Posted June 17, 2019

Hybrid Personal Trainer: Combining Online & In-Person Training for Revenue and Personal Fulfillment

Today’s guest post comes from Joel Ohman, founder & CEO of Exercise.com, the platform I’ve personally used for my online coaching program for a few years now. Online training has helped me develop consistent revenue that’s not geographically restricted, connected me to people around the world, and provided unique opportunities, so Joel is going to show how to maximize that business model in today’s post.

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As a serial entrepreneur with a number of different startups that exist under my belt, I get asked for entrepreneurial advice on a regular basis.

More often than you may think, the conversation starts something like this: “So, I’ve got a great idea for a new business/app/website/a baby stroller scooter hybrid (real) / edible spray paint (also real) / a TV that only changes the channel when you do 10 squats (not real, but wait a minute…) and I’ve decided to quit my job and follow my dreams. I’m turning in my two-week notice tomorrow. Oh, I also have no savings, no experience or special expertise, a wife, seven kids, and oh, my wife’s pregnant again. What do you think?”

Umm, congratulations?

My advice to newly minted entrepreneurs and seasoned entrepreneurs, new personal trainers and experienced personal trainers, is the same.

 

Add Before You Subtract

 

Maybe you are a trainer who has years of experience training clients in-person and you’ve long kept an eye on success stories of other personal trainers doing online training and you’ve thought to yourself, hey, I could do that.

 

And, I believe you can. Dean is a prime example of that success, and our business model (Exercise.com) is predicated on helping trainers succeed, online and offline. But quitting your day job cold turkey to go start a new company may or may not be a foolhardy decision.

What if you could do both: in-person and online?

 

What if you could continue training clients in-person, don’t change a thing, but then ADD some online training options to what you offer?

Even if you ultimately want to phase out your in-person training—you certainly don’t need to—there are a number of amazing benefits to taking this “add before you subtract” hybrid trainer approach first.

 

  1. Reduced Risk – Maintaining your current source of income (in-person training) while trying something new (online training) allows you to de-risk your new venture. You can now afford to make mistakes, try new things that don’t work out exactly right, adjust, and then try again, all without having to give up if you don’t earn enough money to support yourself and your family within a short time period.

  2. Reduced Stress – You will make mistakes. Is it okay if I say that again? You will make mistakes when you first start doing personal training online. And that’s okay. Yes, learning from someone like Dean and others who have been successful, and using an automated and scalable software solution will go a long way to pointing you in the right direction; but at the end of the day, we all have to do our own work, make our own mistakes, and then keep going forward and improving our businesses. When you have your in-person training still around to support your online training trial-and-error, then you can now approach your online training business with creativity and excitement instead of fear and stress.

  3. Long-Term Focus – It’s funny sometimes how people talk about “online businesses” as if the word “online” means that you can throw out the normal principles of a successful business. “Get rich quick by selling workout plans online! No work required, just hop on Instagram and watch the money pour in without any work!” This short-term focus is, well, short-sighted and harmful to your business and your clients. Adding new online training options to your in-person training tends to give you a slow and steady approach to building your business that’s healthier than going all-in on a new channel (online sales) with which you are probably not yet the experienced.

 

Benefits to Online Training and In-Person Training

 

 

Sometimes it’s helpful to list off a bunch of the pros and cons to both in-person training and online training. Of course, everyone enjoys different things in their daily work routine, especially depending on how introverted/extroverted you are, and let’s face it, part of being successful involves doing things you don’t like sometimes (i.e. front squats, tax planning, apple cider vinegar), but part of being an entrepreneur means you can choose to optimize for your strengths.

 

In-Person Training – PROS

 

  1. Personal connection with clients, human contact, building relationships
  2. Physical activity, moving your body around in space, not being trapped at a desk
  3. Easy access to workout equipment, no excuse to not “go to the gym” and workout

 

In-Person Training – CONS

 

  1. Have to work early morning and late evenings, less time for family, slave to client’s schedules
  2. Limited number of people a trainer can work with at one time, income capped by time in the day, employee mentality of trading time for money
  3. Physically tiring, emotionally draining, having to serve as therapist/counselor even to clients you may not prefer to spend time with

 

Online Training – PROS

 

  1. Building a system that scales without requiring your ongoing personal time involvement at certain hours, can create your own schedule
  2. Unlimited income potential, can train anyone anywhere in the world, the only limiting factor is usually online marketing prowess and “hustle”
  3. Can sell for you 24/7, once built can be somewhat “passive” income, passes the “if I get hit by a bus will this still have value?” test

 

Online Training – CONS

 

  1. Can be hard to figure out online marketing, websites, SEO, social media, other technical challenges
  2. Must pay for professional workout delivery/fitness business software or else be prepared to spend a lot of time creating and emailing spreadsheets
  3. Might seem overwhelming to get started, must learn new business/marketing skills

 

Top Reasons Personal Trainers Fail at Online Training

 

Okay, so you are already a successful in-person trainer and you like the idea of adding online training to your client offerings and becoming a hybrid trainer, but if we’ve seen it once, we’ve seen it dozens and dozens of times.

