I once owned a personal training studio that catered to high-end clients. These were the types of clients most gyms and personal trainers dream about. Price was never an obstacle, payments were never late and referrals brought in more of a similar clientele.

There was one major problem, however. The majority of these clients vacationed for large chunks of the year, mostly during times when their children were off from school. This led to wild seasonality for personal training revenue and amplified busy periods when these clients returned all at the same time.

How could we stabilize our personal training bookings and revenue across the entire calendar year? We began offering online personal training.

Online fitness videos and programs are commonplace nowadays and are often offered for free. Just search Youtube for "no-equipment workout," and you will see thousands of workout options that show that people do not need a gym to stay in shape while they travel.

This makes online training as a business model a bit tricky. What can you offer that your clients will be willing to pay for? And how can you offer this service without investing too much time, energy or money?

How to Earn a Profit Selling Online Personal Training

The following four steps explain how to build a profitable online personal training business that your clients will love.

1. Remember the Value You Offer

Most people don't hire a personal trainer because they need a workout plan. There are a million workout plans available online or in fitness magazines that are every bit as good as one a personal trainer can create.

People hire a trainer because they want attention, motivation and accountability.

When building your online personal training service, remember what you are actually selling. The workout plan is secondary. The value you add is helping clients make the workouts happen. You keep them on-track. You hold them accountable. You make them feel good about the progress they are making. Everything you build into your service should aim to generate these positive feelings, not simply a workout delivery system.

2. Personalize the Workout Experience

Even though your clients aren't really paying for the workouts you'll be providing, they still need to get some workouts to follow. You can deliver the workouts in two ways:

  • Software. Paid-for online personal training software allows you to build workout plans, add videos and write instructions for your clients. I personally use one called Total Coaching, but you can choose from several other reliable options.
  • DIY systems. Another option is to create your own delivery systems using free online tools. You can share workout plans using Google Drive, and you can offer video tutorials by sending links to appropriate videos hosted on Youtube.

Whichever system you choose, make sure to personalize the experience as much as possible. If your clients are just getting a generic workout program, they have no incentive to pay for it.

At the beginning of each workout program, I write personalized notes that address specific needs or concerns for each client. Similarly, I often record screen capture videos (using a free software called Jing) to explain more complex portions of a workout. During these videos, I address the client by name so that he or she knows that I am paying them special attention.

3. Provide Just Enough Accountability

Again, the real reason most people buy personal training services is for the accountability. They want to be watched just enough to ensure that they actually follow through with their workouts. How can you accomplish this remotely? I use a three-pronged approach.

First, the training software I use has a check box and feedback section that a client completes after each workout. It also records the weights, reps and sets of each exercise that they complete. All of this information is funneled back to my side of the software so that I can quickly glance through my clients' records to make sure they are staying caught up.

Next, I email clients twice per week. Sometimes it's a simple "Great work!" message, while other times I ask specific questions about their progress.

Finally, each month I schedule a 20-minute Skype or phone chat with each of my clients. This gives them a chance to ask questions, and for me to encourage and motivate them.

Your goal should be to provide just enough personalized accountability that your clients feel like they are actually working with you one-on-one, instead of having a workout program sent to them every few weeks.

4. Set Boundaries

Adding an online training component to your lineup of services only makes sense if it's a profit-driver, not a time-sucker. Some online clients, if given the chance, will take up far too much of your time with constant emails, requests for phone support, text messages, etc.

It's your responsibility to set boundaries so that your clients know exactly what to expect when they sign up for the service.

I recommend approaching this conversation by using some version of the "teach a man to fish" principle. Remind your clients that holding their hand each day puts them in a state of dependence. That's not what they need to succeed. Instead, you are going teach them how to be independent so that they can confidently succeed on their own.

Instilling this message from the beginning can reduce the time you spend supporting your clients (usually in unnecessary ways) by half or more.

Providing online personal training is a great way to generate incremental revenue for your fitness business or club. It helps reduce seasonality and can reduce demand for bookings during peak times. Using the right tools and strategies can help ensure that your new service is a profitable one that provides tremendous value for your clients.

BIO

Dave Smith is a professional fitness and weight-loss coach who was chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional in 2013. He shares health and weight-loss tips through his blog and podcast that you can find at makeyourbodywork.com.