Interested in health and fitness?
Want to expand your knowledge and earn some cash on the side, or full-time, without leaving home?
Consider becoming an online personal trainer. You could also become a virtual physical therapist. This is a relatively new option, but it’s quickly gaining traction. It’s easier than you think, and it can be an extremely rewarding way to earn a steady income. Plus, you’ll be helping a lot of people.
The jobs market is changing incredibly quickly, such that even work that once would have required a “physical presence” can now be completed online, from the comfort of your own home, and with complete flexibility.
Then there are the completely new job roles emerging in practically every industry.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how these business models work, and how to get started, and how to adapt that work to your ideal lifestyle.
The online personal training business model
The online personal training business model is extremely simple. First you get qualified, then you charge per hour for online Skype sessions (or similar).
Don’t you need to see clients in person, you may ask?
That all depends on the precise type of service you are offering. But as long as you are clear about what you can and cannot provide, then answer is no!
The role of a personal trainer is simply to get clients in shape, and potentially to help them train for events and competitions with the use of periodized training programs. This involves writing a training program, ensuring they stick to it, and helping them to perform exercises correctly. While a personal trainer often won’t be strictly qualified to write diet plans, they might also provide advice on this, as well as other lifestyle factors.
All of this can be done remotely. Personal trainers can start with consultations or order forms to learn more about their clients, then write programs based on that. They can subsequently check in regularly to ensure the clients are following through, and even ask them to film their workouts or specific moves for form checks. Health tracking tools can also create even more possible ways for trainers to keep a remote eye on their clients.
The virtual physical therapist business model
The role of a physical therapist is different and a little harder to translate to an online format. Physical therapists work to help rehabilitate clients recovering from injuries, muscular imbalances, or surgery. This can involve a combination of massage, exercise, and lifestyle advice. The aim is to strengthen weak muscles and connective tissues, and to restore or maintain full mobility.
The stakes are a little higher, as are the risks.
The virtual physical therapist, also called a telehealth physical therapist, can accomplish this using telepresence to ascertain the condition of the client. From here, they can prescribe specific exercises, and use digital materials and conferencing software to demonstrate.
They lack the ability to conduct in-person checks, which can make it harder to diagnose specific issues. Again though, the potential savings and improved access is still useful for patients. The big selling point is the promise that you can help a client finally overcome that irritating knee pain, without needing to leave the house or getting poked and prodded by a stranger.
How to Become a Personal Trainer Online
To become a personal trainer online as a side-hustle, or as a full time job, you essentially have two options.
You could work through an existing organization or brand, which will give you a stable income, sick pay, insurance, and probably very flexible working hours. In most cases, it won’t be your responsibility to go out and find clients, meaning you don’t need to worry about a lack of work.
On the downside, you won’t get 100 percent of the profit from each new client. You’ll be required to work within the framework provided by the employer, and you won’t be able to build your personal brand in the same way.
Listings for these kinds of jobs can be found on sites like LinkedIn and UpWork. You can also try contacting organizations offering online personal training directly, or even online personalities. I recently spotted an ad looking for personal trainers to work at NerdFitness.com, as an example.
The other route is to sell your personal training directly to clients on a self-employed basis and enter the gig economy.
In contrast to physical therapists, there is no legal requirement for personal trainers to be certified or hold a particular qualification or license. Personal trainer qualifications aren’t universally recognized and there are no licenses, just certifications.
If you wanted to work at a gym or through an online service, you might be required to complete a college degree in sports science or a related field. Others might require you to get additional certification or qualifications on top of this, or even require a certain amount of experience.
You can get certifications from Training Made Fun, NESTA, and the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, among others. You could also become a certified CrossFit instructor (level one only involves a single two-day session). In the U.K., you’ll want a REPS approved level 2 or 3 diploma.
The requirements vary drastically, so you’ll just need to shop around.
If you’re planning to work directly with clients, the only limitation will be whether or not you can convince them you know what you’re talking about. Most people will want to see some form of qualification before they are willing to part with $100 for a Skype call!
Then there’s the moral obligation of ensuring you aren’t going to injure anyone. You might not be a physical therapist, but you’re still responsible for another person’s health and wellbeing.
If you are able to build up a big following on Instagram, YouTube, or a blog, you can demonstrate the knowledge and value you bring to the table. If you have hundreds of thousands of followers, you can probably charge a lot of money for a single Skype session, too!
Should you opt to sell personal training services, you need to get some form of liability insurance. You should research this carefully. A mistake could otherwise result in a court case that puts you out of business prematurely.
How to Become a Virtual Physical Therapist
If you’re not sure whether personal training is for you, consider physical therapy instead. This has a slightly higher barrier to entry, but it’s a valuable vocation that will likely always be in demand.
All 50 states in the U.S. require physical therapists to go through a licensing process. A successful applicant needs to complete an accredited physical therapy program approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This is run by the American Physical therapy Association (APTA). You will then need to take a computer based test called the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which will need to be completed at one of 300 testing centers around the U.S.
Specific state licensing boards might also have additional requirements you need to meet.
