Part I: Which is better…?

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  • Part I: Which is better…?

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

  • You maintain control of their hours
  • The programs they offer
  • You control the 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.


  • Paid employee who is getting paid when there are no clients using his services
  • Pay their taxes, liability and workers comp insurance, and holiday pay
  • Deal with sick days and annual holidays.

Pros and Cons for an Independent Contractor Personal Trainer


  • Virtually no expenses, except maybe, workers comp insurance
  • Available for longer hours and offer more to your members
  • Likely to entice more people into your gym


  • Very little control over the programs he uses, his hours, and how he works with each of your members.
  • Can 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.

Personal trainers can bring in a variety of populations into your gym, including senior citizens or special needs communities.

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.

This post originally ran 1/01/2013 and has been revised and updated for reposting.

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