How to Start a Virtual Personal Training Business
Do Business the Right Way
If you’ve worked as a personal trainer and are seeking ways to make money at home, starting a virtual personal training business is a no-brainer. New to this industry? It might still be the right path if you’re obsessed with all things fitness and nutrition, love helping people reach their goals, and have been itching to put your social media skills to use.
Below, we’ve done the legwork for you to provide a free guide to starting a home-based virtual personal training business today.
Not interested in starting a virtual personal training business? Visit our generic Start A Business Guide.
What Does a Virtual Personal Training Business Do?
The primary focus of a personal trainer (virtual and otherwise) is always the same: help clients meet their fitness and nutrition goals. Trainers create plans, track and assess progress, and adjust as needed, making sure to stay aware of client abilities, needs, and related health history. Virtual personal training businesses generally provide a combination of stock content downloads (such as PDF nutrition plans or short videos of targeted workout routines), customized plans, phone and email consultations, and live sessions.
One main difference in the virtual personal training realm—as compared to in-person—is that a lot of stock content is needed in order to make the most of the business. This means that the barrier to entry may feel high, and will get easier once you’ve created a backlog of videos, plans, and guides to offer your clients.
Steps to Starting a Virtual Personal Training Business
Create a Business Plan for Your Virtual Personal Training Business
Before you get started, you’ll need an idea of what resources you’ll need—and how to monetize your business in a practical way. We’ve answered the biggest questions about clients, costs, and profits below.
Who is the target audience?
While your general target audience is anyone interested in improving their health and fitness with online support, it will be helpful to further define your niche. Are you aiming to train busy, working mothers? Seniors seeking to increase strength and mobility? Bodybuilders trying to get the most out of the equipment they have at home? You might find success in this industry without narrowing your focus, but it will likely make it harder for you to market, since it won’t be clear who you’re marketing to. Once you’ve nailed down your target audience(s), you’ll have a better idea of which social channels are most important.
When defining your audience, you’ll also want to consider the geographical scope of your reach. Do you want your clients to be relatively local? Regional? Countrywide? Worldwide? Theoretically, your clients can live anywhere with internet access. But, if you’re scheduling clients for live sessions, it will be important to consider timezones and if there are limits to what hours you’re willing to work.
How do I get clients?
If you’ve previously been a personal trainer, you likely already have lists of current, former, and potential clients. Obviously, these are the people you’ll want to start with, as they might be interested in moving their training online. From there, you’ll want to create or amplify your business’s online presence.
- Build a Social Media Marketing Plan: Social media will be key when it comes to finding new clients; it’s here that you can share videos and content to get potential clients excited about what you offer. Their engagement with you on social media will then drive them to your website, where they can read more about your experience and services, and ultimately sign up for sessions and download materials. The importance of an active, engaged, well-targeted social media presence cannot be stressed enough—your success may be entirely determined by your ability to market your business online.
- Establish Credibility: This will be done in part through your social media presence, and will solidify through your website. If you build the site yourself, there are a variety of platforms to use, such as Google Sites, Wix, and Squarespace, costing anywhere from $0-$40 a month. If you want a custom domain name (you probably do), that will typically cost $10-$20 a year.
How does a virtual personal training business make money?
Exactly how your virtual personal training business will earn a profit depends on what type of client engagement you want to have. Here are a few approaches to consider as you move into the virtual realm:
- One-on-One or Group Live Sessions: You will meet virtually with a client or clients and train them. You’ll be able to provide instruction, correct form, offer tips, and track progress. You will likely meet with them regularly or for a set amount of sessions, generally for around an hour, though 30-minute sessions are fairly common.
- Downloadable Plans, Guides, and Videos: There’s a lot of competition in the ready-for-download space, so this option will work best in tandem with live sessions or consultations. You might offer an option to download plans as-is, or you might customize plans to meet the needs of individual clients. Either way, having a collection of focused and targeted stock content broadens your service catalog and opens you up to more clients.
- Phone and Email Consultations: This is a nice supplement to live sessions and/or downloadable plans so that you can check in with clients to further track progress and make adjustments as needed.
Ideally, you will utilize some combination of these options in order to maximize your client list and increase profits. Exactly how you want to break down these options is up to you, as is what you charge for each service. The more work you put into something, the more you should charge. A one-time download of a ready-made workout and nutrition plan is going to be a lower price than a customized plan that can only be created after a client consult, for example.
How much money will it take to get started?
If you’re moving your business from the physical world into the virtual one, and already have suitable filming equipment, your start-up costs should be minimal. However, if you’re entering this industry fresh, and have certifications and equipment to buy, your initial costs could be a few thousand dollars.
