Your Guide to Becoming a Virtual Personal Trainer
Technology has shortened the distance between people, no matter where in the world they are. That means personal trainers can help clients improve their fitness—through diet and exercise—from anywhere! If you’re ready to take your fitness business to the next level, virtual training might be just what you’re looking for.
What Does a Virtual Personal Trainer Do?
The learning curve to become an online personal trainer is “virtually” non-existent. Why? Because an online personal trainer does the same work as a fitness trainer working on the gym floor. The only difference is an online personal trainer can’t reach out and touch their client to help correct form. Instead, they must use verbal cues and visual demonstrations to help clients move properly.
The job is nearly the same for both—collect data, create a program, motivate, and coach the client.
If you’ve already been working as a certified personal trainer, then you know what it takes to do the job. But, do you have the tech knowledge to make it happen online? Virtual training is a great way to increase your reach and income, but it takes work to pull it off.
Pros and Cons of Being a Virtual Personal Trainer
Are you wondering whether online personal training is going to be a good fit for you? Not everyone has what it takes to be successful in the virtual training space. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.
First, virtual training requires quite a bit of tech knowledge and skill. We’ll discuss this more in a minute, but those famous online trainers have a lot going on behind the scenes. They have teams of people working with them to pull it all off. Virtual training isn’t nearly as simple as the “gurus” would have you believe.
But if you’re super passionate about changing lives, it is much easier to reach people online. One of the biggest excuses people have is “no time.” As an online personal trainer, there are more options for clients of when and where you can meet with them:
- In their living room before dinner
- At their desk at work during lunch
- On their phone at the ballpark during the kids’ ball game
You can be with clients all around the world and still work from the comfort of your home. You have the potential to help even more people than ever before—it’s a significant impact!
The downside to this is working with clients in different time zones. You thought you spent a lot of time on the gym floor trying to accommodate everyone’s schedules?
- The 5 AM client who likes to exercise in a silent, empty gym.
- The dedicated “lunch is my only free time for a workout” goal-getter.
- The 9 PM shift worker who just needs to fit in a workout sometime!
Virtual training will be even busier once you introduce different time zones into the mix. (We’ll talk about this, too, and how to make it work.)
Finally, being an online personal trainer means LOTS of time spent at your (standup) desk. Instead of spending hours in the gym, you’ll be spending hours in front of your laptop—marketing, messaging, creating programs, evaluating client feedback, creating social media content, editing videos, emailing, etc. If you love writing, creating, designing, and the thought of reaching more people, then virtual fitness might be a good fit!
What to Know Before Starting as an Online Personal Trainer
If you’re considering taking your training business online, you might be wondering where in the world to start. There are lots of moving pieces. We’ll see if we can answer most of your questions to help you get started.
The most obvious thing you ought to know is HOW to be a personal trainer. There have been many scandals with internet influencers scamming clients. Don’t think for a minute that people are hiring fitness trainers without doing some research first. There are plenty of “how to hire an online trainer” articles out there advising clients what to look for.
Next, you should know a thing or two about small business development. Whether you add virtual training to your current business or transition to online-only training sessions, you need to know how to run a small business. That includes having the following skills (in no particular order):
- Strategic business planning
- Project management
- Sales and customer service
- Human resources
- Finance and accounting
Some other skills you may need—unless you plan hire freelancers or build a team of employees—include…
Marketing and Content Creation
To become a virtual personal trainer, you’ll need LOTS of content. You’ll need website copy, email campaigns, and social media content. You’ll also need to create sales content for program launches. You’ll probably want to create booklets for clients to support their fitness goals. You may also consider starting a blog to encourage and inspire clients and attract new clients. If you’re a wizard with words, you can do this all yourself. If writing isn’t your favorite, you’ll want to find a professional copy writer to do the work for you.
If you have 50 clients signed up for your virtual training sessions, you’ll have a lot of data to handle. For each client, you’ll need to track weigh-ins, dietary preferences, medical history, injuries, workouts, birthdays, etc. If you don’t consider yourself to be “organized,” then save yourself some frustration and outsource it to a professional.
There are lots of software options available—more on that later—to help you keep your business running smoothly. MOST of the software out there is specialized to handle one aspect of your business, not the whole thing. So, you may have to figure out how to piece together various options so it communicates nicely and doesn’t leave your client’s hanging. This is a headache for many online entrepreneurs. If you have a techy friend, you may want to have them on your team.
Even if you do live training sessions with clients, you’ll need to know a bit about video production. Lighting is a key part and you’ll want a professional background. If you want to leverage your time and record videos, then you’ll need to know how to edit and publish those videos and then how to get them into your client’s email inbox.
4 Steps to Becoming an Online Personal Trainer
You don’t have to follow these steps in order, but you’ll want to check off each of these before launching your online training business.
