What’s even better than being in great shape? Making a living out of it. Fitness coaches, yoga instructors, and all kinds of personal trainers help their communities get healthier while enjoying a career that keeps them fit. The growth outlook is strong as the fitness instructor field will likely swell to over 430,000 jobs by 2029.1 However, personal trainers have to adapt to the new, remote work reality. If you’re curious about how to become an online personal trainer, we have a coaching plan for you. (And you don’t need to be a famous Peloton instructor or Jillian Michaels, just be yourself!) This guide will walk through everything you need to know to get started as an online personal trainer in a five-phase plan:
- Phase 1: Learn how to train people
- Phase 2: Get virtual experience
- Phase 3: Build a strong online presence
- Phase 4: Start an official business
- Phase 5: Protect your business with insurance
Let’s get started!
Phase 1: Learn how to train people
Since you’re going to be an online personal trainer, you’ll need to learn the traditional chops first. You need to know the proper way to work out and how to tailor training regimens for clients’ specific goals (weight loss, sports training, strength training, etc.). Start by brushing up on the basics of exercise and physical training. Dust off old anatomy and physiology textbooks. And contact personal trainers you’ve worked with previously to ask their advice. Once you have your foundation, consider pursuing formal education and obtaining a certification from a licensed program, such as:
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
You don’t necessarily need to have a license to start training. Depending on your location and clientele, you may be able to start personal training without official certification. However, becoming a certified personal trainer by a top institution not only shows that you know your stuff, but it’s also a competitive advantage for attracting clients.
Phase 2: Specialize as an online trainer
Without the ability to offer hands-on assistance and make adjustments in-person, you’ll need to complement your skill set with technological proficiency. That means meeting clients where they are—regardless of where they train, their fitness level, or equipment—and delivering content that they can follow on their own. Ask yourself a few questions: How will your clients be accessing your personal training sessions and videos? Will your sessions be live or prerecorded? You may want to utilize multiple platforms, such as:
- Live video platforms, like Zoom or Twitch, for individuals or group classes
- YouTube or Vimeo for hosting prerecorded exercise routines.
Pricing will likely have to change if you’re switching from in-person to online sessions. Usually, during in-person sessions, the personal trainer will correct the client’s form and offer real-time advice and motivation. Clients may be unwilling to pay the same rate for online personal training content without that personal touch (whether prerecorded or live). That said, the potential market for an online personal trainer far exceeds that of an in-person one. While a traditional personal fitness trainer is limited to their local population, online personal trainers have the potential to go viral or even global! This brings us to the next phase.
Phase 3: Build a strong online presence
It’s impossible to overstate how important your online presence is. Everyone’s online. If you want to train them, you should meet them where they are. There are two key components to building a strong web presence:
Social media – One of the best ways to attract clients is by posting content to your social media profiles, especially Instagram and YouTube. Make sure to engage with your followers! Consider:
- Short instructional videos for individual exercises
- Pictures and videos of your physique, as #fitspiration
- Throw in some funny live stories, like when you dig into a cheat meal
Your own website – Here’s where you want to keep it professional. Create a website that has a more serious tone, complete with long-form content that’s more detailed and thorough. Some ideas include:
- Workout guides and progress tracking templates
- Interactive video tutorials for entire routines
- Custom workout plans and diet calculators
followers into paying customers. That means you’re also ready to make your business official.
Phase 4: Start your business officially
You can make your business official after your first few training sessions. You might want to train a friend or family member pro bono to get the hang of it before your first paid session. But once you’re ready to turn this into a steady career, you’ll need to make the business legitimate. Starting any business can be daunting, and working from home has its own challenges. To build your home business, you’ll need a distraction-free workspace (that means keeping your pets out of the frame most of the time). You’ll also need to:
- Define your target audience.
- Create a marketing plan (including social media, of course).
- Analyze your costs, such as camera, fitness equipment, and certifications.
- Determine your rates (use our personal trainer salary guide for some tips to maximize your income!)
- Obtain proper business licensing and permits, according to your location.
- Create an accounting system to manage profits, expenses and taxes.
The Small Business Association (SBA) is a great resource that breaks down the process into 10 simple steps, from market research, to officially registering your personal training business, to dealing with business taxes. 2 The one thing the SBA leaves off? Insurance. Insurance coverage is important for all businesses, but. it’s especially important for personal trainers. From squats to lunge twists, there are plenty of opportunities for clients to get hurt. Should that occur, you’ll want to make sure that you have insurance protection.
Phase 5: Protect your business with insurance
Training clients in a gym presents obvious risks, whether it’s dropped weights or stretches that go a bit too far. But even a client who’s harmed during a live class may file a claim that could financially harm your business’s future. Virtual training has just as many legal risks as in-person fitness coaching. As a fitness professional, you have to take steps to limit your liability. General liability insurance can provide the investigation, defense, and settlement for third-party claims stemming from: bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury. Professional liability insurance, on the other hand, can provide an investigation and legal defense should your clients say that your advice led to their financial loss. Here at Thimble, we provide both coverages as part of our Fitness Business Insurance. We also know that personal trainers are constantly booking sessions throughout the day. That’s why our Personal Trainer Insurance goes by the hour, day, week, or month. It’s insurance that works when you do. Getting started takes less than a minute. Just click “Get a Quote” or download the Thimble mobile app, breeze through a few questions, and we’ll generate an instant quote. From there, you can purchase your insurance and have your policy and a Certificates of Insurance (COI) waiting for you in moments.
Start building your training business today!
Becoming an online personal trainer can lift your career. Like fitness results, business takes a positive mindset and planning. Armed with all the guidance and resources above, you’ll be fully prepared to build your own online coaching venture by learning to train people virtually; building a strong online presence; and launching and insuring your business. Think of this guide as your warm-up—the stretches to loosen you up before you begin pumping iron. Now, it’s time to grab your towel and hit the mat. And when it comes to your insurance needs, Thimble is here to spot you.