Brad Sheppard from Trainer HQ shares the good, the bad and the ugly of becoming an online trainer.

The world of online training is both fast-paced and furious, and if you’re not calculated in your efforts it can very quickly chew you up and spit you out. Reflecting on the start-up and growth of many online fitness businesses prior to COVID, we saw an often slow and somewhat ‘side-project’ effort from many. However, following the chaos and uncertainty of March 2020, effective online training became a necessity for many.

While many ‘online’ fitness businesses have plenty of positives, a great many struggle as a result of avoidable pitfalls. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to unpack the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to building an online PT business, including a few steps to help you successfully venture into this space.

THE GOOD: The opportunity

As a result of the recent pandemic, Trainers everywhere adapted their program delivery to avoid going out of business. The result was the rise of the ‘Zoom’ Trainer.

No longer does a client need to cancel an appointment because they can’t get to the gym, are travelling interstate, or are stuck in the office. Instead, they can simply open up your shared video app and dive into their regular training session.

As a result, even beyond the pandemic, we’ve seen massive growth among Personal Trainers who have transitioned into offering services that include either:

  • A blended ‘hybrid’ model combining in-person (face-to-face) training with an online offering; or
  • A move to strictly ‘online only’ services.

Are clients ready for the continuation of online training?

Based on the many PTs that we interact with at Trainer HQ, acceptance of an online coach has massively increased. This enables Trainers to help more people without being confined to the traditional four walls of a gym or studio.

THE BAD: What prevents people from building an online business?

The greatest resistance and restrictions will typically be self-imposed. Quite simply, if you don’t feel that you will be successful as an online Trainer, then you’re probably right! Here are the top reasons we see Trainers holding back on their online fitness business aspirations:

Not having a clear vision, plan, and strategy.

Falling into the trap of trying to be ‘everything to everyone’ is dangerous, as it ultimately sets you up for a lack of specific direction. Once you are crystal clear on your ideal clients and, most importantly, how you can solve their greatest fears, problems, and concerns, then you will be able to devise a strategy on how to attract them to you.

The next step is to devise the right messaging strategy that speaks directly to your ideal client. You need to know: What do you stand for? What values do you have as an organisation? How are you making a difference in the lives of others?

Clarity around your offering makes it a lot easier to move someone from being a lead, to being a qualified buyer who can see exactly how you can help them.

Suffering ‘Anaysis Paralysis’ on which platform or program to use

Technology and Trainers… aarrgh, we completely get it! You signed up to be a fitness professional, to do what you love and use your passion to change lives. You never signed up to become a ‘techie’!

The fact is, we’re living in a digital world and the better you can understand and embrace technology, the easier it will be to expand your services as an online Trainer!

To help you out, here are options we see Trainers using, and using very successfully;

  • You can go a long way with FREE services: Yep, you read that right. Google sheets, interactive PDF documents, and private Facebook groups. Trainers are doing great things with these tools, and they’re super-easy to use.
  • Apps and done-for-you templates: From our experience in using various options as well as seeing our clients at Trainer HQ negotiating different options, we can confirm one thing – there is no single program that satisfies everyone’s needs and requirements! Each platform will have its pros and cons. Our advice is to do your due diligence, but don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the process.
  • Building your own app: While we would never tell you ‘not’ to do something, we’ve seen many people invest massive amounts of time, energy and huge amounts of money to build the ultimate platform, only to find that it requires ongoing development and work. Generally speaking, we recommend leveraging the hard work and expertise that others have done and created for you.

THE UGLY: Truth, that is

We’re gonna give it to you straight: if you believe that there is some unknown power, online set-up fairy, or magical secret that suddenly produces the perfect online fitness business, then you will be sadly disappointed! As with your in-person offering, developing the relevant business skills is essential to achieving profitability.

So how does your in-person business differ from an online business?

Here’s the good news: while the method of service delivery may vary, the way we generate business remains the same.

For years, we’ve been helping Trainers develop an effective lead generation strategy. A large number of these new leads are generated online. So hear this: the only thing that changes is the way the program is delivered.

Wealth without work. Is it possible?

You’ve probably seen enticing ads on socials by some ‘guru’ who has draped themselves over a hired Ferrari for a once-off photo shoot, suggesting that you can attract a bunch of people to your program, then kick back on a beach in Thailand with your MacBook in hand, and work on your tan whilst occasionally uploading a new program!

That’d be awesome, but the reality is that building any business requires effort. It will ask the best of you. It will require time, energy, and money to make it a success. There will be challenges and struggles along the way, and it will force you to become a better version of yourself.

In summary, in our 28 years of running fitness businesses, we have yet to witness one that produces ‘wealth without work’ and I doubt that we ever will. The upside is, while hard work, grit and unwavering determination is a vital ingredient for any successful business, the rewards that you reap will be worth it!

To accelerate your move into the online space, we’ve created the ultimate template to assist you to identify your ideal client. Click here to download it.


Brad Sheppard

Brad is the co-founder of Trainer HQ, Australia’s largest Business Coaching and Mentoring program for Personal Trainers. Brad has taught thousands of Personal Trainers Internationally the methods on how to earn $100,000 or greater whilst working 20 hours or less per week.