In the past 27 years, the internet has drastically changed the way we communicate, spend our leisure time, learn and work. In 1991, many people thought the idea of a “network of networks” was crazy, but today, there are over 287 million internet users in the United States (Statista, 2018); not including international internet use. It makes sense, then, that the first question people usually ask when you mention having a business is, “What’s your website?”
Aside from the burnout that often comes from training in-person clients around the clock, many trainers eventually find themselves frustrated with the structure of the personal training industry as a whole (Goodman, 2013). In that one-hour time block, there simply isn’t enough time to provide health coaching and an effective workout – something has to give. If you’ve maxed out your in-person client load, want to create a potential passive income source and you want to provide health coaching in addition to workouts, consider taking your personal training business off the floor and online. Online personal training offers the best of both worlds for the trainer and the client.
Benefits of Online Personal Training
- Avoid burnout - Consistent demands of your time, energy and body can lead to burnout and frequent illness; in this profession, time is money. Training online allows you to work smarter, not harder on your business, and put more time into your own workouts and self-care. The biggest demand on your time with online training is creating the programs, but once you have them completed and systems in place to deliver them (more on this later), you can automate many of your services, conserve your physical energy and continuously grow your clientele.
- Flexible hours - There are only so many hours in a day to train in-person clients, whether in small groups or one-on-one; not to mention fitting in your own workouts and taking time off. With online training, you might schedule “office hours” to respond to emails, take calls and have set days each month when you send program updates. In the time it might normally take you to drive to the gym and train 3 clients, you could have sent program updates to 5 or more clients. When you have the internet, you have the flexibility to work from anywhere any time of day.
- Supplemental income – Training online can be supplemental income to what you make working with clients in person. If you have 5 online clients who each pay $100 a month, that’s an additional $500 in your pocket on top of what you make from in-person clients. Secure those 5 clients for 3 or more months and you have consistent supplemental income! You might decide to eventually lighten your in-person client load and take on more online clients. Or, if you’re an independent trainer, you can charge more for in-person session and make online coaching a more affordable option for those who can’t pay in-person training rates. There are plenty of options!
- More reach – Advertise your services correctly, and you have the potential to reach thousands of people online. You also have the opportunity to:
- Reach clients who are intimidated by the gym and would rather exercise alone, but need guidance
- Reach more advanced clients who need more program design than in-person training and
- Reach those who want a mix of both with the flexibility to train on their own.
Affordability – Online personal training is a great alternative to in-person training for clients on a budget. You can charge less for online services than you do in person because you’re not expending as much physical energy. That way, clients can still work with you while they save for in-person sessions versus potentially losing that client altogether. However, adding value is increasingly important so clients are still getting the initial consultation, advice on how to prepare meals, customized workouts and regular check-ins.
Autonomy – Working with clients online gives them the flexibility to complete their workouts on their own schedule and the flexibility to make changes to their program as needed, all with your guidance. Some clients may already be using mobile apps, others have group fitness classes they like to attend, and others might prefer working out very early in the morning or late at night – outside of your training hours. Your online coaching can work in any of those situations. Also, you might find that clients are excelling in one area of their fitness routine but need guidance in another. Maybe they’re using a nutrition app and getting results but need help with exercise program design. You have the flexibility to customize their online programming based on what they need and work with them to make it all work.
No gym intimidation – The bright lights, the shared space, the loud music and large crowds might be intimidating for some clients. With your guidance and program design, clients can learn different exercises, find what training styles they most enjoy and build confidence in the comfort of their home before deciding to go to the gym.
Results – Some clients might be skeptical of online training because they think they won’t get the same results they would with in-person training. To their point, your online training services might be best suited for more experienced exercisers who can safely follow a written training program on their own. However, you can deliver results by customizing your programs, regularly checking in and making updates whenever necessary and even by offering video coaching for exercise demonstrations.
- Deciding your method of program delivery is the next biggest step after defining your target market. Here are some key things to consider:
- Will you be using software? – Mobile training software like Trainerize and Virtual Gym allow you to track client progress, send program updates, view progress photos and offer different levels of nutrition coaching and meal plan creation. Most programs offer a free trial period to test all levels of the software before committing, as well as business branding and marketing assistance. Software isn’t a requirement for running a successful online training business, but it’s something to consider for staying organized and adding value to your services.
- Email and Microsoft Office Suite – You can create your own resources and send them via email. You can use Excel to calculate macronutrients for meal plans, Word tables and charts for workout programs and guidelines – save it all as a PDF to send via email. Sometimes, simple is best and as long as you are providing your clients with the information they need to be successful, you can coach them without software.
- Pre-written programs - You can write three to four phases of each workout or entire program based on client type. This might include a stabilization, strength and power workout plus core-specific workouts and cardio programs. Within the scope of your credentials (i.e. RD or are using an authorized nutrition resource that incorporates evidence-based guidelines), you can also write different phases of nutrition programs and meal plans. Other pre-written content ideas:
- A simple Ebook with frequently asked questions about your program to cut down on the time you spend responding to similar questions via email.
- A video library or photo gallery for exercise demonstrations
- Private videos on YouTube or Vimeo
- Customization – Design customized programs for clients with unique needs, such a medical considerations or sport-specific training goals.
- Social media – Leverage your social media by creating a paid Facebook group of online clients. Consider doing paid fitness challenges in addition to offering regular, ongoing coaching groups. The group members can encourage and motivate each other as you facilitate the conversations, post live videos and share program materials. This is a cost-saving way to integrate software.
Tips for Successful Online Coaching
Over deliver but set clear professional boundaries – It’s normal to want to go above and beyond for clients as a way of proving the benefits of working with you online, but it’s important to set clear professional boundaries so you don’t spread yourself thin in the online space, too.
Have systems in place even if you don’t use fancy training software. To set up your systems, consider the following:
- How many clients will you be working with at one time?
- What are the lengths of your packages and what’s included?
- How often will you be sending program updates?
- Will you have an exercise library or photo gallery for exercise demonstrations?
- If you are using software, what’s the learning curve for new clients and what’s included in the software?
- Will you have office hours, offer unlimited email coaching, send all programs on one date, etc.?
As fitness professionals, we often trade time for money and therefore experience physical burnout, a cap on the number of clients we can train in person and the desire to connect with our clients outside the gym. Taking your training business off the floor and offering services online is a great alternative to in-person training, while still helping clients achieve their goals. Whether you start small with a few customized programs for clients, offer a group online training program or use training software to manage multiple clients at once, consider adding online personal training to your business model. Work smarter, not harder to grow your business and effective change with your clients.
Goodman, J (2013). How to Get Started as an Online Personal Trainer. Retrieved from https://www.theptdc.com/2013/02/how-to-be-an-online-personal-trainer/
Statista (2013). Internet Usage in the United States – Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/topics/2237/internet-usage-in-the-united-states/
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