How do I become an online personal trainer? [Step-by-Step Guide]
May 17, 2019
If you want to become a successful online fitness trainer, then you’re at 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 business (and their in-person businesses).
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 great good.” 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 need.
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 – Used 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:
Unlike many of our competitors who only have ONE single app in the App Store—their app, with their corporate branding. And then once your user searches for their app under their name and creates an account, only after they log in they will see your logo.
You have to ask yourself: are you doing all this work to build their brand or to build your own brand?
With our fully custom branded personal training software solution for web and for iOS and Android apps then 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 is all about 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—and 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 and 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 distribution 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 skillsets.
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 already and have seen some success already, 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 get scared off of every starting out building their own successful online personal training business because they think that they need to first become some kind of online 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.
Let’s not overcomplicate this.
One of the very best distribution channels for selling online training is signing people up in-person. And that goes 10x if you have a consistent physical presence in a gym, a camp, or an 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 just a few scenarios that could be profitable for you to test out.
You lead a youth sports camp that trains young athletes for a limited timeframe. 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% 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?”
You train clients at your gym and they move away and are unable to train with you in-person any longer. “Here, 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 this link I just emailed you and it will get you set right up to automatically get a new workout from me each month.”
You meet people who would like to train with you in-person but they are not able to afford you. 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, even right now. Technically, if you know how to text or email a signup link and your in-person customer acquisition strategies are robust enough then you could build up a successful online personal training business without even doing any online marketing.
Of course, you could be even better as an online health and fitness coach if you could do both.
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 much of the busy work of personal training and running a fitness business. With our virtual personal training software you can create assessments to send to clients that, based on their answers, can automatically schedule them into your desired workout programming. You can give your clients apps to log their workouts in the gym (reinforcing your brand every time they tap that app icon!) and so that they can watch your exercise instructional videos. The best software for online personal training is pretty 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 automations on our platform) 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 will want to consider a social media scheduling tool like Buffer. If you are committed to blogging then you can’t ever go wrong with WordPress.
START NOW (no, seriously)
This is maybe the most important one. 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 make mistakes along the way? Yes. Will you put in a lot of hard work upfront—creating exercise videos, creating workout plans, marketing your training, and more—all to see just a few people purchase? Sometimes, yes. But if you stick at it, those few people turn into a few more, and in the middle of your marketing and positioning mistakes you find that, yes, wow, this is working really well, and you’ll do more of that, whatever that is, and before you know it, you are a successful personal training 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 personal trainers who only train in person can vary from one trainer to another, 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 the Exercise.com platform then because of the power of software your ceiling as an online trainer is virtually limitless, while of course, training clients one-by-one in-person is limited by, well, your time.
In fact, one of the amazing trainers on the Exercise.com platform, Paul Fabritz, could probably write a book about making money in fitness online, and he also trains in person—professional basketball players, in fact. Listen to this 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? Likely 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 their fitness business online every single day? Why not? People are looking for personal trainers online. They are looking to buy workout programs online, looking to join workout groups, and participate in a workout community, and get results. Why can’t it be you that helps them?
You can make money in fitness online. It won’t happen overnight, maybe not even in mere weeks like Paul. But if you charge $129/month to join your online workout group and you stock it full of benefits like a new workout every month, leaderboards, apps for logging their workouts in the gym, interaction with other group members going for the same fitness goals, and more then once you’ve got your workout plans loaded up and ready to be time released into the group on schedule then your #1 priority needs to become recruiting people into paying for and joining that group, because once you’ve got 7-10 group members then as the group grows the utility of being in the group grows with it—more people to interact with, more engagement, more of a load off of you. In the beginning, if there’s only a few people in your group, will you need to be heavily active and maybe even astro turf a little bit? Yes. But as long as you overdeliver on actually providing client focused benefits then 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 how much you charge and how many clients you have:
For example, if you charge $99/month for online training and you add 7 new clients every month, then here’s how much income you’ll have:
- After 12 months: $54,054.00
- After 24 months: $207,900.00
- After 36 months: $461,538.00
Now, what if you charge more for your online training (something a lot of trainers should do)? Well, let’s run the same income calculations, but instead of charging $99/month, then you charge $179/month and you still add 7 new clients every month:
- After 12 months: $97,734.00
- After 24 months: $375,900.00
- After 36 months: $834,498.00
How about $249/month?
- After 12 months: $135,954.00
- After 24 months: $522,900.00
- After 36 months: $1,160,838.00
Now, what if you really double down on marketing, referrals, grow your online presence, and take a long term approach to your online training business and you get 25 new signups a month at $249/month:
- After 12 months: $485,550.00
- After 24 months: $1,867,500.00
- After 36 months: $4,145,850.00
So, play around with the online training income calculator above and you will quickly start to learn some lessons you should take to heart:
#1 – Have a long term mindset – Success doesn’t happen overnight. If your only interest is 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 make this easy.
#3 – Retention is key – You must deliver a valuable service (which is more sticky: you emailing out excel sheets and PDF’s or a professional, custom branded web/iOS/Android full-featured workout logging and tracking experience?)
Do any of those numbers seem unrealistic to you? Well, the thing about training online, or really any type of online business for that matter, is that you still have to put in the work. It’s not going to happen magically on its own, but as a fitness business owner you will quickly find that the possibilities online are enormous because you can scale quickly and almost without limit.
Many online trainers all over the world are earning that kind of money and much more.
We have some trainers that have earned over $200,000.00 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 network and following? I think you know.
