Starting Your Online Personal Training Business — Your Questions AnsweredWebsite Development
The coronavirus outbreak has radically changed our way of life, and there’s no better example than how it has upended the fitness industry. According to ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman, 90% of their 30,000 gym and studio partners have closed indefinitely.
You know what they say, though: when one door closes, another opens. Personal trainers are embodying that motto, as they shift to training their clients online via Zoom, and offering fitness classes through Instagram Live and other platforms.
Trainers are motivated and creative people. If you’re a personal trainer, you know this. You’re constantly creating personalized routines for your clients, reading up on the latest fitness craze, and discovering new ways to use your equipment. So, it’s not a surprise trainers found a way to work online, especially once you realize how obvious the opportunity is.
“To be a trainer you don’t have to train people in person. This is a time of opportunity, not a time to feel sad and down. It’s time to go harder,” shares Austin Cheatum, an Atlanta-based personal trainer.
If you’re ready for the opportunity, read on. Whether you want to kickstart your online personal training business, or offer virtual personal training as a side hustle once life returns to normal, we share everything you need to know about building a successful online personal training business.
Should I Become an Online Personal Trainer?
Is online personal training the right business model for you? Here are the pros and cons to help you decide.
What are the benefits of becoming an online personal trainer?
There’s a lot of upside to running your own online personal training business.
- You get to decide how much you earn. When you manage your own online personal training business, you’re the boss. You get to set your rates, and collect all that money for yourself (minus what you pay in taxes and business expenses, of course). There’s no gym or studio owner to take their cut.
- You can work with anyone, anywhere. With an online personal training business model, your client base is no longer restricted to where you live. You can have clients who live across town, across the state, and even across the country. In addition, you can even create your own course to sell to your clients if you'd like.
- You can pitch it as more affordable for your clients. It’s common for virtual classes to be cheaper than in-person classes. This means you can offer your clients a discounted rate from in-person training, which can give you an edge over in-person trainers and expensive gym memberships.
- It’s an easier life for you. There’s no more driving across town to your clients’ homes or personal gyms. You can teach everyone from your home or your personal gym. With all that time freed up from commuting, you can take on more clients—making your online personal training business more profitable.
- You and your clients can stay safe, and practice social distancing. There’s no telling how long this pandemic will go on. Even once it’s over, you can continue to practice online personal training with your clients safely, without getting each other sick.
What are the limitations of being an online personal trainer?
Admittedly, there are some aspects of online personal training that are trickier than with in-person training. Fortunately, there are workarounds for each.
- Your clients may not have all the equipment they need. If your client requires certain machines or free weights and they don’t happen to have them at home, you’ll need to provide guidance for where they can buy them. Of, you can get creative with alternative training methods, like Michael Atunrase, a Virginia-based personal trainer, does, “We have used a book bag that you string a broomstick through to do some bicep curls, we have even used something silly like a sock to do some pull-aparts with.”
- You won’t be able to make physical adjustments. Not everyone is body aware. No matter how many times you tell a client to adjust their right hip, some will keep moving their left until you come in and make an adjustment. With virtual personal training, you need to be a pro at communicating placement and adjustments using only your words and miming the motion.
- There are new logistics to consider. Spotty WiFi connections can take online personal training sessions from terrific to terrible. You’ll need to have a strong WiFi connection. You’ll also need to research your online personal training software. (We review your best options in a later section.)
Do I need to be certified to be an online personal trainer?
Good news: the answer is no. You don’t need a separate certification to become an online personal trainer vs. an in-person personal trainer. Your in-person personal trainer certificate will more than suffice.
Don’t have one of those yet? Here are the best personal trainer certification programs for online personal trainers:
- American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
- National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- HFE (UK's Leading Provider)
Each of these offers different study courses, study materials, course lengths, and pricing plans, including self-guided study - so choose the one that works for you!
