How to Start a Virtual Fitness Business

Tips for Running a Successful Online Fitness Company

A woman stretches her arms while looking down at her laptop, where she's filming herself as a virtual personal trainer

FG Trade / Getty Images

As awareness of the importance of health and wellness increases, the fitness industry continues to grow and gain popularity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook anticipates 15% job growth by 2029 for fitness trainers and instructors—much faster than the average occupational growth rate.

The pandemic has disrupted much of the traditional fitness industry, causing personal trainers and owners of fitness-related businesses to start offering many of their services virtually.

Running a fitness business remotely offers many advantages: You’ll have access to a broader potential customer base, clients won’t have to pay a gym membership for your services, and there are plenty of passive income opportunities.

In this article we’ll provide tips on how to start a fitness business online or pivot an existing business to work with clients remotely. 

Decide on Your Virtual Fitness Model

The virtual fitness realm offers a wide range of opportunities in a variety of formats. You can pick the method that suits your business model, or combine a few different setups to allow clients to choose the style and price point that works best for them.

Potential ways to structure your virtual fitness business include:

  • Offer one-on-one personal training, where you coach a client as they work out, often through a video call. The sessions are typically personalized to help the client work toward their goals.
  • Lead livestream “group” classes, where multiple clients can follow along at once. 
  • Create a workout routine (often as a PDF) that customers can access after purchasing. These programs are usually non-personalized, and are often written for a target audience such as pregnant women or older adults.
  • Offer pre-recorded workout videos that clients can watch and follow by paying a regular membership fee.  
  • Combine any of the above training methods. Maybe offer a package of livestream group classes with access to your video library of pre-recorded workout videos, or bundle a PDF of workout routines with a monthly personal training session.

When deciding on the ideal structure for your business, consider your goals and the scalability of your model. Some formats will lead to more passive income than others, but they may require a larger or more regular time commitment. For example, creating a PDF template of workouts requires no client interaction, but it will take lots of online marketing to get customers to purchase the product. 

Be creative with the variations you offer, and find ways to get the most out of your efforts—maybe record your livestream classes and upload them on your platform for access with a membership fee. Depending on your qualifications and interests, consider providing additional coaching services such as nutritional programs, online assessments, healthy lifestyle education, and accountability check-ins via phone, email, or text.

If parts of your program don’t involve direct supervision, it can be helpful to give clients access to videos explaining proper form and technique, so they can learn how to perform the exercises safely.

Get the Right Fitness Equipment and Tech

You don’t need to invest too much money to start. As long as you have the basic equipment, you can upgrade your tools as needed along the way.

A fast, reliable internet connection is one of the most important things you need for a virtual fitness coaching business. A WiFi booster can help ensure a good experience. 

You’ll need a camera to record yourself while demonstrating exercises and watching clients —this may be as simple as using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You’ll also want to have a second device to help you time and keep track of a client’s workout details, like how many reps they complete. 

You don’t need to use sophisticated software for your fitness business—email and tools like Google Drive are free and effective. If you decide to use software, choose options that will save you time and can accommodate your future needs as you grow your business. Many companies offer free trials so you can test out different products to find the best fit. 

Your clients will have access to different types and amounts of workout equipment, so take this into consideration when designing workouts. If you’re making a general workout template, keep the necessary equipment relatively simple. It’s a good idea for clients have a set of light, medium, and heavy dumbbells. The National Academy of Sports Medicine also recommends other basic equipment for personal trainers, including:

  • A large exercise ball
  • A BOSU ball
  • A slam ball
  • A medicine ball
  • Resistance bands
  • Kettlebells

Using brightly colored equipment during training sessions can make it easier for clients to see your movements and follow along over video.  

Set Up Your Training Space

Having a designated training area will help you to feel and look more professional. When choosing your workout space, ask yourself: 

  • Is there room to easily demonstrate the exercises, and enough space between you and the camera for clients to see your movements?
  • How is the lighting in your space? Good lighting is important so clients can see you performing the workout and can help you look more professional. If you’re relying on natural lighting, make sure the light is bright enough at different times of day.
  • What does your background look like? Clients will see this when they’re watching you on the screen.
  • Is there enough space to store your workout equipment? You don’t want to have to leave the space to get something during a session. 
  • Will you be interrupted? Kids, pets, and other distractions can seem unprofessional if they interrupt your client’s time.
  • Is it quiet, or are there outside noises? If you’re playing music during your sessions, remember that it could come across as choppy for a client, make it hard for them to hear your instructions, or clash with their own music. 

After you set up your training space, host a remote trial class with a friend or family member to iron out any potential issues. Familiarize yourself with what things look like from your client’s point of view.

Protect Your Clients and Your Business

Keeping accurate and updated information about your clients and their progress helps protect them as well as your business.

Keep a file on each client with relevant personal information such as their contact info, their address (in case you have to call 911 for them during a session), and an emergency contact. It can also be helpful to keep a list of what fitness equipment they own so you can plan your workouts accordingly.

Necessary legal forms include a liability release, a safety waiver, and a contractual agreement that explains your policies (cancellation policy, late fees, etc.). It’s also a good idea to have clients fill out a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) to identify possible exercise-related risks based on their health history. 

Prepare to Run Your Business

When setting up your remote fitness business, you’ll want to make sure you have a detailed business plan, organized bookkeeping and accounting systems, effective marketing strategies, and access to small business resources.

Curious about setting your rates for virtual coaching sessions? How much to charge depends on your level of experience, your clientele, and the value that you create for them.

Typical pricing for one-on-one virtual training can range from $100 to $500 a month. PayScale lists average personal trainer pay at $19.35 hourly, with rates varying from $11 to $51 an hour. Virtual coaching sessions usually cost 20% to 25% less than an in-person training session. 

Whatever pricing you choose, be consistent with your rates, charge all your clients the same amount across the board, and don’t undervalue your worth and skills.