First-person Perspective: The Online PT

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Modern times are changing the way we work, with more possibilities than ever to earn money how we want, where we want,  all while doing something we love! This means it’s becoming increasingly common for people to bag themselves a living wage while working remotely from anywhere in the world, as long as the Wi-Fi signal is good! Thanks to the internet and social media, we now live in a connected world where our clients are often just a click away; especially true in the case of online personal training.
My road into online PT-ing was a little by accident. I’m an Instagram junkie; I really love it and I’d often stumble across fitness accounts which included ‘Online Trainer’ or ‘Travelling Yoga Teacher’ in their profiles, making me wonder if this was something I could do myself…
As a Personal Trainer (PT) for a private, well-known health company, I was sitting pretty with a regular client base
of 15 hours per week if things were slow and 25 hours per week at its busiest, which, for me, was good. I didn’t want to be a PT who was working 40-50 hours a week. I predominantly took on older and elderly clients who had varying health conditions, most of  which came from everyday living and the unfortunate wear and tear that occurs to our bodies. I really enjoyed this because it meant that I could use my grey matter and some “out of the box” thinking to solve the problems that the body was causing for my clients.
I’ve  never been that kind of PT who would turn up to sessions and just wing it; I always did thorough research for my clients and planned every session with a hard copy which got kept in a folder in case I ever needed it one day. All this meant I collected a large  number of binders through the years! I found that simple but effective postural correction and joint mobility work would always help and it was so great to see this having a positive impact on my clients and really enhancing their lives.
But taking on this type of client, as fulfilling as  it was, became a physical and emotional drain; 15-hour days, and also enduring some very emotional cases, meant I reached breaking point. I couldn’t do this anymore, and, therefore, had to find  another way. Ultimately, this made me very sad, as I knew, in my heart, that I would be letting down a lot of clients who had now become dear friends and reliant on our sessions. However, the stress of  living and working in this way had taken its toll on my own health.
At this point, I needed a complete change. A new environment; one which wasn’t so relentless… one which I could control  and place into manageable segments. I always thought that gyms in the UK took too much away from PTs, either through ground rent or commission,  sometimes taking up to 50% of your hard-earned cash. This was also another reason I wanted something more from what I was doing and why I went down the online training route. I hated  the fact that the emphasis was on the quantity, and not the quality, of sessions. PTs have always been pushed to hit 30 plus hours which means, automatically, that session quality plummets, and, often, PTs fail to truly perform and develop their skills.
Becoming an online trainer has been a challenge, but one worth taking. Figuring out how to still provide value for money  on a product where you never have one-to-one time with your clients in person allowed me to put my problem-solving cap back on – perfect! I knew I couldn’t charge as much per session as your typical in-club PT session but that wasn’t a problem as I moved to  a country where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in the UK… and, better still, the sun shines pretty much every day!
Next, I had to formulate a professional and attractive looking package for both me and my clients. I landed on a package  that people would buy into, and, most importantly, it meant I could sell a product I was happy with morally and financially.
To start with, I offer a free video consultation call. Still, to this day, many PTs don’t invest in a proper sit-down
 chat with their new clients before they start working together, which I think is crazy! Communication skills are fundamental in this business, regardless of whether you work on or offline! During this call, I explain the package, what I can offer, mostly letting  the client talk whilst I make notes because it helps me to plan their sessions around their needs and limitations. It’s important that, during this time, I establish a rapport with this person and fully understand their goals and motives. Once all this is  done, I discuss payment options. With services such as PayPal, everything can be made safe and easy to track – great!
I’ve developed a four-week rolling programme which includes a weekly WhatsApp video call to check in with each client  and chat about the week ahead. Alongside this, I’ve found a simple gym log app which enables me to write sessions for my clients. The app also allows clients to make their own amendments to the sessions and leave notes to tell me if anything was difficult  or problematic. It’s a truly collaborative process which ensures that I’m able to build strong working relationships with my clients. I also create exercise videos with descriptive voiceovers which act as their exercise libraries over time as things progress.  And as old habits die hard, I still keep a notebook which tracks my weeks, and, most importantly, I take notes from my clients’ check-up video calls to keep a record of their progress, using any feedback I receive to adapt their plans moving forward.
Truth be told, it wasn’t a smooth start, and I was a little worried it wouldn’t work out, but, thankfully, a few of  my clients who I sadly left behind in the UK were more than happy to give the online training world a go – the joys of being connected! Luckily, we had built up a healthy relationship over the years and they trusted me as a trainer and a person to still deliver  the goods. To them, I’m eternally thankful for taking that leap of faith with me. As time goes on, I hope to develop my product further and take full advantage of everything that being an online PT has to offer. Here’s to the future and not conforming to the  rules!
By Andrew Douglas – Author, Personal Trainer & Social Media Manager for AIM 
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