How to be an Online Personal Trainer [2019 Advanced Guide]
Here’s the thing: becoming a successful, even wildly successful online personal trainer is absolutely possible; it just takes work. But hey, that’s the same speech you give clients before training with you, right?
Put in the work. Don’t expect results overnight. Listen to the experts and those who’ve gone before you and done what you want to do, 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 set up online personal training 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. Well, if you want to learn how to make money in fitness online, then let’s jump right in.
Choose Your Target Market
Don’t be like the new restaurant whose sole marketing is, “We’re going to be known for serving good food.” Oh, what kind of food? “Just good food. We’re going to make good food and serve it to people.” Umm, okay.
Similarly, don’t be that personal trainer that “Just gets results” or “Can help you reach your goals.” Sure, the focus should be on the client’s goals and helping them get results but choose a niche and be the best.
Bodybuilding contest prep? Injury rehab? How about a busy professional just wanting to lose 20 lbs? Post-pregnancy? Training for the NFL combine? What about someone wanting help training for their first powerlifting meet? If you become everything to everybody, your value decreases dramatically as people start to wonder if you are really the best choice for their specific needs.
However, 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, sometimes amazingly so.
Case Studies of Successful Online Fitness Trainers
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:
#1 Paul Fabritz. PJF Performance – Vertical Jump Training
PJF Performance – Zero to $220K in ARR Delivering Workouts with their 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
#2 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.
“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
#3 AMPD Golf Performance – Golf Training
AMPD Performance – Delivering golf training worldwide in a professional, best-in-class online experience
“Working with Exercise.com and their team has been an amazing experience and a dream come true in terms of accomplishing a vision! Their workout technology has helped us effectively engage our community, and I highly recommend Exercise.com to grow your business!” – Andrew Banner, TPI LEVEL III, CES, PES
Ready to start growing your online training business now? Book a demo!
How to Build an Online Fitness Brand
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 absolutely you should. But, if the advice is for you to personally be the brand, then that’s not so great.
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 solutions 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 THEIR 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. Notice the seamless experience between web and App Store/Google Play:
Our platform is very different from our competitors who only have ONE single app in the App Store—their app, with their corporate branding. The problem with their way: your user has to search for their app (under their name) and create an account, only after they do all that and log in, will they finally see your logo. You have to ask yourself: “Am I doing all this work to build their brand or to build my own brand?”
With our fully custom-branded personal training software solution for web, iOS, and Android apps, you will actually have your very own real apps in the App Store and in Google Play.
Your clients will search for your name, download your app with your logo app icon and your name. Everything will be focused on building your brand and reinforcing your brand to the client.
We want you, the fitness professional, to know about Exercise.com and to allow us to do what we have done for countless other trainers—help grow their own fitness brand. We want your clients thinking of your brand every time they tap the app icon in the gym to log their workouts, not ours.
Clients search for YOUR brand on YOUR app in the App Store. Clients tap on YOUR brand app icon every time they open YOUR app on their phone to log a workout.
Get a demo to see what YOUR custom-branded fitness app could look like!
How to Get Clients
Not everyone can be successful in every single marketing channel. You must find a distribution channel that works for your business. Then, 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 ability and gifting might lie. For example, if you love to write, then blogging, Twitter, and email is a great place to start. If you are great on video – charismatic, interesting, well spoken, and yes, being very good looking doesn’t hurt – then video blogging, YouTube, and Instagram 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.
Remember, just because you are selling online training doesn’t mean you can’t still sell your online personal training in person. Let’s unpack that one in more detail. Read on to learn how to get online personal training clients fast.
How to Sell Online Personal Training in Person (yes, you read that right…)
Wait, this sounds weird, right? Selling online training “in person”? Was that a typo? Nope. Many trainers are scared to build an online personal training business because they think that they need to first become some kind of marketing guru. Would being an online marketing expert help? Yes. Should you learn and improve your online marketing knowledge? Yes. Should you sell your online personal training, well, online? Yes, yes, and yes.
BUT . . . Let’s not overcomplicate this.
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 a regular event. 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 – You lead a youth sports camp that trains young athletes for a limited time frame. 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 and improving their performance throughout the rest of the year. You have them sign up on their smart phone 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 Kowalski, should we sign Samuel up right now so he can keep training hard throughout the year and improve his chances of getting into Rutgers?”
