Running Start Chapter 4 | Time to look for work; but where?

In this segment, I’ll be showing you where you can work as a certified personal trainer, and how much money you need to be making to live a comfortable life.

Time to work but where

Come along, let’s get started!

So you’ve now reached the point where you have recently completed your certification as well as spent time working with various people, job shadowing or better still, being mentored.

And now you are ready to start looking for your first proper paying job as a personal trainer.  

For most of us, that means going to work at a gym.

Even if you want to be a freelancer at some point and be your own boss, that’s not really an option when you’re just starting out.

That’s because you want to build up your experience even more, and probably some capital as well before you venture out on your own.

So in this chapter, I want to take an in-depth look as to where your work options lie.

And there are quite a few available.

It’s up to you to research all your options and choose the one that you think would best suit you as you start out on your journey as a personal trainer. 

The gym franchise

When you think of the opportunity to begin your life as a personal trainer, the most obvious place to start your career is at one of the larger gym franchises or commercial gyms, for example, Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness or Snap Fitness. 

At the start of your career, these are the perfect place to find your way in the fitness world as you deal with a full range of different clients, each with their own goals when it comes to what they want from a personal trainer. 

I think the main advantage when it comes to a work environment such as this is that you can focus solely on the training aspect of your work.

And that’s the most important thing as an inexperienced trainer.

You certainly want to work with a variety of clients where you can focus on programming different exercise programs for them. 

It’s the perfect place for you to learn, improve and grow without having any other distractions that you might have had if you opted to go the private route, for example.

In a nutshell, you can go to work each day and train clients.

That’s what’s best for you at the start of your career in my opinion.

Plus, things like medical insurance and 401 retirement plans are benefits that some franchises offer. 

The other advantage of working in this kind of environment is that there are plenty of other more experienced personal trainers that can guide you and be a great sounding board for advice. 

Because these large franchise gyms have huge turnovers, you can also bet that they are equipped with some of the best equipment available.

That’s another plus point, especially for you and your clients. 

While you can focus on personal training, you will also be exposed to other areas of the industry, for example, group fitness.

Through this, you may find the niche that you want to specialize in at some point in the future. 

Group fitness classes are also an excellent place for referrals.

You can work closely with the group fitness instructors to identify clients that could benefit from some one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer.

And since you don’t have to do the marketing yourself – there is a sales team for that – they too can be an excellent source for new clients. 

Finally, you shouldn’t really have any downtime here.

The sheer number of people passing through the doors at facilities like this means that in all likelihood, you will be seeing clients each and every day. 

As in all things in life, there are some negatives too.

For a start, your salary won’t be massive and you will see trainers come and go at a relatively high rate.

But for me, the positives outweigh the negatives because you want to improve and get experience.

That’s what large franchise gyms can give you. 

The fitness studio

A fitness studio also called a boutique gym is far more of a niche training setup.

And it’s intended client base is certainly taken from higher-income groups. 

Without a doubt, the popularity of fitness studios is on the rise.

That’s because their membership doesn’t work the same as a franchise gym.

Here, clients can sign up for specific classes and pay for them if they prefer that over a general membership contract. 

That ability to tailor-make your gym experience is one of the reasons why fitness studios continue to rise in popularity. 

But what does that mean for a personal trainer just starting out?

Are they a viable option for employment? 

Well, I would say yes and no.

For the most part, as a personal trainer, the chance to earn a higher salary is certainly true if you work in a fitness studio but it’s not the kind of place that you can learn the ropes like a franchise gym would be.

Here, you are going to have to know your stuff, that’s for sure.

That’s because you are working with clients that pay that little bit extra for a fitness experience that is very different for that offered in regular gyms.

By all means, if you are feeling confident in your abilities, this is a place that you can happily make a career for yourself.

Remember that staff compliments will be smaller as well as the number of possible clients.

And getting clients is going to be all up to you, there is no sales team to help you out.

Training clients at home

Our modern lives are so busy that many people just don’t have the time to get to a gym to work out.

And so, they make use of personal trainer services that visit them in the comfort of their own home.

Now many personal trainers do this in their own freelance capacity but a number of companies, for example, Gym Guyz run services like this and have personal trainers on their book that they then send out for client bookings. 

In most cases, the work here is done for you and there is no need for you to find clients.

The thing is, this can be a little hit and miss at times unless whatever home training company you work for is well established. 

There is also no need to worry about the admin function as all payment is handled between the client and the company.

That means that all you need to do is turn up and train.

Of course, unlike a gym environment, there is no access to any kind of equipment, but most companies will provide various training programs that you can use and adapt for each client, which is helpful for inexperienced personal trainers. 

Another point that I see as positive is the fact that you will be exposed to a range of different client types.

And that’s a great way to help you identify who it is that you prefer working with.