 

Here are some common mistakes that personal trainers make when attempting to do online training that cause them to fail (and fail unnecessarily, I might add). Sure, you will make mistakes when you try something new, and it will take time for you to hone in on the online training approach that works best for you, but see if you can’t learn from some of these mentioned below and save yourself the trouble.

 

Reason #1 – Not Having Systems in Place


 

Do you know what sounds like the last thing you want to see after a hard day of in-person training? An email inbox full of requests for you to create more Excel sheets and PDF’s full of workout plans that you have to email your online training clients one-by-one.

Having proper systems in place that can automate away all of your busywork is going to be the difference between success and wanting to drop a medicine ball on your head to make the headaches go away.

 

  • Did you know that you can create online assessments that will automatically start your clients on your workout programming that they can follow via the web, PDF, or iOS/Android apps (all under your custom branding, of course)?
  • Did you know that you can create a sequence of 6-12 months of workout programming in advance and load it up into an online workout group that will then automatically time release those workout plans, unlocking a new plan each month for your online group members?

 

And those are just a couple of the automation systems and sequences that next level Hybrid Trainers like Dean are putting to work.

 

Okay, as the CEO of a fitness software company, of course, I’m going to say this, but sometimes software is not just an expense for your business, it’s an asset.

If software is saving time for you and your staff, saving you money, making life easier for your clients, and allowing you to grow and scale your business to reach more clients in more places than ever before, then that is an asset, not just an expense.  You wouldn’t be able to do that without the right software!

 

Reason #2 – Not Putting the Work In

 

This is also known as “giving up too soon because the first thing you try doesn’t make you an overnight success and doing new things is hard and, wait, this is starting to sound like all of those excuses you hate to hear from clients…”

 

If it’s of any encouragement to you, even very sophisticated online marketers crash and burn on more marketing campaigns than they do well on. Sometimes it takes trying out something new, failing, iterating, tweaking again, launching again, until finally, you’ve carved out a winning strategy. Now, to be clear, there are no winning “tricks” to online training, just like there are no winning “tricks” to do well at in-person training

 

But it does take time, and work, and a willingness to grow your recurring revenue client by client.

 

If you are willing to put the work in, then the economics of online training get pretty exciting though, particularly if you utilize a recurring revenue model (and you should). Check out this interactive online personal training income calculator to see what I mean.

 

Reason #3 – Forcing Their Online Training to Mimic Their In-Person Training

 

Some trainers get stuck on doing things a certain way, many of them are quite successful doing in-person training, and have been so for years and years, that when it comes to building a successful online training component of their business, it’s very difficult for that trainer to be open to exploring new ways of doing things.

 

Maybe it’s a trainer insisting on being able to meet clients personally for an in-person assessment prior to signing them up for an online training package.

 

“I would never just send them to an online assessment on my website. I could never just evaluate their squat form via video!” Well, that is a decision one can certainly make, but just know that your potential training market has just shrunk dramatically from worldwide to those who can drive to meet with you in person.

 

Maybe it’s a trainer who insists on doing custom programming for each and every client. That’s also a viable business decision to make, but just know that you will be eliminating a large slice of the market who can and will pay for group programming via an online workout group or semi-custom workout programming or some other cheaper option, but is unable or unwilling to pay for custom programming from you.

 

It’s important to note that there are likely people out there right now who like your programming, like your approach, maybe just like you, period, and would be willing to pay you for your programming, but until you can serve them in their preferred way for their preferred price then they will forever remain out in the market underserved.

 

There are many other in-person habits that can make for in-person success but can be a hangup to growing your online training business if you aren’t willing to try new things and new approaches.

 

Going Hybrid

 

If you want to diversify your revenue streams, build recurring revenue that doesn’t depend on your personal time, avoid feeling like all is lost when in-person clients cancel on you and be in more control of your schedule so you can spend it with family, friends, and doing activities you love and if you’re looking for reduced risk, reduced stress, and a renewed long term focus on your personal training business, then going hybrid might just be an option worth exploring for you.

 

Author Bio

Joel Ohman is a serial entrepreneur, author, and angel investor. He is the founder and CEO of Exercise.com and a number of tech startups. He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His writing companion, Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries. He lifts weights six days a week and does Krav Maga twice a week to try to ignore the fact he’s still just a washed up ex-college basketball player. You can connect with Joel at JoelOhman.com.