In my mind there are 2 basic ways to look at your income in the personal training world. Knowing how you personally look at money will help make sure you are in the right environment where you will work hard and be successful.
The first option is to simply look at your total yearly income. This is the way most people in the business world look at it. They just say ‘I do this job and I make X amount per year.’ When I graduated college I had the following short term goals as it related to my job:
- Earn $50,000 per year
- Work inside in a temperature controlled environment and have a break for lunch
- Have a job that allowed me to workout regularly at a set time each day 5 days a week
That was it. I didn’t mind working hard, I didn’t mind doing some ‘dirty work’, I didn’t mind longer hours as long as the schedule was consistent. I wanted to make a certain amount of money so I could live to the lifestyle I was used to; I didn’t want to be outside all day especially in the winter/rain; and I wanted to have a schedule (and energy) to workout on a set routine each day. Looking at money this way makes a lot of sense, however it can lend you to be taken advantage of by your employer. If you don’t have a set work schedule and you just focus on your income, working 60 hours per week instead of 30 hours per week means your hourly rate just got in half.
The second way of looking at your income is to look at your hourly rate – how much do you make per hour of work? As a trainer this can be nice because our hourly rates are often reasonably high but there are 2 potential negatives with this view. The first is you have to factor in how many sessions are you conducting on a weekly average (not just your best week ever). The second is if you work for a gym or another company, you can’t help but start to be a little bit bitter about the amount of money they are taking from your hourly rate. A trainer that works for someone else will, on average, make about 50% of what they are actually charging the client, with 40-60% being pretty common in the industry. When you think about charging someone $70/hour that is pretty good, but then when you think about the fact that you worked with that person for the hour, you did pretty much everything, but then you walk away with just $35 you can be a little bit soured from that.
If you do work for someone else you have to remember (and perhaps frequently remind yourself) that entity does have other expenses and they can often be significant. They have to pay the rent, the insurance, buy the equipment, pay the manager, do all the advertising, and they have all the risk – they could actually lose money. It is natural they will take a chunk although it is certainly fine and acceptable for you to fight for as big of a chunk as you can get since you are the senior partner in the relationship (by that I mean you are doing the most work with the client) especially if you were the one that sold them the personal training package.
I think it is also worth mentioning that personal trainers are generally paid pretty well for the amount of education that is required to do the job. Even including NPTI, it isn’t that common that you can spend 7k and 6 months on your education and (without a college degree) walk into a $50,000 a year job that doesn’t involve hard manual labor, dangerous work conditions, travel away from your family, etc. Take out NPTI and it is even more rare (and perhaps odd) that one can read a book, take a one day class, pass one simple test and suddenly you are charging folks $70 an hour for your time. 10-25% of professors in America make 43-65K a year – and that is with a PHD which is essentially 8 years of schooling! Here we are with a tiny, tiny fraction of that education (and hopefully a tiny fraction of those student loans) and trainers are making a similar amount as some professors. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, most trainers are paid pretty well given the difficulty of the job and the amount of education and experience it requires.
I would encourage you to explore the way you look at your pay – is your first reaction to consider your hourly rate or your yearly income? If it is the former you probably want to find an environment where you make a good percentage of what your charge or you might even consider going independent. This way you can set your rates and you will pocket all of that money. Of course keep in mind there are challenges with this route and you still need to think about the big picture – your yearly income. If you charge $125 hour that sounds great, but if you only train 7 sessions a week that is an yearly income of about 44k – great for working 7 hours a week but probably not so great when compared to the idea you are making $125 an hour.
If you think about your yearly salary then you have to keep that in mind as you work day to day. As a trainer you will have to put in your time, including 2-3 months at the beginning of a lower pay rate, time when you aren’t being paid much or anything (free sessions, floor time, etc) and perhaps longer hours especially in your first year or two. If one is willing to do that, 40k a year is a very reasonable expectation, 50-60k is quite doable with lots of hard work, and you can make more than 60K a year if you are good at sales and willing to put in the time (over 40 hours a week almost for sure). This is all assuming you work for somebody else in the DMV area. Of course once you move up to management and/or go independent, your opportunity for income significantly rises but so do the potential stressors, responsibility, and hours required.
If you want to equate the two (hourly rate and yearly income), a very simple math trick is to take one’s hourly rate, double it, and put 3 zero’s on the end of it – that is your yearly income (if you make $40/hour that equates to 40x2x1000 = $80,000 a year). That does, however, assume one big thing – that you are working and being paid for the traditional 40 hours a week every week. That doesn’t always happen in personal training land.
Figure out how you personally look at money and try to find a situation that matches well with your view point. If you don’t, you might find yourself feeling frustrated and resentful and that likely isn’t why you got into this field in the first place.