Personal training is one of the latest professions to have ‘gone online’. Many PTs from all over the world now offer their services to a client base no longer confined by location in a cost-effective way – via the internet. We spoke to three PTs offering an online personal training service and asked them why, and how, they do it.
Pollyanna Hale – thefitmumformula.com
Pollyanna (Polly) Hale is a personal trainer, an online weight-loss coach and a busy mum of two. She started thefitmumformula.com after having her second child. Hale was inspired to take the online approach after she found, “there were no options for mums like me, without childcare, to access diet and exercise resources and advice.”
“As a personal trainer and nutritionist, I obviously have the knowledge I need, but so many mums need help and support and can’t get to the gym or classes.”
Hale’s service is focused on permanent change and a positive body outlook. She asks her clients to “only apply if you want permanent change, not a temporary fix, as starvation and hours on the treadmill are not realistic methods.”
If a client signs up for Hale’s service they get 30-minute workouts, personal and direct support, a cookbook, use of the member’s area of the website and a progress tracker to chart success; all for £117 a year or £17 a month. With that much going on at once, how does she manage to keep on top of it all?
“The online membership portal is a DIY service; clients log in and get everything they need with my support via a member’s Facebook group. This way I can have many clients on board at one time, but it doesn’t affect how much time I have to put in, as I can serve them all at once.”
“It’s a commercial market rather than high-end, one-to-one transformation packages, so I started with a low monthly price and can put it up as demand increases.”
To find new clients, Hale uses social media, especially Facebook, where she has a free group set up. This helps her create a supportive community where women can get to know her. Hale also uses email marketing to contact those who have shown interest previously. On her website, potential clients can opt to receive a free report in return for signing up to marketing emails. Hale then follows up with newsletters and offers to provide an incentive to sign up fully. However, most people sign up for her services after chatting with Hale on the phone, showing that the personal touch is still important, even if it looks a little different to how it used to.
One of the hardest aspects for digital PTs is ensuring results. After all, it’s much easier for clients to get away with not following the regime when they don’t meet their PT face-to-face. Hale understands the importance of keeping her clients motivated to achieve results.
“Ultimately, responsibility lies with the client to follow advice, but my part in that is to motivate and engage them so that they want to follow my advice, and when they do, they see results.
Hale also has a strategy in place for when her clients are not seeing results. “If someone isn’t following the plan, I figure out how to re-engage them. I’ve recently started sending out certificates, prizes and rewards for sending me their progress reports. It’s a great incentive to keep on-plan, and the reports they send back are used as testimonials, which then act as proof of the effectiveness of the programme to acquire future clients.”
Polly’s top tips for successful online personal training:
- Don’t forget the human element – talk to people on the phone, message them privately, know everyone’s names and about their life.
- Create systems – technology means that much of what you do online can be automated so that you don’t end up doing the same things over and over again.
- On that note, don’t try and serve everyone. Just like offline, choose a niche you’re good at and focus on that to start. For Hale, that’s helping mums lose weight.
- Don’t be misled that being an online PT will generate a passive income. It takes work; just a different sort of work that can be flexible around other things in your life.
Matthew Quinn – Flex, London
Online personal training was not an obvious career path for Matthew Quinn, founder of personal training website Joinflex.tv. With a background in engineering, Quinn has gone from being a web-tabloid editor to offering an online platform that allows people to “participate in live-streaming of fitness classes in the comfort of their homes.” The service is monetised by charging members around £3 for access to some workouts by top names in the fitness world – but most workouts can be viewed for free.
“Currently, we’re offering classes from yoga to HIIT. The platform has classes added by trainers on their individual channels. Users can choose to take classes across the board, as long as they tune in at the right time and have internet access.”
“To date, we’ve hosted classes from the likes of Natalie Walker, who has trained Victoria Beckham, and Kasia Rain, the “top model” official trainer, with more to come. Most classes are free if you join early enough.”
Quinn and his co-founder, Elliot Perry, started the company because it solved problems both men had faced.
“Elliott, a super-healthy gym buff, finds gym subscriptions extortionate, especially as he just wants to do classes. For me it was about time; I never find the time to exercise and when I do I procrastinate. Using ‘Flex’ at home not only saves me time, but I’m forced to take classes. If I procrastinate, I miss them!”
When asked about why he thought digital PTs were on the rise, Quinn said: “I think it plays into time again. The human attention span shortens exponentially every year, and digital-based services can hold that attention better.”
If time is of the essence, and with so much competition for it (work, family, TV box sets, friends, social media, travelling, Pokémon Go, or whatever the latest craze is) then how does he even manage to find new clients?
“Social, social, social! To grow at any decent pace, word of mouth isn’t going to cut it, so get on the relevant social channels and show people who you are and why you’re great!”
He also says the key to becoming a successful PT is to “not be scared of disruptive trends like live-streamed workouts – embrace the wave and you’ll come out on top.”
Mollie Millington – ptmollie.com
Originally from the USA, Mollie Millington has been living in London with her British husband since 2011. By day she works at a scientific research institution, while in the evenings and at weekends she runs fitness classes in East London, as well as looking after her online personal training clients.
Millington styles herself as ‘The Happiness Personal Trainer.’ Her business, PT Mollie, is based on monitoring through an app, which tracks food, exercise, and sleep. She does not prescribe workouts online.
As Millington has a full-time job, she saw digital training as a way to manage her time better. “It is the most efficient use of your time, which in the long run will save you money. You don’t have to pay for equipment or facility hire and don’t waste time travelling.”
“Right now, I don’t have any in-person clients, but I do teach a few group exercise classes a week. I do a digital check-in just before bed or while eating breakfast.”
When asked why she thinks online personal training has become so popular, Millington said, “People can work with anyone, so they might seek out a PT with an awesome reputation but who lives somewhere else. The cultural trend is really pushing for healthy and strong bodies, which makes people motivated enough to work from home too.”
Technology is key to Millington’s success; she advocates making sure your videos are top quality, any PDFs are well designed and you are familiar with your app before you start. When she began her business she started off small, determining (partially by using her tech aids) how much time was required for each client.
Once Millington secures her clients, she works hard to ensure they stay. “Good customer service is so important, especially when you are not meeting someone face-to-face. If possible, having a thirty-minute welcome class to put a face with the name is always helpful, or use Skype or Facetime if a face-to-face meeting is not a possibility.”
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