How To Be Online Personal Trainer

Figuring out how to be an online personal trainer can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make it easier to become an online personal trainer. This guide will walk you through those steps and will help you feel more prepared to start your online personal trainer business.

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Sep 16, 2020

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Get the Basics...
  • Learning how to be an online personal trainer is absolutely possible; it just takes work.
  • Choose a target market for your online training business to thrive.
  • When it comes to branding, reflect the image you want to convey to your clients.
  • You should have a minimum level of experience training clients and a certification from a legitimate organization before training clients online

Can you be an online personal trainer? Absolutely! If you want to learn how to become a successful online fitness coach, then you’ve come to the right place.

We have personal trainers, gym owners, and fitness coaches using the Exercise.com software platform every single day to grow their online personal training businesses (and their in-person businesses).

Here’s the thing: learning how to become a successful online personal trainer is absolutely possible; it just takes work. 

Put in the work. Don’t expect results overnight. Listen to the experts and those who’ve gone before you; and before you know it, you’ll find yourself getting the results you’ve previously only dreamed of.

Sound good to you? Learning how to start an online fitness program as a key component of your fitness business – or even the only component of your fitness business – is a formula we’ve seen work time and time again.

Let’s jump right into exploring how to get started as an online personal trainer, how to market online personal training, and why online personal software is crucial to any online personal training business model.

And if you want to jump ahead and test out the Exercise.com Fitness Business Management Software Platform, request a demo now.

Table of Contents

How To Become an Online Personal Trainer: Part 1

Choose Your Target Market

How do online personal trainers make money? They choose a target market.

Don’t be like the new restaurant whose sole marketing strategy is, “We’re going to be known for serving good food.”

Well, what kind of food? Thai? Pizza? Will it be fast-casual or plated service? Who are you trying to attract?

Similarly to the example above, don’t be that personal trainer that “Just gets results” or “Can help you reach your goals.” Sure, the focus should be on a client’s goals and helping them get results, but choose a niche and strive to be the best in that niche.

The fitness industry has endless niches to choose from. A few examples are:

  • Bodybuilding contest prep
  • Injury rehab
  • Weight loss for busy professionals
  • Post-pregnancy training
  • NFL combine training
  • Powerlifting coaching
  • Olympic weightlifting coaching
  • Marathon training

If you try to become everything to everybody, your value decreases dramatically as people start to wonder if you are really the best choice for their specific needs. 

Understandably, a big worry that professionals in every industry have is: If I specialize in a specific niche, I won’t make as much money. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Watch the video below to find out why:

Once you choose a niche and specialize in it, then your message begins to have enormous resonance with that target market. Not with everybody, mind you, but if you target your marketing appropriately then you will start to get traction.

Case Studies of Successful Online Fitness Trainers

My custom-branded apps have made my life easier and helped streamline my online training, which in turn has transformed into a pretty awesome additional revenue stream for me and my family.
Tony Gentilcore Founder, Core Online
Exercise.com has enabled our company to expand in ways we couldn’t imagine possible. As a Strength Coach that also manages the business this platform has made it much easier to get our programming out to not only our local clientele but also new clientele throughout the world as well as our professional athletes in different cities.
Eric Mahanke Carr Elite
I sold a workout program and matched my yearly salary of in-person training within two weeks of selling to my community.

Let’s look at a few examples of successful online personal trainers who have chosen a specific market and are experiencing great results using Exercise.com software to power their online training businesses:

Paul Fabritz. PJF Performance – Vertical Jump Training

Our client PJF Performance went from zero to $220K by delivering workouts through its custom-branded apps.

“I sold a workout program and matched my yearly salary of in-person training within two weeks of selling to my community!” – Paul Fabritz, BS Exercise & Wellness, CSCS, CPT, ACE, FMS

Kellie Davis, Fit Thrive – Empowering Women’s Training

Fit Thrive uses online fitness coaching to reach women all around the world with programming designed to empower women.

kellie davis fit thrive

“With Exercise.com, I’m able to reach people around the world with the programs that I design, implement, and push out. You don’t have that opportunity working in a local gym. So that’s been huge.” – Kellie Davis, Fit Thrive

See for yourself - Meet with the Exercise.com Team today

Grow and manage your fitness business with Exercise.com

How To Build an Online Fitness Brand

Once you’ve chosen your target market, it’s time to build your brand around that target.

