Many instructors find their way into the fitness industry because they’re seeking a flexible work environment where they can truly follow their passion: helping others live fuller, healthier lives. This career path is not without compromise, however, as many instructors can find it tough to still bring in a stable income even while juggling teaching multiple classes per week. The opportunity to be hired as a full-time employee at a studio or gym can be appealing, as that often coincides with more stability, benefits, etc. Yet there are important considerations to make, especially depending on whether you want to teach at more than one studio. Here, we weigh the pro’s and con’s of working as an employee or an independent contractor as an instructor.
What to Consider as an Independent Contractor
Perhaps the greatest argument for working as an independent contractor is the ability to be fully independent and flexible in your work environment and schedule. “The advantages of being an independent contractor are that you can work the hours you want, choose your clients, etc.,” says Karen Bender, a human resources consultant for Hausmann Johnson Insurance in Madison, Wis. Personal trainers and instructors have the ability to teach what they want when they want and to bring in income from a variety of sources. You might teach class at one studio in the morning and another in the afternoon, which not only allows you to bring in more money, but also widen your network of client contacts and increase your presence in the fitness community.
However, being an independent contractor is risky and expensive, as independent contractors have to pay their own benefit costs and insurance. According to Bender, “The independent contractor is paying the full Social Security and Medicare tax normally shared with your employer. This is over 15 percent of your income, which is not insignificant.”
Your position at a studio may also be slightly more tenuous than if you were a full-time employee, meaning, you could potentially be let go at any moment should the business’ needs or priorities change. In this event, there would be no unemployment to fall back on, Bender says. She adds though, “If you’re offering your talents to others on the market, you move on to other clients, knowing that this is the case and part of the risk of being an independent contractor.
What to Consider as an Employee
Working full-time as an employee of a studio or gym certainly has its perks. The security of a regular paycheck can’t be beat and the benefits that come with full time employment also make it a favored option for so many. Because you’re getting a steady check and other benefits that come with full-time employment, chances are you’ll be paid less than a contractor would. However, contractors still have to pay taxes on their income and are responsible for their own benefits.
In addition, employees have the benefit of reaping the rewards of training and professional development. They’ll also appreciate the job security that comes with being a member of the studio or gym team. Employees may be more likely to commit and invest time in their individual studio than an independent contractor would, meaning, you could build a much stronger community with deeper ties at your home studio. In most cases, however, being an employee at one studio limits your options to explore and teach at other studios, so if you’re still new to the fitness scene and figuring out what you’re most passionate about teaching, it may be worth it to work as an independent contractor until you’re ready to be more settled.