An online personal trainer is an occupation that allows you to help more clients reach their health and fitness goals while dramatically increasing your income. In this article, you’ll the discover how you can maximize your time, effort, and skills as a fitness professional, and set up an online personal trainer business using these 7 proven steps.
1. Download the right automation software.
2. Decide what kind of clients you want.
3. Write a 12-week workout program template.
4. Gather an exercise library.
5. Create an online application form.
6. Choose a payment processing service.
7. Become a go-to expert (we’ll show you how).
Are you a fitness professional who loves to train clients, but can’t imagine how you’re ever going to experience financial freedom? After all, you can only work so many hours in a day, right?
Thankfully, there actually is a better way: Become an online personal trainer. Take it from me—because I’ve been where you are.
RELATED: The Online Training Academy—discover how you can become a certified online personal trainer
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.
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 if I wanted to make more money as a personal trainer, 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 an online personal trainer than you can ever make in a gym. Here’s how to become an online personal trainer and launch a thriving 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 being a great online personal trainer and operating a strong fitness business than 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 an online personal trainer, 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: Your Quick Start Guide
The below is a very superficial overview of what it takes to become an online trainer. It’s not perfect. I know this because I wrote the textbook on online training (literally). Still, the below steps are good enough and it’s probably more important for you to get going right now with some forward momentum then getting everything right. For now good enough is just that, good enough.
- 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’m an unabashed fan of Trainerize (and have since become an advisor). If you want to give the program a try, use this link and you’ll also get a free Ebook from me on getting your first few clients.
- Gather an exercise library. A software program like Trainerize has a built in video library or you can build your own. Ideally you’ll film 10-15s demonstrations of all exercises in your programs. For now, it’s good enough to do some sleuth work on YouTube and gather video demonstrations by others of your exercises to send to clients.
- 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.
- Write 3-4 phases of programming for each client type. 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.) Once you have a template for each client group you can individualize per client much easier based off of the information you gain from your intake.
- Create an online application form. If you have a website you can build a form directly on it. If you don’t have a website, no worries, you can use a self-hosted form service. Google forms is great. So is Wufoo forms. On the form you should include:
- The basics: Name, age, gender, email address, Skype / phone number
- Rapport building: Favourite movie / comic / any random interest to bond on (people buy trainers, not training. Establishing rapport is just as important as any other type of marketing)
- Information gathering: Health history, training history, ever had a coach before?
- Flipping the script: Why do they want to train with you specifically (get them to prove themself to you. This is a powerful psychological trick that will increase conversions on your form and sales calls later on down the road.)
- Prequalifying: Are you willing to invest $200-$400 a month on your health and fitness goals? (make sure that money is an objection before wasting any of your time.)
*There’s a lot more that goes into super-effective applications forms I cover in my textbook and certification course for online training but for now, the above is good enough.
- 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 your business, 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. Be sure to communicate the benefits of online training to your clients when reaching out to entice them. Here’s a list of a few of the benefits of online personal training to the client:
- They don’t have to go a gym (good if they are intimidated by the environment.)
- Scheduling is a non-issue (good for busy people who find it a nuisance to fight over the few convenient spots in a trainer’s schedule.)
- More cost effective (clients don’t have to pay the gym overhead so can get a better trainer at a fraction of the price.)
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 fact, most trainers find that meshing in-person and online training works best by generating them the freedom they desire but still allowing a personal connection with some clients.
What I like most about being an online personal trainer 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 as online personal trainer, you run your business 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. Below is a form for you to enter your email. It’s free and there’s no commitment. Once you put your email in and click “Get the Advantage” I’ll send you more information about online training AND invite you to our free Facebook support group (10,000+ strong).
Enter your email below and click “Get the Advantage” if you’re serious about learning how to do online training right and I’ll be in touch soon with more.