Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became A Personal Trainer in Dubai
I promised to write this blog a while ago, but I’ve been so busy with work, life and traveling that I haven’t had time to sit down and look at your questions until now. I’ve received so many emails asking when this blog would be up, so I hope you’ll find the answer to everything you’d like to know, whether you’re just curious or considering a career as a Personal Trainer in sunny Dubai.
“Home Personal Training” Is The Thing
In Dubai, there are large numbers of amazing gyms, and some of them even allow freelance personal trainers. However, it’s very normal that the trainer comes to the client’s apartment gym, home gym or even train them in their living room. In Dubai people expect convenience, and what’s more convenient than having your trainer coming to you?
So, on a workday, you have to factor in travel-time for each session, on top of the 60 minutes you’re actually training the client. I try to keep my clients within 30 minutes of each other, but that’s not always possible, especially in rush-hour. This is costly because of the time spent driving, the gas used and Salik (a road tax).
Not all freelance trainers offer at home training, and male trainers can often make most of their clients come to them at the larger gyms. As a female trainer, it can be a bit more difficult. But in the end, it’s up to you whether or not you think it’s worth it, is up to you but, for me at least, the job involves a lot of driving.
Wacky Work Hours
This is not just applicable for personal trainers in Dubai, but goes for personal trainers everywhere in the world: We work absurd hours.
My day usually starts with clients from 6 am or 7 am. Some days I work with PT clients all throughout the day until I finish around 9 pm in the evening (sometimes 10 pm).
Other days I have a few hours to myself in the middle of the day, where I’m either going to the gym to train myself or going home to take a nap.
During busy times I usually work 15-16 hour days, coaching up to 10 sessions daily, 5-6 days per week.
Clients will ask you to be available whenever it’s most convenient for them, and as a self-employed trainer, it can be hard to say no. Especially in the beginning when you’re just building up your client base. Personally, I prefer to keep my weekends free to re-energize myself as currently I work 6 days a week and can’t find much time for myself during the busy work weeks.
You will also need to be prepared to have your schedule altered constantly. I can’t even count the number of times my schedule changes in the course of a week. In the beginning, I was surprised about how many clients will book and pay for the sessions only to cancel with short notice, even though they know they will be charged for the sessions (personally I have a 24-hour cancellation policy).
Visa, VAT & Benefits
- VAT is a 5% tax on the service you provide that has to be paid to the government.
- To legally be in Dubai and do freelance personal training, you need a residence visa that allows you to work.
- If you work freelance, make sure you purchase a good health insurance!
- If you work freelance you won’t automatically save up anything for holidays, sick leave, emergency leave or retirement. Keep this in mind and put least 10% of your monthly income into a savings account.
Even though I work freelance, I’m technically employed through a company that handles my VAT, visa and health insurance. I pay them for this service every month.
If you are heading out to Dubai absolutely solo, to work as a freelance trainer, you will need to register a company to get a trade license and your residence visa.
Unfortunately, I know very little about this process, as I started out working for a personal training company for almost 2 years, before starting to work freelance.
As far as I know, a trade license and work visa will cost you about 15000 AED ($4100) per year, plus additional fees for your medical check and health insurance. On top of this comes fees to have your certificates legalized, which I did from Dubai. It cost me 3500 AED ($950) but can be done cheaper if you go do it yourself before moving here. Your documents will need to be legalized by whichever embassy you’re a citizen of and then at the Ministry of Labor in Dubai. If you plan on driving here you also need to pay a fee to have your driver’s license converted.
Last but not least, do your research and make sure you get a second opinion from someone (preferably a local lawyer who knows the laws) before signing a contract or agreeing to pay someone to help you with getting a visa etc.
I definitely recommend starting out the way I did, if you’re anything like me and you want to have some sort of security while starting out in a foreign country.
Getting your visa through a personal training company means they’ll guide you through the process of getting your visa. This way you’ll also have work insurance and health insurance, so you are covered in case anything happens. Just note that most employers require you to work for them for 1-2 years before you can make this transition. You are more than welcome to contact me to get the name of the company I’m with.
Your income in Dubai is tax-free but living costs are at the high end. You can compare the costs of living in Dubai with living in other major cities such as New York, London, and Paris.
I came here on a monthly salary of 8000 AED ($2200), thinking it would cover basic living costs and car rental, but it turned out to be very tight and I struggled for a while, before getting a raise. Since moving here I’ve been living in a 500 sqft. studio apartment about 15 minutes from Dubai Marina. Rent and utility bills, including wifi and parking, total at about 4500 AED ($1250) per month. For the same money, you can live closer to the city center by getting a room in a shared flat. Personally, I just enjoy having my own space.
Groceries can be very cheap or very expensive depending on where you shop and what products you choose. I find that the cost of organic products, berries & good (for my taste) yogurt can be higher than I was used to in Denmark. Dining out is fairly affordable, expect something between 50-100 AED for a meal at most regular restaurants and cafés.
Working as a personal trainer in Dubai is wonderfully rewarding. Seeing your clients improve week after week and reach their goals is the best. Knowing that you’re partially responsible for their success is an amazing feeling and it makes all the early mornings and late nights worth it!
You shouldn’t be a personal trainer only because you want to make a lot of money. Personal training is all about building great relationships and help people improve their health and lifestyle in a safe, sustainable and successful way. You have to really care, and you have to really care about the person you’re helping, not just the money they pay you. If you enjoy working hard and you can do so while still making the clients feel like you genuinely care about them, you can earn a great living (and as mentioned earlier, your income in Dubai is tax-free).
In the end, it is what you make of it. If you put your heart and mind into it you can achieve greatness!
If you still have inquiries about being a personal trainer in Dubai, feel free to write a comment or email me with your question. I’d love to do a Q&A in the future!