Owning a gym is a dream for fitness enthusiasts and experienced entrepreneurs alike. Thinking about owning your own gym? First you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of gym ownership. This will help you build a successful fitness business.

Want to help people achieve their health and fitness goals? And build a successful, profitable business at the same time?

This can be incredibly appealing. Appealing to fitness enthusiasts looking for a career change. Appealing to those working in the fitness industry. And even appealing to experienced entrepreneurs.

The path to gym ownership is paved with opportunity and challenge. So, it’s important to be realistic when your consider making the move to own your own gym business.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of owning a gym. And offer tips to help you maximise success and overcome common pitfalls.

Let’s get stuck in!

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Choosing the right gym management software is an important decision for any gym owner. Select a supportive partner with an all-in-one solution. And you’ll be better equipped to succeed in owning a gym business.

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The pros of owning a gym

Let’s start by looking at the positives of owning your own gym business.

#1: Fulfil your passion for fitness

Are you one of the 165,300 people in the UK working in fitness and sports as of Q3 2023? If so, perhaps it’s time to take a new step in your career and own a gym of your own.

Or perhaps you have a passion for health and fitness as one of approx. 11 million UK gym members? Owning a gym allows you to turn your passion for health and fitness into a thriving business.

When you have your own gym business you’ll be able to share your passion with others. And connect with like-minded people looking to pursue their health goals. In all, owning a gym and fulfilling your passion for fitness can be seriously rewarding.

#2: Tap into a strong potential for profitability

The 2023 State of the UK Fitness Industry report showed the number of UK gym members increased by 3.9% year-on-year. Plus, the market value increased by 11.5% year-on-year to reach £5.4 billion.

This steady growth in the fitness industry is happening alongside growing consumer interest in health. And that means there are many ways to generate revenue as a gym owner.

Optimise your gym pricing strategy. Take an effective approach to managing membership payments. Find extra revenue streams to diversify income (like personal training packages, merchandise sales, and other services). And you’ll be on track to owning a profitable gym business.

“We really think about how do we optimise every square foot and how do we deliver cash from every single square foot… we do membership and class based systems with everything inclusive. So, where else can we drive revenue from?

We’re very fortunate that we’ve built a facility that many fitness professionals and influencers trust. 20% of my paying members are fitness professionals… it’s been incredible for marketing… the other thing they do is film. They film ads, they film for themselves – we charge them for it… We’ve built an incredible revenue stream from filming.”

Evgenia Koroleva Founder and Director of ONE LDN (at PerformX Live 2024)

#3: Connect with your community

In the UK, 7.08% of people report feeling lonely often or always. And feelings of loneliness are higher amongst younger people. 9.7% of those aged 16-29 feel lonely often or always, compared to 3.7% of those over 70.

A fantastic benefit of owning a gym is the opportunity to create a hub for your community. You’ll have the opportunity to reach those who experience feelings of loneliness. Your club can bring people together.

By bringing people together you can help members connect, support and motivate each other. Building connections that go beyond your gym.

When you build a strong sense of community, you’ll attract loyal members who stick around for longer. And you’ll find it easier to encourage members to spread the word. Harnessing the power of word of mouth marketing to attract new members through referrals.

88% of people trust recommendations


Research company, Nielsen found that 88% of people trust recommendations from people they know more than any other type of advertising. So, creating a gym member referral programme is essential for gym owners.

Find out how to create an effective referral programme

#4: Make every day different

When you own your own gym business, you get to wear many hats. That means you get to take on many different roles within your business. And this is especially true as you are starting out.

So, if you like variety with no two days the same, then owning a gym may be for you!

One day you may be researching the competition, investigating new tech, or exploring the latest fitness trends. The next you may be working the gym floor and helping members.

#5: Run your own business

Similarly, owning your own gym means you’re in control. Especially so while you’re starting out and establishing a team.

There are around 2,200 independent gyms in the UK. And by owning one, you’ll join other gym owners who’re doing business their way.

Owning a gym is a serious responsibility. Yet, there are benefits to running your own business:

  • You’ll be your own boss and that can be highly empowering
  • You’ll be in control of operational decisions like staffing, programming and scheduling
  • You’ll be able to adapt to trends, member preferences and fitness industry shifts in a way you may not be able to in a bigger business
  • You’ll get to help people and make them happier
  • You’ll have a more flexible lifestyle – with the right team and technology in place
  • You’ll have unlimited earnings potential – if your business is successful and profitable, you’ll have the opportunity to earn more
  • You’ll get to choose who you work with and build a winning team for your gym
  • And there are many more benefits of running your own business!

