Introduction to Online Personal Training
In today’s high-tech world, just about everything is available on the internet. Whether it’s online shopping, movies or video games, you can find it, buy it, or rent it on the internet. The good news for fitness professionals is that this even applies to personal training, which can be done all through the convenience of a laptop or smartphone.
This may seem counter-intuitive at first, because personal training is typically associated with a client and a coach working side-by-side with each other in a gym or private training studio.
Can you imagine that? Training your clients without being nearby to monitor, adjust and perfect their technique? The nerve!
Well, when you take a moment to think about it, technology has helped revolutionize so many industries and created countless efficiencies in society. An increasing number of individuals have grown up surrounded by tech and are seeking out convenient ways to get fit through their phones and tablets – the medium that they are most comfortable with. Times are quickly changing.
As a result, the industry and market demand for online personal trainers continues to grow each year. Whether you love being an online influencer, are a techno-phile or are looking to develop a whole new income stream, online personal training could be the perfect fit for you.
What Do Online Personal Trainers Do?
Online personal trainers perform all of the same essential functions as in-person training, with the biggest difference simply being that the trainer and the client don’t happen to be in the same room at the same time.
The same basic functions of personal training still apply to online personal training:
- Client intake and assessment
- Program design and goal setting
- Measuring progress and periodic check-ins
- Client motivation, retention and satisfaction
The vast majority of the trainer-client interactions take place on video chat, through text, over the phone or via email. Although some conversations are live and others are pre-recorded, there always exists a direct relationship between the trainer and client.
Online personal trainers work closely with their clients to help establish and achieve their goals just as they do at the gym. Simply put, personal trainers use technology to replace the gym with a chatroom.
Why Do Clients Hire Online Personal Trainers?
The demand for online personal trainers is growing due to the explosion of technology and how inter-connected the world has become. Surrounded by healthy-this and unhealthy-that, society is increasingly starting to take better notice of their health habits.
Here are some of the most common client profiles that choose online training:
- Those who prefer working with technology
- Those who prefer the comfort of their own location
- Those who are short on time and cannot make it to a gym
- Those who may not want to go see a trainer in person
- The trainer that they vibe with the most doesn’t live nearby
- The trainer with the right skills and credentials is not within commute distance
- Those on a budget as online training is often a more cost effective solution
Whether you’re working with clients online or offline, keep in mind that they all battle with the same anxieties, health issues and motivational struggles regardless of platform. These things don’t stop being challenges because you’re interacting through the internet.
Should I Become an Online Personal Trainer?
With a quickly growing industry and greater demand from individuals who prefer the convenience of online training, there are many things to keep in mind when considering whether to become an online personal trainer:
- It can be tough work at first but it’s worth it in the end. It’s not always easy keeping others accountable while pushing for results, but it’s a rewarding career and you get to earn a living while helping and meeting new people.
- If you’re able to be a successful personal trainer offline, you can do the same online. The primary functions of a personal trainer don’t change simply because you’re working through technology.
- Online training can provide an additional income stream or even entirely replace your current one if done right. Understand what it takes to provide a quality training program and the money will come with it.
- If you’ve ever wanted to train your clients while working from home, online personal training allows just that. You’re able to connect with a significantly larger client base while still building in a bit of flexibility and freedom into your schedule when you’re not hopping from gym to gym.
- Personal training requires an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to self-motivate to grow one’s income and career. This is especially true for online personal trainers since it can be easy to allow details to slip through the cracks when you’re not physically meeting the client.
- Transitioning to an online trainer doesn’t have to be expensive. While there are paid software platforms to help manage clients, you can still function with free tools and resources available on the web and on your smartphone.
- If you cringed at the thought of using software, you’ll have to overcome your fear of tech. How else are you going to be an online personal trainer without being online? Learning new systems always takes a bit of time but it’s critical to develop processes and eliminate time wasters for a successful business.
