Online personal training: how to pivot to virtual training

Uncertain times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, made online personal training more relevant than ever leaving many personal trainers with no other choice than to move their personal training business online.

Social distancing and isolation laws require a rapid shift to a virtual business setting, but many personal trainers don’t know where to begin with making this big change.

This step-by-step guide will provide you with a quick, efficient, and methodical approach to pivot to an online personal training business in no time.

You’ll learn everything from how to build your online presence, find your unique target audience, market yourself as an online personal trainer to using helpful technology to streamline your online personal training business’ day-to-day activities.

With this new knowledge under your belt, you’ll have no problems maintaining your existing clients and attracting new ones to ensure you remain successful as a personal trainer during these unprecedented times. Follow these 9 easy steps to pivot to an online personal training business

Step 1. Assess your level of commitment to run an online business

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Before you take the first steps towards transitioning your personal training business online, it’s important that you understand and reflect on just how much commitment this switch requires.

Running an online business is extremely rewarding, but like all business models, it also requires long-term financial and time commitment if you want to truly succeed. Being an entrepreneur isn’t an easy feat, but with a lot of hard work, persistence, and sheer determination, you really can achieve your online business dreams.

We’ve listed some additional pointers below to ensure your mindset stays on the right track.

To become a successful online personal trainer, you need to:

  1. Be ready to overcome roadblocks and challenges that stand in your way
  2. Understand that breaking into the online space is a slow-growth process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
  3. Get comfortable with the idea of navigating through financial and emotional highs and lows
  4. Be prepared to deal with and successfully overcome customer support issues
  5. Understand that selling online should be only one part of your overall online strategy. You will have to wear many different hats
  6. Have a reason behind your endeavor other than doing it just for the money
  7. Lead by example and always be willing to put your best foot forward
  8. Have your finger on the pulse of fitness and digital marketing trends to ensure you always stay current and can adapt to a rapidly changing industry

Step 2. Strategize and plan

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To greatly increase your personal training business’ chance of success, you’ll want to have two vital things under your belt before you take the leap into the online space:

Your backup plan is simply a necessary precaution to remind you not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Of course, having a successful online personal training business is the goal, but it never hurts to have a Plan B in case factors outside of your control try to derail your success.

As a worst-case scenario, what if there just wasn’t enough demand for your personal training services online? What if you find the switch into the online space just isn’t for you? In this case, what would you do to move forward? Being prepared for all types of situations can give you greater confidence about the future of your business, as you’ll be ready for absolutely anything that could come your way.

Your business plan, on the other hand, allows you to focus on where your business is going and what you want to accomplish with it. If you’ve previously been running an in-person, bricks-and-mortar personal training business, you likely already have a business plan in place.

Instead, it’s helpful for you to revise this original business plan and think of it more like a “transition plan,” allowing you to determine what areas will be changing as you make the switch to a virtual training business model.

Here are the 8 key areas of your business plan you will need to revise:

  1. How you will carry out business
  2. How your business will function, including the online set-up and who will be responsible for what tasks
  3. Your target market and how you will be meeting their needs in a virtual setting
  4. Your products and online services
  5. The new forms of marketing or advertising you will use to reach your target audience
  6. An analysis of your new competitors (those also operating in a virtual setting) and what sets your business apart from theirs
  7. Your team members, if any, and what their virtual positions now involve
  8. Any changes to your financial plan or financial forecast for the future

Taking the time to complete a transition plan for your personal training business offers many benefits:

  • It gives your new business model direction and encourages you to define your goals and the strategies you’ll use to achieve these
  • If your business was originally established as a physical store, it helps you determine what is already working and what changes you need to make to transition to an online model

Assess your business chances for success

Is there a demand for the personal training services you want to offer virtually? When we talk about the viability of a business, we are talking about its ability to make a profit year after year, and therefore, its ability to thrive and survive over the long-term.

The best way to determine this is through surveying several of your existing customers to see:

  • If they would consider buying and accessing your services online, whether through a live stream workout, video lessons, an online course, or more
  • What their buying habits and preferences are. For example, do they prefer shopping online or in-person, how much do they feel comfortable spending, and how much research do they do before making the decision to purchase, such as reading reviews, asking friends and family, etc.?
  • Where they spend most of their time onlinesuch as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. How can you use these platforms to market your business or deliver your services?
  • What their most important goals and challenges are in terms of health and fitness. Do your services cater to these? If not, are you able to incorporate this feedback into what you offer? 

Take away: If the personal training services you can offer online are interesting, helpful, and highly relevant to your target audience, then you’re on the right track.

Additionally, knowing your audience and what makes your offer special over the competition will help you use the correct language when marketing your online personal training business.