#6: Improve your own health

Ok, so you’ll need to put in some effort to achieve this pro! But, running a gym can encourage you to prioritise your own health and wellbeing. It’s an opportunity to lead the way and showcase healthy behaviours for members and your gym staff alike.

When you own your own gym, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a fitness-focused environment. And build a culture focused on wellbeing to inspire positive lifestyle changes.

“The gym is an expression of yourself, so living by example is the best kind of leadership in my experience. How you do everything matters. Know that everyone is always watching… I personally hold myself accountable and feel obligated to be in shape, on time and many other things.”

Ross Colquhoun, Owner of The Training Club (at PerformX Live 2024)

Go deeper

How can gym owners tap into the transformative wellbeing opportunity?

Find out

#7: Access a supportive network

Owning your own business can be daunting. So, the good news is that with a gym, you’ll have access to a supportive network. One that’s there to guide you, share learnings and experiences, and cheer you on.

Take Independent Gyms for example. This membership organisation supports fitness facilities across the UK and Ireland.

As well as running a successful Facebook group that owners use to lean on one another, membership brings a wealth of other benefits. For example, access to document templates, discounts, events, and directory listings.

Plus, choose an all-in-one gym management software partner like Xplor Gym for proactive support. Your life becomes easier with managed billing, integrated access control, and more.

A UK-based support team is on hand to help you (and even your members). This team acts as an extension of your team and are passionate about helping you succeed.

#8: Find lots of ways to grow

Another pro of owning a gym business is that there are often lots of opportunities to grow your business and expand into new areas. That means you can find new revenue streams to boost your income. Plus, evolve your business to meet changing gymgoer demands.

Examples of opportunities for growth include:

  • Adding new programming and classes to your offering. For example, many gyms are now becoming HYROX affiliates with specialist training programmes
  • Providing new, different, and superior equipment to appeal to new demographic groups. And re-ignite fitness routines for existing members
  • Introduce new membership packages to appeal to different needs. That might mean lower cost options, low commitment options, or upgraded packages with more perks
  • Add digital training options to cater to gymgoer demands for tech that they can use in and out of the gym
  • Expand to take on a bigger space so you can accommodate more members. And even open in new locations to reach more people

#9: Meet lots of people

There can be a lot of desk-based work to do when you own your own gym. And there’s also a lot of opportunity to meet people. It’s a sociable job (if you want it to be!).

Interactions with members. Hiring and managing gym staff. Finding partners and suppliers. When you run a gym you’ll often get to speak to and build relationships with people from all different walks of life.

And by meeting lots of people, you’ll have the opportunity to keep developing your skills as a business owner and your club too.

Walk the gym floor to observe what’s happening. Speak with members, asking for feedback. This will help you to keep making improvements to enhance your club and your member experience.

Attend industry events like PerformX Live, Elevate, and the Independent Gyms conferences.

You’ll get access to lots of education in one place. Plus, you’ll get to network with other gym owners and fitness industry experts. So, you’ll be armed with loads of ideas to help improve your business.

#10: Unlock unlimited earnings potential

As a business owner, your earnings will essentially be unlimited. If you can run a profitable gym business, you’ll be on track to take home a bumper salary.

How much do gym owners make? According to Glassdoor, in the UK, when you own your own gym, you can expect to earn around £44,543 per year. Plus, you’ll earn around £4,256 per year on top of that.

Screenshot of Glassdoor website showing that when you own your own gym you could earn between £25k-£65k per year.

Go deeper

Get a deep dive on how much you can make owning a gym and the factors that will impact earnings.

Read now

The cons of owning a gym

Those were just some of the benefits of owning your own gym business. As a business owner, there are often challenges and obstacles to overcome too. So, let’s take a look at some you might face when owning a gym business.

#1: Initial investment needed

Owning a gym often involves a high initial investment to get your business up and running. You’ll need to cover the cost of things like commercial gym equipment, renting/buying a space, insurance, and more.

How much does it cost to open a gym in the UK? Exact costs will depend on the type of gym you want to own, your location, and your size. You’ll be looking to invest around £75,000-£120,000 upfront. Plus, you’ll need to spend around £25,000 each month.

Go deeper

Get the full lowdown on how much it could cost you to run your own gym in the UK.

Read now

#2: Lots of competition

There are 6,998 gyms in the UK. So, gymgoers already have many clubs to choose from. Plus, many people also choose to workout at home or outdoors. With or without digital fitness solutions.

So, you’ll need to work out how your gym can stand out in a busy marketplace. How can you make sure people choose to include your club in their weekly fitness schedule?

