How to Get Started as an Online Personal Trainer
Not only has online personal training landed in the digital space, it’s now the most popular service our clients ask us to help them with. And you want to get started as an online trainer as soon as possible, right?
We’ve tested every system, marketing strategy and online PT software to help hundreds of personal trainers create their online fitness business.
We’ve also posted once about the first three steps to start an online training business. In this blog post we’ll teach you how we do everything, from choosing a niche and software to creating a website and integrating payments.
The Online Trainer Academy is a comprehensive certification program designed to show fitness professionals how to build and grow an online training business for more income and freedom.
Step 1: Should I Become an Online Personal Trainer?
Here’s the deal.
It’s not my place to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do with your time, but it is my duty as a service provider to help you understand whether I think online personal training will work for you.
Before you start building a website or searching for the best payment gateways, you need to be clear on why you want to become an online personal trainer. I say this because most PT’s who come to us have done so because their face-to-face business has either slowed or failed completely and they think online is easier because “you can reach more people”.
But there’s a catch.
If you’re not doing so great with your face to face PT, online PT will almost certainly look like the easiest way out. But that might not be the case.
Here are a few reasons why.
- Online personal training is much harder to market than face-to-face PT. Establishing trust with a person you may never meet takes a lot of time and energy.
- Client uptake is much much slower. If you can get one new client a week in your face-to-face business, it could potentially be one per month as an online trainer.
- Online training does not take less time and effort. All of the time you would ordinarily spend training a face-to-face client would be spent on, marketing, support, retention and programming for an online client.
- You have at least one year of experience at exercise programming with face-to-face clients. This is a must. If you can’t train people when they’re right in front of you, you don’t have enough experience to train people online. A qualification is not enough.
- You have a niche. If you only train generic clients with no specific goal in mind, what’s stopping them from going on bodybuilding.com and downloading one of their hundreds of workouts for free? A well defined niche enables you to become an expert and experts get paid more.
- You have some marketing experience. This is more to manage your expectations. I meet too many PT’s who think that once their systems are in place, that they’ll start receiving Paypal payment notification emails. Unless you either have a huge existing fan base or a very generous marketing budget to spend on ads, your online fitness business is going to take a lot of time to gain momentum.
- You can create content. It doesn’t matter what type of content it is; blogs, emails, Facebook posts, tweets, video or podcast. You need a way to provide value. If you can’t, you better have a huge marketing budget.
- You have a website. This is more important for the low end membership model style of training, which we’ll talk about later in the course, but you need a base of operations to represent yourself.
But, wait. What if you don’t fit the criteria above?
Look, you can start online training the moment you get your PT qualification, but you’re going to waste a lot of time and money. Instead, I recommend you master local, face-to-face training, which is much easier to market, get some cash flow and experience and then transition slowly.
You can do this by getting a job that…
- Isn’t in a gym, but takes up the least amount of time for the most money. This way, you can build your business in your spare time. There are lots of hours after 5pm and before 2am. Game of Thrones can wait. If it can’t, you should probably rethink your career strategy.
- Is in a gym, providing experience as well as money. This way you can train clients, gain the experience you need, earn an income and build your online presence in your spare time.
Getting a job will at least get you a steady cash flow to invest in your online training business, so you can hire professionals to do the things you’re no good at, like web design, copyrighting, SEO and marketing.
“But I became a personal trainer to get OUT of working for someone else?!”
Suck it up. Starting a business costs time and money. If was easy and free, everyone would be doing it! Be patient, be calculated, be strategic and think long term!
We’re now in the Information Age where it’s possible for anyone to start their own business. But just because a PT read one blog about starting your own business and then created a 10 minute YouTube video about, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Still up for it? Let’s keep going.
Now that we have a better understanding of whether online personal training is even something you should be pursuing, let’s talk about the business set up.
An online business is where the internet is the main vehicle of attracting customers, marketing, advertising, processing payments, delivering products (usually), and managing other vital business components.
To start your online business you’re going to need to know at least a little bit about how each of your online business components work.
Step 2: Domain & Hosting
There’s no online business without a domain and a hosting account. So pay attention, because it’s a vital step if you want to learn how to set up an online business. Your domain name is the address people will use to find your online training website (Ex. www.youronlinePTwebsite.com).
There are 6 important factors when choosing a domain name
- Type of the name
- Ease of memorizing
Don’t overthink it too much. This step can be paralysing but honestly, nobody is going to be bothered unless it sounds really dumb or offensive. Besides, you can always change it later and they cost only $5-$15 per year!
Once you have some ideas lined up you can proceed to a tool like 1and1 and Godaddy to find out what’s available. Click the logos below to check out some of the most popular services.
Step 3: Website
If you already have a website and it generates a steady flow of clients for you. Adding an online training service to your existing list of services can often be enough to get things moving. Especially if you intend to train the same types of clients that your existing site already appeals to.
If you don’t have a website, I suggest you hire a designer. Sure, you can build one yourself but you need to have a lot of marketing expertise to get it right. If you do it yourself, you risk a DIY website with poorly written copy and sub standard images being the face of your business.
You’ll get told it’s easy to build a website, and it is. It’s also easy to draw a house but that doesn’t make you an architect. Just having a website isn’t enough. As an online trainer it’s your main marketing asset so it needs to establish trust, invite visitors to learn more about you, demonstrate your competency and gently nudge the visitor to become a lead.
Remember, online training is HARDER to sell, so your website needs to be tip top and trustworthy.
Step 4: Email Management
Email marketing will be at the core of your marketing strategy so an email client like Mailchimp and Aweber will save you heaps of time and make you a lot of money. It’s too big and in depth topic to get in to here but you can learn more in the Email Marketing Course.
Step 5: Member Portal/Software
There are two ways to provide your online training clients with the tools they need to get results. An online training software like PT Distinction and Total Coaching or a member portal on your website. Or both.
A member portal is cheap but takes a significant amount of time to build. You’ll need at least 90 days worth of content in there before you can even start selling. Content might include workouts, cheat sheets, PDF guides, feedback forms, etc.
You’re in a membership portal right now so you can probably imagine how long it took us to research, write, edit, format and publish all of this advice.
Step 6: Business Documents
Business documents include feedback forms, PARQ’s and Online Training Informed Consent forms. A lot of the forms you’d use in your face to face fitness business will work fine, you may just need to tweak a few of them. You can download the New Client Kit, a 15 part series of personal trainer business forms here.
Step 7: Taking Payments
One of your most important tools. A payment gateway enables you to take payments from clients securely from anywhere in the world. Choosing one does not need to be a chore. Don’t get yourself obsessed over small percentages and payment fees. Just go for the trusted providers like Paypal, Stripe and GoCardless (if you’re in Europe).
Step 8: Getting Insured
Insurance is a scary topic and one that should be taken seriously. The thought of being sued and having all of your personal belongings taken from you can be a paralysing prospect!
Unfortunately, information about insurance for online trainers is pretty scarce right now and even multi million dollar fitness companies that provide fitness services online operate without online personal training insurance.
Furthermore, consider adding ANOTHER form that requests users to agree to you using their name and images on your website as marketing materials. Although I’ve literally never seen a personal trainer get sued, I imagine most disputes would be over the use of images on a website.
I’m not in the least bit qualified to tell you which insurance provider to use so my advice is this. Check with a lawyer that’s local to you. He or she will be able to quickly tell you what type of insurance you need to provide online services from your country and state.