- Where do you see the industry headed in the next 5-10 years? If you think a growing percentage of personal training will shift to being online, it’s probably a good idea to stay on top of the latest trends in the marketplace. Technology shifts so fast that it’s not incredibly far-fetched to imagine a future in which everything is online only.
You don’t always have to take an all-or-nothing approach, especially when starting out. You can train clients both online and offline, whatever suits your personal and business goals.
Can You Earn More as an Online or Offline Personal Trainer?
It all depends on you and your drive to succeed. Online personal trainers can typically take on a greater number of clients but will also charge slightly lower rates to their in-person counterparts. Since the pay effectively balances out in the end, it’s important to also consider the lifestyle you’re looking for.
Since you don’t have to deal with the physical commute of going to see your client, you can squeeze more clients into your schedule. As long as you can build in the right systems and processes, online personal training is incredibly efficient from this perspective.
On the other hand, in-person trainers charge a premium for that face-to-face interaction and individualized instruction that simply can’t be replicated through a computer screen.
Therefore, give it some thought and don’t go giving up all of your in-person clients just yet. You want to make sure it’s the path for you and that you’ve built your online fitness business big enough to support your lifestyle and bills before making a full transition.
How Much Can You Make as an Online Personal Trainer?
Your income level is a function of how many clients you have and the rates you charge. Because they are able to take on many clients simultaneously, online personal trainers can earn up to six-figures or more. We’ll get into rates a bit more later in this article, but you can see how an online trainer can make $100,000 with just 35 clients based on this simple calculation:
Assume your rate = $240 per month or $60 per week
($100,000/year) / ($240/month) / (12 months) = 35 clients
Considering that you’ve got access to literally millions of people worldwide through the internet and social media, the odds of you being able to land 35 paying clients starts to sound pretty good.
Your pricing and income level will always be dictated by the price your clients are willing to pay, and, the price your clients are willing to pay is directly correlated to the perceived value received from your services. Continue providing a high-quality product and your clients will continue to reward that quality financially.
How to Become an Online Personal Trainer
Now that you have an understanding of what online personal trainers do, let’s check out the exact steps to become one.
Step 1: Get Your Certification
Don’t overlook the critical step of getting certified. There are so many online personal trainers out there who simply make the claim but don’t have what it takes to back it up. Educate yourself, get your Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification and start building that long-term trust and credibility with your clients.
When it comes to certifications, there is no “best online personal trainer certification”. In fact, there is no specific certification for online personal training. Instead, you’re going to have to go through one of the top accredited certifying organizations and get a “standard” CPT certification just like the trainers at your local gym.
Those who demonstrate mastery of a certain skill are the ones who earn the most and charge the highest rates. This means always learning and pursuing an in-depth understanding of your trade (CEUs anyone?). Having a certification provides credibility and shows that you’ve got at least a minimum knowledge base within the fitness industry.
Step 2: Get Insured
When running a business, you always want to steer clear of any potential legal issues that could put all of your hard work at risk. This is why it’s important to have business liability insurance. In the rare instance that your client gets injured while training with you, you want to be sure that you are covered and protected.
Just because your clients may be training from the comfort of their own living room or at their office gym doesn’t change the fact that they are following your advice and performing challenging workout routines prescribed by you.
Similar to certifications, there is no “online personal trainer insurance”. There is simply general liability insurance and professional liability insurance for personal trainers. Check with your insurance and describe your situation for more information and a custom quote.
Always take the proper precautions and sign up for an insurance policy before you start training your clients online.
Step 3: Pick Your Niche and Win New Clients
Starting out new always comes with the monumental challenge of building a book of business and getting your first online personal training clients. This is why you should pick a niche – a very specific subset of individuals within a larger market. Finding your niche allows you to specialize within a certain demographic to position yourself as the go-to leader.
Smart businesses will always identify a target market first and then fill the need for that market second, rather just simply showing up and going after anything that sticks.
