If you want to attract the best freelance fitness instructors, you need to value the ones you have. It is not enough to provide an average wage, to coax and keep talented freelancers you have to acknowledge the reciprocal nature of the relationship.
As a freelance pilates and fitness instructor, I’ve worked for many gyms, fitness studios and schools. I’ve taught for companies that value and respect their staff and for the opposite, where instructors were demeaned as replaceable. I worked for the latter type of organisation when I was new and inexperienced. These employers are a means to an end- a line on your CV that gets you through the door of a better company.
While some gyms or studios might think that a high turn over rate is no big deal, their clients and staff certainly do. Members tire of the production-line regurgitation of coaches- and staff are, well, out of there.
The world of freelance instructing is small, the camaraderie is strong, and word gets around very quickly. Those few moments of overlap- as one class clears out and the next shuffles in- is when instructors let rip on no-go employers.
So if you want to attract the best freelance fitness instructors, you need to follow our guide.
Go to them
First and foremost is the recruitment process. If you truly want the best, you have to hunt them down:
- Ring up training academies and ask for recommendations.
- Explore Instagram to see which instructors are proactive in promoting themselves and their careers.
- Join Facebook groups for instructors. You will very quickly learn who is in demand for cover.
- LinkedIn is less used by fitness teachers, but the business savvy ones are on there.
- Ask your own instructors to recommend friends.
- Most importantly, go to classes outside of your business- this is good practice anyway- and see the talent for yourself. Do not hand out your card at the venue, but get in touch with the instructor afterwards, via social media or regular means. If you think this it is a dirty practice, remember that they are most likely freelance and are perfectly entitled to work for multiple venues.
Consider holding auditions
Group auditions are usually not a pleasant or rewarding experience for the applicant. If they are experienced, it seems to undermine their achievements. Instead, prove your interest by going to a class they teach elsewhere. Alternatively, invite them to interview and audition in private.
Nevertheless, if you are looking to do a mass hiring spree and have little time, auditions are an effective way to recruit. At times I have even enjoyed studio auditions. I learned from the other instructors and was interested in what the company had to offer. There was a sense of mutual respect between the prospective employee and employer, both looking to learn and gain from each other.
In other not-so-pleasant instances, studios made applicants hang around all day to participate in each other’s mock classes. The hiring staff had no interest in taking questions from applicants, as they were too busy checking that auditionees fit their exact mould. Speaking to fellow instructors afterwards, I discovered that the best ones no longer had any interest in taking the job.
Provide feedback, if requested. For the love of all things that are good, if applicants have dedicated a day of unpaid time, the least you can do is politely critique their performance.
Trust their expertise; give them autonomy
Premium fitness instructors are creative, energetic and enthusiastic. What is the fastest way to stamp this out? Make them stick to a strict brief.
There is a trend in many studios these days to force instructors to recite a second-for-second template class. Where is the excitement in that? Both instructors and class participants will be bored. It is fine to have a studio method- something that sets you apart- but instructors must be trusted to deliver a lesson they believe in and enjoy.
Give them room to breathe, to change the glute workout once in a while. Otherwise, forget about instructors altogether and sell DVD workouts.
Do not dole out punishments to professionals
I worked for a well-known gym chain that charged their instructors £30 if they were ten or more minutes late. This fine doubled if an instructor missed the class altogether. It may seem like a fair punishment- the gym relied on its class delivery, so members complained if one was cancelled last minute. However, charging instructors is a reprehensible way to deal with unreliable freelancers.
There are a plethora of reasons why an instructor might be late. Most have their day jampacked with classes and have to travel from place to place in between. This is the nature of freelancing and the only way they can make a decent wage. Travel disruptions, a last-minute accident, whatever the incident may be, it is most likely out of their control.
However, if an instructor proves unreliable on more than one occasion, do the sensible thing for your business and fire them. Most instructors are committed and professional, so treat them this way until they prove to be otherwise.
Want to learn more? Read: How to retain key staff members
Respect the “free” in freelance
In its very name, freelancing gives workers the freedom to plan their own timetable and work for multiple companies. Do not tie freelancers into complicated monogamous contracts.
I have spoken to instructors involved in lawsuits with previous employers who forbid them from teaching at other venues, often for years after leaving their job with them. Unless you provide novice to expert training plus an enviable wage, how can you forbid freelancers to deliver their trade elsewhere? It is reprehensible.
The top freelance instructors do not stay with your company because of a stubborn contract. They remain because they are respected, inspired and well paid.
In any city or town, there is a well-known blacklist of companies to avoid. The only instructors who do not know about the list are inexperienced and/ or blacklisted themselves.