After 3 years training at my University gym while I studied Kinesiology, I landed a job at a top boutique gym in Toronto. The pay started at $25 an hour. For a 21 year old, that was a fortune.
Within a year I was full with clients. Most of my friends were still in school and I was constantly flushed with cash.
My pay was soon raised to $41/hr and I consistently trained 30-40hrs/week.
I wanted more…
So I took on more.
For two years I ran a bootcamp 3 days a week from 6:30am-7:30 that made me $120 cash. I would then travel to 4 clients houses and charge $65/hr cash. By noon, I was in the gym where I trained 8 more clients and ended my day at 8:30pm.
In one day I would make $710.
But that wasn’t enough — I wanted more.
So I took on the role of senior trainer at my club and made a small salary. I also negotiated a commission for referring my overflow of clients to other trainers.
By 24 years old I was rolling in dough. But I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was scared.
By all accounts I reached what many would consider to be the peak of my earning potential. I was charging over $100/hr, in charge of a team of trainers, and didn’t have a spare hour to work. If a client cancelled, I could text any of 3 different people and have them come in within 45 minutes notice for a session.
The only logical step up was for me to open my own facility. I had offers of financial backers but knew in my heart that I didn’t want to be a gym owner.
I was scared that there weren’t any options other than to continue working the incredibly long days. And, to make more money, I would have to work more. In addition…
I Became Increasingly Frustrated by Aspects of the Industry
I found training in a gym to be a limiting experience and, because of a combination of gym protocols and limited time, I wasn’t always providing my clients with the type of service that I thought they needed and deserved.
One example was the absurdity of the 1hr session. An effective workout is almost never exactly 1hr in time. Some protocols call for 45minutes, some an hour and a half. Yet, in order to avoid a scheduling nightmare, I was forced to be with each client for exactly an hour. This meant that some sessions would end with a 5 minute stretch to fill the time and others I would have to rush the breaks to get the entire workout in.
Training should dictate business practices and not vice-versa. The only way to block your time and avoid a scheduling nightmare is to stick to the 1hr session.
Also, I would get sick probably because I worked so much and wasn’t taking care of myself. Whenever that happened, I missed clients and didn’t get paid.
My one luxury was a hockey team that I played for once a week. One night I got tripped going into the corner to get the puck. I went down awkwardly and pulled a hammie. For 5 days I couldn’t walk. So I couldn’t train clients and didn’t make money for 5 days.
Lastly, personal training is expensive. I know we’re worth it, but the reality is that personal training is very much a luxury. These past couple years have seen a major downturn in the economy and, especially in the United States, spending $200+ a week on personal training is just not an option for most people. No amount of sales acumen can get around it.
You Must Learn to Work Smarter, Not Harder
More than anything, what worried me was that my personal and professional life was in a downward spiral. I had no energy for friends and, when I did spend time with my family, I was so tired I couldn’t be the type of person I wanted to be. And a girlfriend? That was out of the question. When it did happen, I admit I never had the energy to treat her as well as she deserved.
Personal training can be the best job in the world but there’s a reason that the industry has such a massive turnover rate. Training clients one-on-one is rewarding but not sustainable. Sooner or later any successful trainer reaches the same point I did and they must look into ways to work smarter, not harder.
There’s nothing wrong with working for a gym. In fact I think most trainers should at least start working in one. But I think every skilled trainer should look into training clients online. If you do it right, all of the annoying problems outlined above (1hr sessions, time management, huge expense, and the inability to scale your efforts) can all be solved. That, and you can make a lot more money than you can ever make in a gym.
Systems are Everything – How to Make $10,000+ Extra a Month
I’m a systems guy.
A lot of people who approach me for individual coaching are already running an online training program haphazardly. They’re frustrated because they can’t find clients and the continual program writing and email maintenance is time-consuming. Training people online isn’t leveraging your time if you don’t take advantage of the software and develop systems to do all the heavy lifting for you.
These people aren’t working smarter; they’re just working harder but now it’s online.
If you’re going to train clients online, do it right. If you’re looking at how to be an online personal trainer there are two ways to do it:
- Take on a smallish amount of clients (10-20) at $100+/month. This is at least an extra $1,000/month! (and $100/month is a low price.)
- Take a step back from training in person and commit more time. You can take on 100+ clients at $100/month or $10,000+/month!
I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t handle 20 more clients in my limited time” or “100+ clients a month? How could I possibly get that many people and manage that many programs?”
With the following steps and software, I’ll show you how you can do it. Build your systems and learn to leverage the best software available and each client should take about 20 minutes a month of your time.
