The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Online Personal Trainer

The year was 1999, and at the time I owned a small, but elegant personal training studio in NY called “BodyFX.” From Monday to Friday I would arrive at 5 am to open up and meet my first client, often not leaving to head home till somewhere around 9 at night. While I occupied the majority of my day working with my students and overseeing the other trainers on my staff, I also spent some time in my office, on my computer, writing articles and answering questions via the various bodybuilding/fitness discussion boards and chat rooms online. And while I did this for no other reason than to share my knowledge and experience, little did I know that it would lead to an entirely different branch of my business – becoming an online personal fitness coach.

Although social media was not even a concept at this point in time, writing articles for various websites and communicating with other fitness-minded individuals online served a similar purpose by helping to get my name out there (branding) and building a loyal “following.” This “notoriety” eventually led to several people asking me to help them with their training, supplementation and diet programs, even though they lived in another state (or even country).

And this is precisely when the proverbial lightbulb popped up over my head! I said to myself, “I am going to augment my income by becoming an online personal trainer.”

Wow! Awesome idea! But now what?

How to Become an Online Personal Trainer

Ok, so now you know the backstory on how I journeyed into online fitness training. Back then, I knew of no one who was doing this sort of thing, so I had no resources to rely on for taking this basic idea into the world of reality – thus I understood I was in uncharted territory. However, as someone who had been running his own business for almost eight years, I knew that a solid foundation had to be laid in order for this to be a fruitful endeavor. And luckily, since it has been nearly 20 years since I first launched my online business, there are now so many more tools at your disposal which can help lead you towards success and greater income.

Moving forward, here are some of the most important steps you need to take into account when setting up your online training business:

  • Part Time or Full Time – You need to decide whether your goal is making online training your sole source of income, or to use it to augment other sources you already have. If you want to do it full time you will need to be more aggressive in your approach as far as promotion and marketing so as to get more leads and thus more chances to land new clients. If you already have a decent income and simply want to use online coaching to make some more money during your down time, then you can be a bit more laid back, knowing you already have your bills paid.
  • What is your Level of Expertise – You must be honest with yourself and the people you target when it comes to your level of knowledge and experience. In other words, if you have been personal training for a couple of years and have 1-2 basic certifications you should not be marketing to professional athletes, high level physique competitors or individuals with illnesses or serious injuries. Seek out those who have need and goals that match your skillset so you can be confident in how you answer their questions and whether you can help them achieve their goals.
  • Decide on your Target – Much of this will be decided by following the guideline above, but if you have a very high level of experience, education and knowledge in the various areas of fitness and physical transformation you may want to either want to market to a very wide audience, or narrow it down so as to become known as an expert that works with a more specific group. This can mean training only men or women; working only with athletes and/or bodybuilders; designing specific programs just for teens or the elderly; helping those who want to build massive muscle or targeting individuals looking to burn fat and lose weight. Sometimes it’s best to create your own niche in this industry.
  • What Will you Offer – Will you provide specifically designed training programs, diet programs, supplement programs or all three? Will your programs be updated weekly, bi-weekly or monthly? Will you make yourself available to clients for questions every day or by appointment? Will you provide everything via email only, or will you also offer Facetime or Skype consultations? You need to decide on the level of service you wish to take on with your clients, and whether the goal is work with less people (more closely) or with a greater volume (less closely).
  • How Will you Structure your Pricing – When first getting into the online training business it would be smart to check out the pricing structure of some others in the industry who are on a similar level to you in terms of education and experience. Someone who has been a coach/trainer for 2 years cannot demand the same money as someone who has been successfully working with clients for 10-20 years. In other words, you must earn the right to charge premium prices. However, that does not mean you should shortchange yourself or give away your services for less than you are worth. Additionally, review the point above about “what you will offer.” A lot of what you can fairly charge will have to do with the level of services you provide. I myself decided long ago that I want every person I work with to feel special and know I am always available to them. This allows me to charge more, although I limit myself to only working with a certain number of clients at one time. Additionally you must think about how you wish to structure your pricing in terms of how often people will pay and whether you want to offer shorter (like 4 weeks for example) and/or longer packages (like 12-16 weeks for example) with lower costs for extended commitments.
  • How Will you Accept Payment – Very simply you must decide if you want to accept checks, Pay Pal, Venmo or other online/phone apps - or a combination of several.
  • Social Media/Websites – This is a huge topic, but suffice to say that I recommend using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms to market and promote yourself. I also feel that having a simple, clean website with your pricing, services, bio and photos is always helpful, as it gives potential clients a place to go with all of your information in one place. One thing I would like to mention that has been extremely helpful for me in building my name and brand is to give people free, helpful information on all of my social media. Just as I do, you should regularly provide tips on training, diet, supplementation and also ways to increase their motivation to be healthy and fit. Use your social media to help inspire and educate, and people will begin to look to you as an inspiration and as a teacher, which will make them more likely to seek your help as a coach and trainer. In other words, while marketing your business is extremely important, you don’t want to overdo it, or many will be quickly turned off. Be a leader and people will want to work with you!
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