As well as the right programming, classes, and equipment, you’ll need to market your business. This takes the right marketing strategy with gym marketing campaigns. Campaigns that speak to your target audience of members.

#3: Staffing challenges

While many gym owners wait some time to take on a team of staff, eventually if you want to grow you’ll need to hire gym staff. Attracting and keeping staff can be an uphill battle.

The 2023 Workforce State of Mind Survey found that many UK gyms and fitness clubs struggle to find enough qualified staff. And that organisation, support, pay, and conditions are impacting fitness professionals.

When you own a gym with a high staff turnover rate, you’ll need to hire new staff more often, which can be expensive. And you’ll need to keep investing in training for new staff. Plus, you may be faced with staff shortages that impact member experience.

“Undoubtedly businesses in the consumer-facing space have and continue to face difficulties in many aspects of people and culture.

The gym industry isn’t an easy one when it comes to this – median sector pay reflects that while there are really attractive senior roles available, the majority are more junior entry-level posts.”

Sophie Lawler, CEO of Total Fitness

You’ll need the right approach to hiring and retaining staff. Creating a strong team and culture can help you overcome staffing challenges.

#4: Liability risks

Owning a gym comes with natural risks. There’s the potential for accidents, injuries, and legal liabilities. You’ll need to deal with legal issues that arise, which can be stressful.

To avoid risks, you’ll need to keep on top of health and safety. And minimise risks to protect your members and your business interests.

You’ll also need the right gym insurance. This will make sure you’re covered in the case of an accident, theft, or damage to your club.

#5: Seasonality

The vast majority of gym and fitness clubs experience seasonal peaks and troughs. Fluctuations both in membership numbers and attendance.

This can be challenging as a gym owner. It can impact revenue. And increases the likelihood that some members will never return.

The Winning The War On Attrition report found that UK gym and fitness club members are most likely to cancel in the second half of the year. While most join in January.

Graph showing when new gym members join clubs in the UK compared to when they typically cancel on a monthly basis.

#6: Work/life balance

It’s exciting to own your own business and be in control of your own schedule. Yet, many gym owners find that the different responsibilities the role brings can negatively impact work/life balance.

When you start out, you may not have the budget to hire for all the roles involved with owning a successful gym. And even when you can hire more gym staff, ultimately responsibility sits with you.

Without a careful approach and clear boundaries, owning a gym can impact your personal life. And even then, at some point your business may demand your attention outside of working hours. In short, your schedule is likely to be unpredictable.

As well as hiring and retaining a motivated, skilled team, the right technology can help protect your work/life balance. For example:

  • Software with embedded payments makes managing membership billing easier. And your software partner can also help your members with payment queries. Saving you time and often awkward conversations
  • A solution that provides you with a 24 hour gym access system makes it easier to open unmanned without someone checking members in. And even to adopt a 24/7 opening business model. So, even if you are running your club alone, you don’t need to be there all the time to check members in and out
  • Gym automation features can dramatically cut the time and cost of running your fitness club. And at the same time you can boost the experience members get too. Win-win!

Owning a gym: Tips for success

So, there you have the major pros and cons of owning your own gym or fitness club. To maximise success, and overcome common obstacles, here are 6 tips for consider:

Tip 1: Pre-sales are important

A pre-sale is where you sell memberships ahead of your club opening. So, come opening day you’ll have people working out (and paying) as though you’ve not just opened.

A pre-sale campaign is all about getting potential new members excited about your new gym. It’ll help you build a strong reputation right away.

“Get that awareness as early as you can with a teaser. You have to paint the picture and build the excitement… So, I’d tend to focus on the value of it and build up excitement and anticipation.”

Will Cheeld, Senior Growth & Accounts Manager, Xplor Gym

Focus on building excitement and anticipation for your new fitness club. Consider whether you should provide a discount or joining offer. An offer can increase pre-sales. Yet, it can impact your bottom line and the perceived value of a membership.

“The challenge with not discounting at the front end is that generally with a pre-sale, they’re signing up for something they can’t access for 3 or so months. So, you’ve got to create a call to action to that member to get them to sign up now. And a discount is an easy way to do that. You could limit the amount at one rate and them move to the next rate.”

Dave Alstead, Commercial Director, Xplor Gym

Tip 2: Diversify revenue streams for financial stability

There are many different ways you can bring in income for your gym business. Memberships is usually the primary source of revenue for gyms and fitness clubs. Yet, there are certain times of years when members are more likely to leave.

To reduce financial risks caused by slow times of the year, look to diversify the ways you bring in revenue. For example:

  • Offer personal training services
  • Provide casual access to group fitness classes/your gym
  • Sell retail items
  • Host paid for fitness events

And that way you’ll supplement membership fees with extra offerings. Improving financial stability and member satisfaction too!