How to be an Online Personal Trainer
- Software is everything. The days of excel spreadsheets are over. Good software will automate almost every aspect of your business. I’ve done months of due-diligance, had 15+ meetings and been through trials of 10+ different types of software for managing clients. By far the best one I’ve come across is Trainerize. I was so impressed that I agreed to come on board as a consultant. More on Trainerize and how it will make you a lot of money, save you endless headaches, and solve all your problems in a bit.
- Decide on Your Client Type. Pick no more than 3 types of clients you want to include in your online training program. The only way to truly scale your program is to template workouts, which means you need people with similar goals and issues. For example, 25-30 males looking for muscle, 40-50 year old post-pregnant females, or 18-25 year old male college students.
- Write 3-4 Phases of Programming for Each Client Type. Trainerize allows you to save templates. Each client in the same category will receive a similar template with a couple individual tweaks specific for them based on his or her questionnaire answers. (For example, a client with shoulder pain might do an incline neutral grip DB press instead of a bench press. They would still perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps at a 4010 tempo in phase one though. You individualize aspects of the program to suit each client.)
- Film a video of All Exercises You Include. While Trainerize does have an exercise library, it’s nice for you to include a personal touch. Take a day day and film a 20s video of each exercise you include in your 3-4 phases above. Upload them all to a YouTube channel. If you decide to include a new exercise later on, simply add it. (Note: A nice feature of Trainerize is that it allows you to directly integrate your YouTube channel. So connect it with the program and directly pull in your video into the exercise description. Save and it’s always there for the exercise. After that, plug and play.) Update: Feb 22, 2013 – In response to numerous questions. I’ve written an entirely separate post on YouTube Video SEO for personal trainers.
- Create a website. Again, Trainerize has a very simple free website builder where you can develope and host a website within minutes for free on their server as part of your membership. If you already have an existing website, you can integrate their service seamlessly.
- Decide on the Best Payment Processing Service. I use Paypal for pretty much everything and it works great. It’s easy to implement, fees are reasonable, and you can deposit money directly to your bank account for free. If you want to use another service to accept credit cards online, you can. There are a lot of options.
- Become the Expert. The simple answer of how to get clients is to make sure everybody knows that you’re a personal trainer. Once you set up Trainerize, simply start posting workout tips on your Facebook, send an email to everybody you have ever met, and ask your parents to message their family and friends. People are ecstatic to find affordable fitness solutions from a qualified trainer. I’ll write a separate post soon with more strategies for online trainers to get more clients. Online personal training is a cheaper option and more attainable for the average person. Just make sure everybody knows you offer it.
Now’s the Time
Online personal training is the way of the future. You can still train people in your neighborhood but also take on clients all around the world. In addition, it allows you to offer less expensive options for people who can’t afford your in-person services.
What I like most about it is that you can program whatever you think is best for the client without having to worry about details like time-constraints or the protocols of whatever facility you work for.
Like anything else, the best online training programs are built on systems. I’ll be writing more here on how to specifically use Trainerize to its fullest, strategies to get more clients, and the best ways to scale your efforts. For now, I highly suggest you sign up for their 30-day free trial at www.theptdc.com/trainerize
I can’t stress enough just how exceptional this software really is for gym owners, individual trainers in the gym, or anybody looking to train clients online. I spent a lot of time in meetings and testing out all different types of software and this one was, by far, the best option.
Here are a couple features (not an entire list) that I think are particularly great:
- They offer a free website and hosting or will seamlessly integrate with an existing site you have.
- They have a great exercise library but also offer the functionality for you to connect your YouTube account directly into your account and drag videos into your clients workout.
- Ability to have multiple trainer accounts for gyms or a single trainer account for you. Each client has their own account which tracks progress and where they can access their workouts
- Internal messaging system so you don’t get overwhelmed with email.
- Ability to create templated programs and make minor changes for the individual so you can take on a ton of clients with similar goals at once.
- Consult forms and questionnaires are included and can be tweaked specifically for you. Set them automatically to be sent to new clients.
- You pay by the client after the client signs up.
- An iphone/ipad app (and soon an android app. For now, android users can easily use their interface on any browser) that you and your clients have. You can track their workouts as they fill them out in real time. Plus, they have the template with them and can watch videos / read exercise descriptions in the gym.
As I mentioned above. I was so impressed by Trainerize that I decided to come on board as a consultant. This means that I’ll be working with the team to make the software even better. If there’s any feature that we would like added, send me an email and we will look into making it happen.
Sign up for a free 30-day trial at www.theptdc.com/trainerize
Feel free to ask any questions about the software or how to be an online personal trainer below in the comments. I’ll answer what I can and call the Trainerize crew to chime in when needed. Also, please share this post with anybody looking to reach a bigger audience, scale their efforts, and create more freedom in their lives.