Employed vs Self-Employed: which is better for me as a fitness professional?
This year has single-handedly changed millions, if not billions, of people's lives overnight. We have all been forced to sit down and think how our lives look now and what we want them to look like after this madness is over. You may have decided that you want to take the first steps into a fitness career or you may already be a fit pro and be wondering whether you want to go back to your pre-lockdown ways of working? The fitness industry is very flexible and offers the ability to be employed or self-employed. This article will outline the benefits and drawbacks to each, so if you've been thinking about making a change I can arm you with the knowledge you need to be confident in your decision.
Benefits of being employed
Employed roles in the fitness industry will usually be as a personal trainer, fitness coach, group fitness instructor, manager, lifeguard or receptionist in a commercial gym. These jobs will pay you a salary every month or an agreed hourly wage.
The biggest benefit of having an employed role is having some sort of income stability. You will be guaranteed at least minimum wage each month and this can help you if you are in the early stages of working in the industry or have dependants who need you to be earning money. Your taxes are also sorted for you so you don't have to worry about filing a tax return each year. If you wish, there is the ability to progress through the company to club, regional or national management roles. You will also get paid sick leave and paid holiday, something that doesn't exist if you are self-employed. The club/chain you are employed by will also give you preferential treatment against freelance staff so you may find it easier to secure classes and clients than if you were freelancing. Employed roles also give you more job security - you know that if anything were to go drastically wrong you could probably work in another area of the club and still earn a living.
Drawbacks of being employed
If you are an employed PT, instead of taking rent from you each month, the club will take a percentage of every session you deliver. This will probably mean you earn less per session than a self-employed trainer. You also cannot decide how much to charge, this is predetermined by your club. There may be certain targets you have to hit each month to unlock different levels of pay, which can put you under more pressure. A downside of being employed in a health club is that there might be a potential non-compete clause in your contract of employment, saying that you cannot train clients outside the gym and cannot work for other chains or online. This obviously can limit your earning potential. You also don't own your own business, which can be great for some and frustrating for others. You may not have to do so much business admin and jump through as many legal hoops but all the work you've put into building up your business will never be 100% yours in an employed role.
Benefits of being self-employed
The biggest benefit of self-employment is freedom. You have the ability to create the sort of schedule you want and you can decide what times you want to work and what times you don't. You can decide to take days off when you want them and aren't limited to 28 days holiday per year and 2 sick days. You generally have the ability to charge what you want for a session or class which unlocks potentially higher earnings. You may also take home a higher percentage of this. The business that you build will be entirely yours and you have more ability to scale that business beyond trading an hour of your life per session for a set fee.
Drawbacks of being self-employed
Most of the benefits of being employed are the drawbacks of being self-employed; the most obvious of those being no sick pay and no paid holiday days. If you are sick and don't deliver a session or class, you don't get paid for that session. You also don't have a workplace pension or the ability to purchase stock options. (There are a number of self-employed pensions though. Go and check out this post on pensions or purchase my finance guide for more info)
The biggest drawback of being self-employed is the additional admin you have to do; filing a tax return, keeping good business records, submitting invoices each month and being super on top of your calendar. With an employed role a certain amount of work may be handed to you on a plate, but with being self-employed you have to work for each and every client you gain. You will have to market yourself better and put a lot more effort into branding. You may also have wildly fluctuating income, which can be difficult to obtain loans and mortgages with.
I hope this post has given you some clarity on what sort of role might be right for you. With today's ever changing job market, the decision you make isn't permanent and you can always hop between roles depending on your life circumstances. If you have been struggling with this sort of decision of a while, I'd suggest sitting down and thinking about your goals, and if you want some help with your goals, check out this post.
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