Speaking of pricing, you can save with these promo codes:
Beyond certification, there’s some more “boring” stuff you have to take care of as an online personal trainer. Don’t forget to prepare these forms for your online personal training clients:
- New client forms, asking for their contact information, equipment list, training and/or nutrition goals, and emergency contacts
- Liability release and safety waiver
- Training agreement that includes acknowledgement of your cancellation and payment policies
- Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire and/or Health History Questionnaire
What are the different types of online personal training I should offer?
An online personal training business model gives you the opportunity to experiment with new services. Take a look at the list below and think about what interests you:
Group classes allow you to teach a class to a large group of people at once. This can be a group personal training class focusing on a certain muscle group, a general personal training class, a HIIT workout, yoga, pilates… basically whatever you want!
Group classes typically work best when they’re scheduled to take place at the same time every week, via the same platform, whether that’s streaming live on Instagram Live or YouTube, via an invitation-only Zoom link, or on-demand via video. Some personal trainers also film their livestream session so they can add it to their on-demand video library afterwards.
One on one training sessions
One on one training sessions work just like your in-person training sessions, except that they’re online. It’s just you and the client, in a private session following a custom training regimen you’ve created for them.
The key here is to work with your clients to ensure they have the software, equipment, and WiFi connection they need, along with good lighting and enough space in their home, so that you can give them a great workout and offer verbal coaching as needed.
Nutritional programs allow you to offer nutrition coaching in addition to your personal training, giving your clients a comprehensive training plan for full body fitness. You know that working out is just one part of the equation; the other part is what fuel your clients are putting into their bodies.
Develop custom nutrition plans to help your clients bulk up, slim down, or get lean, and pack more power into your training. You can guide your clients through the plan via a video chat, and then give them downloadable PDF materials with meal plans, recipes, and more to follow throughout the week.
Online training packages
You know that certain routines and diet plans work better for certain body types, personal goals, and levels of motivation. Armed with that knowledge, you can put together online training programs that last a certain number of weeks. Gather the materials for these using the documents you’ve already created for your clients, along with any live streams or training videos you’ve made. You can add bonus materials, like extra instructional videos and meal prep coaching, for a more premium offering.
You’ll want to make sure your training videos are filmed using a professional camera with good lighting and equipment, and that all documents are branded with your personal training logo. Then, you can place these packages behind a paywall on your website, and grant people access once they pay.
Online training packages are an excellent way to scale your online personal training business for future growth and revenue. “Our business model is trying to make online classes as effective and gratifying as going to the gym,” says Carl Daikeler of Beachbody On-Demand. “It’s pretty cool knowing we have a catalog of 1,200 different workouts that people can use at a time like this.”
Fitness assessments are the personal trainer’s calling card. These are an excellent marketing tool for bringing in new clients, and getting them to invest. Many online personal trainers offer fitness assessments for free.
Impress your client by sending them a questionnaire ahead of time, asking about their goals, lifestyle habits, diet, current fitness level, and health concerns. Also have them provide their basic measurements on the intake form (height, weight, body fat percentage).
During the virtual fitness assessment, you can walk them through cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength tests you would give them in person, taking notes and providing guidance and motivation about how you can train them to reach their goals.
Pro Tip: Don’t reinvent the wheel. NASM offers fitness assessment forms you can download for free.
What is the best online personal training software available?
Online personal training software gives you a place to store and manage your client documents, communicate and provide feedback to your clients, share workout templates and videos, and cut and paste together a custom training program for one or more clients—all from the same dashboard.
Here’s an overview of the most popular online personal training softwares available today.
TrueCoach includes all the key features you need, like program builders, progress tracking, nutrition tracking, in-app messaging, email notifications, billing and payment, and more. TrueCoach’s standout feature is their video support.
Highlights for personal trainers:
- Choose from multiple color schemes to make it match your brand.
- Create your own videos for uploading on TrueCoach, and easily link them to your clients’ workout plans.
