What the industry won’t tell you about becoming a Personal Trainer

by | Sep 5, 2015 | 0 comments

Personal Training is one of the best careers you could ever choose to do. Helping people to find, enjoy and continue to exercise and make sensible decisions on food and lifestyle can drastically improve someones life.  As a Personal Trainer you get to do this every day.

Additionally you have the best set of mate to share this experience with, Personal Trainer (most of them) are happy outgoing people who work hard, party hard and become the best friends.  These people love to get educated, travel and push the boundaries of living life as much as any other industry.

Being able to manage your own career and having the option of being your own boss or working for a company will allow you to build a flexible lifestyle.

However, before you invest up to £4000 and 12 weeks of your life on getting qualified, it is important that company spends some time helping you understand the realities of becoming a Personal Trainer.

Having work mates that are fun, caring, hard working and in an industry built on helping people is the best!

Trainers take time to become great.  Survival is your first aim. Greg is an amazing trainer that spent time learning his craft and also selecting his education wisely over time.  Now he mentors others to do the same.

The most important thing to do before you sign up to get qualified

Personal Training is often sold as a 6 figure business that will make you a superstar.  However, the reality is that it is a lot harder than just getting certified.

You need to make sure you know exactly what you want from becoming a Personal Trainer and then you need to look at the market to see how much this will cost you.  It is no surprise that many companies try and take all of your money off of you upfront for courses that you may not even need.  This is because it is probable that you will not be in the industry after the first 3, 6 or 12 months after qualifying.

Initially, think about your budget –

1 – How much is the course

2 – How much will it cost to sit through the course (time off of work, plus expenses to get to the course and eat etc)

3 – How many weeks you will be able to survive when you have qualified before you have made your first sale.  (look at the section on how personal trainers earn money to see how to plan for your first paycheck)

As shiny as all the courses seem, initially you need to think about survival.  Once you have this, then you can start to work on further education.


How Personal Trainers Earn Money

Personal Trainers earn money from 1-1 and 1- group training.  Additionally they can pick up money for walking gym floors and covering group classes.  In the outset everyone needs to get in front of as many people as they can to build their brand and reputation.

Health Club based Personal Trainers 


This usually requires you to be fixed in to one club.  Depending on the club it is possible that you will be required to do more than just walk the floor.  The job description can include tasks such as Pool side, cleaning changing rooms, cleaning equipment, showing potential members around the club, helping other departments in the club (reception, bar, duty manager shifts).

Financially this is a safer approach to starting as a Personal Trainer, because it allows you to learn your trade without the pressure of having to make rent each month.  However some of the clubs can be very driven to get you selling and may have targets designed to get you out of the club in the first 12 weeks if you miss target.  The package is usually a wage for your floor hours and then an elevated hourly rate for your Personal Training.  This means that you have to deliver the sessions to see the money from the client.  Also it is typical to get less than 40% of the fee paid by the client and this is sometimes a point of contention with trainers over time.  Some of these roles come with holiday and sick pay.

Career development in this environment is great initially.  The clubs will usually put you through a comprehensive program of training that they have developed both in house (their own training) and outsourced (other companies, usually equipment companies), and you will at the worst not have to pay to do them and at the best get paid as if you are on shift.  It is likely that if you stay in the company a long time, and you are driven to progress, that this could lead to management roles or even train the trainer roles.


Bodyweight Workout!

A video posted by Kaisa Keranen (@kaisafit) on

FASTER count themselves lucky to have inspired Kaisa to set up @twobadbodies and now her new site @kaisafit by filming through exercise clusters in Denver. This is one of the many ways you can progress your career in the fitness industry.

Self Employed 

In a similar way to the employed model, you will probably be expected to work just from one club.  However in this relationship you will either be classed as a tenant or a supplier.  As you are essentially renting or providing a service, then you will not have a job description.  However, there may be some expectations put on you, such as uniform, club conduct etc.

