Tell me about being a Personal Trainer.

Apart from my regular full time job, I teach fitness classes through city facilities and am also about half way through my Personal Trainer Certification program. I do/have had a few clients in the past, but mostly friends of friends and I charge them about 1/3 of what the going rate for a PT is (as far as I know - I’ve never actually hired a PT myself!).

Part of my five year plan is to transition from the corporate world to fitness. However, I recently scored an interview (April 14) with a local up and coming company that caters to females and is bootcamp style. Depending upon the money I’m offered, I may consider transitioning into fitness a couple of years early.

If I do accept that job, I will be working as a contractor, so will essentially be self-employed. At the same time, I will need to supplement my income by offering PT services on the side. A few of the things I’ve started to look into are business licenses and related (municipal, provincial and federal), cost of health care coverage ($150/month for the top coverage, not as bad as I expected), savings for retirement (I will lose a pension so I need to contribute in some other way), and what will happen when I get pregnant (unemployment insurance). Also, we will need to talk to our bank as our mortgage is up for renewal in December and it’s harder to get one if I’m self-employed (as far as I know).

FYI, I’m in Canada, specifically, Alberta, though any advice is welcome. Please tell me about your transition into self-employment, and if anyone has any region specific or industry specific information, I would love to hear it!

Speaking just to PT, not self-employment in general …

My wife tried that gig for awhile as a moonlight / second job for fun and profit.

In the US at least, there are a number of private organizations offering “certification” as a personal trainer. Some of these organizations are useless; pay $50 and they’ll send you a cool diploma. Others demand a decent sports medicine skill set, require practical & written testing to issue the credential, and have periodic continuing edutcation & testing, etc.

There are no government-official licenses at Federal or state level.

Gyms want you to work as a contractor. They also want to pay you nothing to be present all day and take half of the low price per hour they set for your services when you do capture a client.

Even with a real cert, gyms here were willing to pay $10/*training *hour in a facility with 2 trainers on duty and 10 customers in the store on average. Fewer than one in 30 customers would use a trainer on a regular basis. And most gyms required that a trainer “donate” an hour to each new customer. in other words, a typical 40-hour on-duty week paid about $30 total.

She also tried the totally self-employed “Trainer with gear will come to you” drill. Upscale neighborhood, lots of former sorority queen bored shopaholic doctor’s wives, you’d think it’d have gone well. Very few customers wanted more than a couple sessions to jump start their programs, followed by a 6-month checkup session. And though they thought nothing of paying $25 / hour for a house-cleaning service, or $50 / hour for the gardener, somehow $20/ hour was the limit for trainers.

My bottom line: make sure you understand the going price in your area before you invest much effort.

And on self-employment in genernal … understand that for any personal service business it is very hard to get much above 800 revenue hours per year. The rest of your time will be spent on marketing, traveling between gigs, networking, administrivia, etc. Or simply waiting for the next customer to come in.

I have to echo what LSLGuy said - if you want to be an actual personal trainer, you’re going to be busting your ass and not making very much money. I have a variety of friends/family, etc that tried going this route and they all wound up getting a ‘real’ job months later, with less money and more general angst.

You could do personal training along with teaching fitness classes - that tends to be a much steadier type of work and you’re paid if one person shows up to class or 10; however, you’d have to be perky and upbeat and come up with new routines (this prevented me from actually getting my certification a few years ago - I mean, I’m perky, but I’m not THAT perky…)

One of my good friends does this; however, it’s to boost her income from her…regular job.

I know you already mentioned insurance but you need also need short and long-term disability coverage, because if you’re injured you’re not going to be able to work, and as a contractor, you’ll get no pay. And injuries don’t necessarily happen on the job, so worker’s compensation (or the equivalent Canadian program for on-the-job injuries) doesn’t always apply. You could sprain your ankle walking down the street and end up unable to teach class for 6 weeks, and that can kind of be hell on the budget.

Thanks for the input so far. I think Canada must be very different then the US when it comes to PT’s, especially in the cities. The going rate for PT’s here is $50 - $70 / hour. The rates for working with the bootcamp company are $1500 for a two-day a week, eight week program (so 16 hours, not including prep), so about $90 / hour. I’m concerned about not having enough work more then not making enough per hour. For instance, I need to be running at least six sessions with the bootcamp company at a time, so I’d be working at least a morning and noon / evening session five days a week.

Also, certification follows a two year university diploma program based on kinesiology and anatomy and is (I think) run through a federal body. You need the two years to be certified as a PT.

Great point, I will have to look into that as well.

The prices you’re quoting - is that what the gym charges, like what you see on their website? Or is that your cut of it? Are you married or in a LTR, where your significant other would be willing to support and help you out during the start up period of many months?

Also, how old are you? How many years could you realistically do this? Do you plan to get pregnant, how long would you be off for it, and would you be able to live on one income in the time? Most of my very “bright” or dedicated instructors work a desk job. Yeah, they’d love to do it full time, but it’s just not feasible, especially since they can’t be doing two a day classes in their 60’s.

The ones who really really LOVE fitness tend to be exercise physiology majors or have master’s degrees in it, and teach. Could you possibly teach at a community or local college to supplement your classes and bootcamps?

A friend of mine was doing this as a PT adjunct to her regular job, until she built up a good client base and developed a specialty—pregnancy and postpartum fitness. Also, she taught right up until the very end with both of her pregnancies, modifying the excercises as needed or simply supervising her clients. (She’s a bootcamp instructor as well).

I would not be teaching through a gym, I would start my own company, and the quoted rates are the rates going into my own pocket. I have a small client base currently but do not advertise at all right now.

I am married and my husband has the time to help out if I need it. He also has some contacts within the fitness industry through a couple of guys he works with.

I am 29. The pregnancy thing…that’s the million dollar question! I am currently trying to get pregnant! We would not be living on one income (EI) but it would be reduced income for a time. However, having a baby allows me to teach pre and post natal classes (I can teach them at any time, really, but it makes more sense for the instructor to be pregnant / a new mom too!), going back to work about 3 months after having the baby.

Teaching is a good idea, actually. I can take the program to teach the courses I’m taking right now (not University, but through the provincial fitness certification I currently hold).

I’m also looking at a business loan to get things going, or possibly a provincial or federal grant.

Thanks for the continuing input everyone!

Huh, sounds like you’ve got a really good plan in place: you’re young, you have a spouse who’s wiling to support you initially and through dry periods, you’ve found a niche in pre/post partum stuff, possibly do a business loan, and you might teach.

Best of luck!