Here are a few example niches/markets that trainers can specialize in:
- Personal training for skaters
- Personal training for snowboarders
- Personal training for professional athletes
- Personal training for the elderly or youth
- Personal training for celebrities
- Personal training for the children of celebrities
At first, you may not have the luxury of being very selective with client populations up front, but it is something you can work towards as you gain experience.
Taking in friends, family and referrals is usually your best bet in the beginning. They’re great for providing useful feedback while acting as your test subjects.
Social media and other advertising platforms also offer a great way to attract new clients. You can utilize your online presence to host fitness challenges, offer freebie giveaways and other general promotions to build a bit of buzz.
Make sure your target audience sees the value you offer and understands what makes you stand out from the crowd.
Step 4: Get Connected and Be Social
Every business needs an online presence to stay competitive in today’s digital world, and this holds completely true for personal trainers as well. Here are a few ideas to help you build your online brand:
- Build a website – A personal training website describes your services and offers a way for potential customers to contact you. All trainers should have their own website regardless of whether they offer online training or not. Some other great ideas to post to your website include:
- Testimonials and reviews
- Client before-and-after photos (with their permission)
- Details of your industry experience, certifications or education obtained
- Blog articles to share your perspective on training topics
- Nutrition guides, ebooks, workout templates, sample recipes, etc.
- Be active on social media – Social media has a massive user base and is widely popular amongst personal trainers because it allows you to quickly get set up with just a few photos and immediately start marketing your business. However, it takes more than simply setting up a profile. You need to stay active and build a loyal following to establish trust with your audience to convert them into clients. Engage with users’ posts and you’ll find they’ll do the same in return. Social media includes various platforms such as:
- Facebook (groups)
- Reddit and more
- Engage with email – Email is still one of the most reliable ways of connecting with other people. Because an email doesn’t leave the recipient’s inbox until a specific action is taken, it’s a great way to make sure your message is seen. With emails, you also own your full contact list which means there’s a much risk of losing touch with clients. Can you imagine only interacting with clients over Facebook Messenger, and then one day, suddenly, Facebook decides to discontinue all messaging features? You can curse and scream at Zuck all you want, but what really matters is whether or not you’ll be able to keep your business afloat if this scenario should happen.
- Start a podcast – Podcasts are a great way to pick up clients who are looking for informative audio content. Podcasts have become increasingly popular as people look to stay productive during their lengthy commutes and other down time. You could either create your own podcast covering hot and trending topics within the industry, or simply reach out to existing podcasts to manage your way on as a guest speaker. Podcasts are always looking for new guest talent, as it helps to expand their own audience in return, so you certainly won’t have a shortage to pick from.
- Advertising platforms – Advertising allows you to communicate your brand and interact with potential customers that you may not have otherwise had access to. Advertising can open up opportunities for clients to find you, but you will still have to demonstrate your expertise and provide a reason as to why one should choose you over the competition. Some popular digital advertising platforms that work well for personal trainers are ads by Yelp! Google, Facebook and Instagram.
Step 5: Pick a Software Platform
Successful trainers know the importance of building systems and processes that have the ability to streamline their business. Software tools exist to save you time and money by reducing the effort spent on client intake, tracking, logging, and other administrative work that pulls you away from focusing on your clients.
Luckily, there are many different all-in-one software packages designed specifically for personal trainers. Most software programs offer a supporting mobile app (iOS and Android) as well as desktop versions. Most software programs typically charge a recurring monthly fee, but the cost will be more than made up with your growing book of business. While each trainer has their own preference, here is a list of the most popular software for online personal trainers:
- Total Coaching
- PT Distinction
These platforms offer a range of features to facilitate your workflow, including:
- Create an exercise program for each client
- Track meals and nutrition
- View extensive exercise libraries
- Share progress photos and videos
- Communicate in real time
- Accept payments
Paid programs are great, but when you’re just starting out trying to save a little dough, software may not be in the budget. The great news is that all of the same essential processes can be handled through a combination of free systems without spending any money at all. Here are a few wallet-friendly ideas:
- Client management – Google Docs is your biggest friend. With spreadsheets, word documents, forms, a calendar and more, you have a ton of versatile software tools readily available. Take some time to build some great templates to plan for future scalability.