Step 3. Learn how to market your personal training business

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The digital age allows so many options for you to market your online personal training business to a large audience. Gone are the days of only being able to advertise your personal training services through printed materials such as flyers and brochures. Now, you’ve got the whole internet at your very fingertips.

If you’re looking for some ideas as to how you can embrace the unique nature of fitness marketing through online methods, then you’re in luck. We’ve provided 7 quick, easy, and effective online marketing tactics you can use below.

Firstly, however, let’s take a look at the specific reasons why these methods work when marketing your personal training services. These methods:

  • Offer your audience incentives to encourage them to take action immediately
  • Provide value to customers that they believe they won’t find elsewhere
  • Empower your audience to make a change, whether through educating, inspiring, or motivating them

Here are some effective ideas to help you further promote your personal training business

#1. Offer rewards for online referrals: Every time an existing client refers another person to sign up to your online personal training classes, provide them with a reward that can be redeemed easily, such as a free class, gift card, or access to premium content for free

#2. Create a social media “Summer Body” promotion: Promote your Summer Body transformation sessions at the start of a new year, when people are most motivated to achieve their health and fitness goals. You can provide a clear timeline for the client to reach their goal and market the program as a series of special, high-intensity interval training classes (HIIT) offered at a discount rate. 

#3. Run an online corporate wellness program at a discounted rate for local businesses: Now is a great time to market your online personal training courses to local businesses. Have a dedicated session time for each individual company and stream your personal training classes through a platform that allows the employees to see each other, boosting camaraderie and competition among each of them.

#4. Offer free training in exchange for contact detailsSet up a landing page that allows non-members to provide their name, email address, and phone number in exchange for a free online personal training class. They get to see if your services are right for them, while you gain their contact details to provide them with further resources and information about your services.

#5. Offer valuable content through a blogSetting up a blog website to provide your audience with helpful content allows you to strengthen your brand and boost your authority. Just some of the things you can publish on your blog include a “client of the month” feature, meal planning tips or recipes, Q&As, and interviews with related professionals.

#6. Provide an incentive for Google Reviews: A positive online review is worth its weight in gold for any business, particularly small businesses that have just ventured into the virtual space. Encourage your clients to post a review of your business on Google in exchange for something that benefits them, like a free pass so one of their loved ones can join in with them.

#7. Offer your own expertise to other websites, blogs, or YouTube channels: Pitch your article ideas to other fitness-related sites, and if you get published, it establishes you as an authority within your niche and gets some extra eyes on your own work. The same can be said for other fitness-related YouTube channels. See if you can make a guest appearance.

Step 4. Build a fitness brand that helps you stand out from the crowd

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It’s an age-old question, but what makes a business be able to stand out from the sea of other businesses within their industry?

Here’s the secretthose businesses differentiate their brand by focusing on unique target markets.

Here are two examples of successful strength coaches and fitness influencers doing just that: Jeff Cavaliere, and Nimao Delgado.

Jeff Cavaliere differentiates himself by using his university education in Physical Therapy and Physioneurobiology to look at fitness exercise from a more scientific standpoint. He targets a specific audience who are interested not just in building muscle and strength, but also in the science of the body and how this knowledge can be used to help them achieve their fitness goals. According to his website, he is the “brains behind the brawn.”

Nimao Delgado, on the other hand, is passionate about embracing a meat-free lifestyle whilst also working as a bodybuilder. Having been a vegetarian since birth, Nimao Delgado uses this life experience and his qualifications in plant-based nutrition to target a very niche segment of the greater fitness audience: those who want to build muscle, lose fat, and gain strength while still maintaining a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Instead of just offering general fitness training for people looking to lose weight, build muscle, or tone their bodies, think about what you can bring into this to serve a more unique target market.

If you need some ideas, try looking to: 

  • What subjects you’ve studied in the past
  • Previous job titles you held
  • Your family history
  • Your own lifestyle

You can also ask yourself:

  • What are you most passionate about? 
  • What personal challenges or obstacles have you faced in the past and overcame?
  • What would you most like to help people with on a daily basis?

If you’ve been running a gym, there’s no doubt you may already have a target audience, as well as your unique branding, figured out. Keep in mind that as you transition into a virtual setting, you’ll still want to review these things to ensure you’re remaining highly relevant in a saturated digital fitness market.

Step 5. Define your target market

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We touched upon this briefly in the previous section, but your target market really is one of the most important aspects of your virtual training business. After all, they’re who you’re catering your fitness services toward.

Additionally, knowing your target audience, along with what makes your offering special when compared with the competition, will help you use the correct language, tone, and voice when marketing your business online.

