Want to become an online fitness coach? There's some things you need to know before you start.
The benefits are obvious.
- Help more people
- Make more money
- Have more freedom
And say goodbye to 4:30 am alarm clocks, Tupperware lunches and squeegee-the-toilet-overflow incidents. Yeah, we’ve all been there.
If you’re a trainer, you have a training business. Moving some of that business online is the next big thing.
Here’s 14 lessons I’ve learned from my transition from in-person coach to great online fitness coach.
1. Serve Your Audience, Not Your Hero
One mistake fitness professionals make is that they create content to seek the approval of their fitness idols.
If your goal is to help Ricky the Accountant lose fat, you need to stop debating people on the Internet about AC joint functionality or maximizing insulin secretion.
Because Ricky doesn’t care. Ricky just wants abs.
When you structure a blog post solely to impress your fitness idol, you aren’t helping anyone. Instead, the subject, format and voice of everything you write should be catered the people you want to help.
2. Seek Mentorship / Guidance
“A single conversation across a table with a wise man is better than 10 years of mere study with books.” -Longfellow
Find someone who is where you want to be. Then, do everything you can to help that person be more successful.
Don’t keep score or ask ‘what’s in it for me?’
Simply do everything you can to help that person, expecting nothing in return. Your energy will be focused on giving, but you will be shocked at how much value you receive.
Several years ago, I booked a same day one-way plane ticket to NYC on a Tuesday afternoon for an internship with John Romaniello and I never looked back.
Find somebody who has achieved what you want to achieve and willing to honestly share and do whatever you need to do to learn form him or her.
3. Walk The Walk
You will be judged based on your body.
It sucks, I know.
You can be a qualified coach and not quite look the part. You can also be a complete moron while being shredded out of your mind.
The truth is that potential clients expect you to embody your philosophies. This doesn’t mean that you need to be shredded, but you do need to appear like your ideal client’s idealized image.
Most general population clients want you to be lean and have some muscle because they want to be lean and have some muscle. If your target client is somebody who is quite overweight and you’ve been through a large weight-loss transformation yourself then you need to be healthy but being shredded might turn them off as could be viewed as unattainable.
Don’t complain and try to change what you can’t control. Rather, put in the work and get yourself in shape.
4. Work Your Butt Off
This is most relevant early in your transition from the gym to the internet.
Writing, shooting videos, and posting on social media all take time. And when you’re trying to build an online presence while still maintaining a relatively full client load in the gym, you must adopt a hustler’s mindset. Other parts of your life might fall by the wayside for a bit. This is all part of the process.
Because if you aren’t prepared to work extremely hard early on, you’ll never make it.
5. Bet On Your Strengths
If you write well, write.
If you’re attractive or charismatic on video, get yourself on Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat.
People always ask me, “Mike, should I blog or Youtube? Or should I start a podcast? What about form videos on Vimeo???”
Do whichever will allow you to add the most value for people.
6. Coach “Influencers”
An influencer is anyone with a following.
Coaching them allows you reach a larger audience, but more importantly, it gives you validity.
Let’s think about this from the potential client’s point of view: When they see an advertisement for your coaching on the sidebar of a random fitness website, they’ll probably think “big deal, another ad, who the heck is this guy.”
But when that potential client sees someone they know and respect that says you’re training them and have helped them achieve fantastic results, they are immediately more interested.
But Mike, how do I find a celebrity to train??
Obviously we can’t all snag the next Brad Pitt and lean him out for Fight Club Two: More Adventures in Nihilism with Tyler and Marla.
An influencer doesn’t have to be world-renowned.
Train the chef at a popular restaurant in your town. Train a doctor or a nutritionist who will then refer their clients to you.
Or train a CEO with a huge online presence like I did.
NYT bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk with a strong finish to back and biceps
Influencers will get you exponential attention and referrals.
7. Find Unique Or Underutilized Distribution Channels
Creating great content is a requirement if you want to become an online fitness coach. It’s mandatory. It’s the most important thing you’ll do to grow your online brand.
But to the chagrin of artists everywhere, the next step is getting that content in the hands of people who want and need it.
