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May 14, 2012, 01:36PM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  0 Comments

Get To Work: How to Make Money with Your Group Fitness Instructor Certification

Group fitness classIn the previous post, although we talked about the numerous options out there for newly certified personal trainers, group fitness instructors can learn a lot from that conversation. Most instructors will find it challenging to make a full-time career as a group fitness instructor, however, unless they’re doing some type of personal training (for the purposes of this blog, I would consider Pilates trainers and private Yoga instructors to gain from reading the previous personal training post). If you are teaching group classes the biggest considerations are: multiple gyms versus exclusive, the club environment, pay per class or by student, and other ways to profit from your teaching.

Multiple Gyms

Whether you teach at one club or many will depend 100% on how much money you need to make. It is very challenging to teach enough at one club to make a living because there aren’t enough classes to go around. However, if you can teach several disciplines and have specialized training in a modality that allows you to do small group classes, teach a special program the club charges for, or engage in some type of personal training, being exclusive can work and have huge benefits. Most clubs are willing to incentivize employees to stay loyal by providing education perks and higher wages.

What Type of Club

Depending on your personality, you’ll want to explore what type of gym is going to be right for you! Big-box gyms have larger rooms and, usually, more people. The ability to get classes that work for you (right format at the right time) may be tougher as there is a larger talent pool. But you’ll probably have access to a great gym and major discounts for your family to work out there, as well.  Your personality may lead you to smaller clubs or private studios where group exercises like Pilates or yoga are all that’s offered. Pay at the private studio-type scenarios is usually higher as the money doesn’t have to be divided among so many areas. For all of these scenarios, the upside is having a built-in schedule where you simply take on a class. You show up, teach your class and get paid (of course, there’s more to it than that, but you get the picture)!

You can also explore renting space from karate studios, gymnastics facilities or dance schools, where you can market to moms who are bringing their children to practice. Or, you can set up a mobile business and teach in workplaces. These ideas provide you the opportunity to set your own price and earn more, but you’ll also need to organize the business side (much like what we discussed in the personal training blog). You’ll have to sort out arrangements, liability insurance, set rates, get the word out so people come, collect money, get a sound system together (if necessary) and equipment.

Of course, it’s important to check out the employee versus independent contractor section from above and ask these questions, as well, to decide the best place for you to begin teaching.

Getting Paid

Most group fitness positions are pay by class and the dollar amount can range from $10 - $100/hour depending on your market and your expertise. Be sure to ask about pay rates and the potential for increases when you are auditioning. Most clubs do not provide benefits for instructors, but if you find a club that does … it’s a keeper. As most gyms don’t have a lot of money budgeted for instructors and try hard to control this cost, it’s a good idea to find out what the ‘perks’ are and make sure you’re not LOSING money teaching at the facility. For example, do you get a free gym membership? Does your spouse? Are there discounts for children? Free childcare? Do they pay for continuing education? Do you receive discounts on other services?

Some instructors and facilities offer the option to be paid per head. Of course, there are scenarios where this works out in your favor. But, there are plenty of scenarios where it does not. I’m going to reserve my judgment and say … do the math and study the facility for weeks and see the traffic patterns before committing to this type of a pay structure.

Other Ways to Get Paid

As we’ve discussed, only teaching classes can really limit your earning potential because your body most likely cannot handle teaching enough classes to earn the income you want. You can try to increase your class count by taking on formats where you don’t physically have to work out, but at some point you’ll probably need to see what other options exist to pad your income in the fitness industry.

You can certainly explore management and receive a steady paycheck. Make sure you’re interested in managing people, dealing with employees, members, scheduling and being on call. Research the pay and the hours. It’s certainly not the highest paying job, but steady and a good supplement that allows you to put all of your eggs in one basket (all of your fitness effort at one facility).

You can also look into leading topic-specific small group sessions and charging. Most clubs will allow you to take a percentage, which will likely be higher than your class rate. You’ll need to work on a marketing strategy and get the word out to make it worth your while.

Of course, exploring becoming a personal trainer or leading one-on-one sessions is the quickest way to bump your income. And, let’s face it, if you’re already successful as an instructor, you have a built-in fan base that’s probably dying to get more of your time and attention. BINGO! Talk to other trainers and re-read the previous post to see if that’s a good idea for you.

Interested in expanding your career in the fitness industry? Consider earning a second certification as a personal trainer. Not only will it boost your income and expand the list of services that you offer, but it will also earn you 2.0 continuing education credits (CECs) in the process (enough to renew your group fitness instructor certification)!

By Shannon Fable
Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 15 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals, and has starred in over 25 fitness videos. Shannon is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the fitness industry and find their place. She's busy improving the self-esteem of the world as the the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise.

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