I could of sworn I found “my calling.” After losing weight and gaining strength I wanted nothing more than to help others do the same. So I began my journey towards becoming a personal trainer. 7+ years later and I have learned so much and can’t help but wonder if I would have chosen a different route had I known what I know now.
I earned my diploma in fitness and health promotion in 2011. I was proud of myself as that program was challenging and demanded a lot from me. I finished it within the 2 years and within that time I attained a personal trainer certificate (that cost a lot of money). Like many students, when I graduated I thought things would be easier in terms of finding suitable work and making money – it wasn’t.
Finding a job that didn’t require a degree and 5 years experience was immensely difficult. I was hired by a commercial gym – what I thought would be a solid opportunity; yet quickly realized you’d have to give up part of your soul, because everything was about revenue and dollar signs. They expected me to put on a shirt with their name on it, walk their gym floors, perform BS fitness appraisals, and try to sell their over priced packages; all the meanwhile making absolutely nothing unless I sell. The best part was being expected to cold call old members (am I the only one who really doesn’t see the benefit in this?) in hopes they would re-sign and buy personal training. The one meeting I sat in on discussed nothing of client success, needs, programming; or anything truly important to the clients – just how much money was made.
Needless to say that didn’t last long and I moved on to work for gyms in the municipal setting, which proved to be much better; but not without its challenges. You will still need to build a clientele. Personal training is the one service that people not only have to pay for, but they have to do the work as well. Sure, the trainer writes the programs, ensures proper form and execution – but the client has to show up.
Your income will vary from week to week, month to month; until you’ve built up a reliable and consistent clientele. Keep in mind that even those most committed will go on vacation, get sick, move, or have other commitments that take the forefront. Without proper notice this will leave you with gaps in your schedule, and less money in your account.
Another thing to consider is how much of a cut your employer will be taking from you. Some places may ensure you get consistent hours working as part of their fitness staff, but will still take more than half of your hourly personal training wage; which may leave you wondering why you don’t just work for yourself.
I explored that option after realizing I could make $50+/hr instead of 15 or 20. Here’s the thing – I don’t have my own facility and driving around can get costly. The time it takes to get from one location to the next can be exhausting and ultimately cost you money in gas and time. Not to mention, if you don’t target areas of higher income it is very likely you’ll be limited to the number of people who can and will pay for your service. I did start up my own small business and saw some success but ultimately learned it is so much easier to have the clients come to you.
With that said, I looked into renting space in order to conduct my own group fitness classes and one on one personal training. You will have to pay a facility rental fee for each hour you use their space. Unless you have the numbers, for the first several months at least, you will be making very little or even lose money. Thats not to say you can’t find success in this profession; I just want to warn you that it isn’t easy in any sense of the word.
What about privately owned gyms? I’ve dipped my toes into those as well. I’ve applied and interviewed at multiple locations around the GTA and Toronto. What I have come to learn is that the bottom line is business. People are in it to make money. I get it – we have to survive. These gyms (and others) have tiers of personal trainers. The more money you put into “earning” certificates, the higher level trainer you become with better pay. It doesn’t matter how much you study on your own time – you must spend hundreds of dollars to get the credentials that will allow you to move up in wage and status. I suppose you can find such thing in many other professions.
So, lets remove some of the pressure and try working for a not-for-profit organization. I did just that, and yet again gained no job security or steady income. Not-for-profit organizations have extremely tight budgets and often rely on government grants and donations to keep programs running. With that said, your wage as a personal/group trainer will be way less than the effort you put into it. This is when your passion to want to help others must out weigh the need to generate income. If your anything like me, you’ll wish it was that simple; but with creditors at your door and rent payments to make – it’s devastating getting paid less than you deserve/require.
Another thing worth mentioning are the hours you’ll work – they will (more than likely) be all over the place. Unless you become so popular that people work around your schedule, you’ll have to work around the clients. This means getting up at 5am and training clients before work; possibly return during the lunch hour, and then again late at night. This is most definitely not a 9-5 weekday job; not even close.
I do not mean to come of as a negative ninny. If you’re passionate enough and put in the work, you can find success. At the very least I can say that I have accomplished what I wanted to do – help dozens of people improve their lifestyle, lose weight, gain strength, and increase their independency. I have had many moments over the past 7+ years that reminded me why I wanted to make this a career. I am not one to give up but I have learned the value of having a back up plan and not isolating yourself to one source of income. It’s a smart thing to have no matter what profession you are in, especially personal training.