Online Personal Training: What You Need To Know
The popularity of online personal training is growing, leaving some confusion about it in its wake. Here we’ll define an online personal trainer’s role and what it means with virtual training and fitness coaches. There’s some debate on the topic, but ultimately these roles provide the same client results. Then we’ll tackle other questions such as:
- How effective is online personal training?
- How much do online personal trainers charge?
- What are the pros and cons of online coaching
- How do you become a reputable online trainer?
- What do you need to become an online personal trainer?
We’ll start with a few short answers to these questions. Online personal trainers, fitness coaches, and virtual personal trainers all help clients get to their fitness goals. They do this through changing lifestyle habits including fitness and nutrition guidance. The effectiveness is similar to personal training and sometimes greater due to service accessibility. Likewise, the cost parallels in-person personal training with a variability of 25%. Finally, becoming an online personal trainer involves the same type of education as a traditional personal trainer. However, it will require a greater level of professionalism and attention to detail with clients.
Defining The Roles Of The Online Personal Trainer, Fitness Coach, and Virtual Trainer
These words are often used interchangeably. However, some argue that online personal trainers and virtual trainers are specific to conducting one on one personal training sessions, rather than offering additional services like nutrition and habit coaching. Simply put, these trainers focus only on exercise and workouts in client sessions. Likewise, those who state there’s a difference in these roles view fitness coaching as more encompassing. They also see it as a more engaged relationship between client, coach, and other similar clients.
Currently, the fitness industry does not have a definitive occupational difference between the online personal trainer, fitness coach, and virtual trainer.
This could happen in the future, however, right now all fitness professionals seek the same entry-level education as a certified personal trainer. Making a distinction between the roles of a fitness coach and an online personal trainer will be a lengthy one. The industry will need to achieve accreditation for a “fitness coach certification”. The process of adhering to accreditation standards takes anywhere from 18 – 24 months. Further, it would require substantially different role descriptions of these titles. Therefore, the titles of the online trainer, fitness coach, and virtual trainer are used interchangeably.
Effectiveness Of Online Personal Training
Potential clients may wonder how effective online personal training is? Similar to traditional training, virtual personal training focuses on helping clients achieve their fitness goals through education, accountability, and motivation. Even when the sessions are 100% online, the fitness journey remains the same:
- Establish client goals
- Conduct an online fitness assessment
- Determine the best fitness plan
- Complete online training sessions either in a group or individually
- Using client progress, provide feedback
- Update the overall online program as needed
You can argue that an online personal training program can be even more effective than working with a trainer at the gym. Why? Cost, convenience, and accessibility weigh in more favorably with online fitness programs. You’ll learn more about how much online fitness coaching costs below. But for now, let’s evaluate convenience and accessibility in the world of virtual personal training.
Convenience In Virtual Personal Training
If you have experience as a trainer in a gym, you know that client cancellations are common. Too many times, paying clients will miss their training sessions because they’re stuck in traffic or running late from work. Even missing a small detail like packing gym clothes is enough for a client to cancel the training session. The physical act of going to the gym is, by itself, often a roadblock for clients to show up to their workouts. In the online world, these types of barriers don’t exist. Instead, clients only need a few short minutes to log onto their training session. And, this type of training often has the client exercising on their own and uploading their session outcomes after. It makes it so much easier for people to fit in regular exercise.
Likewise, virtual training is more convenient for fitness professionals. The trainer also doesn’t have to drive. Whether it be to and from client homes for private sessions or just to the gym. Less drive time means an online trainer can take on more clients. Or, they can charge less because they are equally appreciating the convenience of online fitness. Similarly, you don’t have to wait for gym equipment to be available, or get member interruptions. You’re training clients in a much more controllable environment.
Accessibility In Virtual Training
Similar to convenience, online fitness training makes the entire experience more accessible. The rules of engagement are slightly different. For example, instead of only seeing your client two to three times a week, you might be interacting with them almost daily. Clients will be uploading workouts, you’ll be checking in on their meal plan compliance, you’ll send fitness texts and so much more. The client can receive more trainer engagement with technology and automated communications.
This is great because one of the biggest challenges clients have is accountability. Even after they know what proper nutrition and exercise look like, they still don’t make good choices. In the virtual world, the accountability of a trainer is ever-present. This leads to greater commitment levels and, ultimately, a long-term relationship.
Online Personal Training Pricing
You might be wondering what the online personal training prices are. The cost per session remains closely the same. However, there is a couple of notable trade-offs. First, the client doesn’t get the same equipment unless they are also paying for a gym membership. Yes, this is true. However, as we see in the accessibility section, online personal training clients get more access to a personal trainer.