Or, how about Kayla Itsines? Her Sweat App is estimated to earn $77,000,000.00 per year. Yes, you read that right. $77 million. But, if you dig a little deeper you will see she has a team of 70 people, has spent enormous sums on marketing and on building a fitness app from scratch.
You don’t have to have a team of 70 people and you don’t have to build an app from scratch when you can start with your own custom branded apps from our expert business coaching team.
In the end, if you want to learn how to make a lot of money in the fitness industry then realize that it will take time. But if you get the right systems and process in place now, and use an online training software solution like Exercise.com that can scale with your business and support and even propel your growth then making six figures or even 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 thing that are uncomfortable at first? Maybe some things that are well outside your comfort zone, like learning new technology, filming exercise videos, investing time and money into your platform (i.e. treating it like a real business, which it is) with an uncertain time frame for realizing a return on those efforts? Yes, yes, and yes. 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. But we see trainers, gym owners, physical therapists, and fitness professionals of every stripe monetizing their expertise online every single day, and 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 can charge as a fitness coach is as varied as the number of business models. Here are just some pricing options you can consider:
Charge Per Workout Plan – Sell a workout plan and charge someone to purchase the plan. Pricing can vary from as low as $10 to as high as $300 or even more.
Charge a 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-off purchases are good, and often can get people introduced to your products but your ultimate goal should always be to get them to subscribe monthly (or quarterly or annually). Pricing can vary from $25/month all the way up to $500/month or more.
Pay for Workout Group Membership – This can be a recurring charge too, but it’s worth splitting out separately because the model is so automated and so unique while also providing a ton of benefit to the client. Group members get workout plans time released on a schedule you set up, they can interact with other group members via discussion and leaderboards, do challenges together, message you, upload video for critique, watch instructional videos from you, and more. This is a great way to build community and make your fitness business more “sticky”—a great way to reduce churn. Pricing here is anywhere from $25/month to $150/month.
Those are just a few pricing options you can consider. Ultimately, you should test out different pricing and see what works best for your market. In general though, most trainers don’t charge enough so don’t be afraid to deliver a great product and charge something that reflects that value.
How do I become an online fitness coach?
Both the beauty and horror of the fitness 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 that’s about it. If you are just starting out, don’t let that discourage you. If you have longstanding experience training clients but are still learning the online part of the business then don’t let that discourage you either.
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 and others. That’s our goal, so we never have an intent to tear people down, especially others 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 fitness professionals in the industry.
Qualifications for Becoming an Online Trainer
Do you need qualifications to be an online personal trainer? Technically, no. But most would agree that you should have a minimum level of experience training clients and a certification from a legitimate organization (more on that below). But, everyone starts somewhere, so take these following qualifications more like steps to aspire to in your fitness journey. Here are some minimum qualifications for online fitness trainers to strive for, and some steps that you will want to take to become an online trainer that is taking it to the next level.
Steps to Online Personal Training Success
Here are some practical steps to growing your fitness business online and seeing online personal training success.
#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. People are accustomed to downloading an app, purchasing online, and have a workout experience that they can take with them on their phone anywhere they go to do their workout. 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 app, but now 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 now you can have an affordable solution that can compete with anything on the market for workout apps. 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. But if your goal is to have success doing online personal training then you absolutely must bust out of the in-person paradigm of trading your time for money. Sometimes we’ll see trainers who want to 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 benefit because otherwise you are just going from earning an hourly rate training people at the gym to earning an hourly rate training people over videoconference. The beauty 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 video you created 2 years ago will still be used by workout plan purchasers watching them in the gym and logging their workouts for year and years, all the while you will be earning that recurring revenue.
#3 Always be Learning
If you have the mindset of a lifetime learner then you should be happy for the opportunity to dive into studying for a new personal training certification or to learn 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 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 many options 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, but there is gold to be mined if you simply open your eyes and investigate the business practices of personal trainers who are already successful marketing and selling online. Take a read through the many testimonials on our site about the Exericse.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, but it does mean being open to trying new things and being willing to fail in nine of out ten marketing campaigns but then to scale up that one winner.
#7 Practice What You Preach
I know this is treading on thin ice here but the cold, hard truth is that prospective clients will judge you for you how 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, the elephant in the room for some online trainers who have skipped 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, then if you are serious about investing in yourself and your fitness business, then this becomes a must. There are many 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 when marketing and growing your fitness business. If you’re awkward and clumsy on the camera, and no amount of practice will ever change that, but you love writing then don’t force the fitness video blog and instead write, write, and write some more! Conversely, if your favorite fitness professionals who are killing it doing online training are known for their prolific writing but can hardly string two paragraphs together without wanting to smash your keyboard into pieces then at some point you need to change from “powering through it” to “doubling down on your strengths”. That being said, you MUST be willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do new things. Fail, start again, fail again, force yourself to write or do video when you don’t feel like it. Playing to your strengths is never an excuse to just sit back and be comfortable, but is it a call to do an honest self assessment of what you can do best.
#10 Network with Other “Influencers”
If either of those two words—”network” and “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 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 fitness websites and then make that fact 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 can 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 to much more, choose the professional’s solution.
How do I start an online fitness coaching business?
This may seem overwhelming at first, but it needn’t be. We get a lot of interest from people who want to know what they need to do to get started training online. How do I deliver training online to my clients and do it in a professional, business-life way? How do I start an online fitness business if I only have experience training clients in-person?
Well, sometimes the best advice is just 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.