How to Pay Your Trainers

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On one hand you want to pay your trainers well enough to make sure your they are happy and are not going to jump ship for a higher paying position, BUT on the other hand you still run a business and need to make a profit for yourself. It’s a FINE line to walk, but there is a way it can be a “win-win.” Here’s how to set it up:

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat:

Personal trainers want to be paid MORE than where they are currently working… Yes, they want a great environment to train in, but there is just no way they’re going to leave their last job for a pay cut. People get used to a certain style of living and don’t want to regress.

Having said that my new CPTs no that they will inevitably have to start lower with the potential of making far more in the long run.

They also know that I ONLY hire ONE new CPT at a time and dedicate my time and resources to helping them build up their clientel base over a 120 day period.

I let them know that it’s going to take about 90-120 days to get up and running, but after that they’ll have a steady clientele that we can keep building off of from there.

So now here’s how I pay them for private 1-on-1:

1-9 sessions a week = $37 per session

10-19 sessions aweek = $42 per session

20 – 30 sessions per week =$47 per session

30+ sessions a week = $50 per session

Keep in mind they are independent contractors so I do not pay additional money on any “extras.” I tell them I am going to pay them the max I can and then they can cover the health insurance, etc. They like this because as a contractor they can write everything off for their end of year taxes…

Also, I will do annual reviews and raise each CPTs pay by $1 per session (average).

Lastly, I give incentives for CPTs to be paid more (I’ll share that in my “600 Club” post)…

Here’s I pay for semi-private sessions:

$25 per client in semi-private group (3 people per group at one time)

Here’s how I pay CPTs for group classes:

$25 per client in each small group class (6 people per class)

Here’s how I pay each CPT for corporate clients:

Same pay structure as “private clients,” but the MAX pay is $47 since we discount our sessions 10% for our corporate clients that we train at their facilities and not in our studio.

Here’s how I pay my CPTs for bootcamps:

$50-$75 per class depending on location, travel, and class size

Here’s how I pay my In-Home CPTs (seperate from studio CPTs):

$50 – $75 per session depending on travel time and how much we charge that client to train them (depends on the commute).

I hope this post helped and be sure to look for upcoming content on how $50 per session really equals $66 per hour (Make 33% More Instantly Post) and be Sure to look for these 2 other posts coming soon:

* “My CPT 600 Club”

* “What to Charge Per Session”

Remember, though, your overhead expenses and your location will determine how much you can pay your CPTs. IF you charge less and the cost of living is less where you live then obviously you won’t charge or pay out as much!

It’s all about adapting to your environment…


***** 2013 UPDATE *****

As I said in the last line of the original “How to Pay Your Trainers” S3 Post – it’s all about adapting!

If you’ve skipped down the “update” part here please read the original post first, since the information I’m about to provide you is ADDITION to what is stated above. It does not replace it.

Plus, I’ve gotten a few questions on clarification so I will do that here:

1. When to Give Your Trainer Their Pay Bump

We go by the previous month’s numbers an take the average for that month. For example, if the trainer hit 125 sessions last month then they would make their $50 pay rate for all sessions that following month. However, if in that month they dropped down to 100 sessions, they would then make $47 pay per session that following month. This keeps things super simple.

We cut checks every other Friday. Typically 2 times per month except 2 months of the year where their are 3 payments cut.

2. Vacation and Sick Days

We don’t want to penalize our team members for taking days off… that wound by mean and cause resentment. You don’t want to be a mean boss do you? So, what we do is take the average number of sessions the CPT complete in a day using the previous month’s numbers. If they work M-F and completed 100 sessions last month, then their average daily sessions would be 5. (5 sessions x 5 days = 25 x 4 weeks in that month [some month’s may have 21 or 22 work days]).

Now we don’t pay them for their sick or vacation days, but we do add 5 sessions to their month’s total only when looking at their pay rate for the following month. Keep in mind if they took 2 sick days and finished the month with 110 total sessions, that does not mean they completed or get paid for 120 sessions, BUT it does mean that next month they keep their 120 session pay rate of $50.

