Choosing a certified personal trainer: Freelancer or a permanent team member?

Oct 31, 2023 - 12 min read
Hire personal trainers as contracted or self-employed?

Picture this: your studio is buzzing, clients high-five after every session, and your inbox is bulging with requests.

It’s clear: You need an extra pair of hands. But then comes that important question: do you bring a freelancer on board or will it be a new permanent member of the team instead?

It’s one of those choices that may give you nightly mulling sessions, because it’s not just about now, but also about the stability of your thriving business in the future.

This blog is a must-read for you if:

✅ Your schedule is overflowing and you dream of extra personal trainers to relieve the pressure

✅ You mull over the self-employment vs. contracted employment puzzle at night and long for clarity

✅ You secretly already visualize your growing team celebrating successes together in the future

✅ You want to work as a personal trainer and are looking for new insights into the industry

Whether you choose to hire a certified personal trainer or hire a freelancer, both options come with their own set of benefits and challenges.

In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into these two options, explore the financial implications, and weigh the pros and cons.

Our goal? To provide you with the insights and confidence to make an informed decision that best fits your unique business and growth aspirations.

2 women doing squats on the CrossFit boxes in the gym

Employing personal trainers

Let’s start by taking a closer look at hiring a certified personal trainer or fitness instructor.

Bringing personal trainers on board has its charms. They can accelerate your clients’ results, which equals happy faces coming back to your studio time and time again.

Many trainers, at the beginning of their careers, dive into the world of salaried employment at a gym or personal training studio. It’s a safe haven that offers financial stability and acts as a springboard on which they can hone their skills.

Surrounded by experienced colleagues, they build a robust foundation for their future in the fitness world.

But, as with anything, there are downsides. An employed certified personal trainer’s salary often has a ceiling, which for truly ambitious souls can put a damper on their dreams and opportunities for advancement.

Moreover, their role is often a mix of duties - from training to cleaning to supervising - which can sometimes distract from their main purpose: guiding and coaching clients.

Man and woman personal trainers posing on the orange background

Considerations for employers

Employed personal trainers are the face of your gym and can play a key role in forging a successful, profitable business.

Employing a certified personal trainer puts you in control when it comes to offerings, work hours and the overall customer experience.

It creates a cohesive team that not only shares the same vision, but also works together to provide consistent and quality service to your clients.

However, the calm sea of consistency also has its storms. Financial obligations, such as continuing to pay salaries during quieter periods and managing additional expenses (think taxes, insurance), require solid financial planning and management.

In addition, navigating sick days and vacations requires flexible and resilient management.

If you long for someone who breathes your vision and understands your business from the inside out, hiring certified personal trainers may be key.

It provides the opportunity to grow together and form a stable foundation for both the personal trainers and your business.

But, and this is crucial, be aware of the additional responsibilities. Make sure you are well prepared, that you know the intricacies of personnel management, and that you are financially armed to handle the additional burdens.

7 gym employees in grey t-shirts smiling

Benefits of contracting a personal trainer

Stability and peace of mind are crucial when running a PT studio, ensuring quality is paramount.

A contracted team of trainers promotes collaboration, makes taking over each other’s workouts easy and prevents loss of revenue for the business.

Personal trainers becomes the face of your business and should have the space for extras, such as a cup of coffee after training or attending continuing education classes.

These are aspects that you may not easily require of self-employed individuals.

Additionally, having a salaried team of trainers can also lead to a more consistent and reliable customer experience.

Clients appreciate knowing that they can count on a consistent level of service and expertise each time they come to the studio.

This not only enhances their overall satisfaction but also encourages client retention and word-of-mouth referrals, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of your PT studio.

Moreover, it fosters a sense of community within the studio, as clients build relationships with the trainers and each other, creating a supportive and motivating environment for everyone involved.

Man and woman personal trainers posing in the gym

What do personal trainers earn?

“But what does a personal trainer earn per month?” This is a question that often echoes through the hallways of the fitness industry, and rightly so, because the answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

The income a personal trainer earns on average can fluctuate quite a bit and depends heavily on their work status: are they salaried or self-employed?