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Later on, this can help you define your specialization or niche.

There are also certainly some negatives.

For one, you never really get the opportunity to learn from other more experienced personal trainers because you never get to interact with any.

Over and above that, you are not in one location because appointments all over mean lots of time spent traveling. 

Also, don’t forget, if you are going to opt for this route at some point, you will need to cover yourself from an insurance perspective.

So that means getting some form of personal trainer insurance that provides liability cover most importantly. 

Working for yourself as a freelancing personal trainer

I’ve already mentioned that I don’t think it’s a great idea for someone who had just received their certification to immediately go it alone.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not an option.

Taking on your own clients and making a success of your new job as a personal trainer is possibly the hardest gig out there.

And unless you already somehow have a range of potential clients lined up, it can be frustrating as you start out and look to build a portfolio.

Plus there are a multitude of extra costs that you need to consider.

For example, will you need to travel to clients to train them, or are you going to rent training space in a local gym?

Neither of those is free!

You would also need to think of liability insurance because unlike a trainer working at a big franchise gym, you won’t be covered without your own.

These are just some of the cost factors that you probably haven’t even considered.

In all seriousness, working for yourself should be something you only consider somewhere down the line when you’ve paid dues, gathered enough experience and have built a strong network.

The thing is, when you want to work for yourself, there are other things that you need to consider, skills that you need to have to make a success of your career.

Because working for yourself means that you need not only have a handle on the personal training side of things but other critical areas as well.

Things like marketing, sales and the business side of things are something that the freelance personal trainer must be able to deal with, that’s for sure.

And those are skills that aren’t taught in a certification at all, no matter what accreditation you ultimately choose to do.

Nailing the marketing, sales and business side of things can really help your career take off.

Or perhaps you eventually take your business online.

That’s a route that many trainers are opting to take nowadays.

Again, you will need to learn the skills that will enable you to do this effectively and make a success of it.

Those skills are something that I have included in my marketing, sales, and business course as well as my online personal trainer course.

Other employment opportunities

So far we have covered the main places that a personal trainer can find work but there are plenty more, some of which I would like to cover below.


Many resorts no longer just offer gym equipment to their guests to keep in shape while they are on holiday, they employ personal trainers as well.

And this service is primarily there to help bring in more customers.

Some will even allow you to stay at the resort for free while working as a personal trainer to get experience.

The thing about working at a resort is that the clients you deal with are there today and gone tomorrow, so you are not really using all of your knowledge to run a program for a client and help them transform over a period of time.

It remains a worthwhile employment opportunity, however. 

Cruise ships

Floating resorts if you will, cruise ships also make use of personal trainers as many guests opt to workout while sailing the oceans of the world on their holidays.

Finding a job here is a little different, however, and not simply a case of just applying to a cruise company.

Most recruit their staff through recruiters so you might have to do a little research to find the best way of going about putting in an application.

But much in the same way as a resort, you won’t be using your full range of skills as a personal trainer in a cruise ship setting.

It’s more of a case of helping people with their exercises, how to operate various equipment and the like. 

Retirement communities

When you spend time in a gym, you will notice that many retired people are working out.

That might be because staying fit and healthy is a habit they formed earlier in their youth, or they understand that their quality of life can be improved as they get older if they do so.

Over the past few decades, retirement communities have begun to implement wellness programs with fitness one of the areas that fall under them.

And that’s where you as a personal trainer can help. 

In fact, many actually employ full-time fitness trainers to help their clients keep healthy through exercise.

Niche fitness facilities

Personal trainers are also in demand when it comes to niche fitness businesses.

But what do I mean when I say niche fitness?

Well, I am talking about things like Crossfit, “Garage” gyms or women-only gyms like Curves.

All of these are well worth looking into if you are trying to find your first place of employment as a personal trainer.

And they are becoming more and more popular, particularly Crossfit. 

Again, these all have their pros and cons but what I do like about them as an option is that you will be working with others, so they are a place to learn and grow in my opinion.

Niche training facilities are on the up as well, so the client base, although not the size of a commercial gym, is decent enough.

Certainly, there is scope to start working in the industry in gyms such as these.

How do I find potential workplaces?

So now that we have run through a variety of options that you can potentially look at as your first place of employment, just how do you go about finding them?

Well, back in the day, before the prominence of the world wide web, it would be a lot harder than it is now!


Without a doubt, the most obvious place to start and the option that’s going to give you some decent leads is by using a search engine like Google. 

While signed into your own Google (for location purposes), a simple search of “gyms near me” will give you the location of gyms nearest your current location.

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Google maps is also a useful tool in this regard and even has a gym finder feature. 

Simply type “gym finder” into the google maps search bar and away you go.

From both of these search options, you are going to find a variety of gym types.