- Store videos privately on TrueCoach, or link to ones you’ve already created on YouTube or Vimeo.
- Use any of their 1,200+ videos to show clients how to do a strength or conditioning exercise.
Pricing: The Starter plan is $19/month for 5 clients (this plan doesn’t include custom theming or payments). The Standard plan is $49/month for 20 clients, and the Pro Plan is $99/month for 50 clients. All come with a 30-day free trial. Save with these TrueCoach promo codes.
Like most online personal training software, PTDistinction includes full file management for your training programs, videos, meal plans, fitness assessments and more. It also processes payments. The standout feature of PTDistinction is the white-label aspect.
Highlights for personal trainers:
- Fully brand PTDistinction so your clients think it’s your software, not a third-party, and integrate it with your website.
- Use their resource library for personal trainers to grow your business and sell smarter, with marketing tips from pro trainers.
- Schedule workouts, frequency, and length for each of your programs, which clients can easily add to their integrated calendar.
- Send habit coaching reminders to customize every detail of your clients’ personal training regimen.
Pricing: The Novice plan is $19.90/month for 3 clients, the Pro plan is $60/month for 25 clients, and the Master is $80/month for 50 clients. All plans come with a 30-day free trial. Save with these PTDistinction promo codes.
With Trainerize’s integrated platform, you can manage online, in-person, and hybrid training for groups or private clients. Offer classes on-demand, send invoices and process payments, message your clients, and track their process. The standout feature is their smartphone app.
Highlights for personal trainers:
- Through the smartphone app, you can develop and deliver personalized training programs for your clients, videos included, for them to view when they want. You can also manage key health stats, set goals, and monitor PRs.
- Send clients automated reminders to meet their fitness and nutrition goals, and celebrate anniversaries and achievements.
- Share meal plans through the app, and integrate with MyFitnessPals so clients can log their meals.
- Reach more clients through your own personal listing on Trainerize.me.
Pricing: You can try the free plan with one client (but it doesn’t include payment processing), or you can pay $5 to $200/month based on how many clients you have. There is a 30-day free trial. Save with these TrueCoach promo codes.
How should I adapt my approach to an online workout program?
A successful online workout comes down to having the right technology. If you use one of the online personal training software we recommended above, all of this will be taken care of for you. Alternately, you can piecemeal your own technology together.
Here are the core pieces you’ll need to interface with your clients online.
Video conferencing software options for personal trainers
Instagram Live is best for group classes, or when you’re marketing yourself by walking your viewers through a particular exercise. Barry’s Bootcamp offers a strength-training workout twice daily through Instagram Live:
The cons are major though. Currently, you can’t accept payment through Instagram, so there’s no way of forcing people to pay for your content. There are time limits (1 hour) and attendance limits (250). And since it's social, more people are inclined to drop in for free. However, thanks to hashtags, the occasional Instagram Live can be a good marketing tool to drive interest for your paid classes. Save with these Instagram promo codes.
YouTube Live has many of the same pros and cons of Instagram. The benefit of using YouTube Live is that you can quickly save your video to your channel for posterity, to share with future clients or as part of your online personal training packages.
Again, this platform is better for group classes, or marketing your online personal training business. Save with these YouTube promo codes.
Zoom is the most professional video conference software option for online personal trainers. You can share your link publically, or lock things down for private classes with a password, allowing you to make sure only those who have paid can enter. You can even add a virtual gym background to your place, so clients aren’t staring at your couch and dirty clothes on the floor (no judgment!).
“We open the shades for the natural light and set up the computer or camera facing away so that the lighting is perfect. If we teach later classes we use a stage light we purchased. Having quality lighting is super important when teaching over Zoom!” advises Jordan Cook, owner of Paragon Body.
Depending on the length of your sessions and/or group classes, you may be able to get away with a free account. Zoom free accounts are limited to 40 minutes for calls with more than 2 people, and there’s no limit for one-on-one calls. Save with these Zoom promo codes.