2 people getting a break after weights lifting on the gym floor

Salary of an employed personal trainer

According to recent research, an employed personal trainer earns an average of $2405 gross per month. On average, a personal trainer’s income is between $2045 and $2770.

This fixed income offers stability and may be attractive to a personal trainer who values financial security and the benefits that come with permanent employment, such as vacation days and a pension plan.

However, this often comes with an upper limit, which may limit their income potential compared to their self-employed counterparts.

2 woman following CrossFit training

Salary of self-employed personal trainers

On the other hand, independent personal trainers charge varying rates for their services, including personal training, coaching and small group training.

The average rate of a personal trainer is between $55-70 per hour. With a 25-hour work week, this would gross $5500 per month, at least.

However, it is important to emphasize that there are costs to be subtracted from this. Think income tax, sales tax, insurance and pension contributions.

Moreover, running your own business requires additional hours for administrative tasks, which increases the total number of hours worked per week.

Finally, your salary as an independent personal trainer can fluctuate monthly based on client offerings, seasonality and other factors.

Man is sitting on the reception in the gym

Hiring a personal trainer on a contract basis

Your studio is on the rise, clients are lining up, and the call for more coaching is loud and clear.

Bringing in a new personal trainer seems like the logical next step to keep up with your booming business and satisfy that growing demand.

Here are some considerations and insights to keep in mind when expanding your team:

1. Service offerings and expectations.

Clearly define what services your new personal trainer will offer. Will it involve only one-on-one sessions, or also group classes, intake calls and coaching sessions?

In your gym, a personal trainer does more than just give sessions. So think carefully about what responsibilities you’re giving your new team member. Are you looking for a fitness instructor for the floor or really a personal trainer? Set clear expectations.

Does the personal trainer work a full-time work week or is it more of a flexible job?

2. Budget and financial planning

Determine your budget for hiring new staff i.e. personal trainer costs. Consider salary, but also additional costs such as insurance, taxes and any training costs.

Here you will find a salary indication depending on education and experience.

3. Qualifications and expertise

Scouting the right personal trainer goes beyond looking for someone who knows the gym inside and out.

Yes, there are various training programs that label someone a personal trainer, but what makes someone the right fit for your studio?

With an increasing demand for trainers who can coach not only the body but also the mind, it’s smart to set your sights on those with a specialization in lifestyle coaching and mental health.

4. Culture and team dynamics

Integrating a new team member goes beyond simply reviewing resumes and qualifications.

It is essential that this new force fit seamlessly into your company’s culture and certain goals, especially in an environment that guides people toward their health and fitness goals.

A harmonious team dynamic is not only crucial to a positive work environment but also increases productivity and makes customers feel seen and valued.

Hiring new staff involves legal and administrative tasks.

Start by drafting a clear contract. This is not only a protection mechanism, but it also sets clear expectations for both parties.

Next, make sure you follow all the rules of employment law. Not only is it essential for ethical business practices, but it also keeps you far away from unwanted legal problems.

And then, administration. Keeping accurate records of hours, salaries and vacations is not only a legal necessity, but it also helps keep your business running smoothly.

Personal trainer is thinking about something in the gym

Hiring personal trainers as freelancers

Hiring a personal trainer as a self-employed person brings certain advantages. One is the reduction of fixed expenses and administrative obligations, aside from some insurance.

It also offers the possibility of working with different trainers, which can contribute to a diverse and dynamic offer in your studio.

However, there are also challenges and considerations to keep in mind. One is the lack of control over the personal trainer’s offerings and methods of operation, as self-employed personal trainers have greater autonomy in how they work.

The hours they are available and their interaction with clients can be less controlled compared to a salaried personal trainer.

In addition, there is an inherent risk of the personal trainer leaving, which can affect the consistency of the offering. On the other hand, working with freelancers also provides flexibility for the employer.

If a partnership does not go to plan, it is easy to decide to stop scheduling the personal trainer, without the complications that can come from permanent employment.

A man in office suit in the gym


For employers on the cusp of making personnel decisions, the choice between hiring a personal trainer or working with freelancers is a crucial consideration.