So it might take a little bit of time to sort through them all but you will no doubt have a range of different leads.

Other search engines

Google isn’t the only search engine you can use to find local gyms.

For example, Yelp is an extremely comprehensive business directory that can also be searched for specific types of businesses, gyms included. 

Again it’s just a simple search but note that Yelp may not be as effective in smaller towns as in larger cities in the United States.  

If you live outside of the United States, Yelp also covers the large cities in Europe, for example.

There are also other sites that you could consider, for example, Trip Advisor allows you to search for gyms within a city.

You could also try TrustPilot.

Employment websites

Another way of searching for that perfect first job as a personal trainer is by using an employment website.

For example, has been in operation for over 25 years and is extremely popular.

And a search showed over 10,000 personal trainer positions advertised on the platform.

If you are in the United States, Monster isn’t the only employment website you can search on either, there are others such as and CareerBuilder. 

In the course work, you will find a useful resource for career websites around the world.

This highlights all the top online websites where you can search for personal trainer positions once you are qualified.

The file is called Career Websites.

Gym websites

Many of the large franchise gyms actually post openings on their own websites or direct you straight to their various branches around the country to see what openings they have.

Planet Fitness, for example, allows you to search by city which identifies all the Planet Fitness gyms in an area and then you can check each individually to see if they have job openings available. 

It certainly is worthwhile to take the time and look for similar opportunities within all the other large gym franchises that operate in your area.

If you cannot find anything on their main corporate website, look to see if each gym has an individual website where they might advertise vacancies as well. 

Here are other gyms websites with job postings that I found while doing my research.

Friends, family, and other acquaintances

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Make sure you speak to friends, family members and other acquaintances and mention that you are looking for a job as a personal trainer.

You never know, they might just have someone in their sphere of influence that works in a gym or perhaps even owns a gym that they could put you in touch with. 

So once you have used the various methods I have listed above to find potential gyms that you would like to approach for employment, the next step is making contact with them to find out if they have any positions available.

There are numerous ways to go about this, a couple of which I want to go into in a little more detail.

Face-to-face meetings

For me, setting up a face-to-face meeting is the best way to go about reaching out to a gym manager about the possibility of employment.

With all your research conducted as to which gyms are in your area, you will also have no doubt found other information that’s valuable too.

And one of these titbits should be the name of who runs the gym.

So, use that to your advantage.

Call the gym and ask whether you could set up a meeting with the gym manager to discuss not only potential employment but also advice and pointers for a new personal trainer just starting out in the fitness world. 

In some cases, you might only reach the receptionist to be told that there are no vacancies.

In other cases, your persistence could pay off.

And a face-to-face meeting gets your name out there, shows how eager you are and even if there isn’t a vacancy, that manager might remember you when one does become available.

If you do get the opportunity for a meeting, prepare thoroughly, ask any questions you might have, and find out exactly how personal trainers operate within that particular gym. 


While emails might not be as effective as meeting someone, they certainly are useful, especially when contacting a load of gyms at one time. 

If you are prepared to work outside your current city, then one of the only ways of contacting a gym while looking for an employment opportunity is by email.

A word of warning, however.

If you are going to go this route, then make sure you take the time to find out who to address the email to (usually the gym manager).

Nothing is more impersonal than an email addressed to “Whom it may concern”.

For examples of the type of email that you can send to gym managers that you have identified that you cannot meet with for whatever reason, please take a look at the chapter resource called Email Examples.

Cold calling/Popping in

While it’s not the easiest thing to do, you might also consider going to a gym and finding out if they have any positions available at that point in time. 

Often, you will only get to speak to a receptionist but perhaps you could ask to have a minute with the gym manager as well.

Again, make sure you are well prepared by carrying a copy of your resume which can easily be handed over for any future vacancies.

And don’t worry, we will guide you through the resume process in a later chapter.

So if you get the chance to speak to a gym manager, you need to be prepared.

So take the time to think through what it is you will ask them in the brief time you get in their presence.

So you should:

  • Tell them who you are
  • Tell them your qualifications
  • Tell them that you are looking for a position as a personal trainer
  • Ask them if they have any vacancies that you could apply for and if they do, who can you address your resume to
  • If they don’t currently have a vacancy at their gym, ask them if you can leave your resume with them to be considered for future vacancies.
  • Don’t forget to thank them for their time.

Another option is to actually go to a few gyms and have a workout.

Take the time to speak to the staff while you do, find out if there are any vacancies, and take it from there. 


Internships are popular within the fitness industry and are a useful way to get the experience you need as a newbie. 

Finding the right internship can be a little tough but again, start at the local gyms in your area.

Either talk to a gym manager about an internship at the gym or find a personal trainer that uses the gym’s facilities, or even works with clients in their homes and ask if you could intern with them.

