The first step you take after becoming a certified personal trainer is an important one. It sets the stage for your career. Will you get a job, see clients in their homes, open a studio or make your living online? It’s natural to grab the first opportunity that comes along and allow that to lead you forward.

But, many people get stuck in that first position and struggle to move on once they’ve established a clientele. Before you jump into the exciting journey of being a personal trainer, pause to consider the possibilities that align best with you. There are many opportunities out there to consider!

Establish Career Intentions


Three of the largest misconceptions about being a personal trainer are:

  • It’s easy to be a personal trainer
  • Personal trainers make a lot of money
  • Trainers make their own schedules


While these statements can be true, they can also be misleading. Cultivating mindfulness around your career desires and making a plan will help you to avoid falling into a negative job experience as a new trainer.

Being one-to-one with people all day is hard work and can be draining. Some personal trainers do better with splitting their time between clients and a second job that’s less people oriented such as freelance writing or computer work.

Personal trainers can make a lot of money. Find out how much on this Personal Trainer Salary page. It’s important to realize that the $50-$100 session fee doesn’t all go into the personal trainer’s pocket. Some of it stays with the facility and a portion of it pays your taxes. Independent contractors usually earn more money than employees, if they’re smart about how they do business.

Personal trainers have the opportunity to make their own schedules, but in the beginning sometimes have to take what they can get. Personal training develops into a career over time. It rarely begins as a 40-hour/week position. You might land a job that pays you to work in the gym, helping members 20 hours/week while you build clients, but not all facilities have this opportunity available.

Before you quit your current job or jump into a new one, pause for a moment and determine your expectations.

  • Do you want to be part time or full time?
  • How long can you afford to build a clientele without stable income, if at all?
  • Are you good at marketing and networking with self-employment as a possibility?
  • Do you prefer to have clients more easily led to you at a gym that takes more of your pay?
  • What type of environment do you want to work in and with what type of people?


Keep your answers in mind as you search for jobs. Then, consider this…

Choose Your Direction

Self Employed Personal Trainer

This is usually the most appealing career direction for personal trainers. It has a nice combination of earning potential and stability. Realize, it can take one to two years to feel really comfortable with the many facets of being a personal trainer. If you’ve already been working with clients (even if it’s friends and family), then you might have an idea of what you’re good at and a specialized direction you want to go. If you haven’t ever fitness coached anyone, consider sticking with your current job while you get some practice. There are many options to set yourself apart from others; pre-natal fitness, post-rehab exercise, sports-specific training, etc.   

personal trainer

If you already have people ready to pay for personal training, you might be able to get started in a private studio with a higher earning potential. You’ll likely be self-employed, with more business responsibilities. You’ll have to find your own clients outside of the studio and bring them in. More of that $50-$100 session fee stays in your pocket when self-employed, but you’ll have to calculate the numbers to find out for sure.

Renting Gym Space as a Personal Trainer is a great article to help with this.

Personal Training Employee

On the flip side, there is something to be said for guaranteed income. Large fitness gyms provide you with a job that often pays you to help members on the floor, survey for safety and perform fitness assessments. The taxes are deducted for you and there are no marketing costs. You can also teach group fitness classes to supplement your income and recruit clients this way. Being an employee historically provides more job security for lower pay than being self-employed and is a great fit for many personal trainers.

Start Your Own Personal Training Business

If you’re really business savvy and self-motivated, you can rent your own space outright and build a business from the ground up. It’s a lot of responsibility and can take up to five years before you break even financially. That’s not to say you can’t be successful more quickly. From signing contracts to paying rent, marketing and building a new name, there is a lot to know.

Regardless of which of the three routes you choose (private studio, big box gym, your own business), it’s important to survey the area in which you plan to work. NFPT is here to help guide you and support you in which ever path you choose. So, which direction do you plan to go? Keep in touch with us!.

If you’re NFPT Certified, join the community group to get support from your personal training peers!


Beverly Hosford

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev’s NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.