Starting your PT career: should you go self-employed or get a job in a gym?
You’ve got your Personal Trainer qualifications and now it’s time to start making some money. Should you take the employed route and get a PT job in a gym? Or go for self-employment and be a freelance or mobile trainer?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each option – and whether it’s possible to do both at the same time.
Pros and cons of being employed as a PT in a gym
There are lots of compelling reasons to go straight into an employed PT position within a gym – but there are some potential downsides too. Have a think about these key points before you make a decision.
4 plus points of being a gym trainer
Guaranteed income - working as an employed PT means you’ll have a steady income and can budget, save, and invest back into your continued learning on a predictable basis.
Access to clients - gyms give you regular access to a client base who are warmed up and looking for PT. This means you won't need to time and effort on client acquisition.
Paid holiday – the employed route comes with perks like paid holidays and benefits which can contribute to your financial security.
Less business admin - as an employee, you’ll have fewer admin responsibilities in the business side of your work than your self-employed peers.
3 downsides of being employed as a gym Personal Trainer
Fixed income - your income may be capped, regardless of how many clients you have. You may even find your earnings are capped once you reach a certain number, which isn’t a great incentive for growth.
Your schedule – as a gym PT, you won’t be in charge of your own schedule, and this is likely to include your hours, the days you work, when you can have time off, and even how many clients you see in a day.
Alignment with values – you may have to promote or communicate things that aren’t completely in line with your personal beliefs around exercise, body shape, nutrition, or healthy habits.
Pros and cons of being a freelance self-employed fitness trainer
The self-employed route might be hard work, but it definitely has its benefits. Not sure if the freelance life is right for you? Here are some key things to consider.
4 benefits of being a freelance Personal Trainer
Master of your own schedule – you’ll be able to decide when and where you want to work, although this might not always be a good thing (freelancers often work longer hours due to business admin).
Choose your clients – you’ll be able to be more selective with clients, working with people you really like (and letting go any you don’t) and potentially focusing on a niche audience.
Fulfill your vision – you can design your business around your own beliefs
and move in the direction of your goals.
Grow your business – self-employment doesn’t mean every penny you make is a profit, but as a freelancer, 100% of the profits will be yours.
4 downsides to being a freelance Personal Trainer
No guarantee of income – self-employment means taking a big risk with income, especially in the early days when you’ll be balancing outgoings and set up costs with earnings.
Marketing and finding clients – you’ll be starting from scratch with no clients, and all that marketing and acquisition will be on you. Exciting – but can be daunting too.
Overheads – you’ll be responsible for all the costs associated with running sessions (renting space and buying equipment).
Financial admin – as a self-employed fitness professional, you’ll also have to manage your own diary, bookings, client management, financial admin and bookkeeping. Striive can help, of course!
As a freelancer sometimes you'll need class cover, or it may mean a loss of income, so how do you go about arranging that? Have a quick read of our Finding Your First Class Cover.
Can you be an employed and self-employed PT?
It’s possible to run an employed and self-employed model alongside each other, but be aware of the pros and cons.
The plus side is that you’ll have some guaranteed income whilst controlling a percentage of your schedule. You’ll also have access to clients – although your gym employer won’t be keen on you poaching PT clients for your private business.
Being employed by a gym may mean that you get free or heavily discounted space for training your own clients outside of work shifts.
On the other hand, you won’t have the time or flexibility to dedicate yourself completely to growing your PT business if you are doing some employed hours. And the gym may impose some restrictions – for example, not being able to train people within a 2-mile radius.
Top tips when looking for gym trainer jobs
If you do want to work as both an employed gym PT and a self-employed trainer, try not to apply for gym jobs that would overlap with your personal business too much. For example, if your personal business solely offers PT, try to find employment doing classes or group ex to minimise any awkwardness. Or if you offer bootcamp classes try to get a job that offers PT or non-bootcamp style classes.