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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How to Make Money as a Personal Trainer—In-Person and Online

How to Make Money as a Personal Trainer - In-Person and Online

Reading Time: 5 minutes 40 seconds


DATE: 2023-07-06

It's simple, right? Learn to be a personal trainer, get some clients, charge them an hourly fee, and start making money. Yes, in theory, it is that simple to make money as a personal trainer.

In practice, however, personal training can be a lot more complicated and difficult. There is a lot of earning potential for trainers. Your services will always be needed by people who want to get fit, lose weight, learn about fitness, eat a better diet, and more.

To make enough money, though, you need a plan. Success in any career requires hard work and smart decisions. We'll walk you through what you need to know to earn a real living as a personal trainer.

Start with Credentials

Before you do anything else, and if you're sure fitness is your career choice, get certified! There may not be any laws regulating personal trainer credentials, but with educated, certified professionals available, why would anyone choose someone who isn't?

Start with a general personal trainer course from an accredited institution, such as ISSA's Self-Study Personal Trainer course. Then consider getting specialized certifications. These will allow you to offer more services and earn more money. Popular additional certifications include:

  • Online coaching

  • Nutrition

  • Group training

  • Bodybuilding

  • Yoga

  • Senior or youth fitness

  • Corrective exercise

  • Weight management

  • Performance enhancement

Choose Your Career: Employee or Self-Employed?

Working as a trainer, you have two main choices, both of which can lead to a good salary: work for someone else or start your own training business to see clients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for a fitness trainer or instructor is $40,700 per year ($19.57 per hour). So you can make good money either way. Before you make that choice, consider which one is best for your earning potential.

Working for a Gym

There are a lot of benefits for employment: job security, steady pay, and no start-up costs. What you miss out on in becoming an employee is control. You have less control over clients you hire, types of classes you teach, and of course, how much you earn.

Gym trainers do a lot less marketing and selling than freelance trainers. Whether or not you would be required to sell to new clients depends on the gym. However, if you want to get more clients and earn more, you will have to market yourself, even as a gym employee.

If you are interested in working in a gym, do some research first. Find out what different gyms pay their trainers, if they have steady incoming clients, how busy are the current trainers, and what are their hiring requirements.

Starting Your Own Personal Training Business

A great thing about this career is the flexibility. You can start your own training business and operate it exactly how you want. You can go full time or keep a day job and train in your spare time, for example.

A major benefit of freelancing or starting a business is that you have complete control over what you charge and what you earn. On the other hand, this requires a lot more work on your part. Everything, from budgeting to marketing to follow-up with clients, is up to you. There is no company to fall back on. If you know you have the motivation, organization, and work ethic to do it all, this can be a big moneymaker.

If you're brand new at this, land your first client with these tips.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How to Make Money as a Personal Trainer—In-Person and Online

Tips for Making Money as a Personal Trainer

Most of these apply to independent personal trainers. If you choose to work in a gym these tips can still help you go above and beyond and earn more than just a basic salary. This is especially true if you have the freedom to market to and win clients for the gym.

Prioritize Marketing

Being a small business owner, marketing should be a top priority. It can be easy to neglect this when all you really want to do is train people. But without good marketing, a potential client won't find you. Take the time to learn about how to put a marketing plan together and then carve out the time to do it.

Always Be Selling, Confidently

You have the credentials. You have the passion. Now you have to sell your services. The most successful trainers are always selling. Don't expect clients to simply come to you. Reach out online, in gyms, in community centers, at professionals, even at parties. Always be on the lookout for someone who may need a trainer and then sell yourself.

Sell Packages

The most time- and money-intensive thing you will do as a freelance trainer is land new clients. If you can keep the ones you already have, you save money. Sell packages of sessions at a discount. It may seem like losing money, but you will actually be saving when you don't have to spend time getting new clients in the door.

Train More People at Once

You can work more efficiently and earn more when you train small groups. Each person will pay less than a one-on-one client, but with enough people in a group session you come out on top. Figure out how many people you need to make it worthwhile and make it clear that the class will only go forward if you hit that number.

Expand Your Services

Finding a niche is important, but don't limit yourself too much. With more services, you can earn more money. Just be sure they make sense with your target audience. For example, if your clients are amateur athletes, consider getting credentialed in strength and conditioning and sports nutrition so you can offer those services.

Make a Move

The amount of money a fitness trainer can charge varies drastically by location. If you're up for a move, do some market research and find out where you can tap into a lot of disposable income. Don't forget to consider the cost of living, which could negate extra earnings.

How to Make Money as a Personal Trainer When Gyms Close

The COVID-19 crisis put a lot of people out of work, including many fitness professionals. What we've learned from that situation is that you can still earn:

  • Offer outdoor group fitness classes.

  • Take your business online, offering chats with clients and online personal training workouts.

  • Make training videos to sell online as a membership.

  • If you don't have a website, build one.

  • Write an eBook to sell online.

  • Try affiliate marketing.

  • Earn a new certification, like nutrition coaching, a job that is easier to do virtually.

How to Make Money as a Personal Trainer Working Online

Speaking of earning outside of the gym, being a completely virtual personal trainer is a real thing. An online personal trainer will conduct a training session with clients through video conferencing and chatting and by providing online content. Even when not in person, you can help people meet fitness goals. Making money this way poses some challenges, though. Some additional things you can do online to up your personal trainer salary:

Become a Social Media Influencer

Build up a presence on your social media site with great content, connections to other influencers, and friendly, regular interactions with followers. This will bring in new virtual clients.

Start a Fitness Blog

A blog can be a great way to offer content, draw in new personal training clients, and build your influence in the fitness industry. Make sure the posts are informative, valuable to your target audience, and easy to read.

Sell Workouts

Create workout routines for specific needs or audiences—weight loss, lower body strength, running—and sell them online. Working on your social media influence will help you sell your expertise.

Related Post: Top 7 Sources of Passive Income for Personal Trainers

Organize and Lead Presentations

Leading conferences or presentations in-person is a proven way to market to a large group of potential new clients and other fitness professional groups, but you can do it online. Offer web conferences or short courses on things like senior fitness, stretching, or healthy eating for weight loss.

Get a Personal Training Certification

Making money as a personal trainer starts with a foundation of certification, passion, and hard work. If you have those, you're on the right track to earn a good living in this industry.

Your journey to become a money-making personal trainer begins with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Our Personal Trainer Certification program will help you learn everything you need to know to get employment or start your own business, at your pace.

Featured Course

ISSA | Certified Personal Trainer

Start your dream career completely online! Take the course, pass the certification final exam, and be guaranteed a job - or your money back!


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm (visited June 23, 2022).

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