- Check ins and progress updates – Video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype, allow you to hold video calls to check in with clients and observe live workouts. Clients can also send photos and videos to the trainer via email or text to provide visuals. Food trackers such as MyFitnessPal and Lose It! make it very easy for clients to log and share their progress with you.
- Accepting payment – Chances are your clients aren’t paying you in cash so you’ll need another way to accept payments. Stripe and Square offer great premium payment solutions for a small fee, which can be integrated directly into your website. Otherwise, consider Paypal, Zelle, Square, Cash App and Venmo, all of which allow individuals to transfer payments for free.
Don’t waste precious time rebuilding the wheel with each client. Select an online personal training software platform that works best for you. Otherwise, start familiarizing yourself with the free tools mentioned above. If you’ve already got systems in place working with current clients, then you’re already off to a great start.
As your client base grows, you’ll be glad that you invested the time into proper systems so your business can scale.
Step 6: Track Client Progress & Check Ins
Tracking progress remains as important to personal training online as it does offline because it’s the only true way to properly measure whether clients are advancing towards their goals. Sure, someone can “feel” great, but you need to be able to demonstrate proven and measured results for the client to truly see the value of your services.
Since you won’t be there with the clients, here are a few ways to track your clients remotely:
- Have the client send you progress pics as well as videos of their form and technique. Not all clients will be comfortable in front of the camera, but you should support and encourage them to do so because photos provide visual evidence of progress. Photos make it incredibly easy to see how far along they are or to correct their misaligned form. On top of this, most clients will be happy to continue paying your fees if they continue to see improvements and what they see in the mirror.
- Clients can submit their body weight on a recurring basis. It is generally recommended to take a body weight measurement once per week at the same time of the day with mornings being best. For example, have your client weigh themselves each Monday morning at 6am. Body weight isn’t always the most accurate measurement since there are so many fluctuations in hydration levels and body composition, but it is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to keep track.
- For clients who are focused on performance, certain metrics such as a one-rep max, reps-for-time or 50 yard dash time are invaluable. These metrics clearly prove to clients that their hard work is paying off and they’re bound to feel it too.
- Clients can track their body measurements but only as long as they are trained on how to measure themselves consistently in the same manner. The measurement needs to be taken at the exact same spot and in the exact same way each time. Measuring your right bicep area isn’t always easy when you’re doing it alone. As a result, body measurements can be somewhat inaccurate.
- Body fat levels can be measured if your client has a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) machine at home. Portable models are easy to keep on hand and some body weight scales even have a BIA function built in. Trying to take one’s own body fat measurement using a body fat caliper is just too difficult and is not recommended.
- Some clients with more severe health concerns may use tests such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, etc. Whenever working with clients that rely on these measurements, be sure that they are also consulting a licensed medical professional.
- Be sure to schedule a set time to check in with your clients (at least weekly) in order to build in a strong sense of accountability. Mondays tend to work best as it marks the start of a new week, but any day will work just fine depending on your and your clients’ schedules. Tracking progress will always be a fundamental component of personal training.
Step 7: What Type of Online Training Packages to Offer
Your packages won’t be entirely different from those you would offer offline, but when it comes to online personal training, you have to keep in mind that since you won’t be interacting with clients face to face, it will be important to hold them accountable in other ways, including their financial commitment. This is not only important for your clients’ results but also in maintaining your income level.`
There are many ways to structure an online personal training package and you’ll find your preference. Here is the general setup we see most within the industry:
- Exercise plus nutrition package – This is a comprehensive solution that covers all the basics from workout planning to nutritional advice.
