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5 Steps to Get Started as an Online Personal Trainer

Since the appearance of COVID-19 it’s safe to say the face of the fitness industry has changed forever from being one that was almost exclusively in front of you to now being mostly online. However, it dosen't mean your work needs to come to a grinding halt, have you considered becoming an online personal trainer?


Want to stand out from the competition? Head over to our guide tips to stand out as a personal trainer.


There will always be a need for face to face work, but current circumstances mean avid gym goers, class attendees and fitness enthusiasts are having to remain indoors. The demand to train people virtually has therefore become crucial for the survival of many personal trainers and gym businesses. Zoom, Teams and Skype have made this possible by introducing a new method of training to flourish and which is here to stay.

As such, there really is no excuse for people not to have access to a fitness professional in some capacity, whether it’s via paid group sessions, online coaching or free-to-follow fitness on a social media channel.

Another great benefit of the virtual world of training is that you can potentially cater for far more people in one session at reduced costs to them, without taking a hit in profit. So, it’s a win-win in most peoples eyes.

With this in mind we’ll look at some crucial elements to becoming the best online trainer that you can be and appreciate what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

Step 1: Decide whether you actually need to go online

There are various benefits to online work, the most alluring being the profit margins. There may be a large initial outlay in terms of your time and expense, but once the systems are in place and the content is created, it’s essentially all profit (less your continued reinvestment into the business, of course).

There are 4 more crucial questions to consider:

  • Why do people want to train with me?
  • How is my service unique?
  • What problems am I offering solutions to?
  • Am I putting my clients needs first?

As trainers, we all like to think we have something unique and great to offer, yet there’s nothing new under the sun. A trap many personal trainers fall into is offering what they think their clients want, as opposed to asking them what they actually want.

There are 3 questions you can ask your clients to help avoid this pitfall:

  • Why are you looking for online training?
  • What is the problem you’re looking to solve?
  • How do you feel the problem is best solved?

Ask clients what they want from their training. This provides a goldmine in terms of information and product ideas. You can also take it one step further and ask what people are willing to pay. This pre-empts them saying the cost is not in their budget, although what they mean is it doesn't meet their perceived value. Aim for potential clients to respond withWhat’s the catch?That seems too good for the price”. It makes good business sense to undersell and over-deliver.

Step 2: Decide the services you can provide to substitute face to face sessions?

While there are many benefits to online services, there are some drawbacks. When working face to face you can pick up non-verbal information on a persons mood and emotions. There’s also the support and feeling of community with face to face sessions. Taking these points on board, you can address them by considering the following:

Create a community feel and social element to the sessions

  • Set up entry to the online classes 5-10 minutes before the start of the session to encourage group chat and rapport building
  • Establish weekly meetings to discuss habit changes or simply to have a catch-up
  • Offer one-to-one video calls to deal with any specific needs
  • Create private groups for sharing content, Q&A, connecting and online event advertising (social and training)

Tweaking of form and kinesthetic learning

  • Offer one-to-one video calls to deal with any specific needs
  • Run technical sessions that people need to attend or pass before specific classes
  • Set up a training library with all movements/progressions and alternatives for client reference
  • Arrange for clients to perform daily drills that they film and send to you for assessment and feedback

The personal element

  • Provide individual feedback and general chats via messages, videos or Zoom
  • Conduct an initial assessment through a conference call - assessing is guessing
  • Snail mail - post small birthday gifts or recognise individual progress. The client will then tag you and share online. This builds a community that knows you care

This is a big challenge with online work, so set up a good system of tracking, perhaps utilising True Coach or a similar online tool.

While you might not be with your clients physically, this doesn’t mean you should skimp on personal attention. Your clients must always come first. Your virtual gym options are pretty much as follows:

  • Large group sessions for 10+ clients - general needs (follow along/lead)
  • Small group sessions for 2-10 clients - specific needs (follow along/lead)
  • One-to-one coaching - specific needs

This can be set up via any of the paid online platforms like Zoom. Ask your clients what they want, then select from the options covered above. You’ll be creating for the clients demands - they create the need and you supply it.

If you’d like further advice, please contact our free service by clicking here.


Personal trainer video call

Step 3: Decide what will be different about your online service

When it comes to how you can add value, this is where the fun begins. You can tackle it from not only a business perspective but how it will appeal to clients needs, making your Personal Training business even more personal. First, let’s consider the business options for new potential clients.

