Articles - 14th June 2019

The Journey to become a Freelance Personal Trainer

Words by Juju Sheikh
Illustration by Jon McCormack

The gym and I have been in a long-term relationship since I was 16. We’ve had ups and downs, but managed to stick it out for 7 years and counting. It wasn’t until last year that I really considered turning this passion into my profession. It started off as an idea which seemed totally unachievable. I had never studied anything to do with sport (and wasn’t even sporty in school) and felt like it was such a huge mountain that I wouldn’t be able to climb.

I started by looking up courses online and asking Personal Trainers I knew for advice on what courses are good/bad. After doing a lot of research, I shortlisted a few places and before I knew it, I was enrolled to start before the end of the year!

If you’re thinking about becoming a Personal Trainer, it’s an amazing and rewarding career path. You’re helping people improve their health and wellness every day.  

I’ve made a list of advice/things I would’ve wanted to know before starting out on this path:

Always be open to learn

The course will teach you the absolute basics. 99% of what I know now is from being out in the real world. I remember finishing my course and feeling like I wasn’t ready to actually train people. Don’t be scared if you feel like this, it is totally normal. Trust yourself and your skills. There is so much knowledge out there. You will undoubtedly be learning every day for the rest of your career, so always be open to soaking in new information.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Personal Training has its challenges. People always want to get fit before summer, and some tend to fall off towards the end of the year. If you’re going freelance, it isn’t a job that gives you a stable income all year round, so be prepared for that. It definitely can be an uncomfortable feeling, but you’ll find loyal clients who want to stick with you year-round, and some who will do a pre-summer burnout and that’s okay too.

You are a coach, so you need to be positive

Remember that someone is paying you for your time. If you aren’t a generally social/uplifting person, then this may not be the right job for you. Clients don’t want to have a Personal Trainer who is negative or has bad energy, so try to keep positive energy flowing as much as you can.

You need determination

Social media makes everything seem so easy, but it isn’t at all. For the course itself, I literally did not socialise for the entire duration of it. It is intense. There is a lot of material to soak in, and despite people’s perceptions, it actually isn’t easy. The anatomy and physiology will have you feeling like you’re back in science class.

In fact, quite a few people failed in my class and had to retake (Luckily I passed the first time but that is likely because I studied very hard). And then into the real world, it consists of early starts (hello 5 am alarms), dealing with a lot of sweat, and being on your feet all day long. Make sure you bring snacks.

It gives you the flexibility to persevere other interests

Depending on how much you want to work/what gym you go for, you can have a very flexible week to do other things that you enjoy (eg. I’m able to write articles about health and fitness and make workout videos when I have gaps in the day).

What are my options once I qualify?

So, your main options are:

  • Becoming a freelance Personal Trainer at a gym and paying the gym rent
  • Working (still freelance) at a private PT studio, where you pay them a fee each time you bring a client in
  • Working as an employee at a private PT studio
  • Working as an instructor, teaching classes
  • Create your own classes/boot camps

I began doing the first option – being freelance and paying rent. It didn’t work out for me personally, because, in my opinion, the rent at big chain gyms tends to be very high. Paying rent is great if you have a large client base. However, breaking even can become stressful if a few clients drop off towards the end of the year.

If you’re just starting out or don’t want to be a full-time personal trainer, a private PT studio may be the better way to go for you. If you’re not paying rent, there’s no pressure because there’s no risk involved. But if you like the pressure and feel like it pushes you to work harder, then maybe that’s best for you.

It’s really about choosing what you feel will suit you best. Teaching classes or creating your own classes is another great way to go. You can easily do this alongside 1-1 sessions. A lot of people can’t afford 1-1 sessions but still want guidance, so this is a good middle ground for that.

In conclusion, if you’re thinking about becoming a Personal Trainer, I think its such a positive career path and if you’re willing to put in the work, you definitely won’t regret it.

We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

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