From $0 to Six Figures: How to Scale Your Personal Training Business Online

I'm a little embarrassed thinking about how my personal training career began.

I began calling myself a "personal trainer" after completing a weekend certification course. Sure, I had spent hundreds of hours in the gym, but I didn't really know much (or anything) about helping other people reach their goals. 

scale your personal training business

I was, however, passionate. And passion counts for something. I wanted to make a difference and was ready to learn on the job.

Aside from my naivety when it came to the fundamentals of being a personal trainer, I was also quite unprepared from a business sense. I knew what I wanted (i.e. financial freedom, work flexibility, career satisfaction), but I had no idea how my role as a personal trainer was going to get me there.

That's why I'm writing this article. I became a personal trainer in 2001, and I have made a LOT of mistakes along the way. At the same time, I've learned a LOT, and many of those lessons can help you skyrocket your career much faster than I did.

The Dollars and Cents of Being a Personal Trainer

One of my good friends had worked at a big box gym for several years before I got into the personal training space. Hearing her talk about long hours, pressure to meet sales quotas, and very low pay, I knew I didn't want to go that route. Here's the path I took instead:

1) In-Home Personal Training

My first fitness business was called Personal Results Home Fitness (yeah, it's lame, I know!), and, as you can likely guess, I trained people in their homes. 

I thought this was a better alternative than working in a gym. I set my own hours and rates, plus I kept every cent I earned, which at the time was $50 per 1-hour training session. Not bad for a young kid like me!

But there were several huge downsides to this business model:

  • I had to buy and transport all sorts of equipment
  • My days were long since clients mostly wanted to train before and after their 9 to 5 workdays
  • Travel time between clients made my per-hour earnings much less than I had hoped for

Within a year, I knew that this business model was NOT going to help me reach the business goals I had set out. Something had to change.

2) Home Studio Training

It's always a good feeling when clients come to you!

What if I could get my clients to come to me instead of me going to them? That would save dozens of hours of commuting time each month and dramatically increase my earnings per hour!

​This realization prompted me to buy a house with a large basement that I converted into a nice home training studio. It had all the equipment and space I needed to train 1-2 clients at a time.

I was right. My earnings per hour did increase, but there were still some flaws with this new business venture:

  • Having a gym in my basement didn't sound professional to some clients or potential business partners
  • There was a lot of foot traffic through my house, which made my work-life balance challenging; my home was my workplace
  • There was a finite number of clients I could train per week, so my earning potential was capped
  • Oh, and one more tiny problem: The city sent me a cease and desist order since my house wasn't zoned or licensed for that type of business!

3) Private Personal Training Studio

For years this had been my dream. If I could open a personal training studio, I could train my own clients and rent space to other trainers who needed a place to run their own businesses.

This was the path to passive income that I wanted. I am the owner, and employees or contract trainers pay me even when I'm not there. It's perfect!​

In 2009 I made this dream come true when I opened GreenFit Health & Fitness, a brand new facility that offered everything I had ever wanted.

Fast-forward 6 months:

  • I was working 80+ hour weeks trying to manage my own clients, the trainers who were renting space from me, and the facility itself
  • The studio was booked solid during peak hours, but sat empty during much of the day
  • My earning potential was still capped since there were only so many trainers my studio could physically support
  • While I was earning much more money than I ever had in the past, I wasn't having any fun, nor did I have any time to enjoy the success

A New Business Realization

When you realize there's a better way.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but I realized, just 6 months after opening the doors to my personal training studio, this wasn't what I wanted as a career. I put the business up for sale, and one of my competitors scooped it up.

I was unemployed.

As scary as it was to have no income and no job prospects, it was refreshing to be able to revisit the business goals I set out years earlier when I became a personal trainer:

  1. Financial freedom - I wanted to earn enough money that I didn't have to worry about where my next payday was coming from.
  2. Work flexibility - I wanted to be able to work when and where I wanted to work.
  3. Career satisfaction​ - I wanted to love what I did, and to know that I was making a difference in the lives of others.
Most importantly, however, I realized my next business had to be infinitely scalable. It had to be one I could grow into a 6-figure business without running myself into the ground. I wanted endless opportunity and earning potential.

