Are you in the best place to grow your PT business?

With so many gyms out there and each with their own way of charging their trainers, it can be tough deciding where to place your business. Employed PT roles, no-rent PT roles and PT rent arrangements…there’s a lot of options and where you place your business will be one of the most important decisions you can make as a trainer.

If you’re either a new PT deciding where to start out, or an experienced trainer wondering if you could benefit from a change of scenery, this article is for you.

I have categorised the 5 types of arrangement you’ll most commonly find, giving you an honest account of the pros and cons of each based upon my experience in the fitness industry.

#1 GYM RENT

  • You’re charged a ‘ Gym Rent’, usually payable monthly.
  • You usually have little to no responsibility for gym duties such as cleaning, classes, inductions etc.
  • Rent schemes vary hugely between gyms and gym chains. Some are a flat fee (e.g. £350 per month from day 1), others offer rent based upon PT sales, others offer you a few months grace with NO rent, but a relatively high rent thereafter.

Pros

  • You dictate your working hours
  • You don’t have to clean equipment, take inductions or classes unless you opt to
  • Helps to see your business as exactly that – not somewhere where you work unpaid/paid and then PT on the side. You’re renting your place in the gym and the rent is a business overhead, so you have to make a profitable business if it is to work.
  • The rent overhead can force you to work harder and adds an element of pressure to the equation.
  • Longer-term, it is more beneficial to pay a rate per month in order to train when you want and not have to worry about a work-rota or other constraints.

Cons

  • Expensive initially. £300-500 rent monthly hits your business hard to begin with and you start from nothing, meaning pressure to sell quickly
  • If you’re on holiday, you’re still paying rent. Not ideal to say the least! This is the same if your clients are on holiday and you’re experiencing a short-term reduced income, you still owe the rent.
  • You may be tied into a minimum term or a contract, depending upon your agreement. Rents can also increase, and you may  have no option to pay or leave. I have been lucky enough to escape increased rates, but it does happen.

#2 UNPAID HOURS

You work unpaid for a number of hours per week (typically 10-16) as an alternative to paying their rent. The gym itself doesn’t receive a revenue from you working there, but your rent comes through cleaning, doing inductions and looking after the gym.

Benefits

  • No overheads – making it possible for you to immediately draw a personal income from your business.
  • Initially when working in the gym, you’ll be doing a LOT of hours anyway to bring in leads and consultations. You’re not paying rent, and just doing the odd bit of cleaning and occasional induction which you would be happy to do anyway
  • Your unpaid hours don’t always have to be too taxing. You’ll work up a sweat doing classes and there will be busy times, but mostly you’re a presence on the gym floor and can use your unpaid hours as an opportunity to take things at a slightly lower gear.

Drawbacks

  • As you get busy, you’ll notice the hours you work can limit the amount you can earn. In direct comparison to the rent scheme, if you’re charging an average of £30 per session, you’re losing a maximum of  £480 per WEEK – or £1920 per MONTH. If there’s no option of buying your way out of the rent scheme, you can see how this can start to impact the earnings your business can make.
  • Shift cover can be very difficult. It will be down to you to cover when others are sick or on holiday and there’ll be no guarantee you’ll get your hours back. Covering your own holiday will usually be your own responsibility.
  • You may not be able to choose your hours. If you get with a Sunday 6pm-11pm shift – tough. I’ve been fortunate enough to work under some great managers and teams but you may not be so lucky. This may also affect your clients – if your hours change you may need to mess your clients around, and their regular slot might be taken up by your duties to the gym.

#3 BLEND

This could be a mixture of both rent and unpaid hours, and appears to offer a more flexible solution for semi-experienced trainers.

Benefits

  • You often start of less or no rent, and as you get busier you switch from unpaid work onto a rent scheme
  • You have the best of both worlds with some overhead, and some unpaid hours

Drawbacks

  • What can happen (in my experience) is you get stuck with a lot of gym hours and limited slots to fit in your paid clients. You’ll reach a point where you’re pulled from all angles you need to make the brave move from unpaid hours to paying rent – which can be risky.
  • Often once leaving the gym hours, you don’t get the opportunity to get them back. If business dips, tough.
  • You may have an obligation to increase your gym hours if the gym requires, so make sure you understand the agreement completely before you commit to taking on a ‘blended’ scheme.

#4 SALARIED PT

Great for new PTs, working as a salaried PT you typically get paid a salary for working set hours and extra on top for the Personal Training sessions. The gym typically takes a cut of the Personal Training revenue.

Benefits

  • You’re earning from hour number 1 of working in the gym, being paid a guarantee minimum and having PAYE status meaning your employer contributes to pension schemes etc.
  • Offers much more job security than a self-employed Personal Trainer
  • Usually a positive environment with trainers which have worked at the gym for a long time. You’re not working somewhere which sees trainers come and go very regularly
  • Paid holiday. Don’t underestimate this!

Drawbacks

  • You’re an employee, so if you’re entrepreneurial this definitely isn’t the route for you. You work set hours with set rotas and you get told what to do.
  • The gym takes payment for the sessions – and then you get paid for them, often with a HUGE cut. If you’re going to be busy as a PT and aspire to building a big business, this is worth considering.
  • You often have no control over how to price, services you can offer, classes you can establish and selling other products outside of what the gym wants you to. Got a great idea for a weight loss class? Well, your manager needs to say if you can or can’t first.

#5 PT STUDIO

Working in a studio can offer great flexibility for the experienced trainer. You bring your own private clients into a small studio-style gym to train them. The studio will charge you an hourly rate for training there, and you factor this into your costings.

Benefits

  • You choose the hours you work
  • You only pay for when you train a client. If you’re away from the gym such as on holiday, you won’t pay rent.
  • It’s often very flexible and informal with little ownership on you
  • You really are in complete control of your business – answering only to your clients and yourself

Drawbacks

  • Studios can get busy quickly. 8 people can make it seem like it’s packed and you need to make sure there’s enough space Slots can also be booked by other trainers and you may find this impacts when you can train clients.
  • Equipment is often very good and quite functional, but PT studios tend to be quite small with a very small range of equipment to use. You might have an awesome session ready for a client but if there’s only one of each piece of equipment available, you’re best laid plans can be easily ruined if it’s in use.
  • As with the rent scheme, if your studio decides to increase prices then you’re at their mercy. The impact of this is less severe than in a gym however, as it is worth remembering that you pay on a session-by-session basis, not a flat fee.

This article has outlined the 5 main arrangements out there, and right now there’s a lot of options available as a PT. Which arrangement you choose will be decided by your experience, aspirations and what is available in your area. Weigh up carefully which option suits your and your business best, but ultimately make sure that wherever you start, enter with your eyes wide open.

This article was provided by Stuart Hastings. Stuart has worked as a Personal Trainer across the UK for over 6 years, building successful businesses in London, Cardiff and Stoke-on-Trent. He has recently founded theptbusiness.com to offer a completely free resource for Personal Trainers, with tools and guidance to help Personal Trainers grow their business.