Independent Contracting for Personal Trainers: A Guide | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Independent Contracting for Personal Trainers: A Guide

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Mar 21, 2021

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Get the Basics...
  • As an independent contractor, you are the boss.
  • Having the appropriate certification is important.
  • You will need to register your business name with your state government.

Most fitness enthusiasts will agree that becoming a personal trainer is something they dream about. Being your own boss while helping others achieve their fitness goals is a rewarding career. But what exactly does it take to become an independent contractor?

Although there aren’t professional licensing requirements for personal trainers, you still need to educate yourself about the responsibilities and possible liabilities as an independent trainer before you even hit the gym. As a contractor, you’ll need a business management software platform to keep all of your clients in one place. Request a demo today for our All-In-One Fitness Business Management Software.

Difference Between Dependent and Independent Trainers

Even if you frequent the gym regularly, the differences between a dependent and an independent personal trainer may not be obvious. Both teach fitness classes and create personalized fitness plans for their clients.

In addition to teaching proper workout safety techniques for strength training and cardiovascular exercise, both types of trainers may work in a gym or a fitness studio. The main difference between the two is the formal job classification. A dependent trainer is employed by a company, while an independent trainer is self-employed.

Where do I start?

There are many paths to becoming an independent personal trainer. Some people go to college and some don’t. But to become a successful independent personal trainer, you must have the right skills, certification, and most importantly, clients.

Many people become personal trainers because they are passionate about health and fitness. Living and practicing a healthy lifestyle fosters the desire to share it with others. Helping people achieve their fitness goals can be a rewarding career, which creates job satisfaction for those who pursue this path. Even if you work out religiously, developing effective exercise plans for other people takes skill.

Pursuing your certification from an accredited university or a nationally recognized program through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies is the best place to start.

Depending on which program you choose, it can take up to six months to earn your certification.

Register Your Business

After you complete your certification program, you need to register your business name with your state government. If you plan on operating as a sole proprietorship, you will use your social security number. You can also obtain an employee identification number (EIN) through the Internal Revenue Service. If you plan on hiring employees down the road, having an EIN is mandatory.

You will also have to register your company’s name with your state revenue agency. Keep in mind that tax and registration requirements will vary state to state. Even though licensing regulations do not exist for personal trainers, you still need a business license to operate as an independent business.

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Liability Protection

As an independent personal trainer, you need to purchase liability insurance. Many times, the organization that you’re certified through may offer discount prices for liability coverage. If you are working with an established gym, they may offer some type of liability coverage, particularly if they consider you an employee.

Even if your gym insures you, it’s a good idea to have your own liability insurance. If you decide to open a training studio, you need to have an adequate level of coverage for premises and equipment.

Building Your Clientele

After you have your business license, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Word of mouth is the best type of promotion, but before you can satisfy clients, you must find them. If you already belong to a gym, you may be allowed to promote yourself by teaching classes or making yourself available to help other gym-goers on the floor.

In addition, you may be able to find work as an independent trainer at hospitals, spas, and in physical therapy offices. If you prefer to work in your own fitness studio or at clients’ homes, you will have to get creative with your marketing strategy.

Make a Name for Yourself

As an independent contractor, you’re the boss. Use this to your advantage by offering free trial lessons. Prospective clients can see what you could add to their current fitness regimen for free before making a final decision.

Referral specials are also highly effective when trying to build your client base. When current or new clients bring a friend, you can reward them with a discount. Offering bulk discounts also works well when trying to build a name for yourself.

Develop an Online Presence

A fitness blog is a great way to promote yourself. Create a Facebook page where you offer free advice for newbies who want to get in shape. You can post tips and tricks, which can lead to new prospects to your website. From there, you can offer free trial lessons and even free weekly fitness advice.

Support Your Community

Local businesses love to support each other, so why not offer a corporate wellness program? Corporate wellness programs are a great way for employers to reduce their employees’ health insurance costs. Create a menu of different services that you would like to offer, such as personal training, group classes, and fitness seminars.

As an independent trainer, you will wear many hats. Being your own boss gives you the chance to get creative and build a sustainable business.

Even if you don’t have a huge advertising budget, you can still entice prospective clients to test out your services.

One of the most important roles of a successful personal trainer is to set the example you want others to follow. Starting a new business is never easy, but with hard work and dedication, it will be worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I have insurance prior to beginning my training career?

If you are planning on training clients in any capacity, it is a good idea to be insured to protect yourself from any legal troubles that may arise.

Do I need insurance if I am employed by a gym?

It depends. Some gyms will provide insurance to all of their employees; however, be sure to check with your gym to find out the capacity of their insurance plan. For example, some may cover product liability but not personal injury liability.

Where can I get insurance?

Your overall needs will determine what kind of insurance you should get and from whom. With that being said, some certifying agencies like ACE provide liability insurance to fitness individuals.

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