Fit, attractive personal trainers make glamorous icons both on television and in real life, marching around the gym dishing out orders. But like any other career, a full set of pros and cons lurks beneath the surface. Although personal training can be a healthy, rewarding and flexible career, it does have a few downsides.
Some gyms hire personal trainers as employees, in which case you might be required to be available in the gym during certain hours. More typically, personal trainers work as independent contractors, either in gyms or visiting clients at home. This allows you to negotiate your appointment times with each client, but since you need to work when your clients are available, you often end up working a split shift, with appointments before and after the 8-5 workday and perhaps the occasional lunch-break appointment, but not much in between.
Legalities and Lack of Backup
One of the downsides of working as an independent contractor is that you have to pay your own taxes. You might also need to carry your own liability insurance, depending on where you work and the exact contract terms. In addition, as a non-employee, you usually don’t have any backup if you get sick, want a vacation or have to tend to a family emergency. One possible solution for this lack of support -- network with other trainers so they can help your clients during your absence.
Not all clients are in need of a major life change; some just want a session or two to make sure they’re lifting weights correctly or getting the most benefit possible out of their workouts. Other clients’ lives will change as a result of your training. Setting and meeting a long-term weight loss or fitness goal can provide them with a never-before-experienced rush of self-confidence and accomplishment. You don’t get to take credit for their accomplishment, but you do get the fulfillment of guiding them on the way to success.
Whether you contract with a gym or work as an employee, training in a gym usually means a free membership. You might be surprised to find that after a full day of training others at the gym, the last thing you want to do is stay in the “office” for your own workout. But if you don’t mind extra gym time, are waiting on clients or just need to work up a quick sweat, you have ready, easy access to the fitness facilities. And sometimes being an off-duty presence on the gym floor or being willing to hang around and answer questions -- first check with gym staff about whether this is allowed -- can help you drum up new clients.