Just some examples include:

  • Fitness classes targeted toward professional athletes who need to be in peak physical condition
  • Elderly people who need to maintain their health and movement
  • New mothers looking to get back to their pre-baby weight
  • School groups using personal training classes as part of their physical education 
  • People with physical disabilities looking for gentle exercises to build their strength

Don’t be afraid to be as specific as possible, as this will set you apart from industry competitors and allow you to focus on the more specific needs of your clientele. 

The fitness influencers we mentioned above, Jeff Cavaliere and Nimao Delgado, serve as perfect examples of online personal trainers who differentiate themselves by focusing on a niche audience, rather than the broad public. Through concentrating on their own life experiences, knowledge, and passions, they were able to determine a target audience with unique characteristics that is the focal point of their success.

Ready to define your target audience? The best way to do this is to determine their demographics and behavior.

Demographics include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital status
  • Occupation/industry
  • Income

Behavior refers to their:

  • Personality
  • Values
  • Opinions
  • Interests
  • Lifestyle choices

After brainstorming the characteristics above, you will have a clearer idea of your target market, what makes them unique, and how you can best serve their needs. If this process proves to be difficult or time-consuming, you can also hire the help of a freelancer from Fiverr to assist you with market research and finding a target audience.

Step 6. Choose the best apps and management tools for your business

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When you transition your personal training business to an online setting, you can benefit from numerous apps and software to help your day-to-day activities run more smoothly.

Some tools can be used to transition your existing, in-person fitness training clients to a virtual setting, allowing you to maintain some income and clientele while you grow other elements of your online business, and others assist you with the important tasks of project management and marketing your business.

To help you streamline your online personal training services, we’ve rounded up the most helpful and easy-to-use virtual training technology below.

  • The Training Notebook and GAIN Trainer: These all-in-one virtual hubs allow you to manage your client’s workout regimens, training schedule, contact information, assessments, and more. They also have a built-in calendar for you to schedule and keep track of your sessions.
  • Vagaro: This is another incredibly helpful app, as it allows you to create virtual classes, workshops, and appointments, but most importantly, live stream classes to clients based anywhere in the world. It provides you with an in-built calendar and schedule, an online booking system, and the ability to create tailored memberships and packages. Clients can also receive text notifications, so they never miss a class.
  • Mint: Staying on top of your bills, transactions, and business expenses is a lot easier when you can do so in one place. Mint allows you to do all of this within the app, so you’ll never miss paying a bill, thanks to reminders, or have to go scrambling for receipts come tax time.
  • Podium: This app can help you collect online reviews and testimonials simply by sending out an automated text message to your clients. A whopping 90% of people say online reviews impact their decision to buy a product or service, so this is one area of your business you don’t want to ignore.
  • Basecamp is an all-in-one project management software tool, which allows team members to easily view tasks at-a-glance, collaborate with each other, track a project’s progress, share files, and more.
  • Buffer is an easy-to-use social media management software tool, which allows you to do things such as schedule social media posts at peak times for your target audience, curate your content, track your analytics, and more.

Some of these tools are vital for your fitness marketing efforts, but of course, as a personal trainer and business owner, you may simply find you don’t have the time or experience needed to take care of these tasks. If this is the case, there are many virtual assistants available on Fiverr who can help.

Step 7. Select the best social media marketing channels for promoting your business.

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Digital marketing is about communicating the right message to the right persona using the right channel.

Marketing channels are vital to a business’s success, as they bridge the gap between a company and its target audience. They are used to promote a business’ products and services, provide relevant information, and engage in conversation with the company’s audience.

Remember: No matter what online channels you choose to market yourself through, the main rule is this: don’t try to sell your products or services, but instead, always provide valuable content for your target audience.

Here are the 5 best social media marketing channels for your online training business:

#1. Twitter is perfect for inspirational quotes about health, fitness, and wellbeing, as well as for posting your quick opinions or thoughts on related topics.

#2. Facebook is perfect for seasonal promotions (like that “Summer Body Challenge” we mentioned earlier), as well as retargeting customers who visited your blog but didn’t convert by either subscribing to your newsletter, buying a service, or simply contacting you via your Contact page.

#3. Instagram is the perfect platform for posting quick and easy videos featuring workout tips, recipes, specific exercises, and more.

#4. YouTube can house your workout videos, as well as more educational video content where you answer your follower’s FAQs.

#5. Pinterest is a good platform for pinning helpful “how-tos,” educational infographics, and motivational quotes, especially when they’re your original content and can link back to your blog or website.

Step 8. Build a strong social media presence

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Once you’ve decided which social media channels you want to market your online fitness classes through, it’s time to focus on building your presence on each.

Building your online presence helps to increase your authority within the fitness industry niche and assists you with attracting more clients for your personal training services.

Let’s look at each of the main social media channels below, as well as the three most effective ways for you to build an online presence for your personal training business.