Sometimes you will hear advice to “Market Your Person” or “Sell Yourself.” If that means be authentic, then yes, do that. If it means to be consistent with the message and values you are promoting, then you should. But, if the advice is for you to personally be the brand, then it’s advice better left untaken.

Why? Some business coaches call it the “hit by a bus” test. If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, would your business disappear? If people will buy your online training only because of your personal name, while that might be good for your ego, it’s not good for the long-term health of your bank account.

So, what should you do to build your fitness brand the right way? Well, for starters, your fitness business website and apps should reflect the image you want to convey to your clients.

Just like emailing PDF’s and spreadsheets full of workouts to your clients personally one-by-one is not a sustainable (or professional) approach to online training, you also don’t want to invest all of your time and money into building some other company’s brand.

For example, some fitness software companies claim to be “custom-branded,” but what they really mean is that they are “co-branded.” They will tell you that you can have your own custom-branded iOS and Android workout apps for your clients to use, but what they don’t tell you is that your clients have to search for the software company’s name in the App Store and in the Google Play Store. It’s not until your clients create an account and log in that they will even see your logo.

This is not the case with the Exercise.com platform. We are all about building your brand. And, when it comes to becoming an online personal trainer, establishing your brand is crucial.

How To Become an Online Personal Trainer: Part 2

How To Get Online Personal Training Clients

Not everyone can be successful in every single marketing channel. You must find a distribution channel that works for your business. Then, you rinse and repeat. Even large and well-funded businesses will find that some channels work for them and some don’t.

The key is to find what works for you and your business and then once you hit on a winning strategy, cut what’s not working and scale up what is working. Learning how to gain clients as a personal trainer is one of your most important skill sets.

If you are first starting out, then you might want to ask yourself what you do well and where your natural abilities and gifts might lie. For example, if you love to write, then blogging and email marketing are great places to start.

If you are great on video – charismatic, interesting, well-spoken – then video blogging using a platform like YouTube is where you might find better traction.

If you are an established brand and have already seen some success, whether with physical brick and mortar gyms/boxes/studios or other fitness facilities, then you will likely have some great insight into the customer acquisition strategies that have worked for you and can do more of the same.

No matter the niche or the gifts, however, be sure to include social media platforms in your marketing strategy. Instagram, for example, is a must for fitness professionals.

Note: when you set out to start your online personal trainer business, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still train online clients in person. Let’s unpack that one in more detail.

How to Sell Online Personal Training in Person

Yes, you read that correctly. While the phrase sounds contradictive – selling online training in person – it’s an important piece of the overall puzzle.

One of the very best distribution channels for selling online training is signing people up in person. This is ten times better if you can maintain a consistent, physical presence in a gym, a camp, or at regular events like industry trade shows and festivals. In fact, one of the very best ways to monetize the quality interactions you have in person with potential clients is to sell them online personal training.

Here are three examples that might be profitable for you to test out:

Scenario #1: Marketing to Student-Athletes

You lead a youth sports camp that trains young athletes for a certain number of weeks. Before the camp is over, you ask the athlete (and their parents or guardians, if appropriate) if they’d like to continue training with you throughout the rest of the year.

You have them sign up on their smartphone to pay a $99/month membership that gives them a new workout plan each month (all delivered automatically), exercise instructional videos, a way to securely message you for workout advice, and a leaderboard and discussion board with other fellow campers.

“Sign up now, here at camp, and you’ll get 20 percent off the price for life. We already have your credit card so, Mrs. Doe, should we sign John Jr. up right now so he can keep training hard throughout the year and improve his chances of getting into Rutgers?”