3. Start Them High for 90 – 120 Days

For the first 120 days we pay all new CPTs their highest pay rate for their first year. Why? The reason is that in the city they have SO many options of who to work for especially if they’re good… we want to woo them. Keep in mind the only way to grow into a 500K+ business is to increase your session numbers, and that means hiring A Players you can trust.

So after we start them at their highest pay for 120 days we then assume they will be averaging 120+ sessions a month from then on. So… this whole thing about going back to the previous month’s numbers very rarely happens for us. It is there to keep them motivated – but of course, they see the rest of the team doing 120+ sessions o they feel compelled to pull their weight. AND, we tell everyone up front we only hire career, full-time CPTs that are able to work 40 sessions per week (about 33 hours).

4. Always Be Hiring (ABH)

Full disclosure – we’ve hit a snag on finding a new CPT. We waited until we had a need for one instead of always being on the look out. Just like your marketing for new clients, you need to always have your poles in the water looking for new leads. This is the same for hiring. My fitness manager’s main responsibility is now finding, hiring, and training a new CPT everyone 90-120 days. It is work, but using this formula we will be able to grow by about 500 sessions per year. That’s another half million dollars or so in revenue. Not bad…

I have no doubt we’ll now always have at least 1-2 CPTs “on deck” for when we need to hire more people to accommodate our new leads).

5. Incentives

ALWAYS have a team and individual goal!

This makes the group work together towards one goal and creates a friendly competition to see who will win that month. All CPTs are competitive people by nature – most of us played sports at least through high school and we still want to win! So, I always have a team goal (now 1,000 sessions per month) and an individual goal (Fit Pro of the Month) for whomever completes the greatest number of sessions. (Please see the post on 600 Club – or It may say 800 or 1,000 Club by now since we keep raising the bar each year!)

Keep in mind this will only work when you have a team of 3 people or more. However, I do place my name on this sheet as well. It also works better if you have 2 people that do around the same number of sessions. If you always do the most take yourself out of the running for Fit Pro of the Month… don’t be that guy.

Every team member that hits 120+ sessions (your goal may be different) will get a $100 bonus added to the 1st pay period after the previous month ends. The Fit Pro of the Month will receive $250. All of these bonuses are contingent upon the fact that we hit our team goal (currently 1,000 sessions a month). If we as a team don’t reach our goal, then no one gets a bonus… (sad face)

(This can also be changed around so that each member has their own individual goal as well as the team goal. If you have one part-time person and one full-time person, set their month;y goals accordingly and then pay them a bonus if they hit them… you can still have a team goal.)

Also, I have a bunch of private coaching clients that do bootcamps or CrossFit. For this model, what I have them do is set up a TEAM GOAL of increasing the TOTAL number of active paying members each month. If you start at 55 clients when you implement this goal, then set the team goal to 60 for next month and 65 for the following, etc. Keep in mind if you LOSE a client then you subtract one (you would actually need 6 clients that month). I see way to many people losing the same number of people each month that they bring in – this is not business growth – it is a ponzy scheme and a sure sign that business is on its way out. If this is happening to you, you MUST work on RETENTION – it is so much more powerful than getting NEW clients.

Work on 90%+ retention each month.

 6. Looking Back

You have to adapt… what I’ve found out is that although CPTs love that I pay them so much money in the beginning, they ALWAYS want a pay raise. I think it’s human nature to want 100% of what you charge… but then again they don’t understand business and overhead, etc.

This is why I actually start my CPTs at $45/session now – not $50.

So here is my new pay structure:

Year 1: $45/session

Year 2: $50/session

Year 3: $55/session

Year 4: $56/session (MAXIMUM pay)

Year 5+: (read below)

This allows them to see their income and career potential, which keeps them at my studio longer (I believe). Tey know they’ll be adding about $7,500 a year to their pay. Plus, these pay rates are for 45 minute sessions, so we explain their hourly pay is over $60 which is IMPORTANT since other health clubs may offer them $50/hour in the city.