While this training is time consuming and certainly difficult, you should find it possible to do part-time from home. That way you can continue bringing in a stable income while earning your qualification.
At this point, you will be ready to start looking for work online. You can do this in person or by working for an existing telehealth company, either as a contractor or an employee. You’ll be paid just like a normal staff therapist, but you’ll also have significantly more flexibility and freedom to work how you choose. Some of these companies provide tools like VERA, which allows therapists to monitor things like weight distribution during exercises via a Microsoft Kinect.
The other option is to go it alone and set up your own practice. This can be significantly more stressful but will give you greater flexibility and freedom, and higher earnings potential. Again, you’ll need to reach an audience, demonstrate you know what you’re talking about, and leverage this reputation to make sales. You can also use advertising or add your business to listings and directories.
You will only be able to charge in cash currently, as insurance companies don’t technically recognize telehealth services (yet). Again, you will need liability insurance to protect yourself.
Top tips and advice
There EW countless strategies you can use to get ahead of the competition and increase your chances of success as a physical therapist or personal trainer. Here are just a few to help you get started.
Choose a niche
While it’s not an essential requirement, many personal trainers and even physical therapists find they benefit from choosing a niche to hone in on. You might be a trainer who focusses on weight loss, training for a particular sport, CrossFit, or elderly clients — there are countless ways to differentiate yourself.
Likewise, as a virtual physical therapist you might choose to focus on elderly patients, knee problems, or sports etc.
Bulk up your skills
Can’t choose between a personal training qualification or physical therapy? How about both! This extra knowledge will help you to provide even better care and market yourself in new ways. You could add a sports science degree, a diploma in coaching, a dietetics degree, the list goes on. Then there are things like yoga, dance, and martial arts.
Blog and Instagram
I alluded to this already, but you should absolutely have a blog and an Instagram account to reach the largest audience and charge the highest rates. To many, having 200,000 subscribers is as good as having a college degree. If you share your knowledge through these platforms, you will essentially be offering a “free taster” that should help you convert more viewers into paying clients.
Use SEO smartly, and any post can bring in a steady flow of new viewers.
For many, the appeal of working as a personal trainer or physical therapist online is that it lets them work when and how they choose. However, if you’re not careful you might end up constantly at the beck and call of your clients. Remember, most people will also only be available for Skype sessions outside of work hours!
The solution is to be organized. Make sure you outline clearly what your clients will get from you (X number of calls, X Skype consultations, etc) and the hours during which you are available. An online calendar that invites clients to pick slots can also be a very useful tool. You could even charge different amounts for different times.
This prevents client dissatisfaction and helps you to maintain a set work-life balance.
This is closely related to the last point: a one-size-fits-all approach is often off-putting to clients. Why not let them choose the level of care they want? They choose how much contact they need, how in-depth they want their program to be, and this defines what they’ll pay. Often, a tiered approach like this will help you get more customers who each end paying more.
Better yet, go one step further and productize your approach. You can sell a general fitness plan, or rehab program for a set price, and use this to generate a passive income from your website or blog. Joe Wicks is a U.K. fitness personality who sells a similar program that gets slightly modified for each customer based on a series of questions they answer.
You can deliver a product like this as an ebook, a video course, or however else you like. This can also work as part of a “sales funnel,” increasing the clients’ engagement with your brand to the point that they’re willing to spend a lot more for one-to-one coaching.
More ways to work online in health and fitness
Becoming an online personal trainer or physical therapist is just one example of how you can make money from home working in health and fitness.
Other options include:
You can get a number of qualifications and certifications through online courses. Those distance learning courses are taught by people with an interest in health and fitness and relevant qualifications — just like you!
As a physical therapist or a personal trainer with a knack for writing, you should find no difficulty getting gigs writing for blogs, or as a technical author writing books for publishers.
Design and technology
More and more companies now enlist physical therapists to advise on products. From helping with ergonomics to the core functionality of things like fitness trackers, there is increasing awareness of the importance of good posture, and mobility for customers.
These are just a few of the ways you can package your knowledge and expertise. Each can serve as a primary source of income, or as a side hustle in addition to telehealth services.
Health and fitness influencer
You don’t actually need to sell a service at all to earn money in health and fitness. Create a blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram account talking about health and fitness, and you can earn enough money from the advertising alone. Did you know that the going rate for a sponsored post on Instagram is $1,000 per 100,000 followers? And health and fitness is one of the biggest niches on the platform! Use your expertise to build trust and a loyal following, then pick one of the countless options for monetizing that.
More telehealth roles
Of course we’ve only scratched the surface of what a telehealth professional can offer. You could likewise offer counselling online, work as a dietitian, teach martial arts and self-defence, teach yoga; the sky is the limit!
There are plenty of options when it comes to working in health and fitness online. No industry is safe from the relentless march of technology, which is great news for those of us who want to make a living doing what we love.
As a personal trainer or physical therapist working online, you’ll be able to work to a schedule that suits you, keep in great health yourself, and help others to do the same.
It takes a little work getting set up, but you know what they say: No pain, no gain!