Scenario #2 – Securing a Relocating Client

Clients move locations. It’s a part of life. Maybe it’s for a job, family, or they just want a change of pace; whatever the reason is behind their move, their physical absence does not have to equate to the cancelation of your services. Try this example out the next time you’re faced with a relocating client:

“Mr. Jackson, I’d love to continue providing you with a workout plan to follow so that you can keep getting the great results we’ve gotten together and not lose any of the progress we’ve made. Just click the link I emailed you, and it will get you set right up to automatically get a new workout from me each month.”

Scenario #3 – Meeting Clients Where They’re at Financially

Throughout your personal training career, you are going to meet people who would like to train with you in person, but they are not able to afford your personal training sessions. Instead of writing them off, offer them another solution. While they may not be able to afford in-person training, they may be able to afford to pay $29/month to join your online workout group.

The possibilities of the in-person distribution channel are endless. Technically, if you know how to text or email a sign-up link and your in-person customer acquisition strategies are robust enough, then you could build up a successful online personal training business without ever doing any online marketing.

Of course, you will be much more successful as an online health and fitness coach if you can master both face-to-face and online sales. For a look at how to approach people on the gym floor to sell your services, check out the video below:

How To Become an Online Personal Trainer: Part 3

Choosing the Right Technology for Online Training

To train clients online, you need online personal training software. You cannot and should not expect to run an online fitness business with just a Google calendar and Excel sheets.

This is where Exercise.com comes into play. With the Exercise.com platform, you will build your own fitness brand, not some other company’s, and you will have a professional-grade solution that automates the busy work of personal training and running a fitness business.

With our virtual personal training software you can create assessments to send to your clients that – based on their answers – will automatically schedule them into one of your workout programs that best meets their needs.

You can give your clients apps to log their workouts—reinforcing your brand every time they tap that app icon. They will also be able to watch your exercise instructional videos as they work out at the gym.

Much of your other technology decisions will be driven by your choice of marketing and distribution channels. If you plan on sending large email campaigns and want a standard provider for sending classic email campaigns, then you will want to consider something like MailChimp. If you are doubling down on social media, then you should look into a social media scheduling tool like Buffer. If you are committed to blogging, you can’t go wrong with WordPress.

Fortunately, through our partnership with Zapier, we offer integrations with over 2,000 applications, including the ones mentioned above.

How To Become an Online Personal Trainer: Part 4

Now that we’ve covered how to target a niche, how to brand yourself, how to get personal training clients, and how to choose the best online training software, let’s take rewind a bit.

Before you can become a personal trainer at home and coach clients anywhere, as long as you have internet access, you have to, of course, become a personal trainer; and you have to understand the work that goes into creating an online training platform.

The next bits of this guide will tackle how much money personal trainers make, how much online fitness trainers charge, and, to wrap up, 12 succinct steps to becoming a successful online personal trainer.

Online Personal Training: How Much Can I Charge?

How much money can personal trainers make training clients online? What’s the average income for an online fitness coach? Or, more practically, how much can I expect to make as an online personal trainer? Those are the real questions you are asking, right?

Well, just like the average salary of trainers who only train in person can vary, it’s no different with online trainers. But, and this is a big but, the major difference is that when you train online and use the right systems (like the Exercise.com platform), then – thanks to the power of software –  your success and income working as an online trainer are virtually limitless.

The beauty of online training is that it provides you as a trainer with flexibility.

Training clients one-on-one in person is limited by your time. Training clients online is a different story.

Every day, people are looking for personal trainers online. People are looking to buy workout programs, wanting to join workout groups, and participate in a workout community. Why can’t it be you that helps them? You can make money in fitness online. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Here’s an example of that might work:

Let’s say you charge $129/month to join your online workout group and you stock it full of benefits – a new workout plan every month, leaderboards, apps for logging workouts in the gym, interaction with other group members, and more. Once you have your workouts ready to be time-released on schedule for the group, your top priority becomes recruiting more people to join.

In the beginning, if there are only a few people in your group, you will need to be heavily active. As the group grows, the utility of being in the group grows with it—more people to interact with, and more engagement, with less coming directly from you.

Overdeliver on actually providing client-focused benefits, and as you grow, you will slowly start to ratchet up that recurring revenue.

