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Employed Vs Self-Employed

Working as a Personal Trainer in a gym

This article goes through the advantages and disadvantages of working in a gym as a freelancer compared to being employed by a gym.

Employed through a gym/health club


  • You will more than likely have a starting salary. You will be earning money right from day one through working gym shifts
  • The club will pay for your insurance, so you have little or no start-up costs
  • You will be part of a team and you will get help and support from your manager as well as targets and aims for your motivation and development
  • You don’t need to worry about tax
  • You will have paid holidays
  • It is a great experience to start out at a club to concentrate on developing your skills as a PT and not have to worry about the boring parts (tax, gym rent, insurance, advertising…)


  • You will probably be working a lot of antisocial hours doing gym shifts for a very basic wage
  • You have a boss and therefore are restricted to doing things certain ways
  • The pay is very demotivating. You will probably find that with large health club chains, they will take anything up to 65% of your income for themselves
  • You cannot earn as much money as if you were freelance
  • You will be restricted to working just at one place
  • You will not feel like a personal trainer to start with; you will be an over-qualified gym instructor


Self employed at a gym/health club


  • You are your own boss, you choose when you work, what you specialise in and the way you train your clients
  • Your clients pay you directly, meaning you are responsible for your own income and taxes
  • You pay a set rental fee to your gym, which is the same each month no matter how much your earn, and they often help you out to start with – 1st month free, 2nd month half price, for instance 
  • You are free to work elsewhere and are not restricted to just working for one club
  • You are in charge of your own promotions, deals and offers


  • You will have little or no help from anyone working at your club
  • You may be competing against other freelancers and in-house PTs, making it more difficult to find clients
  • You have no paid holiday and will be paying your gym rent even if you go away for 2 weeks (this makes holidays even more expensive)
  • It can be a struggle to pay your gym rent, particularly when you first start and during the more quiet months e.g December, July and August
  • You need to be very self-motivated and always engaged in promoting yourself, as no one else will do it for you


My advice would be:

• Start out working for a club, preferably a big, well-known health club chain. The pay won’t be great but you are there for the experience, to develop confidence and also to develop knowledge and skills.

• Do as many courses as you can and soak up the experience like a sponge. You will learn a lot from working for a club and then you can take what you learnt to develop your career.

• After a year working for a club, get out of there! If you feel you are confident, have the drive, determination and motivation to go self-employed, then do it.

• Don’t get stuck in a rut. Being in the same place day in day out, having a salary come in each month and having a boss push you along can be looked at in 2 ways; comfortable or boring. Don’t get too comfortable; push yourself and welcome the rewards.

• If you make the break and go self-employed in a club, make sure you sell yourself. Have a USP (unique selling point) and make yourself known.

• Once you’ve become self-employed, you’ll probably never want to go back to being employed.