#1. YouTube

  • Create an introductory video that explains who you are, what is your specialty as a personal trainer, and what viewers can expect from your Youtube workout channel
  • Only post videos that contain good lighting, clear sound, and high quality. Invest in the appropriate filming and editing equipment to ensure your videos look professional and you’ll have no problem gaining subscribers
  • Be energetic, encouraging, and entertaining in your videos. These qualities are infectious and will have people tuning-in on repeat

#2. Instagram

  • Try to gain exposure by reaching out to feature accounts in the fitness niche. You can also tag your photos with the feature account’s hashtag if they make a great fit in the hopes that they may share your image, video, or profile with their following
  • Use the most relevant 30 hashtags each time you post an image or video. If you need some ideas, there are also plenty of fitness-related hashtag suggestions online which will put your content in front of a wider audience
  • Post at the peak times your audience is online to ensure as many of them are seeing your content. To find out these times, go to ‘Insights’ within your business profile, then click ‘Audience.’ Scroll down to see the times and days the majority of your audience is online

#3. Facebook

  • Have a consistent schedule when posting and sharing your content so followers can rely on you for regular sources of information and inspiration
  • Engage with your clients via Facebook by inviting them to follow your business page, commenting on their posts, and tagging them in your own posts
  • Consider paid Facebook advertising, such as running Facebook Ads. You can use these ads to link to your own website or landing page and can also choose specific audiences to target, therefore increasing your reach

#4. Twitter

  • Audiences tend to flock to Twitter for up-to-date news or to see what others are saying about it. Keep on the pulse about news relating to the fitness industry and offer timely information or opinions about this. Becoming an authority in your field is a great way to build your presence through Twitter
  • Do some research on the most popular times your target audience is on the platform. Then, use these days and times to post your content to ensure it is always reaching those who will benefit the most from it
  • Follow and connect with other accounts that also share an interest in topics such as fitness, exercise, health, weight loss, or anything else related to your virtual business

#5. Pinterest

  • Infographics are extremely popular on Pinterest, as they allow viewers to see a range of helpful and related information in one image. Creating your own fitness-related infographics is highly recommended. You can place your business logo on them and link them directly to your website
  • Create boards organized into categories relating to your virtual business. Some examples of popular boards you might want to create include before and after pictures of clients (with their permission, of course!), fitness and nutrition tips, healthy recipes, workouts, workout gear, and more
  • Allow social share tabs on each of your blog posts or webpages that allow people to pin images directly from them. Then, when they appear on Pinterest, people can click them to land directly on your website or blog to learn more about your services

Remember: you don’t necessarily need to have a presence on all of these channels. You only need to build a following on the platforms where your target audience spends time online. If you are having trouble building a presence on your chosen channel, you can always hire a freelance marketing specialist for your chosen channel to help you get started. 

Step 9. Outsource some tasks and scale your business

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Running an online personal training business is time-consuming and you cannot do everything yourself. Not only will this lead to being overwhelmed and possibly burning out, but it could also have a negative impact on your fitness business as you spread yourself too thinly across too many tasks—some of which you may understandably not know how to do.

Running your online personal training business will require skills in many different areas, with one of the most important being digital marketing. It’s useful for you to think about what aspects of your fitness marketing you can handle yourself, as well as what kinds of marketing things you should outsource. We’ve provided a checklist below to help you ensure all your bases are covered.

If you have digital marketing skills within a certain area, enjoy performing the task, and have the time in your schedule to do so, then this is a task you might benefit from doing yourself.

If you don’t have the experience, expertise, time, or tools needed to perform a task, then you will benefit from outsourcing some of the execution aspects of your fitness business, such as:

For the online marketing tasks you decide to outsource, the best option is to find a freelance online marketing specialist with experience within the fitness industry. Then, you can dedicate more time to the day-to-day running of your online personal training business and providing valuable services to your clients. 


Making the shift from an offline personal training business to a virtual one might not have been something you initially planned, but with the COVID-19 social distancing measures and temporary closures of gyms, it’s certainly necessary to ensure the continued success of your business.

It may seem like a daunting task, but armed with the quick, efficient, and methodical approach outlined in this guide, you’ll be celebrating the shift to virtual personal training in no time.

Remember, it all begins with making the necessary commitment to running an online business, as well as understanding elements such as who your unique target audience is, what sets your personal training business apart from the rest, and how you can be a leader during these troubling times.

There’s plenty of useful and easy to use software that can streamline the day-to-day operations of your virtual business, while help is always on hand in the form of freelance professionals if you need to outsource your online marketing.

Those who can overcome setbacks can go on to achieve the greatest success, so we hope now is a wonderful turning point for you and your business to become bigger and better than ever before.

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