Online Personal Training Income Calculator

A common (and important) question is, “How much should I charge for online personal training?” Here’s a calculator to see how much your income will be as an online personal trainer based on your monthly rate and how many clients you have:

For example, if you charge only $99 a month for online training and you add seven new clients every month, here’s how much money you’ll make:

  • After 12 months: $54,054
  • After 24 months: $207,900
  • After 36 months: $461,538

Now, let’s run those numbers with you charging more for your online training—something many trainers should do. If you charge $179/month and add seven new clients a month, here’s what your online training alone would bring in:

  • After 12 months: $97,734
  • After 24 months: $375,900
  • After 36 months: $834,498

How about $249/month?

  • After 12 months: $135,954
  • After 24 months: $522,900
  • After 36 months: $1,160,838

Now, if you invest in marketing, get referrals, grow your online presence, and get 25 new signups a month (definitely doable) while charging $249/month, check out the seven-figure incomes you’d be banking from your online personal training business:

  • After 12 months: $485,550
  • After 24 months: $1,867,500
  • After 36 months: $4,145,850

Play around with the online training income calculator above and take the below three lessons to heart:

#1 – Have a long term mindset: Success doesn’t happen overnight. If your only interests are getting clients fast, making money fast, and earning a quick buck, then you will likely crash and burn.

#2 – Increase your prices: Deciding what to charge for online personal training is one of the most important decisions you will make. Don’t be afraid to test out different price points, limited-time offers, and various pricing schemes.

#3 – Remember, retention is key: You must deliver a valuable service. Which is more appealing: taking the old school route where you email PDF workouts or using a professional, custom-branded app that features complete workouts, assessments, feedback, and simple tracking?

Qualifications for Becoming an Online Trainer

Do you need to meet set qualifications to become an online personal trainer? Technically, no.

However, most would agree that you should have a minimum level of experience training clients and a certification from a legitimate organization (more on that soon). But everyone starts somewhere, so view the qualifications in this guide as steps to aspire to in your fitness journey.

Below are phases for online fitness trainers to strive for, and some steps you should follow as an online trainer who plans to take your business to the next level.

Steps to Online Personal Training Success

Below are practical steps you should take to grow your fitness business and see personal training success online.

#1 Build a Brand

This is so important it’s worth mentioning again.

Nothing says small-time like sending clients workout plans via an emailed spreadsheet or PDF. Today, people are accustomed to downloading an app, purchasing online, and having a workout experience they can take with them anywhere they go. Your goal should be to have them think of your brand every single time they tap your app icon to log their workout.

#2 Stop Trading Your Time for Money

This is arguably the toughest part for many people. If your goal is to have success offering personal training online, then you absolutely must bust out of the in-person paradigm of trading your time for money.

Sometimes, we’ll see trainers who do fitness coaching online using video conferencing; and while that can be a valuable addition to your online training packages, it should never be the primary focus. Otherwise, you are just trading earning an hourly rate training people at the gym to earning an hourly rate training people over video conference.

The allure of online personal training done right is that once you build your fitness marketing machine and set up your online training platform – yes, this part takes work and time – then it will earn money for you and work for you 24/7 even while you’re sleeping.

Those exercise videos you created two years ago will continue to be used by your subscribers for many years to come. The work you put into your online business now will make you a hefty recurring revenue.

#3 Always Be Learning

If you have the mindset of a lifetime learner, you will be happy for the opportunity to dive into studying for a new personal training certification or learning about a new technology or marketing solution that will grow your business. Commit to continuous education and this commitment will reward you time and time again throughout your life.

Read business books and fitness books. Find a mentor. Learn from those who’ve done what you want to do.

#4 Focus on Your Target Market

Create messaging and benefits that appeal to the clients you are trying to reach, not to make yourself look good to other trainers and fitness professionals you look up to. See the world through the eyes of your potential clients. What are their fitness goals? Why should they trust that your training is the best choice out of the many options available to help them achieve those goals?

#5 Learn from Other Successful Trainers

Call it mentorship. Call it copying. Call it being open to learning new things.

Regardless of what you call it, there is gold to be mined if you simply open your eyes and investigate the business practices of personal trainers who are already successfully marketing and selling online.