7. Long-Term Growth and Security

NOTHING rocks your business more than losing a full-time CPT. Trust me, it takes at least 6 months to find, hire, train, and rebuild those lost sessions. If a CPT only gives you 2 weeks notice, how the heck are supposed to have another CPT ready to go when they leave? That’s why you always have to have a queue of 1-2 CPTs you can hire. We have our CPTs sign a non-compete, but they still may try to take their clients. We also try to transfition them to another CPT we have on staff, but if we don’t have a new CPT on board within 2 weeks (we ask for 30 days if a CPT leaves), then invitably we’re going to lose 50% or so of their clients… and then they want a refund, etc. The whole thing is a disaster…

A nightmare actually.

The good thing I that I knew this BEFORE I opened my studio since I had already hired and set up the personal training departments of dozens of gyms when I was consulting in NY, CT, MA, NH, and RI. I knew why CPTs left and how to keep them.

I believe this is why my average CPT has stayed on for more than 5 years (and counting)!

The only 2 people to have left the studio was one guy going back to school for his MBA to start a non-profit, and the other was a female that was pregnant and starting a family. These are cases that are unavoidable, so there not anything you can forecast or plan for.

Okay, so where was I… Ah yes, long-term security.

What does everyone want in business?

2 things actually.

1. They want to feel like they’re being acknowledged for their hard work and dedication.

2. They want to make more money.

The nice thing is, I’ve found a way to help them with both. It’s now my secret sauce for keeping my A Players.

1. My fitness manager and I send out weekly emails to the team motivating them and calling out small things we’ve seen them do that we appreciate and know their clients appreciate. People like to be RECOGNIZED. We also do a team dinner every 6 months where they can bring a significant other and we can enjoy a good chest meal and kick back outside of work…

2. In year 4 or 5, we actually allow THEM to set their own PT Session price for any client they’ve been working with for over 1 year (not new clients we provide them). What does this mean? Glad you asked… it means they now feel more in control of their business! They set the price they feel they are worth. So, for example we charge $89 per session. We recommend the CPT charge $95 per session to their long-time clients. It’s only $6 more per session and most people won’t mind (keep in mind that pricing varies depending on where you love – cost of living).

The CPT gets a $5 raise and the studio gets $1 to cover additional credit card charges and book keeping.

Everybody wins!

The CPT can continue to raise their prices every 1-2 years after that as they feel comfortable. Of course, we let the CPT know that their must always be the option for them to train with another one of our team members if they do not want to pay the higher price. After all, it wouldn’t be good for business if we were losing clients.

That’s enough updates for now and I hope this gives you some real insight into how we run our CPT hiring and pay process!





Comment on this Content

  • Shannon Billows

    Hey Steve, I’m still getting through all this fantastic information. i’m just curious. If you were to hire a trainer and they signed up a 30 minute session instead of 45 would you still pay them the same amount per session even if it is less cash. i know per hour you make more. ie id be planning on charging 50 per 30 minutes and 79 for 45. how do you work out the difference on how much the trainer would make and what your split would be.

    • Hi Shannon,

      Great questions and I would NOT pay them the same amount.

      We charge $59 for 30-minute sessions (we only sell them on rare occasions – as in 2-3 times per year to those that really can’t afford training).

      Instead of paying my people $45-56 on an $89/session, I will pay them $30-$35 for a 30-minute training session. This still allows them to make $60+/hour for training, which no other gym pays… so we get the best people as trainers and best clients ; )

      Hope this helps!

  • Sheila Townsend

    Hey Stephen,
    How do you determine what you pay a trainer each week if there is a short week?

    May 1st to 5th (was a wedesday to sunday…so naturally the trainer will have worked less hours than a traditional week. Would you still pay your trainer the lower rate for that week?
    May 6 to 12
    May 13-19
    May 20 – 26
    May 27- 31

    Or do you average the hours over the month/ 2 weeks?
    Just trying to figure it as of right now we pay our trainers monthly..


    • Hi Sheila,

      Thanks for the coment and hopefully my UPDATE notes above answer all your questions!

  • Sheila Townsend

    Hey Stephen,
    How do you determine what you pay a trainer if there is a short week?

    May 1st to 5th (was a wedesday to sunday…so naturally the trainer will have worked less hours than a traditional week. Would you still pay your trainer the lower rate for that week?
    May 6 to 12
    May 13-19
    May 20 – 26
    May 27- 31

    Or do you average the hours over the month/ 2 weeks?
    Just trying to figure it as of right now we pay our trainers monthly..


