With the rise of social media and the feeling of connectedness individuals can have across significant geography, online personal training is an exciting new frontier for the fitness professional to consider. And, in this author’s opinion, this is no fad - online training is here to stay. There is good reason for this, as there are many different reasons why online training is pretty cool.
Broaden Your Reach – Online training allows you to interact with, and subsequently help, a greater number of people. While I am a steadfast believer in face-to-face personal training and the positive impact it can have, the simple fact is through online training you can greatly increase your web of influence. If you live in Virginia you can train individuals in California, Texas, New Zealand, Iceland – you name it, you can do it. If they have a computer and you do, you can train them.
Enhance Your Experience – The more people you train, the better trainer you become. Just like with any career, as your experience grows so does your skill set. Online training allows you to interact with more people at once, which enables you to accelerate your learning curve in the industry. Instead of 10-20 clients to work with and learn from, now you might have 30, 50, or even 100 clients that are you receiving feedback from and applying the principles of exercise science too. More data, when the data is paid attention to, means a better trainer.
Greater Income Potential – Online training is a great way to supplement the income of a personal trainer. Most full time (30 sessions a week) personal trainers in the DC Metro area will make about 45-65k a year, a reasonable income given the education required, time commitment per week needed, and overall difficulty of the work expected. Certainly mainly trainers will make more than that, and some may struggle to make that if they simply don’t have enough personal training clients. But let’s face it – who doesn’t want to make just a little bit more money every month? Those same full time trainers can start online training and a very reasonable expectation is, after a few months of building one’s business, to earn an additional $1000 each month. Think how handy that extra money would be, think of the freedom that would offer you? And it really isn’t that hard to do. Online training could be one’s sole source of income, but for most the idea is to supplement their in-person personal training income, be that a full-time or part-time job.
You get to be Independent – Most personal trainers will work for a fitness company or personal training company. There are a lot of benefits to that – the company rents the space, draws in clients, buys all of the equipment, and deals with billing, customer service issues, etc. But there are two major negatives. First, that company is going to take their cut of the pay, and it will be significant. Most trainers will charge $70-90/hr but they don’t actually make that much, instead they are likely to make about half of that, with the rest going to the gym. Secondly when you work for a company you aren’t the boss, so you don’t get to decide how things are done and what the vision is. When you are training online, you can set up things independently. You can decide exactly what you offer, how you are going to offer it, the level of service you will provide, and what those services will cost. If you do a good job your client base will stay with you and is likely to grow, if you don’t then they will look elsewhere. Your success, or lack of it, is really up to you. That is a fun but scary proposition, but in my experience most individuals that get into the fitness profession enjoy being in charge of their own destiny. Even better, since the clients you are training online tend to live far away, online training is not likely to violate any non-compete you might have signed with your fitness company.
Can it Work – A reasonable question is, can online training really work? But you already know the answer to that question. Do you sell workout programs or nutrition plans to clients without actually training them in-person? Do people read fitness related book or articles and then make significant physical transformations? Of course they do. Clearly in-person personal training is likely optimal, as the trainer can then see every rep and every set and provide immediate feedback. And that is why it is much more costly, because it is more time consuming and it is optimal. But don’t misinterpret something that isn’t optimal to mean it isn’t good, sometimes that is the case but in this instance it isn’t. You can write programs, offer guidance, lend support, suggest modifications, help with nutrition - all those great things you do in person can still be performed with online training.
What Can I Expect – As with most things in life, there are no guarantees and what you get out of it is very likely tied to the effort you put into it. But it isn’t that hard to find 10-20 regular clients that are willing to sign up for online training. Trainers typically charge $50-250 for a months’ worth of online personal training (business tip: charge bi-weekly to make just a little bit extra income), so with that number of clients trainers can expect to pull in about $500-5000 each month. A good trainer should be able to streamline their processes, but in general expect to spend 1-2 hours per client per month, perhaps more in the beginning when you are still establishing your business and you are getting to know the client, and less once you have ironed out the process and you already know the client well.
Put online personal training on your radar, it is coming and it is coming fast. The good news is that part of the industry is still quite new and you can make a nice footprint as the field grows around you. Then, in couple of years when it becomes more of the norm, you will already be well established and your business is likely only to grow over time.