Whether you have graduated with an exercise science degree or are jumping into the personal training industry as your second or maybe even third profession, there are many questions that you may have about getting started as a personal trainer. If you are exploring your options after first receiving your NFPT certification as a professional trainer, our founder Ron Clark, has some of his own thoughts to share.

Here are some common questions he is often asked:

Should I, as a new personal trainer, work in a large fitness facility or on my own?

Both paths have their pros and cons. If you are urgently reliant on the income you will need to generate, then a large facility may be your best bet to start. But, there are specific questions you need to ask.

Is there a non-compete clause? Many new to the industry have never heard of this kind of document. Because there is a high turnover rate in bigger gyms it is likely that the day will come when you are ready to move on. So, let’s say you work there for a year and establish a loyal clientele. If you signed a non-compete agreement, you may not be able to train those clients whom you have developed a relationship nor train future clients within 10 to 50 miles from the location of that gym.

Be aware. Ask this question! Otherwise, you can’t take your clients with you without risking litigation. You then will be forced to start over from scratch. If there isn’t a non-compete and you find a gym that offers good resources and opportunities to move up the management ladder, then you may be able to stick it out for a few years. And, you most likely will learn a lot about business and marketing along the way.

A big gym also offers other benefits:

  1. Steady flow of clients
  2. Constant exposure
  3. Degree of credibility
  4. Accessibility to equipment & space
  5. Possible funding/ease to become certified or pursue continuing education

The biggest downside about working for a large gym or chain is that the gym owners dictate how much you make; they tell you what you can charge or simply pay a flat hourly rate which may be a fraction of what you could command on your own.

What’s the difference when starting as an in-home trainer?

If you have the time and money to build your business, and are willing to accept some risk. go for it. The major benefit of working in-home is that you can charge a higher rate. You also keep what you make (except for what you give to Uncle Sam). The greatest challenge is that you are responsible for finding clients, marketing to potential clients, closing clients, and, naturally, coaching and training those clients. You are the CEO, CFO, CMO, and the workforce. To be successful on your own, you have to think like an entrepreneur.

Remember, in-home clients may pay more but may also need to build out some equipment even if it’s the bare minimum, and you must be prepared to give them ideas for a home gym based on their goals.

What about training at a private studio?

There is an in-between option that may help strike a nice balance between a large box gym and going it totally solo. Other successful personal trainers have already opened up studios and are running them, and may in fact, be turning away clients or putting them on a waitlist. This is an opportunity a fresh trainer can capitalize on.

While there may be stricter rules and guidelines, there will be many opportunities to build your credentials and build long-lasting business relationships, while also making more money than you probably would in a larger gym.

What questions should I ask in an Interview?

Attending a personal training interview is not terribly different than any other industry until you get to the practical portion, in which you must physically demonstrate your skill set as a fitness coach. Granted, not every employer will do this, (usually they will forego for a seasoned trainer), but expect to be assessed if you are new to the industry. Don’t forget that you are also interviewing the employer! The studio/club is benefiting from you. You are making them money by offering your services.

Here are some questions you can prepare ahead of time to ask:

  1. Does your gym require a certification?
  2. If so, do you help fund the certification process?
  3. What certifications do you accept or prefer?
  4. Do you have continuing education opportunities and/or offer additional training?
  5. Do you pay a flat rate or on a percentage per client?
  6. Is there room for growth in the payscale if I acquire new clients/new experience?
  7. If I bring my own clients, will my percentage be higher?
  8. How many trainers do you have working for you currently?
  9. How many trainers are receiving new clients?
  10. How many new members do you get per month?

Weigh all these answers. You need to know all of these things so you can determine the pathway to take to enter the personal training business.

Take ownership of your career. Interview the health club owner and manager as much as they interview you. Quality clubs will respect you and allow you to advance. If you act subservient, you won’t get anywhere.  Be respectful, but be direct. Ask for advice.

None of us got to where we are today – alone. Use the resources available to you. Utilize the professionals who have gone before you. You can do it!


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Ron Clark

Ron Clark is the Founder of National Federation of Professional Trainers, NFPT. From U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant to Competitive BodyBuilder, then Firefighter and Certified Personal Trainer – he founded NFPT in 1988 with a mission to make fitness training careers accessible to every day fitness enthusiasts who want to turn their passion into their livelihood. Ron has always led with a heart of service, and, in that spirit, he helps people to achieve real and practical career goals that serve a greater good in changing people’s lives. He lives and leads by example, being a personal trainer himself for more than 10 years before setting out to develop a certification program that is real-world and foundational to the goals of personal trainers and their clients. Click Here to learn more about Ron’s story and NFPT’s inception.