- Nutrition-only package – Great for individuals who only require a bit of ongoing nutritional advice to complement their already-existing exercise routine.
Notice that exercise-only packages are not listed above. The reason being that, as many trainers know, working for results with a client that isn’t sticking to a sensible diet can be nearly impossible! It’s better to offer a comprehensive solution that actually solves their problems and produces real results.
Also very important to remember from your personal training certification is that specific meal plans should only be provided by licensed professionals. This means you cannot tell clients to eat this, this and that. However, you can provide general guidelines and recommendations such as information on macro ranges, calorie counting tips and other weight management strategies.
Online training packages are often structured over 6, 8 or even 12 weeks. This lines up well with the duration of most fitness plans. Working with a client that is committed to your program for this length of time is always going to be a lot easier to manage and motivate through the process than someone looking for overnight change.
The general range of what online personal trainers charge for these types of packages is:
Exercise plus nutrition package – $50-$200+ per week
Nutrition-only package – $40-$100+ per week
The ranges are wide as rates will vary depending on skill set and market. However, you should be able to gather a general idea of how to price your services. Some online trainers will make more than a trainer at the local big box gym. Always be sure to do a bit of pricing research in your market and niche.
Sometimes, it’s easy to feel a bit nervous charging these types of rates for online personal training. However, you need to understand that you are providing value to the market and the rates you can charge are always determined by the quality level of service you’re providing. Always be learning, hone your craft and you’ll be more confident in your pricing.
Step 8: Important Final Tips
Being an online personal trainer isn’t as easy as it looks. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. However, in the long run the hard work can pay off, leading to an incredibly rewarding and satisfying career.
- Don’t get stuck on technology. Obsess over your clients and provide them with a quality training program. You can learn the technology over time, but if you continue to prioritize the client and put their experience first, you’ll reap great rewards.
- Be sure to set boundaries and stick to them. Being an “online” trainer means it’s easy to feel like you should always be online and accessible. It’s one thing to go above and beyond but it’s not necessary that you over commit yourself and end up burning out or building up resentment toward the job or client.
- Aside from your scheduled weekly check-in, you should encourage the clients to check in with the trainer as needed and not vice versa. You’ll eventually get to know your clients’ schedules quite well, but generally if they aren’t the ones calling you between check ins, then probably they don’t need or want to be bothered.
- Think about whether you want to collect payment up front or pay as you go (monthly). This is a point of personal preference, but taking payment upfront will better help to manage your income and cash flow. Keep in mind that asking for a large chunk of money up front from clients can present a number of challenges and objections, so you may need to be flexible.
- Dealing with so much technology can almost feel more overwhelming than in-person training. However, with the systems in place, the increased job flexibility really starts to shine. The more you’re able to reduce time spent filling out forms and logging data, the more time you can spend providing a great client experience.
- You have to be in a mentally good state to be an online personal trainer. Your clients will be dependent upon you and the lack of face time can make it challenging to really build a strong rapport. Your clients are making a big commitment and you’ll have to show them that you are just as committed to achieving their goals as they are.
If you want to learn more about how to grow your online personal training business, consider reaching out to the online trainers you follow to see if they’re willing to help mentor you or answer your questions. You can even hire the trainer if you want to really go through the full experience. Talking to others in the industry for advice and recommendations will provide a wealth of ideas on how to run your online personal training business.
Wrapping Up and Going Online
At the end of the day, the goal of personal training is to help your clients see the results they’re after. If you’re not producing results, then there’s not a whole lot stopping clients from simply finding another trainer or joining another gym. This applies to both online and offline training.
There will always be a market for in-person training, but online personal training can offer you a different lifestyle and new opportunities. Embrace technology, automate your processes and create a long-term health journey that your clients will stick with and enjoy. Your clients’ satisfaction means everything building your personal training business.