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Becoming a PT: Choosing the best employment system for you

  • Posted by Catherine Tumelty
  • 16 November 2016

As a newly qualified PT looking for a foot in the door to the industry, it’s hard to know where to begin! Do you team up with a gym as an employee, do you sub-contract in a rent-based model to learn the ropes before going out on your own, or do you get straight out there and launch a business from scratch? We run through the pros and cons of each model so that you are armed with all the information to make the best decision for you!


Under an employment based system, the gym (employer) will have rights under industrial law to direct the way that you work; this is generally done via the means of an employment contract. You are paid by the gym, whether this is based on time, pieces of work (i.e sessions) or commission.


When you are starting out as a brand new PT, the idea of running your own business either as a sub-contractor or a sole trader can be very overwhelming, so an employment system can remove all of these worries. You’re paid on a regular basis and will generally work standard or set hours. You’re also entitled to benefits such as superannuation and sick leave which means not having to worry about not making any money on a day where you simply can’t be in the gym. Your work is legally covered by the employer and the employer is expected to provide all tools and equipment necessary for you to perform your role.


As an employee, the employer generally has a higher level of control over your work which means less freedom when it comes to how you conduct your sessions and possibly even how many clients you take on. Many employment based systems tend to place a cap on your earnings, and commission structures often leave PT’s seeing only half (or sometimes less!) of what their client’s pay for their sessions. Many experienced PT’s also find an employment model restrictive on their ability to grow and progress after a certain point.


Sub-contract, franchisee, rent-based models

As a contractor or franchisee you are essentially self employed and have the general discretion or freedom to run your business and conduct yourself as you see fit within the guidelines of a contract. You will be required to have your own ABN (Australian Business Number). Payment is independently organised between the clients of the contractor and the contractor themselves, and contractors are responsible for paying their own tax and super. Legally, the contractor is responsible for covering themselves (for example insurance and registration).


Running your own business under a rent based model tends to provide you with the freedom of being your own boss without the expensive overheads that come with going out on your own completely. Franchisees are able to take on as many clients as they wish and once established are able to work their own hours. As contractors organise payment between themselves and the client, there is more freedom as to what a PT can charge for their sessions and the gym does not take a cut of this.  Franchisees pay the franchisor (gym/studio) rent, which covers the use of the facilities to run their business, access to member base and equipment (including maintenance, which can be expensive if you have to do it yourself!). Gyms with a rent-based model tend to have a build up phase to help get you started without the financial burden of having to pay rent straight away without any clients.


Any model where you are responsible for running your own business can be intimidating to someone who is just entering the industry! Under a rent-based model you are in charge of prospecting for clients which can be a scary thing to do! While you are in the initial phases of building your business you’ll also need to be in the gym for very long hours to ensure you are meeting as many potential clients as possible. You may also need to pay a ‘start up’ fee and a bond which makes this system something you need to be 100% committed to.


Own business (sole-trader)

As a business owner, a PT is given complete control over all the elements and you really can ensure that it’s your way or the highway.


Obviously the pros of owning your own business stem from the freedom over your hours, ability to charge for your sessions and low entry costs (no bond or start up fee etc). Following the growth phase, this option can be the most rewarding financially and in its ability to provide you with complete freedom when it comes to running things the way that you want to!


Owning a PT business does host a whole range of responsibilities that can take you away from the actual training side of things. If you are looking for a foot in the door to the industry, this is potentially not the best way to go about it and is generally recommended for PT’s with a number of years of experience, a good head for business and a solid network to draw on. Though this option does not come with a bond or start up fee, it can be very expensive when one considers the costs behind marketing, securing a facility or permit to run your business in, licensing and insurance and equipment! Owning a business also means that you do not have the support of management or any assistance when it comes to generating leads and getting your name out there – this is all on you!