How to Open a Gym on the Side With Just $500

An illustration of of five supplies on a desktop with a sticky note labeled "side hustle."

Maybe you hate your day job or maybe you just want to help people get fit.

I understand. Despite owning Two-Brain Business—a huge company that I love—I still own my gym.

Here’s how you can open a gym without quitting your day job … for now.

(If you do want to quit your day job, I’ll cover that in the next posts in this series.)

1. Charge More Than the Others in Town

I doubt you expected that advice, but hear me out: You don’t need the money. Time is actually your most valuable resource.

You might be willing to give up your mornings, evenings and weekends to help other people (thank you for your service). But are you willing to do it for free? And are you willing to do it forever?

Many working professionals send me messages like this:

A screen shot of a text message asking for advice on how to start coaching people on fitness.

But if you’re already making a good income, your free time is precious. What would I have to pay you to miss your kid’s baseball game? How about that trip to the beach this weekend?

That’s the real value of your time.

If you want to figure out what your time is worth, start by calculating your “effective hourly rate,” or EHR. What do you earn per hour at your day job?

When setting up a side-hustle gym, price your time higher than that figure to start.

Then we’ll add your expenses on top.

Investment: $0

2. Use Our “Gym Owner Business Plan”

Download it here and put some numbers in it.

Investment: $0

If you’re doing this as a sideline, go small on space and member count. Trying to build a 300-member gym while working full time is going to be almost impossible. You’ll definitely have months where you’re taking part of your salary and putting it into the gym because a big gym will require a big rent payment, and a chasing a high member count will require staff members who must be paid.

Want to start smaller? That’s a better idea. Try the “Personal Trainer Business Plan” instead.

3. Start With Five Clients and Minimal Expenses

Investment: Time plus $500

For your facility, use a park, church, school, your garage—anything you can rent short term for little money.

I know this doesn’t have the sexy cachet of opening a big CrossFit box, but that’s a full-time job. Think of this step as the “bullet before the cannonball”: Try out your side career before you buy another full-time job.

Your investment at this stage is really just time. Your financial investment in the “trial” is under $500 for some basic equipment.

This should create around $15,000 per year in side-hustle income for you.

One note: If you run this test group out of your home or garage, make sure the members know it’s a short-term trial.

I know a few teachers who do up to $40,000 per year out of their garages in the summer. They do it by charging more, not taking more clients. They charge more because they’re a niche expert (hockey, figure skating, etc.). They’ve been doing it literally for decades with no plans to quit their “main” career.

And Then? Or What Else?

If, after three months, you are happy and profitable with five clients, then you can consider making the leap to full-time gym ownership. I’ll tell you how to do that in the next post in this series. Following the steps listed above will set you up for a less painful (and risky) transition.

There’s an obvious alternative to the plan I laid out for you: Get a coaching job at a gym. Keep your “main job” and take a few classes or personal-training clients on someone else’s platform. Coaching can be your vocation without being your primary job. You can love the gym without owning it.

Many gym owners tell me “I would rather have just stayed a coach, but I needed more money, and I thought owning the gym was the only way to do it.” Hell, I was one of those people.

But if you dream of having your own space, you want to be a real entrepreneur or you want to serve people full time, then you need to learn the skill of patience anyway. And that means taking the path most likely to set you up for full-time success—even if it delays your gratification for a couple of months.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.