New trainers often have difficulty charging typical personal training rates. And, the fitness community reminds them of their value. Online personal training is no different. If you’re new to this type of fitness business, don’t undervalue the cost of your services. Your one-on-one personal training sessions should never be less than 25% of a traditional training session. For example, if you’d normally charge $100 in a gym, your online rate should never be less than $75 per hour. This includes the final price even after you offer promotions or discounts. So, you could start by charging $100 per session and then discount when clients buy bulk sessions or train more frequently per week. For example, your pricing structure could look like this:
- 1 session per week = $100 per session OR $400 per month
- 2 sessions per week = $90 per session OR $720 per month
- 3 sessions per week = $75 per session OR $900 per month
You can vary the pricing structure if the sessions are group rather than individual. Or, make modifications if they’re 30 or 45-minute sessions. Likewise, depending on what you offer your online personal training clients, you can charge more or simply by the month. Either way, make sure you’re very clear on the benefits and features of your coaching business and how it gets real results.
Pros And Cons Of Online Coaching
As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to online coaching. Here’s a quick list for you, starting with the bad.
Cons Of Online Coaching:
- Less gym equipment to choose from
- Less social interaction
- More attention to detail and intentional client outreach
- Greater reliance on technology
- Harder to correct form
Pros Of Online Coaching:
- Potential to increase client load
- Ability to work anywhere
- Greater schedule flexibility
- Scalability with automated communications
- More upsell opportunities with other forms of coaching
- Easier to advance and start your own personal training business
How To Become An Online Personal Trainer
Once you start realizing how great this type of career is, it’s time to start looking at how to become an online personal trainer. You can be a certified personal trainer in 5 easy steps.
Education And Personal Training Certifications
If you aren’t already a certified personal trainer, you should become one. You don’t need a degree in exercise science or exercise physiology, but you should get a certification. There are many personal training certifications. And, if you’re planning on becoming an online personal trainer, you should choose the one that has a good learning experience. The EMAC Certified Personal Trainer program is fitness learner-centric. This means, it doesn’t dump all of the exercise science information right up front for you to learn. Instead, it breaks down these technical concepts, only when you need to know them. For example, instead of going through several chapters on anatomy and physiology, you’ll learn the anatomy of a pushup, all the variations, and how to fit it into an exercise program in one chapter. After you get your certification, you’ll need to find online fitness clients if you don’t already have some.
Technology For Online Training
Since your offerings will primarily be online, you’ll need some technology. There are some basic needs including:
- Laptop or personal computer
- Recording capabilities on your computer or another camera
- Website (minimal at first and then you can grow it)
- Social media platforms set up
- Communication platform (Google, Outlook, etc.)
This checklist is easy and will be enough for you to start running your online personal training business. We recommend getting set up on Google because you can use it as your communication platform for email, video conferencing, and workout recordings. It also makes it easier to share documents like client records and workouts. Lastly, most of your clients will have it too, so there won’t be much of a technology learning curve to get them training with you right away.
Client Management Process
Just like a traditional trainer, you need a process to manage your clients and their records. You can easily keep your clients’ documents in your Google Drive. Here you can save everything and these are the basics you’ll need in each client’s file:
- Business and personal training contract
- PAR-Q (physical activity readiness questionnaire)
- Signed liability forms
- Fitness assessments
- Session notes
If you want something more robust, you can look at free customer relationship management software. We love the free CRM HubSpot offers. It also includes an email platform, so this makes it easier for you to send automated emails when your business grows.
Space For Virtual Workouts
As a professional fitness coach, you’ll want a good space to conduct training and coaching sessions. Your training sessions should include the type of equipment most of your clients will have. For example, bands, kettlebells, and common weights for dumbbells are good to start with. Here is an entire list of the best at-home exercises you can choose from. Make sure your background for workouts gives you enough room to demonstrate an exercise for your client. And, keep it clutter-free so clients focus on you and your direction during online training sessions.
When you aren’t online workouts, you’ll be interacting with clients as you coach them through their nutrition and other lifestyle choices. For these sessions, you should have an office type of environment. This will help you establish professionalism, adding to your credibility and ultimately cost.
Billing And Payment Process
You’ll need to set up a payment process for your clients. If they do online banking, they can send you electronic checks. You can also set up a credit card processing system. While it might seem easier to only accept checks or online payments, it’s not realistic. It can be inconvenient to the customers and conveys unprofessionalism on your end.
Use a credit card processing system like Square. It’s an affordable and easy way to collect payment and convey professionalism. You’ll be able to accept credit card swipes, send invoices, and accept online payments. The dashboard also allows you to manage your cash flow and see at a glance what’s going on with your finances. When you set up Square, you’ll be charged 2.6% and $0.10 per transaction.
The best online personal trainers are the ones that are new to the fitness industry. This is because they don’t have to break out of habits they built while working in a gym. Instead, they learn how to view technology as their friend and start marketing in the digital world. It’s never been easier to start an online personal training business and get paying clients in just a month.