How Do Personal Trainers Get Paid & Which Method Is Best?

Are you new to the business of personal training and wondering, “how do personal trainers get paid?

Or are you looking to get into a career in personal training, but want to know the ins and outs of the business before you start?

Well, the good news is you are in the right place.

In this article, we will be looking into how clients pay for and buy sessions from their trainers.

There are a ton of different options available, and a bunch of different circumstances which can change things a little.

By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how pt’s get paid and the ways that will benefit you as a trainer the most.

Sound good?

Let’s go…..

man paying for personal training sessions

Personal trainers get paid for the sessions they conduct by either, taking cash or wire transfer payments directly from their clients, being paid a fixed rate from a gym or health club, or by setting their own rates and taking payments weekly or monthly as an online fitness coach.

The way in which you will get paid as a personal trainer depends on a few different factors, namely whether you are, employed by a gym, working as a freelance trainer, or as an online trainer.

Each option has a few different ways that you can be paid, so I will break each one down individually to make it as clear as possible.

let’s start with how you would get paid as a personal trainer whilst working in a gym as an employee.

Do personal trainers get paid by the gym?

Woman performing single arm dumbbell rows in a gym

So how do gym trainers get paid? Well, employed personal trainers get paid by the gym they work at, typically in large gym chains or health clubs. They will usually be paid a set rate for the sessions they deliver via a monthly payslip.

There is usually a process by which the more sessions you deliver, the higher the pay rate you can work towards. This is set in place as an incentive to make trainers aim to get as many sessions signed off each week in order to increase their payslip.

For example, a payment ladder for working as a personal trainer in a health club or large gym chain may look something like this.

No sessions delivered per weekPer Session RateTotal monthly pay

How does it work?

After having secured a new client, you will ask the member to sign a contract that states that he or she will be purchasing a set amount of sessions, (blocks of five or ten) or they will be taking up standing order sessions which will take a set amount of money from their account.

The set amount will depend on how many sessions they have agreed to train with you each week.

Once the member (now your client) has signed the contract, the sessions are paid for via card or cash at the gym’s reception and you have yourself a new client on your books.

Pros of payment methods for employed trainers in a health club

One of the major benefits of being paid by a health club is that as you are employed by the gym, you will not be paying any rent to have access to clients or equipment.

Being able to afford the extortionate monthly rent that some gyms will charge their PTs will be a big concern to a lot of new trainers. There are a lot of risks involved when you are being forced to pay a monthly rate and are struggling to find clients.

When you are paid by a club per session delivered, you will not be punished if you are only delivering a few sessions per week.

Of course, after a certain amount of time, the gym may ask you to start training more people in order for it to be worthwhile for them employing you, and your bank balance may also suffer if you are not getting the sessions in, but you will not have a large bill coming your way at the end of each month that you will struggle to pay.

You may not be getting paid as much per session whilst working as an employed trainer in a gym, however, there are other advantages that would not get whilst working freelance.

Benefits such as holiday and sickness pay, no accountant fees to pay for at the end of a tax year, and insurance coverage by the gym in case either you or your client is injured.

The list goes on, but the main point is, if you are a new trainer, the first year’s focus should maybe not be on the earning potential, but instead it should focus on gaining experience and confidence in the industry.

Cons of payment methods for employed trainers in a health club

At first glance, you may think that the payment ladder for a health club looks pretty good, and the fact that there is no rent to pay is a huge bonus.

For trainers who have recently got their qualifications, this is one of the best options available, but after a year or so I would recommend you leave to become a freelance trainer.

There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, you will quickly find that the monthly rates will be dropped wherever possible by the gym in order to lower your pay rate for that month.

If the ladder states that you will be paid £20 per session if you deliver 20 sessions per week for a month, you must deliver all 20 sessions each week or they will drop you down to the previous pay bracket.

You will generally only find out about this on the day that you get paid, so will have to bring it up with the management. On several occasions, I could prove that I had delivered 80 sessions over the past month, but for whatever reason, I was dropped to a previous pay bracket.

This will not be the case in every gym I am sure, but after it happens a few times, you start to really think they are trying to get away with paying you as little as possible.

Another issue that may frustrate you, is the knowledge that if you were in charge of your own sessions, you could charge what you want and take all the profit rather than giving a large chunk of it back to the gym.

How do Studio based trainers get paid?

Personal training studio

Trainers that work in specific personal training studios tend to be employed trainers by the owners of the studio.

A famous example of a training studio where you are employed as a trainer would be Matt Roberts training studios in London.

When working in a studio such as this, you don’t find your own clients, the studio’s reputation is what gains them walk-in clients who are then assigned to trainers.

