Online personal training services are more popular than ever. Learn how to be an online personal trainer, why it's so important, and how to start a personal training business online and make $10,000+ more a month.
I’ve recorded an audio version of this article. Feel free to stream below or click here to download the audio file and play it on your phone, iPod, iPad, or any other device.
My personal training career was, by all accounts, successful.
After three years training at my university gym while studying kinesiology, I landed a job at a top boutique gym in Toronto. The pay started at $25 per 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 flushed with cash.
My pay was soon raised to $41 per hour and I consistently trained people for 30-40 hours each week.
I wanted more…
So I took on more.
For two years I ran a bootcamp three days a week from 6:30a.m.-7:30a.m. that made me $120 cash. I would then travel to four clients at their house and charge $65 each hour, in cash. By noon, I was in the gym where I trained eight more clients and ended my day at 8:30p.m.
In one day I would make $710.
But that wasn’t enough. Still, 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.
At 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 for an hour, led a team of trainers, and didn’t have a spare hour to work. If a client cancelled, I could text any of three different people and have someone come in within 45 minutes notice for a session.
I was scared that there weren’t any options other than to continue working the incredibly long days. And if I wanted to make more money, I would have to work even more. In addition…
I became increasingly frustrated by aspects of the industry.
I found training in a gym to be a limiting experience. Due to 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 1-hour session. An effective workout is almost never exactly finished in one hour’s time. Some protocols call for 45 minutes, 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, whereas for others I would have to rush through 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 1-hour 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 five days, I couldn’t walk. And so for five days, I couldn’t train clients and didn’t make money.
Lastly, personal training is expensive. I know we’re worth it, but the reality is that personal training is very much a luxury. Whenever there’s a major downturn in the economy, spending $200+ a week on personal training is just not an option for most people. No amount of sales acumen can get around that fact.
You must learn to work smarter, not harder.
More than anything, what worried me was that my personal and professional life were 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 that 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 a large 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 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 starting a personal training business online. If you do it right, all of the annoying problems I outlined earlier (1-hour sessions, time management, a huge expense, and the inability to scale your efforts) can all be solved. That, and you can earn more money as a personal trainer online than you can ever make in a gym. Here’s how to start an online personal training business the right way:
Systems are everything, including how to make $10,000+ extra a month.
I’m a “systems” sort of guy, and while some of my systems are below, there’s a lot more to operating a strong online training business that meets the eye.
A lot of people who approach me for individual coaching are already running an online personal training program haphazardly. They’re frustrated because they can’t find clients, and the continual churn of writing programs and email maintenance is time-consuming. Training people online isn’t leveraging your time appropriately 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 be an online personal trainer, do it right. If you’re looking at how to become a personal trainer online, there are two ways to do it:
- Take on a small-ish number of clients (10-20) at $100+/month. This is at least an extra $1,000 each 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 each month, or $10,000+ each 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 important, but not imperative. You can still use them, but the days of Excel spreadsheets are over. Good software automates almost every aspect of your business. I’ve done months of due diligence, 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 (you get a free 30-day trial with this link). I was so impressed that I agreed to come on board as an advisor.
- Decide on your client type. Pick no more than three types of clients that you want to include in your online personal 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. I speak about this more in the Online Personal Trainer Blueprint that you can get for free on this page.
- 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 individualized tweaks, based on his or her questionnaire answers. (For example, a client with shoulder pain might do an incline neutral grip dumbbell press instead of a bench press. They would still perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps at a 4010 tempo in phase one though.) Essentially, 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 and film a 20-second video of each exercise that you include in your 3-4 phases above and upload them all to a YouTube channel. If you decide to include a new exercise later on, simply add it. Note that you can use videos from any public YouTube channel in the meantime.
- Create a website. Again, Trainerize has a very simple free website builder where you can develop 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. This isn’t 100 percent necessary, but a website acts as a business card these days. It doesn’t need to be fancy.
- Decide on the best payment processing service. Paypal is easy and works great. It’s easy to implement, fees are reasonable, and you can deposit money directly into 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, but I prefer Paypal.
- Become the expert. The simple answer of how to get personal training 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. Online personal training is a cheaper option and more attainable for the average person. Just make sure everybody knows that you are an online personal trainer.
What’s the next step?
Online personal training is the way of the future.
You can still train people in your neighborhood, but also take on clients from 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 an online fitness training business 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.
But, like everything else, systems are everything. You would tell your client that he or she needs a strong base first before getting into the fancy stuff, right? Well, your online training business is the same way. Build it right from the beginning, even on a very small scale, and the freedom you desire is closer than you may think.
All it takes is a little know-how. Why make the same mistakes as everybody else? Follow a proven template. I’ll show you how.