Discounted fee for online coaching

Setting up a small fee per calendar month is an attractive and affordable option for many people. A good pricing strategy would be to offer just two options:

  • Semi-private training online - £75per person (example)
  • Individual online coaching - £100 per person (example)

Within these packages you could offer:

Semi-private training online package:

  • Access to 5 live online sessions per week with classes limited to 10 people
  • Access to all recorded sessions in an archive folder
  • Weekly newsletter
  • Bi-weekly nutrition guidance
  • Monthly e-book (10-30 pages covering various topics)
  • Monthly virtual coffee catch-up
  • Online video library - exercise demos and micro sessions (10-20-minute blasts for those short on time)
  • Access to private Facebook group (or premium site page access)
  • Online loyalty card - 6 months attended = 1x30-45-minute consultation

Individual online coaching package:

  • Access to all content, classes, virtual gatherings covered in package above
  • One to one online sessions
  • Personalised coaching and training programme
  • Individual weekly nutrition or coaching catch-up

These are some examples of what you could offer. For clients paying the premium fee, you may wish to further invest in them by sending a suspension trainer, bands, yoga mat, training diary and personal note, essentially issuing them with a small welcome box.

Another cost-effective consideration is a minimum sign-up term such as 3months (£300 initial cost) to offset the cost of the box. However, from my experience, it works best as a rolling month-by-month payment scheme, where the client pays for the month upfront (just the £100) and they still receive the welcome box. This follows the principle of reciprocity. For further information on this topic, read ‘Influence, the Science of Persuasion’ by Dr R Cialdini.

Step 4 - Create a marketing strategy to attract new clients

You’ll need to have a marketing strategy ready to attract new clients:

  • Client testimonials are crucial
  • Have you asked your clients what they want?
  • Consider ways to market your service.15-30-second video clips are the most popular at the moment, with infographics a close second

Most people seeking out a new product ask themselves “What’s in in for me?” or “What are the benefits?”A good marketing strategy bases everything on the benefits the service or product has to offer and what it can do for the person. The target demographic in this case is online fitness enthusiasts. Consider how it will enhance the life or solve the problem of the people you are prospecting.

People tend to buy a service based on emotion and what the service or product can do for them. It’s important to understand the difference between ‘featuresand ‘benefits’. Here is a process for how to make a feature a benefit:

  • Feature -lose weight
  • Question to ask yourself when writing your adverts – “So what?” “Why should they care?
  • Benefit - feel more comfortable in your own skin

Language is a powerful tool and how you use it can differentiate you from the rest. Take a look at some online fitness professionals on Instagram and see what their grids look like. You’ll find the style is less direct marketing and more subtle. They sell a story or build on clients success stories. Perhaps 9-19 posts down you’ll find what they’re selling.

In fact, this is one way to stand out from your competitors. Don’t advertise – let your clients do it for you.You could be truly different from other online service provider by not asking for a single sale. Instead, have your clients recommend people to you. You may even stipulate that applications for training must be forwarded by an existing client. If you only take on referrals, you’d be amazed how many people will want to be a part of it. People will ask “What if I don’t know any of your current clients?” “How can I apply?It’s not fair!.This creates a potential buying signal. They either want to be part of something special or they’re just irritated because they’re not used to having barriers in their way.

With this in mind, we've put together some marketing tips to help you move your personal trainer business online.

Customer feedback - personal trainer session


Step 5: Long-term strategies for online personal trainer success

When setting yourself up online, you’ll need to allow yourself plenty of time to film various intro videos, create PDFs and various other tasks. This may take at least 200 hours. This number isn’t just pulled from thin air. It’s the overall average that most current online trainers have taken to create everything they needed. This is based on 2-4 hours work a day for at least 5 days per week (while still doing face to face work) over 3-6months.

You’ve also need to factor in trial and error as well as understanding which social media platforms your clients use, so you can create something appealing to them and their needs.

The online world can be unforgiving. If you’re preaching a healthy life filled with fitness and progress, you’d better be living that life yourself, otherwise the trolls will come out to play.

Business is still business at the end of the day and there are 5 key elements to adhere to:

  • Understand your target market and their hangouts (such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
  • Know what your potential clients want and why
  • Speak in a language that appeals to your clients
  • Offer benefits instead of features
  • Deliver a service that’s more valuable than you’re charging – undersell and over-deliver

Want to become an online personal trainer? Enquiry today to start your own business! Or get in touch with us on Facebook and Instagram to let us know your experiences with online personal training.

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