Many large gym franchises have internship programs, so these could be considered as well.

Remember though, an internship is all about gaining experience, they don’t pay you a salary.

That said, they are often the foot in the door that you need. 

When looking at an internship, ask yourself these questions.

  • How reputable is the internship?
  • Does the internship program include its own guide?
  • Do you get the chance to actually coach a client?
  • Will you be exposed to training in different settings, for example, one-on-one and group training?
  • Does the head personal trainer get involved in the program?

If an internship program ticks most of these boxes, then without a doubt, you can learn tons if you get the opportunity.

But how do you get the opportunity? Well, there is some work on your side when it comes to finding the right internship.

For the most part, it’s about drawing up a list of gyms in your area and contacting them to find out if they do have an internship program or not. 

Once you have a list of those that do, try to find out more about the program.

Gyms will have information readily available and from that, you should be able to determine the answers to the questions above.

Then it’s a case of finding out how you can sign up.

Find the right internship and you can learn plenty as a new personal trainer, that’s for sure. 

How much money do you need to make starting out to live comfortably?

So this isn’t a question that I think enough personal trainers starting out actually ask themselves.

More often than not, they are just grateful to get their first jobs and to start working.

And that’s fair enough but understanding just how much you will earn and balancing that with your expenses as well as saving towards future certifications is important, don’t you think?

While you might still be just at the beginning of your personal training career, you should always be looking to the future.

Ultimately, most personal trainers will end up specializing in some way or another and that invariably means future studies.

But you may also want to get certified by other training bodies, so that’s also something you need to bear in mind financially. 

The thing is, it’s not easy when you are starting out, right? Sometimes, you just want to get your career off the ground.

But it’s useful to keep these considerations in mind. If you have a number already worked out, it can help narrow down your final choices, especially if you have a number of employment opportunities open up for you. 

Obviously, in situations like this, you will know how much you need to earn to cover those basic necessities in life like keeping a roof over your head, general expenses like food and transport costs and any other expenses you might have. 

So that’s your expenses, right?

Even now, without having formal employment in the fitness industry, you are going to have them.

So put a number on it.

Track your expenses and see how much it comes each week over a period of a month and then take the highest number and work with that.

So then you have to ask yourself, how much do I need to make to survive then?

Let’s call that our breakeven point.

So if you are only looking to earn what your breakeven point is, well, what’s going to happen in an emergency?

For example, your car breaks down and needs to be fixed.

To cover things like that, you need some ‘extras’ or money you can put in reserve for a rainy day.

So let’s do a little calculation.

When trying to determine it is how much you should earn, think of this equation.

To Live Comfortably = expenses + reserves.

Let’s break that down into a figure with examples. 

Live Comfortably (per week) = ($100 rent, $35 transport, $25 student loan, $30 credit card, $100 food, $50 entertainment) + ($35 reserves/savings).

So add that all up and you need to earn $375 per week to do so.

This is just an example with made-up figures, but it’s a useful exercise, that’s for sure. 

Of course, this differs, depending on how you plan to train your clients.

For example, if you are taking your business exclusively online, you don’t have to worry about transport costs, gym rental and other aspects like that.

Checkout on my course on becoming an online personal trainer if that’s the way you see your career in the fitness world panning out.


In this chapter, we dealt with the places that you could look for work as a newly qualified personal trainer.

These include commercial gyms, smaller fitness studios, working for yourself and more.

More importantly, we delved into how you should go about looking for a position as a personal trainer and the strategies you can employ to do this, from searching employment websites, commercial gym websites, to even emailing or cold calling a gym to see if they have positions open.

The main takeaway from this chapter was that there are employment opportunities for new personal trainers.

We also saw that working in a commercial gym gives you a good foundation to start your career.

And if you are looking for a job, use all the avenues available to you to land one.

Don’t forget to take the chapter takeaway quiz to make sure you have a good grasp of everything covered here.


Course Resources – Chapter 4 – Career Websites

Course Resources – Chapter 4 – Email Examples

Chapter 4 Takeaway Quiz

Running Start Chap 4

1 / 8

One of the best places for a young personal trainer to start their career is as a freelance trainer. True or false?

2 / 8

Which of these is considered one of the best places to look for jobs as a personal trainer?

3 / 8

Which of these is one of the best online recruitment portals to search for jobs in the United States?

4 / 8

True or false? For a new personal trainer, working in a large commercial gym is an advantage as clients are often handed to you.

5 / 8

Finding a job at large commercial gym chain is easiest by...?

6 / 8

Which of these methods can you use to contact a gym to see if they have positions open?

7 / 8

The process of phoning up a gym an asking to speak to someone about the possibility of an opening for a personal training is called?

8 / 8

One of the best ways to get experience as a personal trainer is through internships. True or false?

Your score is


Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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