The salary or rate a personal trainer earns is only one facet of this decision. Being employed brings stability and a consistent team, but comes with fixed salary costs and administrative responsibilities.

On the other hand, hiring freelancers may offer more flexibility and fewer fixed expenses, but may come at the expense of consistency in service and team cohesion.

The choice between these two models must be carefully weighed against your company’s strategic goals, financial health, and culture.

Gym gear: dumbbells and plates


What are the key considerations when deciding between a contracted personal trainer and a freelancer for personal training sessions?

When choosing between a contracted personal trainer and a freelancer for your personal training sessions, several factors need to be considered.

These include the personal trainer’s cost, their ability to align with your goals, and their expertise in fitness programs that match your specific needs.

Additionally, you should assess whether you require in-person training or prefer online personal training, taking into account the online personal trainer’s rates and how online training can help you reach your fitness goals.

What are the benefits of hiring a certified personal trainer for personal training sessions?

Hiring a personal trainer offers numerous advantages. They typically have advanced certifications like NASM personal Trainer and can provide personalized guidance based on their specialized expertise.

A personal trainer can offer a workout plan to help you reach your health goals.

They can track your progress and adapt your training sessions as needed, ensuring that you receive personal attention to achieve the best results.

Their training sessions are rooted in exercise science, and they can specifically focus on your needs, whether it’s for weight loss, sports-specific training, or any other fitness goals.

How can I evaluate the qualifications and expertise of a personal trainer for my fitness journey?

When considering a personal trainer for your fitness journey, look for qualifications and expertise that align with your goals.

Check if they are certified personal trainers with a proven track record of helping clients reach their goals.

Assess their advanced certifications, such as Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, to ensure they have specialized knowledge.

Additionally, inquire about their training session approach, especially for one-on-one sessions, and whether they offer group training or group classes if that’s part of your plan.

What factors should I consider when comparing the cost of personal trainers for fitness sessions?

The cost of personal trainers can vary significantly based on their qualifications and location. Local personal trainers might have different rates compared to others.

When determining the average personal trainer cost, consider whether you’re hiring a contracted personal trainer or a freelancer, as the pricing structure might differ.

You should also evaluate whether you’ll need multiple sessions, as this can impact the overall cost.

Furthermore, inquire about the nutrition coaching and nutritional guidance they offer, as these additional services might influence the cost.

How can personal trainers help track workouts and progress for clients aiming to lose weight or improve their fitness level?

Personal trainers play a crucial role in tracking workouts and monitoring the progress of clients with various fitness goals, including weight loss and improving fitness levels.

They can design workout programs that are tailored to the client’s needs and ensure that progress tracking is an integral part of each session.

Whether it’s through in-person training or virtual training sessions, they help clients track workouts to measure performance improvements over time.

Their expertise ensures that the training is aligned with the client’s fitness journey, promoting consistency and success.

How can personal trainers in the fitness industry offer a unique approach to personal training services?

Personal trainers often have expertise in various areas, such as sports medicine and conditioning specialist techniques, allowing them to tailor their training to specific sports or health-related needs.

Many trainers in the industry have a specific sports focus and offer diverse services such as boot camps, making their offerings stand out.

Whether you’re looking for in-person or online trainers, their ability to provide personalized guidance and design customized workout plans is a distinctive aspect of their services.

How can I ensure I choose the right personal trainer for my goals and training sessions?

Selecting the right personal trainer for your training sessions is crucial to achieving your fitness goals.

Look for trainers with a proven track record and personal trainers who have the right qualifications for your specific needs.

Consider their expertise, whether you need nutrition coaching, personal attention, or a customized workout plan.

Ultimately, the right trainer will have a clear understanding of your health and fitness goals and will work with you to achieve them.

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Abril Llado Mendoza

Digital Marketing Intern US/UK

Abril Llado works in US/UK digital marketing at Virtuagym. She loves learning new things and has a passion for fitness and health, which she shares through her blog posts. Abril is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in Public Administration at Erasmus University, with a minor in Business Management