Personal Training Certifications
Though it isn’t legally required that you have a personal trainer certification in order to provide personal trainer services, being certified will greatly increase your chances of creating a robust client roster—and will ensure that you provide them a quality service. Certifications are generally good for at least two years, and cost anywhere from $200-$2000, depending on the package, the program, and how long the certification lasts. (Renewals range from $50 to nearly $500, depending on the program.) There are also certifications that focus on virtual personal training, such as those offered by International Sports Sciences Association and National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Keep in mind that not all certifications are created equal. Some certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, while others are not. Since certification isn’t technically required for you to enter this profession, you don’t need to be certified by an accredited agency, but it will be useful if you’re just beginning to establish your credibility in this industry. Some accredited certification companies are National Federation of Professional Trainers, American Council on Exercise, and National Council on Strength and Fitness.
Personal Training Gear and Software
You’ll also need a reliable computer (at least $1000 if you have to buy one), video equipment (if your phone has a good camera, this could work to start; otherwise, video cameras are $150 at the low end), lighting equipment (around $50 minimum), and exercise equipment (varies widely). Ongoing costs may include personal trainer software—such as gymGO, PTDistinction, and Trainerize—which can aid with scheduling, tracking client progress, billing, and even video interfacing and marketing. Typical cost is as low as $20 per month, or as high as hundreds, depending on your needs and the company. Finally, you’ll need a business website. You’ll likely need to set aside about $40 and a few days to get that up and running.
How much do virtual personal training businesses make each year?
The average salary for an online personal trainer is $49,645, according to ZipRecruiter. But, this can vary greatly based on experience, location, and marketing success: the lowest listed salary is $19,500, while the highest is $124,000.
How much should I charge?
Hour-long one-on-one virtual training sessions generally cost $30-$150. How much you charge—and how much clients are willing to pay—depends on your experience and the type of instruction you’re providing. Many trainers offer packages where clients can sign up for a set amount of sessions, so you should also consider if you’ll charge flat fees (i.e. pay once for four sessions) or recurring rates (i.e. pay monthly as you would for a subscription). Generally, the more a client signs up for at once, the cheaper the per-session price becomes.
Most downloadable materials will likely be PDF workout plans, targeted to a specific audience or written with a specific focus. The cost varies, but $20-$30 for a one-month plan is a safe zone. You might also offer clients the option to consult with you via phone or email. Typically, the initial consultation will be free, and perhaps take place before any services have been signed up for. After that, consults are generally offered in conjunction with larger packages: maybe a client signs up for three months of personalized workout materials, and weekly phone consultations are included.
If you’re not sure where to start, a good approach when determining your prices is to figure out what your monthly overhead is—how much money do you need to break even? Let’s say you need to make at least $2000 a month to survive and keep your business running. To keep this math problem simple, you charge $100 per individual one-hour session, and will need to sign up 20 clients a month.
Select a Name for Your Virtual Personal Training Business
Have a great name idea? Before you start marketing and branding your business, you’ll need to ensure your name is available. Most states prohibit or restrict businesses from adopting names that are already in use. Even if it’s legally allowed, a copycat name puts your business at risk of a lawsuit.
See if your business name is available in your state with our Free Business Name Search.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Plan to trademark your business name? You can see if the trademark is available on a website like Trademarkia. It’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available, which you can do on websites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Even if you don’t plan on putting together a website right away, you can buy the domain name to make sure no one takes it in the meantime.
Choose a Business Structure
Should you form an LLC? A sole proprietorship? Your choice of business structure will affect many aspects of your business, from liability to taxes.
Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships
If you don’t file any paperwork to legally form a different kind of business—you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Essentially, these are “default” business structures. A sole proprietorship has one owner, and a partnership has multiple owners.
These structures have a few initial benefits. They’re easy, fast and cheap to start and maintain. However, the limitations and risks of these business structures quickly become more apparent as your business grows. In both of these business types, you are your business, legally speaking. Your company’s legal business name is YOUR name—so you’ll need a DBA to operate under any other name. Any business debt is YOUR personal debt. If anyone sues your business, they are suing YOU personally.
LLCs & Corporations
Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are business entities formed at the state level. The entity is legally separate from its owners, meaning the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. As a separate entity, the business also has multiple tax election options. For example, both LLCs and corporations can choose to be taxed as S-corps if they meet the requirements.
LLCs and corporations are not quite as simple and inexpensive as default structures. LLCs and corporations come with formal requirements like state reports. They also have more fees than default structures, such as formation and annual report fees. However, the benefits of an LLC or corporation—especially liability protection and tax flexibility—are significant.
Legally Form Your Virtual Personal Training Business
If you opt for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, there’s no formal paperwork to file to legally create your entity—you just start selling your product or service. However, you will not have anyliability protections or tax flexibility.
LLCs and corporations are formed by filing paperwork with a state agency, typically the Secretary of State. To start an LLC, you file articles of organization. To start a corporation, you file articles of incorporation. In most states, you can file these forms online or download a paper form from the state’s website.
