How to earn in the Fitness Industry (Part 1)

Taking a decision to follow any career path can be a difficult one, especially a career path that involves a lot of graft to get the cogs turning. Moving into the Health and Fitness industry as a gym

Taking a decision to follow any career path can be a difficult one, especially a career path that involves a lot of graft to get the cogs turning. Moving into the Health and Fitness industry as a gym instructor, personal trainer or nutrition coach is a huge aspiration for a lot of people because they can do something they enjoy while helping others, exactly the reason I am here today.

The reason you probably are not already doing it is because of fear of failure, security, knowledge on how to operate in the industry and the means to get trained in becoming a coach while still working. There is an element of risk, the same as any new job or career. The key to being successful is having a passion for what you want to do and having a realistic plan.

When I left my job to move into the health industry I started studying straight away to become a Certified Nutrition Coach, followed by Gym Instructor and Personal Trainer. These are pretty much pre-requisites to success in the industry – no cert, no job! A nutrition qualification is optional but I will talk about that later.

All in, I needed to spend €2,550 on the Gym Instructor and Personal Training course and as it was a full time course it meant I could not work and earn while completing. I did it between December and January so realistically the total spend was close to €7,500 over the 2 months to pay myself a salary from savings and complete the course. (I have 2 kids, and was travelling between Dublin and Kilkenny also). My first Nutrition Coaching course was also €800.

In essence, there is a big upfront commitment to a change of career which you need to very real with. Having the plan before you start is so important. As the laws of attraction do work, I had taken a positive step towards a career in the health and fitness industry and the team in FFS were also on the lookout for new team members, the 2 ideas crossed paths and an opportunity arose for me, and when opportunity arises you must grasp it!

During my 2 months of courses I interned at the gym every morning during classes from 6am-8am before going out to the PT Course. It was 2 long months but I was very aware of this before starting, I knew if I gave all my effort for 2 months that I would make my best impression and give myself the best opportunity when finishing the course. The practical experience I got from this approach was second to none – getting to work with experienced coaches delivering a range of training modalities like S&C, MetCon, Suspension, Olympic Lifting, Bespoke Personal Training. The team in FFS honestly has such a depth of knowledge and experience and a broad range of qualifications which really gave me a solid head start moving into the industry.

When I was offered the job the reality was that there was a living to be made in the industry, how much depends on your income streams. There are many different variables when you leave the course – Commercial gym, private gym, opening your own business, and online coaching.

Commercial gym –If you are aiming to kick off your career in a commercial gym you will most likely be looking at 2 possibilities of earnings:

1. Classes – which a standard hourly rate would be something between €10-€15 per hour. 40 Classes a week - €1,600-€2,400 a month plus all the time setting up, clearing up, cleaning etc. Quite energy consuming also.

2. PT in Commercial gym – most likely you are either working reception or delivering classes for a set number of hours weekly for use of the premises to personal train, you may then have to restrict your offerings to be in line with the premises and split the package cost with them.

Private Gym – Working with a private gym is generally easier to discuss terms with as it will be a smaller operation and you will most likely be dealing with the owner. You may have the option of covering members classes, private personal training and any other initiatives the gym offers you may have an option to join in. Most likely will be a contactor option. Few private gyms employ directly unless a role is available. This allows you to contract in other private gyms also and does not restrict you directly, but may restrict opportunities within one certain gym. For me, I had a longstanding business background which allowed me to fill certain skill gaps and work on projects to give me a base salary to work from before any client work. PT Packages will generally be more expensive in a private gym but you will be giving private 1:1 coaching. Split on packages would probably be 40%-50%.This would depend on recruiting your own clients and using your own marketing or whether the gym is providing them for you. By using initiative and being resourceful you should find opportunity to increase income in a private gym.

Setting up your own gym – You need to be smart here – make sure you have a market and the ability to build a client base before you open your own place as it will be expensive and a huge risk. If you can start taking on clients before you quit your current job on evenings and weekend to build your reputation, experience and knowledge in the industry. Once you know you can make it a full time thing then the opportunity may come to reduce your other jobs hours and increase from there – just remember there is a lot of work in setting up a business and talking to a company formation specialist or a mentor is very important for setting it up correctly and investing in an accountant if it is new to you also is key so as not to mess up tax etc. You will be responsible for running a business and earning also – it is a huge workload especially in the beginning but you will be accountable to yourself only and can set your own rates etc.

Online Coaching – If you are planning cookie cutter programmes (same programme for everyone depending on goal e.g. muscular endurance, strength, fat loss etc.) Is something that can be easily offered out but allows you do very little personal client coaching and are generally sold very cheaply to give people an idea of what they can work on in their own time in the gym/diet but the accountability is mostly to themselves and would generally not build your reputation the same as a more client focused and personalised programme. Cookie cutter programmes could be a one off €10-€20 for a PDF or access to an App. Personalised programming or 1:1 ongoing online coaching could be anything from €30-€60 a month (probably about a 1-2 hour workload per month per client in programming, replies etc.)

Having as many revenue streams as possible is important to ensure that you have regular income influxes especially in quitter periods or if a number of clients leave at the same time you can compensate with other areas. For me I have less than a year in the industry and have been slowly building my revenue streams consistently from Month 1 to Month 6 there has been a 300%-400% increase on where I started. You need to be realistic that building a client base takes time but through your skills and quality of coaching retention can be very profitable and allows you to focus on working with a specific set of clients over a longer term instead of programming for new clients every other month. In 7 months I have added the following revenue streams:

Personal Training – 12 Clients (7 consistently renewing packages) Will maintain 10-12 maximum PT clients.

Head of Corporate Wellness – Base Salary + Commission

Head of FFS Training Academy – Base Salary

Online Nutrition Coaching – 4 Clients (1 month in, with scope to work up to 50+ clients)

Do not wait to be offered opportunities – look for ways to use previous or existing skills to find new revenue streams and don’t be afraid to make proposals – the worst someone can say is no – and you will learn from that – if the idea is profitable for both owner and you and beneficial to the client base, then it will always be a go!

The first step is the hardest, the step you take to actually sit down and write out a realistic plan to make this type of career a reality. Try it and see if it is real for you. I know what it takes to take that risk and move from a career doing work to a career you love and I am happy to be an open resource for anyone looking for help on their move into the industry.

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