process!

When you’re ready to take on more customers or offer additional services, hiring employees is one way to do that. You may need someone to help manage customer service inquiries, create content for your website or social media accounts, handle bookkeeping tasks, or teach classes.

Make sure you take some time to understand the legal requirements associated with hiring staff before taking this step.

Another way to expand your business is by offering new services or products. This could mean adding a new type of class at your gym, or creating a line of merchandise featuring your logo. Gauge interest with your gym members so you don’t waste time investing in something that won’t work well in the long run.

Finally, consider ways to automate certain processes within your business so that they require less manual labor.  For example, you can implement scheduling software to handle internal calls, or use a service like Crowdfire to streamline posting to social media.

Other Considerations When Starting a Gym

Legal Considerations

Before opening a gym, it’s important to research the local laws that may affect your business.

Some examples include zoning regulations, fire codes, and health and safety requirements specific to gyms.  You’ll also need to obtain permits from the local government before opening up shop.

Staffing Needs

You might be able to run the gym yourself in the early going.  But if you want to expand your hours or services, you’ll likely need to hire staff.

If you plan on hiring employees, there are certain requirements related to employee benefits, such as health insurance and workers compensation, that must be met in order for employers to remain compliant with state laws.

Make sure you research these requirements before hiring staff members so that everyone remains protected under applicable regulations.

Getting Certifications

There are a number of certifications available in the fitness industry that can enhance your skills and your trust with customers.

Personal Training Certification

If you plan on becoming a personal trainer or offering training services at your gym, you can get certified as a fitness professional by organizations like the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

This certification will build trust with potential clients and show them that you take safety seriously.

CPR/AED Certification

Having a CPR/AED certification is essential if there are any medical emergencies at your facility.

You can obtain this certification through organizations like the Red Cross or American Heart Association (AHA). The cost is usually minimal, but it could save someone’s life in an emergency situation.  It’s well worth investing in this type of training!

How to Open a Gym: FAQs

How profitable is owning a gym?

Owning your own gym business can be very profitable.  While it takes some money to start up, margins can be high as you onboard members.  Like any business, profitability is up to how much you want to grow and expand it. 

There is significant opportunity on both ends of the market, ranging from affordable gyms like Anytime Fitness to luxury operations like Equinox.

Is it hard to open your own gym?

Starting a gym can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.  You can get creative to launch a gym or fitness business at a low cost.

You will need to consider factors such as location, budget, equipment selection, marketing strategies and legal requirements. Additionally, you should also make sure that you have enough capital to cover start-up costs and operational expenses until the business is profitable.

With careful preparation and dedication, open a gym can be an exciting journey with great rewards.

How do I start a gym from scratch?

Starting a gym from scratch requires careful planning and research.

First, decide on the type of gym you want to open – a general fitness center, pilates studio, bootcamp, or something else.

Then, create a business plan that outlines your goals and objectives for the venture. Next, secure financing if needed and find an appropriate location with adequate space for your equipment.

Finally, purchase necessary equipment and supplies, and hire qualified staff members (if needed) to run the facility. With these steps in place, you can start building your customer base through marketing efforts such as advertising campaigns or partnerships.

Is starting a gym a good business?

If done correctly, owning a gym can provide steady income as well as personal satisfaction from helping others reach their health goals. You can certainly launch a successful business with the right planning!

Ultimately it is up to each individual entrepreneur to decide whether starting a gym is the right choice based on their unique situation.

How to Open a Gym: Conclusion

Starting a gym can take time, but you can do it with the proper planning and dedication.

With these 10 steps, you now have the knowledge to get started on your journey to owning and operating a successful gym.

Starting your gym starts with finding a name, so check out the gym and fitness name generator on NameBounce and take the first step now!

About the Author

Axel is the founder of Jumpcoast, a blog and agency that helps people jumpstart the growth of their online businesses. He also founded NameBounce, a popular domain name and business name generator. Previously, he worked as a commercial real estate investments manager.

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