Whether you’re forming an LLC or corporation, your articles will require certain basic information about your business, such as your company’s:
- business address
- registered agent and office
- business purpose
- members/managers or directors/officers’ names and addresses
- number and type of authorized shares (for stock corporations)
You’ll also need the signature of someone authorized to sign on behalf of the business, along with the state’s filing fee. Fees vary by state but are typically between $100 and $200. If you hire Northwest to form your LLC or corporation, we complete and submit your formation paperwork on your behalf for just $100 plus state fees.
Create Internal Policies and Procedures
It’s important to put your company’s internal policies and procedures in a written document, especially if you’re starting your business with others. Partnerships have partnership agreements. LLCs have operating agreements. Corporations have bylaws.
These documents look a bit different for each kind of business, but they serve the same general purpose. They ensure there’s a clear path forward for any major issue that may arise, from changes in ownership to closing the business. LLCs and corporations also typically need an operating agreement or bylaws in order to open a bank account.
Get an EIN and Register for Taxes
Nearly all LLCs and corporations will need to request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If you file corporate income taxes, have employees, or file certain franchise taxes, you must have an EIN. An EIN is also a common requirement for opening a business bank account. Most businesses can request an EIN by filling out the IRS’s online form.
Your EIN is for federal taxes—but you’ll likely have state and local tax obligations as well. You will most likely need to set up an account with the state’s Department of Revenue, and you may need to apply for a state tax ID or a sales tax license as well.
Learn more about how to Get an EIN for your business.
Open a Bank Account
A business bank account keeps your personal finances separate from your business finances. For LLCs and corporations, keeping separate finances is essential for maintaining liability protection. To open an account, LLCs and corporations typically need to bring to the bank a copy of their articles, their operating agreement or bylaws, and their EIN.
Obtain Required Licenses and Permits
Many businesses will need a business license to operate. Licensing information—as well as any zoning requirements or other permits—can usually be found on the city or county website.
If your home is part of a homeowner’s association, you’ll also be subject to any of their restrictions for home-based businesses. Some areas may also require home-based businesses to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (a document certifying the property owner has given the business permission to operate).
Next Steps for Your Virtual Personal Training Business
After your business is up and running, there are a few additional steps you may want to take as you grow:
- Get online: With your domain name, you can create a business website. You can hire a professional or use a website-builder like Wix or WordPress. You may also want to invest in online ads through a program like Google Ads.
- Hire employees: Hiring employees requires quite a few steps. You’ll need to collect W-4s and I-9s from employees, report the new hires to the state, set up withholding, pay for unemployment insurance, distribute any required documents and notices to employees, and display wage and safety info in the workplace. Employer.gov is a good place to start, followed by your state’s tax or labor office.
- Get business insurance: While LLCs and corporations protect you from personal liability, you don’t want your business to go bankrupt in the face of an accident, injury or other disaster. At minimum, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance. Home-based businesses can sometimes add insurance onto their homeowner’s policy.
Currently, there isn’t much information out there about virtual personal trainer insurance; the market hasn’t yet caught up with the digital world. But, you’ll definitely want to obtain general and professional liability insurance at a minimum. Starting cost for this insurance is around $11 a month for personal trainers. Beyond insurance, it may also be a good idea to include in your terms of service that clients waive liability when they work with you and use your materials.
Is a Virtual Personal Training Business is Right for Me?
What’s it really like to work in a virtual personal training business?
It’s rewarding to be a virtual personal trainer. There’s nothing quite like helping a client reach their goals or seeing that “aha!” moment in someone’s eyes. But this career path isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll be extremely busy, with much of your time focused on marketing and client capture. You’ll need to consistently throw yourself into marketing, planning, and prepping with the same energy that gets you through a grueling workout.
You’ll also need to use this energy to prep the perfect, video-friendly exercise room. During live sessions, clients will have a front-row view of your workout space, aka your living room. Everything in the camera’s view should be tidy, clean, and minimal. The last thing a client wants to see is your laundry piled in the corner as they do some forward lunges.
What does it take to succeed in the world of virtual personal training?
Being a successful virtual personal trainer involves a lot of marketing. You won’t see potential clients daily at the gym; you’ll have to find them online. To be successful, you will have to spend A LOT of your time online across multiple platforms. If you’re not prepared to do this, or have never done online marketing before, you may find it difficult to locate and retain clients. If you’re simply moving your business from in-person to online, then your legwork (pun intended) will be centered around creating virtual training materials and creating the perfect home workout, as you will likely be able to bring over much of your existing client base. Over time, you will grow these clients through active social media promotion and a business website.
Your clients are coming to you to seek the knowledge and encouragement that they may be lacking; you will be responsible for helping them reach their goals, which will require you to be helpful and supportive. Whether you’re a seasoned trainer or coming in fresh, you’ll need to be outgoing, motivated, and social media-savvy in order to rise above the competition.
Ready to Form an LLC or Corporation?
Northwest Registered Agent is here to help with all your small business ideas and needs. Answer a few simple questions about your business, and we’ll prepare and submit your formation paperwork to the state. We also provide your new business registered agent service, free business forms and guides, and much more.