How does it work?

You would usually be paid a fixed monthly rate which may or may not increase depending on your experience level or time with the company.

Working this way is probably the closest you could get to working a “standard” job whilst working in the fitness industry. You have set start and finish times, holidays, and sick days paid, and get paid regular monthly payslips.

How freelance fitness instructors and personal trainers get paid

Freelance personal training

If you are working as a self-employed trainer, you are completely left up to your own devices.

How you charge for your sessions, how you take the payments and how you organize them is totally up to you.

This is one of the fantastic things about being freelance, everything is up to you. As long as you are well organized and don’t undervalue yourself, you can run a great business whilst being freelance.

How does it work?

However you’d like!

You can take cash payments, card payments, wire transfers, or ask your clients to set up standing orders with you to transfer the money directly from their account to yours.

You can charge as much as you like, within reason (you don’t want to put off everyone by being too expensive), and you get to take home all of the money.

At the end of each month, your gym will take out the rent that they charge you each month directly from your bank account.

It is common for most of the larger gym chains that allow freelance trainers in their clubs to offer reduced rent for the first few months, with full rent starting usually 3 or so months after your start date.

This is in place to allow you time to build up a sufficient client base so you can afford to pay the full amount the gym is asking for.

If you work as a freelance personal trainer where you are training people outside or in their own homes, you will not have to pay any rent to anyone other than local counsels if you use their parks to train people.

Do personal trainers get paid hourly?

As a general rule personal trainers are paid by the hour, either working as a freelance trainer or on a zero-hours contract as an employed trainer. The exception are trainers employed by studios as full-time staff. Here, how many hours of training they provide has no impact on their rate of pay.

Pros of payment methods for self-employed personal trainers

Money is the first and main benefit of being a freelance trainer.

As you can charge what you like, you will likely be taking £50-60 per hour (in central London). This gives you the opportunity to make a fantastic living from your career.

You have complete control over your own finances whilst self-employed. No one will be asking you to deliver more sessions if you don’t want to, but just understand that it will certainly be to your benefit to deliver as many sessions as you can.

Cons of payment methods for self-employed personal trainers

One of the most irritating aspects of having to take your own payments for sessions is actually getting the money from the clients.

I am not saying that it was always easy to make sure the client paid in a gym, but on the initial signup, you would literally walk the member up to reception and take the payment.

When you are freelance, you will more likely state a price, give them your bank account to transfer, or hope they bring the cash to the next session with them.

It was fairly common for clients to “forget” to pay you, but still show up to the sessions. You then had the awkward choice of either completing the session anyway and hoping they would pay next time, or deciding not to complete any sessions until the payment was taken.

When you are employed by a gym, they carry a lot more weight than you do, so a member is more likely to pay up on time. A trainer on their own is much easier to take advantage of financially.

How online personal trainers get paid by clients

Woman making payment to online personal training

Being an online trainer gives you the most freedom and choice in terms of how you take payments and how you charge your clients.

There is no rent to pay, no managers asking you to get more sessions in, everything is entirely up to you.

How does it work?

You have complete freedom on when, how, and how much you decide to charge for your online sessions and consultations.

Because there is no 1-2-1 contact with their clients, online coaches will always make use of money transfers or use payment methods such as PayPal to take payments for their sessions.

The business of an online coach is a little different from a standard PT, as they take on more of a mentoring role rather than walking people through exercises per se.

They would more frequently create exercise programs and have weekly discussions about how the sessions are going whilst addressing any concerns their clients had about the exercises or dietary advice given.

Because of this, it usually makes more sense to charge a monthly fee for your services rather than using blocks of sessions for example.

You are charging a monthly subscription to your mentoring, and again the price you decide to charge is up to yourself, but you would obviously need to make sure you were not pricing yourself out of your market.

In terms of financial gain, being an online coach has the upper hand over other methods of training as there are next to zero overheads to take into account.

The only costs they will have are the cost of a decent laptop, internet connection, and qualifications. Other than that you need to buy nothing else, you don’t even need to buy any equipment if you won’t be demonstrating the exercises yourself.

Pros of payment methods for online personal trainers and coaches

A huge benefit to being paid as an online coach is that it is more common to sell these sessions as a monthly subscription. This is the best way of retaining clients, as they forget that they are paying for a service and they account for it in their usual monthly expenses.

It becomes a standard monthly fee like paying for a Netflix subscription, which means there is less of a thought process when it comes to paying for sessions. When you ask someone to physically hand over several hundred pounds worth of cash, they can easily feel a sense of regret.

