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HFE instructor leading an exercise to music class
HFE instructor leading an exercise to music class

The Highs and Lows of Freelance Work

5 minute read

If you are considering becoming a group exercise to music instructor, it’s important that you are familiar with the concept of freelance employment.  Most studio instructors are employed on a casual class-by-class basis and as such are only paid for the classes or sessions that they actually teach. Holidays and sick pay are privileges afforded only to employees.  It’s not all bad though – at least your tax won’t be deducted at source!

Some instructors are paid directly by the health club, leisure center or sports facility in which they teach. Others however, really take the plunge and commit to hiring their own facilities (dance studio, village hall etc.) and pocket the spoils over and above their venue hire fees. As the great business philosopher, Jim Rohn said, “profits are better than wages”

At the outset of any career in exercise to music, there are many group exercise teachers that just can’t conjure up the courage to take that all-important leap of faith. What if things don’t work out? What if people don’t like me? Maybe I won’t get enough classes to cover my living expenses? How will I make the transition?

It is true that there are risks involved with freelance work but it is also important to be mindful that no job is truly safe, irrespective of the employer. If the last 10 years in the business world has taught us anything, it is that any company has the potential to fold – nothing lasts forever.

If you are stuck in a job that you hate, you really don’t have anything to lose! Of course, you could do what most people do and make excuses as to why now isn’t the right time. Maybe the economy is a bit flat, why not just wait until your car is paid off, or even better, perhaps you’ll wait until Labour are back in Parliament? The truth is that if you’re the sort of person that makes justifications like these as to why you won’t (not can’t) take Nike’s advice and “just do it”, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever do it – you are in DENIAL (Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying). Worst of all, you’re lying to yourself, and in the process depriving yourself of your future job satisfaction, happiness, fulfillment and opportunity.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s explore some of the key highs and lows of freelance work. While we’ve presented these in the context of group exercise, many of these benefits (and more) also apply to those working as personal trainers.


  • You’ll have an exciting and rewarding career
  • You get the opportunity and privilege to make a real difference to people’s lives
  • If you set-up your own classes, you’re earnings will increase significantly and you will have an almost uncapped earning potential – especially if you get others to teach these classes for you!
  • You won’t be chained to a desk – you’ll be surprised how much your health improves by being on your feet more
  • You won’t need to workout as often because you’ll get all the exercise you need at work. That’s right, you get paid for working out!
  • To some extent, you’ll get to pick you’re own hours and be your own boss
  • Your day will be varied because you’ll likely teach in a number of different clubs/centres, especially if you have multiple skills and can teach different types of classes (Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Aerobics, Body Pump etc…)
  • You can start out small and scale-up the work as and when opportunities present and your confidence grows*
  • Your tax isn’t deducted at source so you can offset your travel expenses, clothing, music and any other direct expenses that you incur while running your business. You won get this as benefit as an employee**



  • It’s likely that you’ll start out covering other people’s classes until the clubs change their timetable or somebody leaves. This is never easy because class participants don’t generally like too much change
  • You’ll have to register your self as self-employed and submit a Self Assessment tax return at the end of each financial year
  • You’ll have to buy your own music if you are delivering exercise to music classes as opposed to teaching Pilates or Yoga which traditionally don’t use music
  • Your working day will likely be split and you will probably also have to work some evenings and weekends***
  • You will have to make sure that you put money away each month to cover periods throughout the year when your on holiday or sick, including Christmas when the general demand for classes is at low. Don’t worry though, January and February will more than make up for this!


*If you are lucky enough to have an understanding employer, perhaps he or she will let you cut back your hours gradually or work flexibly? This will give you more time to acquire your classes and generate a greater fan base; thus mitigating the risks

**If you are in doubt as to what you can and cannot claim, you should speak to a qualified accountant

***Many instructors, particularly those with a niche client base and/or specialist skills and qualifications manage to avoid this (e.g. older adult instructors or pre and post-natal teachers)

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