Scenario #2 – You train clients at your gym, but they are moving away and will soon be unable to train with you in person.
“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 – You meet people who would like to train with you in person, but they are not able to afford your personal training sessions. However, they are able to afford paying $29/month to join your online workout group.
The possibilities of the in-person distribution channel are endless. I’m sure you can think of many more right now. 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.
Choosing the Right Technology for Online Training
Your first big need is for online personal training software that works for you, not against you. 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 your workout program 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 be able to watch your exercise instructional videos as they work out at the gym. The best software for online personal training is clearly the one that builds your fitness brand and puts you first.
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 (yes, we offer email automation) 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.
START NOW (no, seriously)
This is maybe the most important point. We get it, you’re busy training clients all day long. Busy running your business. You’re a little scared of trying something new and failing. Been there, done that. But if you never start, you’ll never succeed at being an online personal trainer.
Will you put in a lot of hard work upfront – filming exercise videos, creating workout plans, marketing your training, and more – all just to have a few clients join? Maybe. But if you stick with it, those few people will turn into a few more. You’ll learn from your mistakes and soon find yourself saying: “Wow, this is actually working!”
You’ll do more of what works – whatever that means for you – and before you know it, you will be a successful personal trainer making a significant amount of recurring revenue each month from your online training clients.
How to Make Money in Fitness Online
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 and processes like the Exercise.com platform, then – thanks to the power of software – your success and income working as an online trainer are virtually limitless.
While of course, training clients one-by-one in person is limited by your time. One of the incredible trainers on our Exercise.com platform has been so successful making money through online fitness, he should write a book about it. Well, he also trains in-person—professional basketball players in fact. Listen to his testimonial:
“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
Now, is that typical? Probably not, because Paul is not a typical trainer. But does it illustrate the power of training clients online and learning how to make money in fitness using the internet? Absolutely. Can you learn from his approach and other great trainers using the Exercise.com software platform to run and grow your fitness business online? Of course you can.
Every day, people are looking for personal trainers online. People are looking to buy workout programs, wanting to join workout groups, participate in a workout community, and most importantly, get results. Why can’t it be you that helps them? You can make money in fitness online. It won’t happen overnight, and maybe not in mere weeks like Paul was able to achieve.
But here’s what we see work time and time again: you charge say $129/month to join your online workout group and you stock it full of benefits – a new workout 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.
As the group grows, the utility of being in the group grows with it—more people to interact with, more engagement, and less coming directly from you. In the beginning, if there are only a few people in your group, you will need to be heavily active and maybe even do some astroturfing.
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. (We will make this easy for you)
#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 a professional, custom-branded app featuring complete workouts, assessments, feedback, and simple tracking?
Do some of the income numbers we listed above seem unrealistic to you? We promise, they are possible. The thing about training online – really any online business – is that you have to put in the work. It’s not going to happen magically on its own. As a fitness business owner, you will quickly find that the opportunities online are enormous because you can scale quickly and will have practically limitless possibilities.
Many online trainers all over the world are earning that kind of money and much more. We have some trainers who have earned over $200,000 in just the first week of launching a workout plan for sale. Now did that happen overnight, or did they put in the work to build their audience and online training? I think you know.
Or, how about Kayla Itsines? Her Sweat App is estimated to earn $77,000,000 a year. Yes, you read that right. $77 million. But, if you dig a little deeper you’ll see she has a team of 70 people, over 11.5 million followers on Instagram, and has spent extensive amounts on marketing and building a fitness app from scratch.
Kayla’s following is impressive, but don’t worry . . . you don’t have to have a huge team or build an app from scratch when you can start with your own custom-branded app from our expert business coaching team.
If you want to learn how to make a lot of money in the fitness industry, you must realize it will take time. The first step is getting the right process in place, and an online training software will make that easy. Exercise.com’s business software will scale with your business and support – even propel – your growth. With us, making six or seven figures as an online personal trainer is well within the realm of possibilities.
We all love fitness, but now your goal should be learning how to earn from fitness. Will it require doing some things that are uncomfortable at first? Probably. You might have to do things that are outside your comfort zone, like learning new technology, filming exercise videos, investing time and money into your platform (i.e. treating it like the real business that it is) with an uncertain time frame for when you’ll see a return on those efforts.
