Self Employed Vs Employed Personal Trainer – The Differences Explained
Starting a career as a personal trainer can be an exciting and rewarding path, but should trainers take the self-employed or employed route?
With both options offering up their own pros and cons, it’s important to weigh up which factors are important for you and which path is more aligned to your long-term career goals. In this article, we’ll go down the pros and cons of each, and speak to self-employed and employed trainers who can give their view on the positives and negatives of each route.
Self-employed vs employed
In general, the core skills of a personal trainer often follow a similar pattern. Whether a trainer works in an employed or self-employed capacity, having a strong understanding of training techniques, being a good communicator and being highly organised are all valued traits for a trainer.
But is it better to be self-employed or employed as a personal trainer? For those who are starting out or considering pivoting to become employed or self-employed, there are pros and cons to each side.
Becoming an employed personal trainer – The pros
Choosing to work as a personal trainer for a gym or fitness group is a popular choice for many. It can be an ideal stepping stone for those starting out in the fitness industry and can offer trainers exciting opportunities.
Regular and Stable Work
As with any full-time job, employed workers enjoy regular and reliable work. Upon signing a contract with a gym or fitness group, trainers will know their typical work schedule, know how much they will be getting paid over a particular period, and have protected rights around sick leave, holiday entitlements, and dismissal.
Employed work is an appealing option, especially for those who have long-term commitments outside of work that require a stable income or predictable working hours.
Access to High-Quality Equipment
Working as an employed member of staff for a gym or fitness group means you can have full access to high-tech equipment and spaces. It’s simple to run classes from a dedicated space, and you can plan sessions well in advance.
Although, as a self-employed personal trainer, you can expense the purchase of equipment and can rent out fitness spaces, the ease of access and wide variety of equipment available to most employed personal trainers can be hard to match.
Simpler Access to New Roles
Being in a structured work environment means that you can see a more clear and predictable career path ahead of you. Being self-employed in any capacity can have the potential for impressive career progression. However, it can be more down to the individual to find career opportunities.
Working in a gym or for a fitness group means that you can access progression paths or take on managerial and mentoring opportunities. Similar to most workplaces, employed workers can reap the benefits of the well-thought-out employee development paths companies can offer.
Becoming an employed personal trainer – The cons
Although becoming an employed personal trainer is a popular choice, there can be some downsides associated with this type of employment. It’s important to weigh these up against the pros that being an employed personal trainer has.
Restricted to One Location
One of the main drawbacks of being an employed personal trainer is a lack of flexibility on where you can offer your training services. Although some gyms allow trainers to work in different locations, generally, you won’t be able to deliver services at home or in a setting of your choosing and may be limited to in-person sessions.
Some trainers can find this limiting, as it restricts their ability to tap into opportunities that are based in different locations. However, employed trainers can pursue new roles in different locations and can access gym spaces around the world in an employment capacity.
Limited Pool of Clients
When working in an employed capacity, trainers are limited to working with clients in their local area and clients that they access through the gym that they work for.
Although that can offer up a wide range of excellent clients, trainers who are keen to work with a high-value client base based in lots of different locations may find the employed route limiting.
Limitations on Wage Growth
Working as an employed trainer offers stability and the opportunity to access promotions and gradual increases in pay.
However, for those who are keen to grow their earnings quickly, a self-employed route could be preferable. As an employed trainer, your earnings will be tied to external factors, such as the amount of revenue generated by your gym or the salary ceilings set by the company you work for.
How to become an employed personal trainer
Completing Personal Training courses can equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to apply to work for a gym or fitness group as an employed trainer.
Choosing to specialise in particular areas, such as pre and post-natal training, yoga, or strength training, can allow you to fill any skills gaps a gym might be facing.
Becoming a self-employed personal trainer – The pros
Choosing to work as a personal trainer on a self-employed basis can be a positive choice that can be highly rewarding in the long run. Although there are risks associated with this path, there are many pros that make it an appealing option for many.
Ability to Work Anywhere, Anytime
One of the biggest benefits of working as a self-employed personal trainer is the ability to work wherever you want, at any time. If you have commitments outside of your work, you can choose hours that fit you and train clients from any location, including your own home.
This huge level of flexibility makes the self-employed route appealing to self-employed or freelance personal trainers around the world.
Higher Earning Potential
Working as a self-employed personal trainer means you can diversify your revenue streams far beyond your basic wage.
As a self-employed personal trainer, the sky’s the limit when it comes to earnings. Whether it’s through brand deals, working with high-end clients, or running a fitness business of your own, there are more opportunities to take home more money as a self-employed trainer.
As a business owner, you’ll stand out from the average personal trainer as a fitness instructor with an exciting business plan that’s dedicated to growth.
Reputations are important in the world of personal fitness, and as trainers build up their skills and even their social platform, which can open up opportunities to reach many new clients. You’re free to work with brands, run your own social media and grow your profile.
Although this can be possible as an employed trainer, being self-employed means that you can freely dedicate yourself to growing your own business’ reputation and market yourself without any limitations.
Becoming a self-employed personal trainer – The cons
Working as a self-employed personal trainer can have many benefits, but there are also some downsides associated with this style of work as well. Understanding the potential pitfalls of self-employment is essential for any personal trainers who are considering this path.
Higher Financial Costs
Being self-employed comes with additional financial freedom, but it also comes with additional costs as well. You may need to purchase expensive equipment, rent fitness spaces, or even invest in high-tech filming equipment if you’re planning on hosting virtual classes.
In the long run, the costs can be manageable, but knowing how you’ll account for this before making your decision is vital.
Business and Tax Responsibilities
If you’re self-employed at any level, you’re essentially running a very small business. You’re in charge of finances, investments, and your own pay, and it’s up to you to ensure things are done in the right way.
This also applies to managing your own tax affairs and ensuring that anyone you employ is accounted for properly. Filling in tax returns, registering as a self-employed trainer or a limited company, paying yourself a salary all whilst providing training sessions can be demanding.
Although running a personal training business and being your own boss can be exciting, some can find it challenging.
Less Stable Work and Pay
One of the biggest risks associated with self-employment is the possibility of running out of regular work. You’ll be in charge of finding clients, maintaining relationships, and spreading out your earnings to cover any gaps in work, such as holidays or time off due to illness.
Although some trainers like the challenge, it’s important to remember that there’s no employer above you to guarantee you get paid every month, so it’ll be down to you to ensure you’ve got the money coming in to cover financial commitments.
How to become a self-employed personal trainer
If you’re keen to become self-employed, you’ll need to tell HMRC that you’ll be submitting a self-assessment tax form at the end of the financial year that will update them on any earnings you’ve made through self-employment.
In terms of any knowledge and skills you’ll need, becoming qualified in personal training through personal training courses should be your first step. If you’re planning on running your own business, Business Management courses can come in handy, whilst courses in Xero, Bookkeeping, and Finance are good options if you’re going to be managing your own accounts and paying for services from others