We spoke to online personal trainer Dave Smith about what it takes to make a success of online personal training
While the role of a personal trainer hasn’t changed, the delivery systems and methods by which a PT reaches his clients and helps them to achieve their goals certainly has. Working out of a gym or a dedicated studio is still the preferred choice of most client and PTs, but there is a movement to more online programming and coaching.
The model is ideal for those clients who can’t make sessions, prefer to train in their own gym or have training experience but just need someone to design a new programme for them.
For a PT it makes sense, no juggling of clients, no need to try and squeeze an extra hour out of a day. Simply have a consultation (online) build a programme around set goals and then keep tabs. But how do you go about setting up your online business, what are the ins and outs of successfully building an online empire?
We spoke to Dave Smith, “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” in 2013, he goes over all the aspects of setting up your online PT delivery and offers some great tips on making it a successful endeavor.
Here’s what he had to say -
Ten years ago my fitness business was booming. I owned my own personal training studio; I had a weekly calendar booked with amazing personal training clients; and I was earning more money than I ever had in my lifetime.
This is what I had worked so hard for, so why didn’t I feel settled?
Success came with a cost. My schedule was booked and my gym was full, so what was the next step? Open another gym? Open a chain of gyms? Those were options, but managing facilities wasn’t my dream. I wanted to help more clients.
Then I read a book that opened my eyes to an entirely different type of career. That book was “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris; and it described a type of business that was the exact opposite of the one I had built. Using the Internet, Ferris explained how an online business can work for you instead of you working for it.
I was skeptical.
“The idea sounds great, but how can a personal trainer create an online business? My clients need to see me in the gym. That’s what keeps them coming back.” Still, the message of that book kept gnawing away at me, so I began playing around with ways I could serve my clients online. Little by little my online business grew and within one year I sold my gym and became a full-time online personal trainer.
How Does Online Personal Training Work?
Many personal trainers share the same skepticism that I once had: How can I help people exercise if I’m not in the gym with them?
The truth is, you’re selling yourself short if you think that your most valuable role to a client is being with them in the gym, demonstrating exercises, counting reps, and correcting form. Yes, those services are valuable, but you have something more valuable to offer: Results.
Think of your most successful clients. What did you provide that helped them make such great life changes?
I believe that there are 3 things a truly great personal trainer offers and you likely do these without even realizing it: You build confidence. You develop consistency. You show care.
Those are the 3 Cs that are necessary for successful coaching and you can deliver these as an online personal trainer every bit as easily (perhaps even more so) as you can working with clients face-to-face.
1. Confidence - An online personal trainer helps clients believe they can succeed and delivers a path for them to follow. When a client is confident that she can transform her body, the likelihood of her taking action to achieve her goals skyrockets. Setting goals, tracking results, and celebrating milestones help build that confidence.
2. Consistency – An online personal trainer helps clients manage their schedules and stay accountable so that agreed upon healthy actions happen. This could take form in accountability calls, reminder messages, or habit-tracking apps that help build consistent actions needed for results to show.
3. Care – An online personal trainer ensures that clients feel like they have someone walking the journey with them. The client is not alone. Building supportive coach-client relationships is easy with all of the social tools available online nowadays. It’s amazing how a well-timed motivational text message or video can be a difference-maker in a client’s day.
When you deliver the 3 Cs, whether in-person or as an online coach, your clients’ lives will be changed.
Do Clients Really Want to Work with an Online Personal Trainer?
Think back 10 years ago. Imagine someone suggesting that instead of hailing a cab to get you where you need to go, you instead hop into a complete stranger’s personal car to catch a ride. Or imagine walking into a grocery store, picking up all your items, and then leaving without stopping in a checkout line to pay for anything.
Today it’s commonplace to grab a ride using Uber, and Amazon has already paved the way for checkout-less grocery stores, but at one time those concepts would have been hard to imagine.
The fact is, as the pace of life continues to speed up, people are looking for convenient, time-saving services more than ever before. That’s why many of us get our taxes prepared by online accountants; we get prescriptions written in virtual doctor’s visits; and it’s why more people are turning to online fitness coaching than ever before.
Speaking from experience, my clients love the flexibility that online coaching provides. They have a personalized fitness plan to follow, but how they fit that plan into their weekly routine is up to them.
They never have to jockey for prime time personal training slots in my schedule, and it allows them to work with me, a coach they trust, even if we don’t live in the same city. In fact, most of my current clients don’t even live in Canada, but they would never think twice about it.
If personal trainers don’t adapt to the evolving needs of consumers, it’s certain that new apps, technologies, and services will enter the market to fill the void. It’s up to you to stay ahead of the curve by exploring new ways that you can serve your clients today and in the future
How Can You Become an Online Personal Trainer
Getting started as an online personal trainer is easier than you might expect. Here are the 4 steps I recommend:
- Get Experience – As an online personal trainer, it is very helpful to first gain experience coaching clients in-person. Understanding how to cue exercises, how to troubleshoot common obstacles, and how to keep clients motivated are the types of skills you will develop quickly when working with clients face-to-face. Once you have those skills, translating them into the role of an online coach is fairly simple.
- Check Your Insurance – Since online personal training is still in its relative infancy, some insurance providers aren’t sure how to provide coverage. Double-check to make sure your insurance will cover your online services before you begin.
- Start Slowly – The easiest way to add online coaching to the list of services you offer is to transition clients slowly. For example, if you have been working with a client 3 times per week in the gym, you might offer to see him twice per week instead, with the third session being assigned as homework that you will deliver online. See what works best for you and your clients.
- Build Your Systems – Online training can actually take up more of your time than working with clients in-person if you don’t have the right systems in place. Fortunately, there are apps and online services that can automate much of your work. For example, you can deliver video workout programs with a few clicks on your computer and then set automated follow-up messages to keep your clients on track. The better systems you have, the better service you’ll provide and the less work you’ll actually be doing.
Above all else, remember why you became a personal trainer in the first place. I suspect you did so because you wanted to help as many people as possible get healthy and fit. Online training is simply another way to achieve that goal, so at least consider if it might be the right step for you. And, if you have questions, feel free to reach out to me at onlinetrainersfederation.com or via our Facebook group for online personal trainers
Dave Smith is an online weight-loss coach who was chosen as “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” in 2013. He shares health and fitness guidance through his blog and helps fitness professionals grow their onlines businesses at onlinetrainersfederation.com
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