I got really into weight lifting when I was a sophomore in college. Realizing that waifishness wasn't a viable reality for me (at least my ass grew up in a time where Kardashians are cultural icons), I started reading bodybuilding.com, eventually found stumptuous.com, and joined up with the rugby squad. I ventured across the street to lift in Columbia's dirty, dirty gym because Barnard's iron wasn't heavy enough, and did lots of squats, deadlifts and bench presses. Dead bug, Dan John. Eventually I started watching Crossfit YouTube videos and started getting Olympic with my shit. I was a Theatre major. These facts coalesced and I decided to become an ACSM certified personal trainer upon graduating from school, thinking the schedule would be flexible enough for me to pursue my artistic goals while making a higher hourly than a retail/service job. There are some things that I really wish I knew before I decided to do that. I made some uniquely dumb mistakes (choosing to work at a Brooklyn gym when I lived in Harlem, getting a bit too caught up in the interesting social landscape of the gym where I worked), but from what I witnessed, there are some universal truths about personal training that are worth considering for anyone contemplating that road.
. Personal Training is a sales job. Yeah, you have to be good at fitness and whatever, but ultimately your sales pitch has to be well-honed if you want to keep your job. Expect to get more input about selling than training from your employer. Make friends with the membership sales folks who will hopefully throw people your way who wanted a trainer when they walked in the door so that you don't have to resort to grovelling.
2. Commercial gyms will shaft you. Personal training is expensive, but you get paid at a major discount. If you work for a commercial chain gym, the corporation will stick about 75% of the fee in their pocket.
3. The hours are so weird. Most people work out before work and after work. This results in trainers working early mornings, late nights and weekends if they want to get anywhere close to a full time schedule. Be prepared to figure out a strategy for dealing with awkward midday gaps.
4. You think you're body conscious now? HAH! Your body is your advertising as a personal trainer, so you'll be under close scrutiny from potential clients. Gyms are obviously appearance-focused (and pretty sexually charged, too...bodies! spandex! rhythmic movements!), and spending hours in a place that makes cash on the dream of superficial perfection can start messing with your brain.
For people whose ultimate passion is working in the fitness industry, personal training can be great I'm sure, but the eternal Craigslist ads for new trainers are eternal for a reason. It's a revolving door. I saw people who thrived. I even got to a place where I was working enough hours to finally qualify for health insurance through my job (though I saw people whose hours temporarily dipped below that threshold get swiftly kicked off of the coverage). For me, though, it wasn't a viable way to make money doing something I was interested in while simultaneously pursuing other passions like I originally thought. Getting to a place where I was making enough money to survive in New York took a huge amount of time and energy, and left my non-working hours mostly devoted to sleeping. While I've made the most art when I was either a student or unemployed, my current nine-to-fivey existence feels a lot more flexible than personal training ever did.