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In-House or Freelance – Which is the best system for a Personal Trainer?”
If you’re new to the industry you may well feel intimidated with the options and types of businesses out there. I’ve tried to summarise the fragmented fitness industry and offer my thoughts coming from working on the inside.
Personal Trainers have various business models to choose from including:
1. Self-employed; training people in their homes, parks, without entering a gym
2. Self-employed but work in a gym and pay as you go
3. Self-employed in a gym paying rent every month or week, clients pay you directly
4. Work with the gym as a member of staff or ‘in-house’ PT giving a percentage or commission to the gym per session.
5. Work with agents/consortiums who provide clients in return for commission
6. Franchise an established brand and pay royalties

I’ll focus on 3 and 4

Self –employed paying rent to a gym:
This has been the dominant model for some time among not only the big gym brands but also small independents. Why? From a gym business perspective, there will be a specific revenue stream coming in every month. Let’s say there are 10 Personal Trainers bringing in £500 per month, the gym could usually expect £5000 per month in revenue. If a PT leaves, another one takes his/her place and the so it goes on. It pretty much runs itself!
From the new PT angle, they know what their outgoings will be and will have to forecast the amount of sessions they’ll need to break even. Once established the earning potential is only capped by their energy levels and skills as PT. For example at £500 per month and £25 (NET) per hour session, a PT would need 20 sessions or 5 per week to break even. In this example, doing 20 sessions per week would bring in £1500 per month. However, it’s not that simple. For a new starter it will take a while to get clients, meaning that you could be out of pocket. Also to get those 20 sessions per week you’ll actually be around for much longer maybe even 40 hours, waiting between sessions, consultations, writing programs etc.
You keep 100% of client payments (taking off taxes of course!)
Some gyms will have you, as part of the contract, doing some work for them, but in general you won’t have to answer to anybody except your clients.
Being self-employed means more paperwork; especially filing taxes
Even if you have a bad month, the rent still needs to be paid.
As a new a starter it can be scary knowing that you have an outlay before knowing whether you’ll be successful.

In house salaried PT:
A few major gyms use variations of an in house model. Basically, there is no rent to pay and you’ll receive a basic salary, but any PT session you do will go through the gym till and they pay you after taking a commission. This works for the gyms because they get staff working for them and their profit increases as PT’s do more sessions. However, it’s slightly riskier because if PT’s don’t do well then the club doesn’t make any money.
Experienced and successful personal trainers who have been self employed will probably find it difficult to justify giving a percentage to the gym. In some cases this can be 70% gym 30% trainer.
Let’s take a 50/50 split example (£30 ph NET) and a PT doing 20 sessions a week, receiving £15 ph (NET) would make £1200.
The PT can usually expect in return a more stable work environment where courses and in house training is provided, with holiday pay.
No fixed rent to pay
‘Paid’ to find clients
Taxes and administrative paperwork taken care of
Training and courses
Working for the gym usually involves doing many other tasks such as cleaning and maintenance
The money taken from clients is split with club
Invoicing gym per session delivered means cash flow is in arrears if you’re not careful

In my humble opinion, go In-house for those starting out and wanting relative security, because with hard work the pay can be great. Pay rent to a gym as a freelancer when you’re confident and successful enough to maximise profits.

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