Tip 3: Embrace automation

When you own a gym, embracing gym automation has the power to transform the way you work. Helping you grow, increase profitability, and improve work/life balance.

The earlier you start with automation the bigger the benefits you’ll see. And the good news is that automation is not complicated!

Here are some ideas to help you make the most of technology to simplify how you run your gym:

  • Make it easy and convenient for members to join with a straightforward online joining experience. No need for prospects to visit or call and complete paperwork to sign up
  • Supplement gym inductions for new members with a digital new member onboarding journey. One that’s automatically tailored to each individual member
  • Use gym booking tools to create digital timetables. And take member bookings for classes and other activities via your website and app
  • Support unmanned and 24/7 opening with the right access control tech and software integrations. Allowing you to cater to member demands for round the clock access, without the need to have staff present to check members in at all hours

Tip 4: Master branding and marketing

Strong gym branding can unlock success for your business. Create a consistent and considered experience to entice and delight members. And you’ll be on track to attracting more members who are loyal fans of your gym.

Your brand will influence your gym marketing. Build a comprehensive strategy and plan. Pack it with campaigns running across the channels where your audience will pay attention.

As part of your marketing mix, embrace email marketing. 83% of consumers prefer email when hearing from businesses. And that makes this channel ideal for gym owners.

Gym software like Xplor Gym includes email marketing tools. Use these within your software to send targeted automated and one-off campaigns. And even use the tools to target members at risk of cancelling soon with re-engagement campaigns.

Banner promoting the guide to email marketing for gyms and fitness clubs. This free guide includes 16 ready-to-use gym email templates.

Tip 5: Retention matters

The importance of gym member retention for gyms cannot be underestimated. When you own a gym, if you can keep members coming back for longer, you’ll see consistent and reliable income. And that helps you become more profitable.

You’ll reduce the reliance on signing up high volumes of new members. And that’ll save money and time too. It can be 5-25 times as expensive to attract a new member vs keeping an existing one.

Make sure you’re tracking length of stay and length of membership. Length of stay is the time between when a member joins and their last visit to your club. Length of membership is the time between when a member joins and their membership being cancelled.

Measure the difference between length of stay and length of membership. In the UK on average the difference is 5 months. That means clubs have 5 months to re-engage members and get them back to visiting regularly.

Graph showing the average length of stay and average length of membership for UK gym members. Indicates there are 5 months on average between a last visit and actually cancelling a membership.

Tip 6: Keep learning and adapting!

The fitness industry is fast paced and gymgoer demands are continuously evolving. So, to remain competitive, it’s vital to keep on top of fitness industry trends, emerging technologies, and consumer preferences.

Embrace innovation and tech. Invest in professional development for you and your team. Regularly seek and act on gym member feedback. So, you’re best positioned to continuously develop, improve, and grow your gym business.

“For me (emerging tech) is about utility and productivity. That’s what I’m most excited to see. I hate laborious tasks, I hate admin, and I hate process. And the thought that something can shortcut some of those to speed up productivity to focus on really important things…

It’s really something that’s there to help you, there to support and I think we’ll see the use cases and utility really start to rapidly improve.”

Jim Hingston, Digital Product Director, The Gym Group

The wrap up…

Owning a gym or fitness club is a dream for fitness enthusiasts and accomplished entrepreneurs alike. Gym ownership is full of opportunities and challenges that you need to be aware of.

Running your own gym business can help you:

  1. Fulfil your passion for fitness
  2. Tap into the opportunities the fitness industry offers to build a profitable business and grow in new ways
  3. Connect with your community and meet lots of people
  4. Make every day different running a business you control
  5. Improve your own health and become a role model for others
  6. Access a supportive network of likeminded individuals
  7. Unlock unlimited earnings potential that comes with owning your own gym business

You’ll also have to overcome obstacles like:

  1. High initial investment needed to run your own gym
  2. Heavy competition with loads of fitness options available to gymgoers
  3. Staffing challenges making it tough to hire and retain employees
  4. Seasonal trends that can impact revenue if you’re solely reliant on gym membership fees for income
  5. Less control over your work/life balance compared to working in a business owned by someone else

With the right approach to running your business, you’ll be able to take advantage of the perks of gym ownership and overcome the obstacles you face. And so, you’ll make owning a gym business a rewarding career and investment opportunity.

The right gym management software partner will help set you up for success as a gym owner. A partner like Xplor Gym. Get in touch to chat with our team and see what we can do for you.

Article by Xplor Gym

First published: 15 April 2024

Last updated: 15 April 2024