Making your break from a big box gym can be fun, harrowing, and exciting.  Someone should make a movie about it.If you’re looking to make your break from a hell-hole big-box gym, one of the fastest and easiest ways is through a deal with an existing private gym.  These places are usually short on good trainers, don’t have a clue on how to sell training (so they don’t even bother), and have a hugely under-served market.  If you’re good at selling sessions in a big gym, getting into to one of these places is like shooting candy from a baby in a barrel.

This also saves you the trouble of having to make a website or market your services in your area.  Marketing can be the most time-consuming, “scary”, costly, and highest learning curve parts of doing business for a trainer, and making a deal with a private gym allows you to skip this step. Here’s why:

The clients are already there, you just have to bring them in. You just have to understand basic relationship-based personal training sales and some creative in-gym marketing, and you’ll find yourself booked beyond belief.

Yes, if you want to make an immediate move to private training, double your income while cutting your hours, not have a boss, and control your own ship, this is the best way to do it instantly do it if you can find a good place to do it and strike up a good deal.


But that last part I mentioned is the key and what it all hangs on – finding a good gym to partner with, and making an arrangement that makes sense for you.

Finding the right gym will require some research.  But making the deal is another story:

=> What’s the right type of deal to make with an independent gym?

=> Should you take a percentage deal?

=> Should you pay rent?

=> If you go with a percentage, what kind of breakdown is good?

There’s a lot to consider here.  And here’s what got me thinking about this subject in the first place.  It was a question I got from one of the Super-Trainer readers.  Here it is:



Kaiser, I have a question for you and I hope you can help me with this.

I have been approached to work within an exclusive high-end gym as their contact person for personal training & pilates sessions. I have my own successful business and client base, however I really need a professional space to run my business out of, and this is an amazing opportunity for me. I have been asked to think about pay structure, ie. commission or flat fee, to use the space. I honestly am not sure what the going rate is for outsourcing and am not sure how to present this proposal.

Any advice you could provide would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,


Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands



Real good question that I know a lot of people can relate to Sue, and that’s why I’m answering it here.  As for the choice between “commission and flat fee”, let’s explore both scenarios here:



In terms of more profit in your pocket, a rental deal is the best way to go for a trainer.  Even in a major city with a high-end gym, you can strike up a deal for as little as $600-$800 a month.  If you are running a good volume of sessions for high prices, this might turn out to be less than 10% of your take.

Assuming you know how to attract outside clients, this can turn out to be an extremely good deal for you, and there are many major gyms that are built exclusively to handle the sessions of private trainers.  I know many trainers that are succeeding with this type of arrangement, and also know a few trainers that run these types of private training gyms. Yes, high-level, high-paying independent training is alive and kicking and you just have to find a good place to do it.

But in these environments, you still need to know how to bring in clients from the outside.  You also cannot depend on the gym doing any work in bringing you clients, since there may be anywhere from 30 to as many as 100 other trainers using this gym to train their clients.  Having an employee train clients for you here, or running small group sessions while everyone else is doing private, becomes slightly harder.

These leads me to my answer for Sue’s situation, and a solution that can turn out to work much better …


What this simply means is striking up a deal where you “partner” with a gym to handle their Personal Training for them.  This situation can be slightly tricky, but if done right, can have a tremendous amount of potential.

The first question is the percentage.  What percentage should you look for?

My answer to that would be nothing more than 20-25% going to the gym.  To some this might sound like a lot to give away.  To others this might sound sweet.  Here’s why it works.

It gives the other gym a vested interest in seeing you succeed.  Anything less than 20% and they may feel slighted. But 20-25% gives them a good reason to want to help you out.  Any gym owner reading this will tell you they are lucky if they can earn a 15% percent profit on their training department, so if the gym you partner with can collect 20% from you, they should feel lucky (a fact you may want to remind them of during negotiations).

Also, giving up a percentage to the gym can allow you to keep things exclusive with them.  You can tell them to SHOUT OUT any new trainers that want to get involved.  Otherwise, you if you settle on a flat fee, you may find them wanting to bring in more trainers to make more money.  But by going exclusive,  and giving them a cut, you make it in their best interest to help you succeed, because the more you do, the more money they make (at the end of the day, it all comes down to money).


how to dealAlthough giving up 20% is a lot, many gyms don’t see it this way.  That’s why you hear about a lot of private gyms raping their trainers for 40% and even 50% (or more!) of the gross.  That’s why when you sit down at the table, this is how you need to position it:

That as a private trainer, a huge amount of your income is taken up in marketing expenses, insurance, continuing education, and costs with running your business.  According to your calculations, this eats up about 40-50% of your gross (if you ever sat down to do the calculations, you would find out this was true by the way).

With these numbers in mind, an 80/20 deal between you and the gym is really a 50/50 profit sharing deal between the two of you.  Once you get them to see this, they will become much more comfortable with it.

Also letting them know that you’re planning to bring in more new members to the gym (for which you shouldn’t ask for a cut), and cultivate additional sales will get them to see that for 20% percent, they’re making out like bandits.

And if you come to the table with 80/20 in mind, you give yourself wiggle room to MAYBE  go to 75/25, which isn’t the end of the world.


Why does giving 25% away make sense?  First of all, the marketing the gym does to bring you fresh new members can’t be overlooked.  They’re spending a lot on marketing to bring clients into the gym.  You can simply jump right in front of those new members and sell them training.

But in return for the money you’re giving up the gym, be sure to ask for A LOT in return – no room to be shy here.  You need permission to create initiatives to help sell training to EVERY SINGLE new member.  You need them to allow you to place promotional materials ALL OVER the gym, and even some places facing the street.  And be sure  to make it clear that your deal is exclusive and they must SHUT-OUT all other outside trainers.

And be sure to take care of anyone that’s in a point of contact with new members, ie receptionists and sales people and make it in their best interest to send you leads either by rewarding them heavily with gifts every time they do it, or giving them cash kickbacks.  When you consider a new client is worth at least $1,000 a month, anything you give away to get them is nothing in comparison.  You also want to always maintain a level of good will between you and the rest of the gym employees, and not let them get jealous of all of the money you’re making.


Here’s more on what’s in it for you: you have a high level captive audience and license to train them any way you want.  You can run group sessions for full prices (after all, you’re the only trainer there); hire an assistant when your groups get too big to manage; let your assistant train clients without you being there.  The possibilities are endless.

On that subject, do you want to know why these deals have gone bad for me in the past?  Because you often start making more than the gym owner or general manager!  In your case, be sure to manage your relationships well.


Also, do not become solely reliant on the gym for your clients.  Let your website do the work, get good and highly effective at direct-response marketing, and put away your money.  You can eventually open your own facility with the marketing, sales, and management skills you will perfect here.

Now, taking and dividing money is an entirely different deal.  So is putting something in writing.  I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to get caught up in the fine print of your deal, but here are a few pointers:

If you take the money, you may want to give them a copy of your contracts, and be sure to pay them promptly.  If they take the money and then pay you, make sure they are accurate and prompt with it.  If they mess with your money in any way in the beginning, get out of there as fast as possible.

Ok Sue.  It sounds like things are on the up and up, so let them grow slowly and you should be able to make it work, make some real good money, and make very rapid and positive career growth for as long as you want.  Good luck and keep us posted!


Want more articles on forming private, independent training deals?  Then check these posts out: