Have you ever wanted to know how to become an online, virtual personal trainer? You’re not alone. I’ve gotten several questions from personal trainers who’ve wanted to expand their business into online training and so to help you, I sought out several people who are doing virtual training and asked them several questions about their business and how they conduct online personal training sessions. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and Ill try to help.
Who Are The Online Trainers Interviewed?
In this review, I interviewed 3 individuals who are currently doing online personal training. They are Eric Sarra, who holds a BA in Philosophy and is an NCCPT personal trainer, Dawn Blackstone, who is an NASM personal trainer, CES and advanced sports nutrition specialist and Krystina Gorman, who holds an A.S in exercise science and a B.S in Health and Physical Education. She is certified by AAAI/ISMA.
I've asked them all the same questions and will list their answers separately by their initials (Dawn, is DB, Eric is ES and Krystina is KG).
How long have you been training people online?
ES. About a year or so, I wanted to branch out after a few months training face to face. I allowed some of my clients turn to virtual (or virtual plus one face to face session at an interval of their choosing) for a nominal fee. Also picking up clients virtually as well at the same time.
DB. I’ve been a lifelong fitness nutrition nut, no formal schooling outside of certs and life experience. Started my own biz, The Exercise Space, in 2007.
KG. I began introducing it in 2014 while working a full time teaching job and doing in home personal training. I resigned from teaching to pursue training completely, and then really went full time with online training in 2016.
Did you go through any type “online trainer certification” first?
ES. I didn’t go through any virtual trainer certifications. It just sort of came gradually. If I can train anyone in my vicinity with my knowledge why can’t I train those that might be far away, or not as able to travel to me a chance to work with me as well? It also allowed for me to charge a bit less as there’s less of my time involved, and can reach some clients who are financially unable to work with me.
DB. I jumped right in.
KG. No, it was trial and error and I did things my own way. I wanted a way to give clients my complete training, even if it were online, with maximum benefits!
Where do you find your online clients from?
ES. Often it comes from my initial consult, they love me, love my training style but can’t quite commit whether it’s timing or financial reasons. As with all clients they want to still benefit from picking my brain, working on form, and getting unique programs so I just open the virtual program for these individuals. Second I mention it on my different Internet platforms and individuals out of state have emailed me to set something up.
DB. My transition into online training initially happened naturally by clients moving away and still wanting to train with me. I first started 7 years ago with a client who moved to Zimbabwe. Another moved to Germany and others within the states. Otherwise it has been word of mouth. I made the major transition this past summer as I have a 1 year old and another on the way in June. Online training allows me to work from home.
KG. Social media & referrals.
How does a new client begin online training with you?
ES. First we email/call/text to take care of ParQ, informed consent, goals, payment plan, etc. Then we will Skype for the initial consult so that I can see where they are at physically. After they have been assessed, I will give them an easy workout (mostly body weight/stretching type work) to work on for the first week while I craft a program. This way they are getting in the gym and being active wherever they are and I can craft a 2-week program for them to do, I ask for weekly updates at the least, and new programs are twice per month (They end up contacting me 2-3 times per week regardless as we develop more of a personal relationship and tweaks are always made on the fly)
DB. The first session is mainly an assessment like we would do in person- squat, push, pull, balance test, core strength test, & cardio test.
KG. Just like I would do for in person training, I have them fill out an initial form and give them the proper paperwork. Only with online clients, the forms are typed out with their reponses instead of hand written.
Do you have your clients complete any medical forms first?
ES. Medical release, ParQ, Informed consent all signed prior to Initial consult.
DB. I begin with the same release forms and health questionnaire that I require for in person training from NASM.
KG. Yes, after their initial consultation, I send them an application that goes over their medical history and clearance.
Do clients submit the forms electronically or mail them to you?
ES. If they can print them sign them and email me a picture, or a scanned copy I will accept it virtually.
DB. They send them to me electronically.
KG. All forms are all done electronically.: Healthy history & Par-Q completed prior to beginning their training.
Do clients sign a waiver of liability in case of injury?
ES. Same Informed consent (waiver of liability) face to face as virtual as the language I provide basically speaks to ANY program or suggestion I provide that is used in a gym with or without me is at clients own risk.
DB. Yes I do. The waiver I use is the same as the waiver I use when I train people in person.
KG. I send out a liability waiver. They accept all liability once they begin training after reading it.
How long after completing the forms do sessions begin?
ES. ASAP! Their goals don’t start getting achieved until we begin!!!
DB. I require all forms signed and returned to me via email 3 days prior to our first training session.
KG. Within 5-7 days.
How do you do an initial consultation?
ES. See earlier, SKYPE if necessary or in person if they can.
DB. Generally all of the pre-workout stuff is done online via email
KG. On the phone or through email/chat.
How do you monitor the progress of online training clients?
ES. Pictures, sent via cellphone/email. As well as vocal updates.
DB. See answer following
KG. Pictures, measurements, weigh ins, check ins, and constant communication.
How do you assess the online clients?
ES. If they can make it into see me, of course we will take measurements, but if they are out of town 100% of the time we will compare and contrast pictures, but doing something virtual takes a certain breed. Not all clients will take to it, you have to have a drive in you to be able to take the info I give and turn it into success.
DB. I track my clients progress (who want to track weight) by having them weigh
in at the beginning of our session once a month. I also do a series of the
same exercises (timed drills) with them every 3 months to track strength,
flexibility, balance & cardio progress.
KG. Yes, I tell them their weigh in days and also where/when/how to track measurements.
How long is a typical online fitness training session?
ES. I haven’t yet experimented with video training sessions, only typed programs with picture updates and close contact via calls/texts/emails.
DB. 60 minutes.
KG. It depends on their personal goals and how often they can commit to working out.
Have you ever seen any statistics how much an average online personal trainer can make?
ES. Nothing solid yet, I have only had slow progress with it. Minimal from my current experience.
DB. No I have not.
KG. Yes, but it all depends on the services you are offering and how you are running your training. Everyone is different.
Do you workout online with clients or do you watch them via a camera?
ES. Most of my virtual clients have been virtual plus a “check in” session every 3-6 months. They pay monthly for the virtual and then a one-time fee for my time during the session. This way I am able to see how their progress is going and work on anything that’s bothering them or show them some new techniques. I had one individual who met with me every other month, and he just paid a couple extra dollars monthly for virtual training which absorbed the cost for the session every other month. These clients I had initial consult in person and later checked in. I still received weekly pictures to see notated changes in physique and body composition.
I have had one client who is in Maine (I am in Florida) he and I Skyped for his initial consult, and he receives workouts every other week. He sends me pictures to check on body composition and physique changes. He is an experienced lifter looking for more focus. If he wasn’t experienced I would most likely have sent him videos explaining form for each exercise.
DB. I watch my clients workout as they watch me demonstrating exercise to them. I mainly watch them and do not workout with them. I do stretch at the end of the workout with them.
KG. I record workouts for them to do, then they can send me clips performing the exercises (optional).
How many days per week do you usually work with online clients?
ES. I log about 1 hour/week per virtual client.
DB. Currently most of my clients workout 1 time per week virtually with me. Two of them work out every other week.
KG. 4-5 days a week.
How much do you charge for online fitness training?
ES. $50/mo. For strictly virtual. $65/mo. Virtual plus one session in a short amount of time (1-3 months apart).
DB. I charge the same as in person sessions ($75 + tax).
KG. As much as I put into it, it breaks down to $1/hour. Truth! I give so much of my time, effort, & energy into helping my clients succeed. Price points vary depending on how long the client is signing up, and what is included in their plan (meal planning, workouts, etc.)
How much do you charge for face to face training?
DB. $75 + tax
KG. $30/ hour
How long after you started advertising, did you begin making money?
ES. 9 months.
DB. I have never advertised.
What equipment, do you recommend people have before they begin training with you?
ES. A gym membership
DB. I don't require a client to have any equipment for a workout. I have many
that have a couple of dumbbells, large ball and a matt. Another has everything from an ugi ball to Bob the boxing partner. Several have nothing, in that case I get creative (and love a good challenge)- we workout with a pillow, chair, couch, towel, a baby (mom & me workout) or just body weight.
KG. It depends on the client and their specific goals. Some people don’t need anything but their own body weight!
Since you started your online business, have you changed how you do things to make it easier for you or for the clients?
ES. I need to record videos of myself doing many different exercises that I can then send with my program emails to explain proper form
DB. I have not changed a whole lot as I've gotten experience training online. I just make sure they have fast enough internet speed so Skype doesn't hang up or quit. This happened once while a client was trying to workout via Skype with me in her work gym. We switched to virtual sessions at her
As you know, online training is can be controversial. Have you run into any prejudice among other trainers?
ES. Nope. Most other trainers I talk to want to get into it as well.
DB. No, none at all.
KG. To each her/his own! My online training is more work on my end, but much more affordable to my clients.
What type of video apps are used to train clients?
ES. FaceTime, Skype, Oovoo, are the free ones that I have worked with. There are some more better video conferencing apps that have a clearer connection, that you can use but they do cost, I am not sure of the cost. Yes they will have to install the apps too.
DB. I use mostly Skype and occasionally FaceTime, both are free. Yes, the client will have to install the app we use if they don’t already have it installed.
KG. I design all of my own forms, workouts, nutrition plans and formats, etc. For hosting everything, I spend about $150/month.
How do you accept payment for online coaching sessions?
ES. All pay is in advance. And I accept PayPal or checks in the mail.
DB. My clients pay via my website by credit card or Paypal or mail a check for usually a month at a time in advance. I have the same cancellation policy as in person sessions (require 24 hours notice).
KG. Paypal, paid in advance.
What are some challenges to training someone online?
ES. Developing rapport takes a lot longer, and is harder to cultivate. Selling is a real struggle I have only ever had 6 virtual training clients in one year and it took me 9 months to get my first. I have only kept 3 for a sustained amount of time.
DB. Making sure the client has the camera at a good angle/position and good lighting (they are not standing in front of a window) so you can see form etc.
KG. For me, I never clock out. So, that would be the most challenging thing because I’m working 99.9% of the day, with no days off. When you train at a facility, you clock in and clock out. I wouldn’t change it though, because I genuinely love what I do!
Can you list any downsides of online virtual personal training?
ES. You aren’t there for encouragement, to push them, or to tweak form or exercises on the fly. SALES – near impossible.
DB. The downside of personal training online instead of in person would be the inability to do partner exercises with them (interactive with med balls, bands etc) and to physically take body circumference measurements.
Did you need extra coverage from your personal trainer liability insurance?
ES. I didn’t personally. I am covered for all programs I give, period.
DB. I didn’t need extra coverage.
KG. No, I have liability insurance for training clients anywhere.
Did you consult an attorney before you started doing virtual personal training?
ES. No I didn’t.
DB. No I didn’t.
KG. No but I did tons of research.
What kind of start up costs should people be aware ?
ES. Limited if any, be certified, care about the client, and have a smart device with an internet connection and you’re a go!
DB. I didn’t have any start up costs when I began virtual training.
KG. It's not simple & easy like many may think. I spend so much time developing new workouts for my clients, videos, and more. It also adds up when you are doing everything online; you have to be willing to put out money to make money in the long run (things that will benefit you as the trainer and your clients, most importantly). My personal monthly fees for everything I run for my clients cost me between $150-$200. Yearly, it’s about $2,500 that I pay to run my online training business. That does not include my internet, video equipment, etc.
What are some things trainers should do to make sure they get started in the right direction.
ES. You have to possess a great objective and subjective grasp on training, and get great at asking leading questions. You have to do a lot of visualizing and a lot of digging to find weaknesses and over or underdeveloped muscles in a client without really being there. You have to want to be a great trainer and have to find individuals who really want to do better for themselves. It is a challenge compared to the personal connection you can get face-to-face, but it isn’t impossible.
DB. To get started in the right direction when beginning online training I
would recommend testing your Skpe connection and make sure your lighting is sufficient. Background noise does pick up so a quiet place is best without distractions. I have tried training online in a cafe at times and there is too much background noise!
KG. That they’re doing it for the right reasons. Don’t do it to “work from home”, or to have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. It doesn’t work that way. You are dealing with people’s lives; you have to genuinely care in order to make a difference. I love being able to work with clients all over the world, many of which would never be able to train with me if it weren’t for online training!
How can people find out more about you?
ES. Search my business: Desire to Achieve Fitness – located in the Greater Tampa Bay area, more specifically Clearwater/St. Petersburg! On Facebook: desiretoachievefitness – On Instagram: @ejsarra – On Twitter:@SarraEric – On Thumbtack.com – On IDEAFit.com – On Angie’s List – On Yelp.com!
DB. Check out my website: theexercisespace.com
KG. My website is: www.krystinagormanFIT.com I'm krystinagormanFIT on both Facebook and Instagram/