- First, earn a personal training certification. You need to have an inside-out understanding of exercise science to be successful working with virtual clients. If you’ve earned your certification, make sure it isn’t about to expire! An ISSA certification expires after 24 months. You need to complete continuing education courses to renew your certification, so stay on top of your game and ahead of the pack by regularly completing CEUs.
- Next, define your niche—that super special group of people who you love working with and who would love to hire you as their fitness coach. You could work with youth, seniors, athletes, bodybuilders, or anyone in between!
- Decide how you want to deliver your services. You can choose several different ways:
- Live training or video-on-demand
- Digital download or physical copy workbooks
- One-on-one or small group training
Also consider where you’ll be marketing to clients. If you want a worldwide audience, live training sessions might be hard to deliver, unless you really don’t like sleeping. If you keep your audience within a specific region, you might be able to make live training sessions work. You can also deliver your workouts in any combination—digital download workbook with weekly private coaching sessions, for example.
- Finally, do some market research to find out how much other online training programs cost. Don’t look at the entire fitness industry, though. Look for fitness coaches who are training the clients you want to train. Find out how they structure their programs and how much they charge.
What are the Best Software Programs for an Online Personal Training Business?
We’ve previously written about personal trainer software for managing your business. But running an online business requires a bit more.
Customer Relationship Management
The CRM software you choose for staying in touch with training clients is a key to your success. The software should collect data such as name, address, birthday, phone number, email address, which program they bought, etc. A good software will remind you to follow-up with training clients. You should be able to set reminders for calls and emails.
If you plan on doing live training, you’ll need video chat capabilities—and so will your clients. There are several free options out there like Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. Some of these free services allow multiple people to join—so you could also do small group training sessions.
If all goes well, your fitness business is going to take off like wildfire! In that case, you’ll need a simple, semi-automated system for tracking all your clients’ data. Fitness assessments, weigh-ins, medical history, current medical conditions, dietary profile, workouts, programs, etc. You know, all those things you learned in your exercise science classes that help you create effective training programs.
If you’re just starting, you could create a Google Form—which may take a while—and fill it out yourself. It’s free and it will keep track of all the data you need. You’ll just have to be much more proactive at managing the information yourself.
You should collect emails from anyone who expresses interest in your programs. Having an email software—not just your Yahoo! or Hotmail account—will help you. Some CRM software has this feature built in, some do not. As people express interest—signing up for a free ebook—the email software will gather their information and put them into designated lists. You then send them useful information—called nurturing a lead—and help them make the decision to buy a training package with you.
The email software should keep track of opens, bounces, and where the person clicked inside the email. It will also handle unsubscribes.
If you want to make money, you need a way to collect it. There are many options available, so consider the following:
- Will you have recurring charges such as weekly or monthly memberships? Many services charge extra for this and some do not offer this service at all.
- Will you have a trial period, after which the client’s card is charged to continue? This is usually an upgraded feature.
- Do you want to take online, live, and phone orders?
- Will you sell merchandise? If you’re selling online, you need a payment processing service that can help calculate shipping and taxes.
As you can see, there are plenty of technology needs for an online personal trainer to consider. There are a few all-in-one software solutions available. Although, as we mentioned, they may not have all the features you need. Check with their sales staff to see what services they integrate with before taking the plunge. Another bonus feature to look for is integration with fitness trackers. If your software integrates with popular fitness trackers, it will be that much easier to see keep your clients accountable.
Equipment Needed to Become a Virtual Personal Trainer.
Online personal training doesn’t require any fancy workout equipment. Your clients won’t need to buy a mirror, a bicycle, or a treadmill—unless you want them to. But you will need to add a few things to your office equipment list to run a successful online personal training business.
What Equipment Will Help You Be More Successful as a Virtual Personal Trainer?
First, you’ll need high-quality audio-visual equipment. That includes a web cam or digital camera and tripod for recording videos. You’ll need a high-speed internet connection and a powerful laptop or desktop computer.
You’ll also need some nice lighting equipment to make sure clients can see you. And finally, you’ll need a nice backdrop behind you. Please don’t be the personal trainer with a messy kitchen or living room in the background. When you’re just starting out, a blank wall is better than a messy room.
What Equipment Will Help Your Virtual Clients Be Successful?
Encourage virtual clients to invest in a fitness tracker. It will help keep them accountable and help you develop their program. The rest of the equipment is up to you and depends on client goals.
Ready to take the leap into virtual training? Get started with your personal training certificate—check out the ISSA’s personal training course and get started today!
Certified Personal Trainer
The Certified Fitness Trainer program is designed to equip graduates with the practical day-to-day skills necessary, as well as the theoretical knowledge needed to excel as a personal trainer serving the general public. Along with the necessary exercise science foundation, the distance education program covers client assessment, program design, basic nutrition, and sports medicine along with business and marketing skills.