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Personal trainers have two main choices when it comes to work: employment in a gym or running a personal PT business.

So how do you decide which path to follow?

One of the simplest methods is to look at the pros and cons offered by each option. Then you can weigh up which path best fits with your lifestyle and vision for the future.

To help analyse this, we’ve enlisted TAFE NSW Northern Beaches’ Head Teacher Sport, Fitness and Outdoor Recreation, Liam Daley.

Together with Liam, we’ll pro/con five important areas of PT practice.

Flexibility

In a PT business

Pros

Obviously, working for yourself you get a lot of flexibility. You chose when, where and who you train. You dictate your hours and you dictate your breaks.

‘It’s very flexible,’ Daley said, adding ‘you don’t have the frustrations associated with working for someone else—you set the rules in your own PT business.

‘It’s also great for people who want to earn extra cash on top of their day job. We’re seeing a lot of that at the moment (with Sydney mortgages only getting more expensive). You can work a 9-5 job and still run a number of PT clients, because most people want to exercise before or after they work,’ he added.

Cons

The downside to this flexibility is that you can overwork yourself, take on too many clients and not take breaks. Your working hours also tend to be weighted in the mornings before your clients go to work, and in the evenings after they finish work, as well as weekends.

In a gym

Pros

Having structured work hours in a gym means that you can spread your work throughout the day in a more balanced way, rather than weighted towards mornings/evenings/weekends. You generally also know in advance where and when you’ll be working.

Cons

Because you’re working for someone else, you have much less control over your hours and what you’ll be doing during those working hours.

Living healthy through runningLifestyle

In a PT business

Pros

Because you choose your hours, you have the ability to fit work around your lifestyle.

‘I know one PT at the moment, he’s been able to structure his life so that he works about 25 hours a week, earning $120 an hour for each client. He was approached at one stage to build a more structured business with a partner and he said “why would I do that, I’m not chasing money” and he’s not. He wants an amount of cash that will sustain his lifestyle of living on the Northern Beaches, going down to Nippers with his kids, and having a good life. And his PT business can provide that,’ said Daley.

Cons

You will work mornings, nights and weekends (particularly in the early stages of your business), and if this does not fit with your lifestyle, then a PT business may not be for you. Also, the temptation of extra cash can push you to work seven days a week—never good for a great lifestyle! You may also find it hard to go away on holidays for fear of losing clients. ‘It is hard to take breaks,’ Daley said.

In a gym

Pros

Having fixed hours can help you to organise your time, particularly if you need your mornings and evenings. You’ll also be able to schedule holidays without the worry of disappointing/losing clients and missing out on money while you’re away.

‘You’ll have work that can be spread over a whole day, rather than just clients being weighted morning and afternoon,’ said Daley.

Cons

Fixed working hours’ means that you can’t just decide to pop home, down to the beach or to the shops. You have to be at the gym for your shift. Working in someone else’s business you have a lot less flexibility around what you do day-to-day.

Women only boxing team exercising outdoorIncome

In a PT business

Pros

If you’re good, and you build up a regular roster of repeat clients, then you can earn a fairly decent income. You can have more control on how much you earn, and you’re not dependent on an employer for a pay check.

Cons

How much you earn is up to your ability to get and keep clients. In the beginning, you may struggle to get enough clients to cover your rent, bills and entertainment.  You won’t get paid when you take holidays, so you really have to budget for that.

In a gym

Pros

In a gym you will get a regular pay check, along with holiday pay and sick leave. Someone else is also taking care of all the paperwork.

Cons

Your pay is restricted to the shifts that you work or the wage that the owner is prepared to pay you. There’s less flexibility as to your earning potential.

Insurance and tax

In a PT business

Pros

You may be eligible for small business tax benefits, depending on your business model. In terms of insurance, as long as you are registered with Fitness Australia or Physical Activity Australia, and have your full qualifications, getting insured is a pretty simple process.

‘Once you get the qualification it’s quite easy to put yourself through registration and to gain insurance,’ said Daley.

Cons

You have to do all your own financial paperwork, filing and business tax returns. This requires constant vigilance and meticulous record keeping.

In a gym

Pros

You don’t generally have to worry about invoicing, receipts, tax paperwork and insurance, as someone else does that for you.

‘You have the financial side of it sorted for you, and you can avoid some of that headache,’ Daley said.

Cons

You won’t get small business tax breaks.

Woman and Personal Trainer Running by Sydney HarbourExperience

In a PT business

Pros

The great benefit here is that you get to work with a wide variety of people from all walks of life. You’ll gain experience from watching other PTs in action. This means that you can build up a great toolbox of training and motivational skills that you can use to inspire your clients for years to come.

‘You’ll start to work out how to push each client’s buttons to motivate them. Being able to work with lots of different clients will refine your exercise prescription and client relation skills. You’ll start working out all the tricks that work for different clients and be able to match your personality as a trainer accordingly.’ said Daley.

Cons

Particularly in the beginning stages of your business, you will have to find and secure clients. This can be time consuming, and you may have some financially lean times.

In a gym

Pros

Working in a gym, the clients come to you or you are assigned to them. You don’t have to chase business. What’s also great in a gym is your ability to learn from other trainers, how they work and how they deal with clients. Some gyms will also have mentoring programs, and you get to understand how your PT skills fit into the broader fitness business.

‘You get a better understanding about what other personal trainers are doing. Just being in an environment where you see what other trainers are doing, you’ll learn how you can adapt some of the techniques they’re using,’ said Daley.

‘You don’t have to focus as much on trying to get those first initial clients, which makes it a lot easier. You’ll also end up with more security around holidays,’ he added.

Cons

The downside is that you are limited in your practice to the way that the gym operates, and the type of training that they value. You also don’t get to pick and choose your clients, you have to work with the ones the gym sends your way.

‘You’ll be working for somebody else, under someone else’s rules and having less flexibility around what you can actually do,’ said Daley.

Personal trainer guiding woman doing barbell squats at gymThinking about moving into personal training?

If you’re considering a career in personal training, or learning more about fitness for your own health journey, then come along to the TAFE NSW Northern Beaches’ Fitness, Sport and Outdoor Recreation day on Saturday 24 June.

Here you’ll be able to talk to teachers like Liam Daley about your study and career options, check out the facilities, participate in workshops (like strength and conditioning), and listen to presentations including one by expert sports nutritionist Tamara Madden (www.madonnutrition.com.au).

For more details, visit our website.

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