Is it better to start your own gym or own a franchise?

starting a gym business plan

If you’re considering starting a gym and becoming a trainer, you might have a dilemma: should you start your gym from scratch or invest in a franchise? Both choices seem appealing, but before making a decision, it’s crucial to create a solid “starting a gym business plan” that aligns with your goals and resources. Consider factors such as location, target market, financing, and marketing strategy to determine which option is more suitable for you.

To make an informed decision about starting a gym business, we have prepared some information on the differences between starting a gym from scratch and investing in a franchise, as well as their respective pros and cons. Creating a comprehensive starting a gym business plan is crucial for both options, as it will help you define your goals, budget, target market, marketing strategy, and other critical aspects of your business.

Differences between franchise and independent gyms

One of the best ways to determine which type of gym is right for you is to compare their differences. Here is what makes franchise gyms and independent gyms different:

  • Restrictions

Independent gyms allow you to provide all the equipment, amenities, and classes that you think are necessary. There are no restrictions on how many features you can offer in the gym. It’s your own, and you have the freedom to do with it as you wish. But clients only sometimes know what to expect unless your gym becomes popular.

On the other hand, franchise gyms provide the same equipment, classes, and amenities in all locations. This means that clients will know the quality and services they will get. Unfortunately, a franchise gym does not give you freedom – the franchisor’s rules restrict you.

  • Risks

In terms of risks, you may be safer by opting for a franchise gym. The franchise is already well-established, so the chances of it failing are significantly lower. How you run the gym and the staff you hire will also influence the business’s success, even if you buy into an established brand.

Meanwhile, starting your gym may carry more risks. One wrong move can get you straight into bankruptcy. For this reason, you need entrepreneurship skills or a specialist to help you with legal and management matters.

  • Experience

Experience plays a huge role in the success of your gym. For an independent gym to be successful, the owner must have enough knowledge and experience in the industry. Without any fitness experience, you might not know what it takes to keep the gym running.

Compared to this, someone with less experience can also own a franchise. If it’s not the best time to open your own business, settling for a franchise is a much better option, at least temporarily.

  • Marketing Experience

Do you have enough marketing experience to run your gym? This is usually a big challenge for those who are into fitness and a healthy lifestyle but have nothing to do with the marketing world. If your gym is an independent one, then you must come up with a strong marketing campaign to bring clients your way.

If you need marketing knowledge, you can hire a marketing specialist, which will raise your initial opening costs. 

Meanwhile, franchise owners can get their marketing done by the brand. Not to mention that half of the marketing campaign is already done if you buy into a famous brand. Customers will come your way because of your name, but you must maintain that reputation.

  • Fees

Costs are an important consideration whether you start your gym or opt for a franchise gym.

Independent gyms are cheaper, especially in the beginning. For example, you do not have to handle the license costs. Besides, you don’t have to pay any monthly or quarterly fees.

Franchise gyms require you to obtain a license, meaning you must pay a licensing fee. This fee is not precisely low – it can cost you a few hundred thousand dollars. Cooperative advertising and earned revenues also come with their expenses.

Pros and cons of independent gyms vs. franchises

Both independent gyms and franchises are great options. Still, they work a bit differently. How do you know which one is suitable for you? Here are the pros and cons of each option to ease your decision:

Independent gyms


  • Opening a separate gym is generally less costly than owning a franchise
  • You have the freedom to do what you want with your business
  • As a gym owner, you can provide clients with new, unique experiences


  • The success rate is lower compared to franchises
  • It’s more challenging to surpass your competition and come up with solid marketing campaigns
  • You may not have enough resources and knowledge to keep the gym running 

Franchise gyms


  • The profits are higher as opposed to an independent gym
  • The brand is already recognized and offers higher success rates
  • The franchisor will provide you with training and support


  • It costs a lot to buy into a gym franchise
  • You don’t have freedom over the business
  • You have to deal with ongoing fee payments


Are you choosing a gym franchise or starting a gym business plan? These business models are both great but intended for different gym owners. An independent gym is the better option if you’re on a budget and want freedom over your business decisions. But if you still need to learn about entrepreneurship and enjoy a higher success rate, owning a franchise is more suitable for you.

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