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Becoming a personal trainer allows you to work a flexible job that helps people daily. It also allows you to start your own business. However, deciding what business structure to use can be challenging. This article will outline:

  • the difference between becoming an employee or going out on your own;
  • what structures you can use to set up a personal training business; and
  • what you need to do to create these various forms of business. 

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Becoming an Employee vs Going Out on Your Own

Some personal trainers become employees of existing gyms or clubs, either as personal trainer or gym instructor who takes classes. In these cases, they will receive a salary from the gym and will likely pay tax through PAYE

However, if you do not want to become an employee, you could create your own personal training business. Whatever form this takes, creating a business means you will likely have to pay rent to a club or facility to use their equipment while keeping your income for yourself and operating your business as an individual. Alternatively, you could operate an online personal training business. Another option is to work from your client’s homes or set up a small home gym. 

Business Structures for a Personal Training Business

There are pros and cons to working as an individual or becoming an employee. What business model suits you will depend on what you want from your business. There are three main business structures that you can choose from. You could:

  • become a sole trader;
  • create a business partnership; or
  • register a new company.  

Sole Trader

If you choose to rent a space at an existing club or work out of your client’s homes, you may want to consider setting up a business as a sole trader. A sole trader business is an easy type of business to set up. It allows you to have complete responsibility for your business and its operations. You will keep all of your business’s profits and be liable for all of its debts. Indeed, many personal trainers who operate independently become sole traders, as they do not need more employees or partners to help them run their business.

If you operate as a sole trader, you can pay tax as an individual using your IRD number. However, if you earn more than $60,000 a year, you may want to register for GST. You do not need to set up or register with any entity. However, it is a good idea to ensure that your personal training qualification is up to date to legitimise your business as an individual. This will ensure that new clients trust your business and your personal training services look professional.

To start working as a sole trader, you should choose a business name and apply for a business number. Additionally, registering with ACC should be considered as you may injure yourself as a personal trainer and need to claim assistance from ACC. 


You could also consider setting up a business partnership if you know other personal trainers or individuals who want to start a business. This structure will allow you to share the costs of the business and the decision-making process. Additionally, you may feel that your strengths are not in business or marketing. So, a partnership can be an excellent solution if you find someone proficient in business management or social media advertising. Overall, having a sophisticated and well-managed business could help you stand out in the fitness industry and attract potential clients.

If you want to create a partnership, it is good to set up a partnership agreement. This document outlines the partners’ roles and responsibilities, how income will be distributed, and the partners’ shares in the business. Additionally, you will need to choose a business name and apply for a New Zealand business number. It would be best if you also considered registering with ACC. Partners may be physical trainers who may injure themselves. 

A partnership has a unique IRD number but does not pay income tax. Instead, the partners pay income tax through their IRD numbers as individuals. Partners will pay income tax based on their share of the partnership. 


If you want to create a more formal entity for your personal training, you could create a personal training company. This will create a separate legal entity with its assets and debts. However, they can be complicated to set up and have various maintenance requirements. 

If you set up a limited liability company, you will no longer have personal liability for any debts the company may accrue. So, your personal assets are not associated with the company.

To set up a company, there are a few steps that you need to take. Indeed, it will take time, so it is important to consider your options before starting. First, you will need to register with the Companies Office, ensure that your company name is unique and create an IRD number for your company. Unlike a partnership or sole trader, you will receive income from the company rather than as an individual. You will also need to register directors and shareholders and create a company constitution

Key Takeaways

You can take a few different approaches when you want to start working as a personal trainer. You can become an employee of an existing organisation or go out on your own. If you want to start your own business, you could become a sole trader, set up a business partnership or register a company. Importantly, choose a structure based on how you want to operate your business, based on your lifestyle and how you want to work. 

If you need help deciding which business structure is best for you, our experienced business lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. You will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I create a company as an individual?

Yes, you can create a company as an individual. However, you could also operate as a sole trader if you do not want to go through the formal registration process of creating a company. The main difference is that you are effectively the business as a sole trader. However, a company is a separate entity. 

Do I need to create a business partnership with another personal trainer?

No, you could enter into a business partnership with anyone. They could be a business person while you handle the personal training side of things. 

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