Financially there are two models at play here.  The traditional model is a sliding scale of rent, with some time free to help build your business.  However many times this does not mean you start with no cost, as a ‘joining fee’ style charge is implemented in exchange for business training, uniform etc.  In the alternative model, instead of paying rent with cash, then you would be expected to swap hours on the gym floor or classes or both.  This is commonly 2 – 3 shifts, or 15 hours in total.  In this model, you get to keep all the money that you take, however, you are responsible for your own taxes, expenses, holiday and illness time.  Also, it means when the business fluctuates, your income will fluctuate too, so you need to get great at cash flow management.

Career development in this role is solely on you.  It is likely that the next stage could be your own facility, traveling with a big client or moving to home based Personal Training.  Although it is in its infancy, online Personal Training is also another way to move forward with income. We have been fortunate enough to work with Kaisa who is running her own page now, but who set up two bad bodies.

This was part inspired by a 4-day filming session with FASTER for online training.  You can see these on our youtube channels, dumbbells, suspension, sandbell/GRIPR, sand bag, CMT, bodyweight, kettlebells, ViPR, Barbells, bands and Cables. FASTER also offers a route into teaching for them.


Preparing to Become a Personal Trainer

Choosing a course is difficult, the ones that we offer (at the bottom of the page) will not suit everyone.  That is tough to admit as we are a business that needs to find students, however, my mission has never changed and that is to produce the happiest trainers in the industry.  Learning to become a Personal Trainer is a simple process.

The nuts and bolts of becoming a Personal Trainer

Levels and the Register of Exercise Professionals

To become a Personal Trainer in the UK you need to complete a Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training.  To do this course, you need to have first completed a Level 2 Gym Instructor or equivalent qualification.  To pass these you must complete the following (for both levels) –

  • Written course workbook (completed before attending the course)
  • Live multiple choice exams
  • Live session delivery and feedback

Level 2 is mainly focused on the basics of human anatomy and physiology, health and safety, nutrition, healthy living and programming for an effective workout.

Level 3 is similar, but the depth increases.  This is due to the fact that you will be required to program for a longer time and see a client more often than once a month.

Learning Style

How you learn really should drive your choice of course (after budgeting of course!).  People learn in different ways and for different reasons.  One of the big selling points in our industry is the standard of course at Level 2 and 3. Unfortunately, all that is important at this level is passing the tests and live assessments.  The content of the course has to reflect this, otherwise the exams become difficult to prepare for as you get stuck with information that is not relevent.

Learning with FASTER is based on a mixture of online courses and live training (one to one), and so if you learn better in a group and with a long structured daily attendance course, we are not the right company. However what we have done really well since 2006, is to deliver live supported online training.  This allows the student to go through the material and find gaps in their own understanding.  After doing this, the gaps are filled by a mentor.  This mentor is either one of our head office team online and on the phone, or it is from one of our FTE trainers who can mentor you in person.  FASTER has chosen this as a way of teaching to give you the most economical way of learning, saving you time and money in the stage that we believe is vital but has minimal importance in the long run.

If you really want the best, then look at our full mentorship program “Zero to Hero” where you get 80 hours of trainer live one to one time, taken over a year, with the courses that will help make you different and lead your area of the industry.  This combined with a set of tools that will also develop your brand as stand out, this is the only course in the industry built backwards from our most successful trainers.


Budgeting for Success

Building a financial plan is important to make sure you are covered both during and after the course. I would suggest that you plan for a limited income for the first three months in your role.  If you decide to go down the employed route, then make sure you plan to support you during the period of work where you won’t be paid.  Often your first week will be worked in Lieu and so you will not get the pay packet you expect on the first wage check.

For the self-employed Personal Trainer, you need to consider budgeting in for the following –

Living Costs (rent and personal spending)

Marketing Costs (website, adverts, design, uniform if required, equipment if required)

The cost of the course initially is usually the big problem for Personal Trainers within the three months after the course has finished.  This is because the support stops.  Many education companies want to look after the student until they have a job, and then they want to walk away from them and look for the next paying student.  However many Trainers leave their first job (or even the industry) within the first three months.  This means support is more vital at months 1, 3, 6 and 12 in the industry.