Scheduling and calendar software for personal trainers
If you use Zoom, anytime you set up a meeting, you’ll have the option to share the link via Google Calendar, Office 365, and Exchange, which covers most calendar clients your clients may use.
However, that requires a lot of back and forth and staying organized on your end. An easier option is to use scheduling software like Calendly. Calendly automatically syncs with your own calendar, but here’s the really cool part: you can program in your availability, and your working hours, and then clients can book time to schedule their workouts with you! No more emails or texts!
You can even add your Calendly link to your social media profiles so people can book free assessments. Save with these Calendly promo codes.
Payment processing and invoicing software for personal trainers
For one-on-one personal training sessions, Venmo and PayPal are two easy payment options. You can ask clients to pay you before the session starts. However, it’s often more professional to give clients receipts and/or invoices, so they can keep their own records, too.
Square is a popular payment tool for personal trainers. You can design branded invoices, and set up recurring invoices for weekly sessions. You can even charge cancellation fees for no-shows. Square charges 2.9% + 30 cents for every invoice. Save with these Square promo codes.
Prepare your training space
Once you have all your technology set up, it’s time to design your personal training space. This is where you’ll be filming your videos and coaching your clients, so it’s worth putting some thought into how to make this look good.
Clear space in your home, and position lights so that they’re shining on you, rather than hiding you in the shadows. Keep all fitness equipment, like free weights and exercise balls, nearby and neatly organized.
Dress for success with nice gym clothes. You might consider buying some branded tech shirts with your logo on them. Or, get a popup banner from VistaPrint with your photo, logo, and services listed on it to conveniently position in frame. Test out your sound and video before your start filming or your first session.
Offer online resources
At last, it’s time to create your personal training materials. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- E-books are perfect for personal training programs. You may develop a custom training plan for one client, a “Welcome” pack for new clients, or an 8-week program of fitness routines. Rather than sending your clients multiple files with different exercises or recipes, you can send them a single PDF file. Design your e-book with a tool like Canva (they’ve got a ton of fun templates), Google Docs, or Microsoft Word. Don’t forget to include your logo.
- PDFs are great for shorter bits of information, like a weekly schedule of exercises. You’ll also use PDFs for your client intake forms, Fitness Assessments, and more.
- As you film videos, consider how you can sort them into video libraries for easy access by new and current clients. Instagram lets you save stories to your Highlights on your profile. Add a section to your website with video libraries. You can also develop playlists on YouTube.
How do I get more online personal training clients?
In some ways, it can be easier to grow your client base online. Michael Atunrase, a Virginia-based personal trainer, agrees, “Now I have some new clients that I never had before. In this time of social distancing, I've actually been able to be a little bit more social with more people because of obviously the technology that we have nowadays with Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live.”
Here are popular techniques successful trainers use to get online personal training clients:
Offer promotions and deals for new clients.
How many times have you decided to buy something because there was an intro offer, discount, or freebie included with your first purchase? A lot right?
Why not use the same strategy for your personal training business? Include a free fitness assessment to get clients in the door, paired with a percentage-off discount their first five sessions.
Run seasonal deals, too. January is a time clients expect a deal on personal fitness, and you’ll need one to rival fitness centers and gyms. During the summer, offer a bikini bod deal that discounts your core workout training PDF or video program.
Develop a referral program.
Your clients are the best source you have for new clients, especially the ones who are reliable and pay well!
Offer a free session for your client and every new client they refer, or offer a dollar-off discount. Remind clients of your referral program on your invoice and appointment reminder emails.
Do you recommend certain foods, smoothies, or protein powders to your clients? Approach these companies to learn more about their affiliate programs (you may be able to make money for promoting them), and inquire about a mutual partnership. Maybe they have a directory on their website where they recommend personal trainers and other fitness resources.