#6 Get Creative With Your Marketing

No, this doesn’t mean to be inappropriate or invent a persona just to reach clients; by “creative,” we mean: be open to trying new things and willing to fail in nine out of ten marketing campaigns in order to find – and scale up – that one winner.

#7 Practice What You Preach

This is treading on thin ice, but the cold, hard truth is that, in some cases, prospective clients will judge you for how you look, how you present yourself, and for how consistent your life is with what you say.

By all means, be honest, be real, be authentic, but if you have a philosophy that you can get anyone a ripped six pack if they just train hard enough and eat right, then you better have an impressive six pack to back that up.

Is it fair? Not always. Does it contain more than a grain of truth? Yes. Can you be a great coach and not “look the part”? Absolutely! Can you be absolutely ripped and be a horrible coach? 100%. Again, most personal trainers don’t need to be competition ready to build a following.

It all comes down to your niche and this doesn’t just apply to your physical appearance. If your sole focus is training vegan bodybuilders, you better be a vegan; if your specialty is marathon training, you should be a runner.

#8 Get Certified

This is the elephant in the room for online trainers who skip this step.

Do you need a personal training certification to train someone online? No, you don’t.

Do you open yourself up to criticism that you are not a fitness professional if you don’t? Possibly.

Are there any downsides to getting certified? Outside of the time spent studying (which isn’t a waste) and the money spent on the testing and credentialing, no. If you are serious about investing in yourself and your fitness business, then this is a must. There are many programs to choose from, but keep in mind that the best and most respected personal training certifications are from ACE, NSCA, and NASM.

#9 Use Your Strengths

Play to your strengths when deciding what approach you should take for marketing and growing your fitness business. If you’re awkward and clumsy on the camera (and practice isn’t helping), but you love writing, then don’t force the fitness vlog. Instead, you should dedicate time to write, write, and write some more (as an added bonus, many organizations will accept published articles as part of your annual CEUs).

Conversely, if you can hardly string two paragraphs together without wanting to smash your keyboard into pieces, it’s probably time to switch from “powering through it” to “knowing your strengths.”

That being said, you MUST be willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try new things. Fail, start again, fail again, force yourself to write or make a video even when you don’t feel like it. Playing to your strengths is never an excuse to just sit back and be comfortable, but it is a call to do an honest self-assessment of what you do best.

#10 Network With Other “Influencers”

Look for ways to help others. Talk to people doing what you want to be doing. Partner together in various ways to reach out to each other’s audiences and grow both of your businesses at the same time. Working in fitness online is not a zero-sum game.

#11 Use Testimonials and Other Social Proof

People are rightfully hesitant about claims they encounter on the internet. But, if you can show real testimonials from real people who you have helped with your training, then your conversion rate will skyrocket.

You can also write and be quoted in notable fitness magazines and on fitness websites and then make those associations known on your website. One successful online trainer on the Exercise.com platform, Tony Gentilcore, does a great job at building social proof for his online training business:

tony gentilcore featured articles

#12 Use a Software Solution That Will Help You Grow

Whether you’re a large, well-established gym with multiple locations or you’re a fitness solopreneur who just recently began training clients, the Exercise.com software platform will support your business and help you scale both your in-person and online training. From assessments to creating and selling workout plans online, to custom-branded apps and much more, the benefits are truly endless.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I start my own online personal training business?

This may seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t need to be. We get many questions from people who want to know what they need to do to train online. Using the detailed information above, often the best advice is simply to start. Take the leap.

How do I choose the best online personal training software?

Talk to one of our business coaches and demo the Exercise.com platform. Ask us for some examples of other trainers and fitness businesses who are already doing what you want to do. We will be happy to get you set up exactly like them so you can learn from those who are successful and then make the process your own.

How do I make money as a personal trainer?

As is the case with any business venture, earning money requires a lot of work and a lot of trial and error. The steps laid out above can help you learn how to set yourself up for success.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your path to becoming a successful online personal trainer by booking a demo of our online personal training software today.

See for yourself – Meet with the Exercise.com Team today.