Part I: Which is better…?

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  • Part I: Which is better…?

On fitness forums, I have seen this question posted quite frequently:

Which is better, to hire a personal trainer as an employee or as an independent contractor?

In the following weeks, I will attempt to explore this question from different topic angles with addressing the very basics. However, I would like to get a more in-depth perspective for my own personal knowledge as a gym owner. I ask for feedback from you, the reader, no matter where you fit in the fitness industry!
As a Gym Owner What Type of Personal Trainer is Right for You?
Whether you are the owner or the manager of a gym, your members expect you to provide them with access to one or more personal trainers. Since you are basically given very little choice regarding providing this service, you need to decide whether you are going to hire your own trainers or find one or more independent contractors to cover the hours your gym will be open. Each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages that need to be taken into consideration before you make your decision.
Pros and Cons for an Employee Personal Trainer
When you hire an hourly personal trainer, you maintain control of their hours, the programs they offer and their fees. All of this control has its advantages in that your members always know what to expect and if necessary can switch trainers with little to no change in their routine.
However, you not only have a paid employee who is getting paid when there are no clients using his services, you have other costs. You must pay their taxes, liability and workers comp insurance, holiday pay and deal with sick days and of course their annual holidays.
Pros and Cons for an Independent Contractor Personal Trainer
If you decide to use independent contractors to provide personal training services, you have a trainer that is not on the payroll so you have virtually no expenses. The only thing you may have to pay for is workers comp insurance. Because he is self-employed, you may find that the average independent is more likely to be available for longer hours and offer more to your members. The right personal trainer is also likely to entice more people into your gym.
At the same time, because he is an independent contractor, you have very little control over the programs he uses, his hours, and how he works with each of your members. More importantly, this type of personal trainer can simply show up one day, gather any personal effects and walk out the door, leaving you without a trainer.
Size of Your Gym
Before you make your decision, one thing you should consider is the size of your gym and the number of members you have or expect to have in the near future.
If you are running a smaller gym that has few members, you are likely to find that an independent contractor is your best choice. In many cases, these personal trainers will work out of more than one gym. This helps you by allowing you to provide the services your members want, but at the same time keeping your costs down to a bare minimum.
On the other hand, if you operate a larger gym, with a larger membership, hiring one or more full time personal trainers can be to your advantage. This will allow you to set up a schedule whereby you have one or more trainers on duty at all hours for your members. While this is going to cost you for things like salaries and insurance, you can easily recoup these costs by charging extra fees for their services. You can even offer your members one free session to let them see how much they can gain from the services of a personal trainer. This often results in a number of members signing up for further services.

As you can see there does not appear to be a single cut and dried solution. Only you can weigh the costs against the pros and cons to decide which makes a better choice for your gym.


Lawrence Fagan
January 25, 2013

Thank you David for your Insight! I have had a lot of feedback from personal trainers. I appreciate hearing from another gym owner on this issue. In Part III of this series, I am going to explore gym member preferences. Stay tuned!

David Gonier
January 7, 2013

having owed my own gym at present own an independant boot camp training program.and being a manager of other gyms in the past and having both situations of employee and independant trainers i feel the employee side is better yes you do incur costs of having employees but when there is no training going on they can become a help to your sales staff or cleaning equipment and basically representing the gym in a positive way. where as the independant is going to take care of his business and not yours.

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