Being an online coach is the most scalable personal training business you can have, as you are not trading time for money. You can have as many clients as you like and can charge upwards of £200 a month to offer your coaching skills. With only 15 paying clients per month, you can easily land yourself £36,000 a year.

Cons of payment methods for online personal trainers and coaches

I’m genuinely struggling to think of the cons to these payment methods. The only thing I can think is that some people prefer to handle cash instead of taking electronic payments, but I think in this generation, taking electronic payments is becoming the preferred method of paying for most things, so this may be a generational issue.

Which is the best option?

Reading on from the previous section, you may think I would automatically say that the best option in terms of getting paid must be the online trainer.

This is not the case though.

Every option here has its pros and cons as I have demonstrated.

Would I suggest that a brand new trainer becomes an online coach? No, because they lack the experience and exercise knowledge to be able to call themselves a coach.

What about being freelance?

Again, no, because the amount of money that gyms charge people as rent is enough to put any new starter off.

The best bet for a new trainer would be to work in a health club so they can get enough experience to move on and become a freelance or online trainer.

There is no real clear-cut “best” option in terms of getting paid by clients, it is entirely down to your own personal circumstances.

Which option will make me the most money?

twenty pound notes

This question’s a little easier to answer, as we can immediately remove working in a health club from the options, which will certainly not be a fruitful way of making money as a personal trainer.

Working as a freelance trainer is certainly up there as an option, as you can take boot camp classes on weekends to boost your personal training salary, and maybe do a little online coaching on the side.

The major problem with this way of working is that you are still leveraging your time for money, which is not a productive use of your time.

So what option do I think you can make the most money with as a trainer?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it has to be the online coach.

The main reason for this is that the business model is entirely scalable. You can train almost as many people as you like each month. You are not limited in terms of time, apart from maybe conducting a few hours a week of 1-2-1 video calls.

The majority of your time will be spent on marketing your services, creating exercise programs, and setting up standing orders with your customers.

You can even make use of online programs to help you quickly create your exercise programs for your clients.

This is why I think after a few years of working in a gym or as a freelance trainer, you should move on to online coaching asap. You will love the amount of free time you are left with and you will be working smart instead of hard.

I think it’s pretty unlikely that you will miss the 14-hour days of working in a hot and smelly gym. Although, it is kind of fun to do that sometimes, but only for a while.

How much should I charge for my personal training sessions?

Employed PT’s in a health club

When working in a health club or as an employed personal trainer, you will have no control over how much to charge for your sessions, as the gym itself will decide on the costs of the sessions.

This is one of the issues with working as an employed pt, as you cannot decide to increase your salary without working many more hours.

As an employed trainer, it will depend on the area, but in the City of London, my gym was charging customers £600 for a block of ten sessions with me (£60 per session), and £45 per month on monthly direct debit payments with a three-month minimum period required.

How much can Freelance trainers charge?

The going rate for an hour’s worth of training with a freelance trainer working in a gym in London is around £50-60 per hour, but there are trainers that charge a great deal more than this.

You can make more money by having more than one client at a time. For example, if you have two people train at the same time as you, you can charge each person £40 an hour, so they get a discount, but you are actually making £80 an hour. This is a great idea and a way that I utilized to make much more income each week.

What about trainers in PT studios?

If you were working in a personal training studio, you may have the same situation where the studio sets its own prices, and you are employed by them to conduct the sessions. Of course, if you are working in a studio that is run by other PTs, you again could be charging your own rates, so the industry is very varied.

How much do online trainers charge?

As online personal trainers are completely independent, the prices can vary greatly from one coach to another. However, the average cost of monthly training with an online coach tends to range from £200-300 per month.

This would cover the costs of a standard training package, but there may well be other add-ons that they could add to a training program to bump up the price.

£200-300 per month may seem like a lot to charge people, but remember that this is for a full month with usually unlimited phone calls, and tailored exercise programs. If you were to see a trainer for two1-2-1 sessions per week in a gym in London, you would be looking at £400-480 per month, so it’s actually a pretty good deal to most people.


There we go, this article should just about cover every aspect of payments, and fully answered the question, “how do personal trainers get paid?“.

There may be some other methods used out there by trainers, but these are by far the most common ways that I have used myself.

Quick takeaways:

  • Employed PTs don’t usually have any choice over how much they charge for sessions and payments are taken by reception. The trainer will then be paid by payslip at the end of each month depending on how many sessions were delivered.
  • Freelance trainers can charge clients however they like, they can accept cash, bank transfers, or card payments if they have a PDQ machine.
  • Online coaches will usually use bank transfers or use payment options like PayPal in order to receive payment for their sessions.

Now you know how trainers get paid, maybe you can decide which method is best for you and your business.

Go get ’em!

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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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