Now the only question was: what does a business like this look like?​

Online Trials and Failures

Keep in mind that I was going through this process in 2009, when online fitness businesses were pretty much non-existent. I recognized that the internet was key to achieving a perfectly scalable business, but how?

I tried many different models:

  • I sold workout programs​
  • I created nutritional plans
  • I built a membership site with streaming video workouts
  • I sold affiliate products like supplements and workout gear
  • I placed earn-per-click ads on my website

All of these ideas had only moderate levels of success, but I had learned so much and knew I was going to hit a home run if I didn't give up. I just needed a template to follow that would channel my efforts in the right direction.

My Online Business Turning Point

When I hear people say, "I read this book and it changed my life!" I am usually a bit skeptical. Really? One book changed your life?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I read DotComSecrets.​ This was the turning point that took all my floundering online business ideas, and gave me a structure to follow.

You can get your FREE copy of the book here (you'll just have to pay a few bucks for shipping)​, but I'll give you some of my big takeaways:

  1. You don't need a fancy website, but you DO need a landing page - I had spent far too much time "perfecting" my website. ​
  2. You need the right magnet to attract new leads - Knowing my audience and one thing they desperately want was crucial for converting visitors into leads.
  3. You need a tripwire to convert leads into customers - When someone takes my free offer (i.e. a lead magnet), they are primed to buy something on the spot. I now offer a "tripwire" product to those leads to make that sale happen before they lose momentum.
  4. You need a value ladder to generate more sales per client - This was the most important lesson I learned from DotComSecrets. Instead of focusing one one product/service, I now have a lineup of increasing value offers. This sales funnel takes customers from paying me a few dollars (i.e. to buy my tripwire) to paying me hundreds of dollars per month for recurring fitness programming. A value ladder is an incredible strategy to master!
  5. You need the right tools to automate your business - I used to be afraid to spend money on my business, but I've learned better now. Today I spend hundreds of dollars per month for online services that help automate my business. These tools include ClickFunnels, Total Coaching, Calendly, and a few others. Spending this money helps me earn MUCH more money, and even better, it allows me to work less.

What results did I get from implementing these strategies?

Well, I have achieved my business goals. I love what I do, I work when and where I want to work, and I earn more money than I ever did as a face-to-face trainer or studio owner.​

The best part? It's not hard to do this. Yes, it is hard work (what business isn't?), but the process isn't hard to follow.​

How Can You Get Started?

To be successful, you have to get started first!

I said at the beginning of this article that I wanted to save you the growing pains I went through over the past 15+ years. To do that, I'd like to offer you a 3-part challenge:​

  1. Read DotComSecrets - Yeah, I know I sound like a book salesman here, but what you will learn in this book is necessary for online success.​ If you don't know how to build a sales funnel, you can't scale your business no matter how hard you try.
  2. Choose Your Lead Magnet - As you read DotComSecrets you will begin developing your lead magnet. In the comments section below, tell me what you come up with so that I can give you feedback. If you already have a lead magnet, tell me in the comments section.
  3. Create Your First Landing Page and Funnel - Again, the book will outline how to do this. Once you've got your first funnel ready to go, post the link here so that I can check out your landing page. I'll review it and help you make the necessary tweaks. Already have a landing page? Post it in the comments so that I can help you right now.

Most trainers dream of having a business that requires less of their time, but earns them more money. This is possible, but it requires an online approach. Don't just dream about it - take my 3-step challenge and let me help you make it a reality.

Have You Started Your 3-Step Challenge? Tell Dave in the Comments Section Below!

About the author

Dave Smith

Dave Smith was chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional for his innovative online fitness coaching found at Make Your Body Work. He now teaches other fitness professionals how to build their own profitable online businesses. Learn more at the Online Trainers Federation.