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New Trainer: Start my own business or work for a gym?


I know this sounds like I'm putting the cart before the horse. My original plan was to get certified and get a job at a gym. But I'm just so appalled at how much an average training session costs compared to how much the trainer actually gets to take home. Now I'm going back and forth on the idea of starting my own business right from square one.

I come from a business and sales and marketing background and have no worries about getting enough clients. I am also confident in my ability to train clients. I am constantly working on gaining more and more knowledge base and I put a lot of thought into training programs. I don't mean to sound cocky in any way, because I do know that I am new to this. My concern is that I do not know about the results. I believe I can get clients to their goals, but I haven't had the experience of getting anyone to their goals YET. That would be my definition of a successful trainer, knowing they can actually help someone meet their goals.

Just want to know what other experienced trainers believe would be the wise path to take?

Comments for New Trainer: Start my own business or work for a gym?

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Gym or on your own
by: Tom

The primary advantages to working in a gym and giving up 60% of the hourly are:

1. Learning the "business" of personal training. If you have a strong sales and marketing background you may not need this, but then again, you may.

2. Gaining experience under guidance and someone else's liability, building testimonials etc.

Maybe do both. Pick a gym in one geographical area using a part time schedule and solicit clients on your own in another geographical area that is not in competition with the gym you work in. Then you can choose which is the most appropriate for you

Gym not for me!
by: Jack B


I currently work full time in engineering and want to tranfer full time to PT. When I first placed myself on the market to do PT I had and still have gyms ringing me. All of them charge a rent or percentage with different start up plans. And some gyms say they have up to 5000 members on their books. In the end though I was looking at ultimatley paying between $800-$1200 a month to the gym, that's a lot when your just starting out. Then I did my research and this is what I found: 90% of people who sign up to a gym membership stop regularly going after the first 90 days. 50% stop going completely after 6months, you just gotta work in a big gym to see the turn around in members, faces are always changing. So when a a gym manager says we have 5000 members really they have 500 who regulalry go. Not only that I discovered that 40% of a gyms regular income comes from PT rent. By working for agym this is it in a nutshell - You pay the gym to have access to only 10% of thier members. Your competing for clients in most cases with anywhere between 10-20 other PTs, (even though they say you work as a team, if your not a go getter you'll get the crumbs). Your competing against gym membership fees (because PT sessions are extra for the members on top of membership, I don't know about you but I wouldn't pay more for a PT session if I didn't have to, and I am not all that comfortable trying to con someone into paying more money). Your competing against the gyms classes which in most cases are part of the membership, (if I'm lacking in motivation why pay extra for a PT class when I can do a gym class and have an instructor yell at me from the front, in some cases it's just as good). Then there is the medioca advertising they say they do for you (unless your with a big franchise gym where the name sells itself how often do you see advertising in your local paper or letter box for that gym??) On top of all this your paying the gym to be in this position!!! What the??? If your fantatsic at marketing and have the gift of the gab then having all this going against you may be a challenge you are up for, I have decided to go with my own business, in 2 months I have gone from nothing to running 5 group sessions a week and have 5 1-on-1 clients, with over 20 clients on my books. How, the money I would have put into a gym I have put into my business every month be it equipment or advertising and I make sure I am the best at what I do so word of mouth works for me. There is nothing like a client refering you to others. It can be done and I dont have the confidence it sounds like you have when it comes to marketing so i say forget the gyms, while there is a lot more work in your own business the rewards are far greater, just make sure you have all your foundation processes & proceudres in place.

All the best.


A Facility
by: Lynda

Jack, where do you meet your clients and hold your sessions? Do you rent somewhere?

Wheres Jack at?
by: Jack

I have dected out my garage to be my own personal studio, as well as holding a saturday session in a park, I do 1-on1s either at my place or go to them. I am an effectvie movement trainer and as such don't need bulky equipment to have an awesome workout and achieve client goals. Are you looking to join. I am in the south eastern suburbs of melbourne victoria, australia.

Thanks for the feedback
by: Anonymous

Thanks Jack, for your comments. I live in a semi-rural community in Minnesota, about 40 miles from the Twin Cities, and there is really only 1 large gym in our community. I interviewed there and although I was offered the job, I couldn't take it. Their non-compete clause was way too strict for me. Plus the PT only gets 20% of the session fee. So I'm in the process of starting my own business.

What do you have your clients do for their workouts if you're not using equipment?

Good for you
by: Jack

Yeah that's just crazy, how are you suppose to make any money that way??? I do a lot of plyometrics, and use equipment people can use around the house. For example, instead of light weights, cans of soup or beans. I still use weights and equipment, but no gym machines. All the best.

gym frustrations
by: Gary

I'm wondering when gyms are going to get it. You here nothing but negative comments about gym experiences and trainers. I really wish the fitness industry would change the standards among the big chains and make it more appealing and profitable for trainers, probably won't happen.
If you do anything, USE a big gym just to get some experience...and leave!

thank you!

I am so grateful to have found this site & to have read the above comments! I'm not going crazy? my gym job told me I could make so much more money after getting 3 certs, well, its just not happening. This woman is starting her business too! ; ) I will keep looking here for inspiration!

by: MAC

Jack - You are a great insperation !!

Mobile Personal and Group Training
by: Anonymous

Jack, I have the philosophy. I'm just starting out, but I am already attracting clients. I train in my home, the client's home, the park, and will rent space for group exercise during the winter. (You can look at the park district, martial arts and physical therapy studios to rent space.) In my place, I keep a Body-Solid Functional Trainer and a NordicTrack Incline Trainer. Many clients are awed by equipment. You don't need to buy much, but what you buy should be quality. People spend a lot of money on personal training, and many only gain sophistication via your training. Many clients also have home gyms or access to tenant gyms. Do plenty of bodyweight exercises and carry a gym in a bag: calipers and measuring tape, a stop watch, a mat, a high quality resistance tubing kit, a resistance loop, a mini stability ball or a soft, mini 4, 6, or 10 lb medicine ball and, perhaps, a pair of balance pods or a jump rope depending on what you have planned for the session. Invest in your education: Buy exercise books and view exercise videos online.

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