But be encouraged. Many trainers before you have thought the same things you are thinking now. They’ve had the same concerns. The same doubts about whether they can make it as a successful online trainer. We see trainers, gym owners, physical therapists, and fitness professionals of every stripe monetizing their expertise online every single day. You can do it too if you’re willing to put in the work.
How much do online fitness coaches charge?
One of the many beautiful things about training clients online is that your options for what you charge as a fitness coach are as varied as the number of business models. Here are three pricing options you can consider:
Per Workout Plan – Sell a workout plan and charge someone to purchase the plan. Pricing can vary from as low as $10 per plan to as high as $300 or more.
Monthly Subscription – This is pretty general, but recurring revenue will be the Holy Grail of your fitness business if you want to grow and become sustainable. One-time purchases work well to get people introduced to your products, but your ultimate goal should be to get your clients to subscribe monthly (or quarterly or annually). Pricing can vary from $25 per month all the way up to $500/month or more.
Workout Group Membership – Group memberships can have a recurring charge too. This model is not only automated and unique, but it also provides huge benefits to the client. Group members get workout plans released on a schedule, they can interact with other group members via discussion and leaderboards, do challenges together, message you, upload videos for critique, watch instructional videos from you, and more. Group memberships build community and help make your online fitness business really stick—drastically decreasing client churn. Pricing for these memberships range from $25 to $250 a month.
Those are just a few price points you can consider. Ultimately, you should test out different plans and prices to discover what works best for your market. Keep in mind, most trainers don’t charge enough. Deliver a standout package and charge a price that reflects its value.
How do I become an online fitness coach?
Both the charm and horror of this industry is that anyone can become an online fitness coach. You have your long-time personal trainers with decades of in-the-trenches experience training clients in person all the way to your 19-year-old Instagram fitness influencer who has ripped abs and . . . well, that’s about it.
Regardless of whether you’re just starting out as a trainer or have longstanding experience but are still learning the tech side, you shouldn’t let the online fitness industry scare you. We love to support all fitness professionals on their journey to grow their business, earn more money, and ultimately help people get in shape, be healthy, and feel better about themselves.
That’s our goal. We never have an intent to tear people down, especially those who are serious about helping people reach their fitness goals. That being said, there are some important things you should do to enhance your legitimacy, authority, and credibility to both your potential clients as well as other professionals in the industry.
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.
In the past, only the largest and best-funded fitness celebrities could afford to have their own workout apps, but we’ve democratized the process of building your own online fitness brand with best in class web, iPhone, and Android workout-logging apps.
We’ve had millions of workouts logged on the Exercise.com platform, and we’ve spent millions of dollars in development costs so that you can have an affordable solution that can compete with anything on the market for workout applications. And it’s all custom branded to your business.
#2 Stop Trading Your Time for Money
This is arguably the toughest part for many people to get their minds wrapped around. If your goal is to have success doing 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 videoconferencing, 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 in to 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 always be learning and this commitment will reward you time and time again throughout your life.
Read business books and fitness books. Learn from those who’ve done what you want to do. You could even read through the testimonials on our site of the many trainers who are already successfully doing online personal training. You could do worse than to just copy what they are doing.
#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.
Take a read through the many testimonials on our site about the Exercise.com platform if you want a great place to start.
#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 try 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
I know this is treading on thin ice, but the cold, hard truth is that 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 preach clean eating and HIIT workouts and 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”? Yes. Can you be absolutely ripped out of your mind and be a horrible coach? Also, yes. Don’t take this one too far, but just know that how you look, how you carry yourself, and any inconsistencies will be judged by potential clients.
#8 Get Certified
Yeah, this is the elephant in the room for online trainers who skip this step. Do you have to get 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 for 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.
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”
If either of these two words: “network” or “influencers” make you want to hit yourself in the face with a kettlebell, then I do sympathize. However, it’s no less important to your success as an online trainer. 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. Kellie Davis does an excellent job using testimonials on her website (note the use of a real name with a real picture):
You can also write and be quoted in notable fitness magazines and on fitness websites and then make those associations known on your website. Another successful online trainer on the Exercise.com platform, Tony Gentilcore, does a great job at building social proof for his online training business:
#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, choose the professional’s solution.
How do I start an online fitness coaching 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. How do I deliver training online to my clients and do it in a professional way? How do I start an online fitness business if I only have experience training clients in person? You are not alone with questions similar to these. Often the best advice is simply to start. Take the leap.
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.
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 right now.