Likewise, if you focus on a particular niche, find partners in complementary niches. For example, if you exclusively offer personal training, partner up with nutritionists so you can refer clients to each other. Direct your clients to your friend who teaches yoga classes online, and they can refer their yogis to you for personal training.
Get listed in a directory.
Add your listings to online directories people use to find personal trainers. BrightLocal has a list of nearly thirty you can add a listing to, many of which are free. If you get your personal training certificate, the certifying agency will also list you as a trainer, so make sure your information is up to date there.
How do I start a personal training website?
If you’re going to be listed on directories, you’re going to need a website to list, aren’t ya? A personal training website impresses clients, helps them trust you, and makes them more willing to pay better rates. All good stuff.
To start your personal training website, you first need to register a domain name. Then you can build your website.
Register a custom domain name
The domain name is the URL people type into their internet browser to access your website, like mypersonaltrainingwebsite.com.
The domain name should match the name of your personal training business. This makes your brand easier to remember for your clients, so they can easily rattle off your website name when a friend asks them how they got so fit.
You can check if your domain name is available and register it using a domain registrar like:
If your domain name isn’t available, don’t lose all hope. Instead, use your name (if you work as a solo trainer), or add keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases people type into Google. We’ll talk more about them in a bit, but relevant keywords for personal trainers include phrases like “online personal trainer,” “training,” “fitness,” or “virtual personal training.”
Design your personal training website
Once you’ve got your domain name picked out, it’s time to build that website! Fortunately, designing a personal training website is way easier than you think, thanks to website builders.
These tools take all the questions out of designing for you, so you can plug and play with different templates to make your website reflect your personal training brand.
The top-rated website builders for personal trainers are Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. Which one works best for you mostly comes down to how intuitive it feels for you to design using their templates, and your budget.
Squarespace offers a checklist of features to include on a fitness-focused website. They don’t have any trainer-specific templates, but you can customize any of their existing templates to include the information you need.
Wix offers not just one, but multiple, website templates designed for personal trainers. Here are just a few:
How do I get traffic to my personal training website?
To get more clients, you need more website traffic. This is where marketing comes in. Content marketing, in particular, can be very powerful for driving traffic to personal training websites. Here’s a three-step approach you can try.
Step 1: Conduct a keyword research analysis
Keyword research involves doing research to find what terms and phrases your clients use to search for information in Google. You probably already know many of these without realizing it.
For example, if someone wanted to work on their core, they would probably look up things like:
- What’s the best core workout
- Core workouts at home
- How to workout core
Coincidentally, these are all keywords with decent search volume. Search volume is an estimate of how many people search for a phrase each month. Higher search volumes (think: in the thousands) tend to be more competitive, while lower search volumes (hundreds and lower) can be easier for smaller websites to rank for.
SEO tools help you find keywords. You can type in a keyword and the tool will offer related keywords, questions, and variations that people type into Google. Here’s what we found when we typed “core workouts” into SEMRush:
Popular keyword research tools include SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz, although you can also research for free simply by typing phrases into Google and seeing what comes up in the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections:
Step 2: Write 10x content
Once you’ve done your keyword research, it’s time to create your 10X content. 10X content is a trendy marketing term that refers to creating a piece of content that’s 10 times better than anything else out there. Generally, 10X content tends to be longer, answer more questions, and include multiple forms of media, such as images, infographics, videos, and text—all on one page.
This is one marketing technique where personal trainers have an advantage most marketers don’t have. Your work naturally lends itself to 10X content.
If you focus on core workouts, for example, you could create 10X content that answers all of the keywords you just researched. Include core exercises for back pain and bodybuilding, and answer questions like “do core workouts burn belly fat?” or “what’s the fastest way to strengthen your core?”