  • Greg Crawford

    Hey Stephan,

    You mentioned how much you pay your trainers, but what is that % of what you charge? How much are you making as the owner per session. I typically pay my trainers 50% of what I charge.


    • Hi Greg,

      Please revisit the post on how I pay my CPTs. I do not pay a percentage. Instead I pay them between $47-55/session when they reach full-time status (above 120 sessions a month). I also pay them a bonus at the end of the month which incentivizes them to make hit more sessions as a team and individuals. (Please see the S3 post on the 500 or 600 club)

      We typically charge $89 per session.

      50% is a good split, but philosophy is diffrent than most health clubs and studios. I want to pay the BEST trainers more than they could make anywhere else so that they have no interest in going anywhere else. This allows me to get well qualified individuals that I don’t have to babysit or put a lot of time into training them. Plus, I don’t have to worry about constant turnover and losing those CPTs clients when they decide to go somewhere else that pays better.

      I hope that makes sense!

  • Jeremie Guarderas

    Hey Steve,

    I am stepping up with the big boys soon and opening up my own indoor/outdoor bootcamp facility!

    Do you think paying my trainers 10% of every bootcamper is a good idea? So for every $199 – $249mo. bootcamper, the trainer would make roughly $20-$25 – multiply that times 30 women and they would make $600 – $750 for working 12-24hrs a month.

    I plan on starting with 6 different programs, so the way I see it is if my trainer does 2 programs per month they would be making would be making $1,200 – $1,500 (6 hrs wkly) plus PT money.

    What are your thoughts?

    PS: I started using the EFT method and boy o boy were you right… thanks!

  • Raymond Hinish

    How do you handle trainers who bring a number of clients with them? Do you add their clients to the pool and pay the trainer the percentage? If you hire a new trainer and she has 5 long standing clients which she receives $80 an hour for, do you add them to the pool and pay her the $37 per hour while she is building the clientelle? If so, how have trainers felt about this?

    • This happens with all the CPTs we hire for the most part. They usually come in with 2-3 clients and what we do is pay them at their highest potential pay raise for the 1st 60 days so that they can make some money as they’re building their client base.

      All sessions are paid the same rate, but we tell them that by bringing their current clients on board they are making it easier for themselves to reach their next pay bump.

      Plus, we have every sign non-competes which does not allow our full-time studio CPTs to train any clients outside of our business. (This does not apply for our in-home CPTs)

      Hope that helps!

  • Robert Brown

    What do you offer for benefits yourself included?

    • Since my CPTs are 1099’s I don’t think I can legally offer them health benefits, etc.

      BUT, it’s one reason why I do offer a monthly bonus if the hit 120 sessions! They can use this extra bonus money to put towards their health insurance. Plus, I tell them that instead of just paying them $3.00 less per session and paying for their health insurance I will instead pay them the maximum and allow them to pay for it and be able to write it off come tax time – a big benefit!

      Hope this helps!

      PS. I carry my own independent health Insurance through Blue Cross… it’s about $300 per person a month and I write it off. I do not pay for dental – I just pay for cleanings out of pocket.

  • Terry Ford

    Even though your trainers are independant contractors, do you have them sign a waiver of some sort, or contract?

    • All CPTs sign non-competes. They do not sign waivers… I do carry liablity insurance for the studio and they must also present proof that they are also insured. (See my post on liability insurance for more details)

  • I will write a new post on what I charge and how I structure pay.

  • Norman Belanger

    Same questions as Robert

  • Andrew Voris

    Wow! You are paying a ton!

    • You get what you pay for and this drastically reduces trainer turnover saving you tens of thousands in clients leaving with their CPTs – not to mention the time/stress/headaches of having to deal with finding replacements on short notice, etc ; )

  • Robert Selders

    Thanks for sharing how you pay your trainers. How much do you charge clients per session? Is the per session cost based on an hour or 30 minutes? Does it vary if the client is working with you, one of your seasoned trainers, or a new trainer?

  • Naresh Sehgal

    Hi Mate

    Great post

    Thanks for answering my questions