There are many ways to do this organically (free) by going where others aren’t.
Test new apps, and use them natively. By natively, I mean you shouldn’t immediately start pushing your website or fan page at people; rather, genuinely help others within the platform.
For me, joining Fitocracy and putting in tens if not hundreds of hours simply interacting in the community was enormous for my growth early on.
When you help people and expect nothing in return, good things happen.
8. Get Your Clients Amazing Results
Steps one thru seven don’t mean anything if you can’t execute.
You need to help your clients get leaner or stronger or build more muscle or become pain-free.
Whatever it is that they hire you to do, help them do it. There’s no substitute for results.
9. Coach Friends & Family For Free
This usually starts with family and friends, but I would coach strangers for very inexpensive or for free too when you are starting out online.
There are two huge benefits:
- The fastest way you learn is by doing. Coaching online requires a different skillset than training in the gym. And coaching people for free will get you that experience fast.
- Getting people results is the fastest way to get more paying clients. Your clients are your portfolio, and if they loved working with you they will tell people.
Coaching for free will accelerate your development and allow your program to grow faster organically.
10. Dominate Your Craft
Seemingly everyone on Instagram is an “Online Personal Trainer”
This makes you annoyed and cynical about the state of online fitness. But you shouldn’t be because the cream always rises to the top.
Abs might earn someone a few clients. But word of mouth and referrals are still the number one way to build long-term brand equity.
And you will get that by being good.
Read books, attend seminars, and interact with people smarter than you. Constantly be learning and improving.
This will set you apart.
11. Bet On Your Strengths
You want a better snatch? You want a faster 5k?
That’s awesome! But don’t work with me!
I get coaching submissions daily from people with goals that just aren’t in my wheelhouse – marathon running or Olympic lifting, for example.
Sometimes, I really like a person and empathize with their situation and want to work with them.
But you have to be honest with yourself. You need to recognize your skillset and only work with clients where you both achieve maximum benefit.
Doing otherwise is not only unfair to the client, but it also gives you too many future headaches.
When you are first getting started, it will be tempting to take anyone who applies, but you need to remain true to your skills.
For both yourself and your client.
12. Trust Your Gut
Your gut instinct is the intuition that stems from your entire body of knowledge, and you can’t waiver from it.
For example, I coached a woman who claimed to burn 700-1000 additional calories per day via breast-feeding. Four months after having her baby, she wasn’t losing weight.
But she insisted on needing at least 2500 calories per day.
My gut told me this was wrong – a sedentary woman with 98 pounds of lean mass isn’t going to lose fat on 2500 calories.
But at the time I was too timid in explaining this. I was nervous that I would “lose her” as a client.
Well guess what, after 4 weeks of no progress I lost her anyway.
Trust your gut.
13. Really, Really Care (have tremendous empathy)
You will never change a life with an optimal 5x/week muscle gain program that had perfect rest times and optimal tempos and OMG the way that periodization undulated was so epic!
But you can change a life by really caring about your client.
Just because you may not be communicating in the flesh doesn’t mean you can’t go deep. In fact, the privacy of communicating online can actually allow you to explore deeper issues.
A bad break up or lost job that is at the core that binge eating issue isn’t easy to air out from a crowded gym floor at six in the morning. But from the comfort of your client’s home, they will be more likely to go deep.
Pay attention and care. You just might change a life.
14. Be Insanely Honest
Don’t tell clients you’re giving text message and full Skype support if you are really sending the client to a 1000 person Facebook group to have their questions be answered by your third best assistant coach.
Not only does this make you fairly scummy, it also hurts your reputation and long-term brand equity.
Anyone can cash grab for two years in the fitness industry with lies and aggressive sales pages, but if you want to make it in the long run you need to be honest.
But It’s Not for Everybody
I know dozens of trainers who HAVE coached clients online. Guess what: they didn’t love it.
They prefer the hands on feel of traditional personal training, and that’s awesome. The purpose of this article wasn’t to convince you that either service is better. They are both necessities.
But for those of you who do want to transition online, I wanted to offer some help.