Throughout your blog post, you can embed social media posts where you demonstrate one of your core exercises, a YouTube video showing another one, and/or an infographic you made in Canva that lists the top 10 core exercises. Here’s a sample infographic you could use to get started:
10x content is also about making something better than the competition. That means knowing who ranks on page 1 of Google, and analyzing what they wrote, so you can make your 10x content even better. SEO tools help out here again, as they’ll show you who’s currently ranking:
Step 3: Market your content
Try these tips to promote your 10X content to potential training clients:
- Share your content on your social media channels, and include hashtags to help it reach even more people.
- Start an email newsletter and share all new content with your clients, and anyone else who signs up through your blog.
- Create a Facebook group to help your clients support each other.
- Share your content with any external partners, so they can promote it on your behalf.
- Create an at-home challenge based on your content, like a bingo card of different core workouts.
How do I market my online fitness coach business?
Marketing is absolutely essential for online personal trainers. “One of the crucial elements of virtual personal training, that I overlooked at the beginning, was not creating a marketing pipeline,” shares Austin-based personal trainer Danny Trejo.
“This meant offering very high quality services that are representative of my brand, and ideology. For me this was my 5 Minute Move video series. It explained, in 5 minutes, everything I stand for while giving them some value. After regular engagement of those videos, I can then position them into profitable quality services because I have broken the first barrier, the digital handshake.”
There are a lot of ways to take fitness classes and get nutrition advice online these days. But there’s no one like you, and the way you help your clients reach their goals. So, when marketing your online fitness coach business, focus on what makes you unique like Trejo did.
Highlight your specialization, whether that’s a specific diet or training philosophy. Do you serve a certain demographic, or those working towards similar fitness goals? Regularly feature your specializations in your marketing content, Instagram posts, and social media profiles.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool for personal trainers. Online personal trainer Jay Dang offers this advice: “When choosing a platform, you have to know where your ideal clients hang online or in person. More millennials are on Instagram right now, which is mostly my market.”
Dang fills his feed with a healthy mix of practical training tips and techniques, client before/after photos, and aspirational lifestyle photos:
You can also drive more traffic to your website and social media channels with paid advertising. Here’s where having a niche comes in handy. If you serve people following certain diets, or working to achieve particular fitness goals, you can develop ads that target those interests, like men aged 18 to 35 interested in strength training or weight loss:
Finally, network, network, network! Don’t be afraid to pitch your services or ask for referrals. Strike up conversations with people working out at gyms in your area. Connect with peers in your industry. Find personal trainers you admire online, and help each other out with referrals.
How much should I charge for an online personal training session?
Figuring out what to charge for online personal training takes some trial and error. Here are a few strategies you can use to hone in on your pricing:
- Research competitors. Look up the websites of personal trainers who match what you offer, and work with similar clients.
- Poll your friends and family. Ask people you know what they would pay for an online personal training session. Hold more weight from the people who match your target demographic than what your mom says, though.
- Consider your ideal client’s budget. Do you want to work with high-income professionals, or do you like being able to bro-down with people right out of college?
- Take your in-person rates, and discount them by 10-20%. Like with most things online, clients expect to pay a bit less for virtual personal training than in-person training at a studio.
- How specialized are you? If you’re a jack-of-all-trades personal fitness trainer, your fees will be lower than someone who exclusively works with endurance athletes, or focuses on a particular diet.
- Measure your ROI. Think about how much your time is worth, and charge accordingly. Don’t forget to factor in all the unpaid time you’ll spend developing your training videos and marketing content, invoicing your clients, and preparing for sessions.
- Choose your pricing structure. Most personal trainers go with either flat fees or recurring fees. The flat fee is a set price for a period of time, whether that’s an hourly session or set of sessions. This pricing structure is very straightforward, with the fees tied directly to the time spent with your clients. Recurring fees are subscriptions you bill your client on a weekly or monthly basis. With a recurring fee, you can price your services higher, because you can add services that enhance the value of a personal training subscription, like text or email coaching. Recurring fees are more commonly used with online personal training packages.
Is online personal training profitable? With effective online marketing and the right pricing strategy, it definitely can be. All you have to do is start!