The Death of Online Personal Training

How Online Personal Training is Murdering the Fitness Industry

Back in 2007 I had hoop dreams of making ‘passive income’ in my sleep and creating an ‘automated business’.

I launched my first website, The Alpha Body. It was a membership site, charging $47 dollars a month for online training. Members received monthly programs, weekly eClass and monthly interviews with champion bodybuilders.

It sounded like a recipe for success until I realised how much it cost to get a paying member (not to mention how much effort).

At $47 a month, to make an annual income of $100,000 dollars I needed 2128 transactions at $47 annually. This meant, to achieve 100k annually I would need a monthly turnover of $8,333.35 which would take 178 members paying members per month.

Sounds easy right?

Hell no. 

Consider how much effort it takes to get someone to commit to their health and fitness goals, doubled with the fact that in online sales there is no dialogue between trainer and client, only a website where they either purchase, leave their details or don’t.

Getting one sale like this is an achievement.

To crack a million in this business model you would need 21,277 transactions of $47 annually. To achieve that goal; monthly, the turnover would need to be $83,333 which would mean there would be 1773 active members monthly!

I don’t know about you, but the infrastructure to make this business work and service even 178 members monthly- AND keep sales going strong sounds like a lot of work to get off the ground.  In fact anything but a passive and an automated business.

In marketing your business, you are only ever working with two lists:

  • The people who know you
  • and the people who don’t

Unless you’re Madonna or Michael Jackson, the people who don’t know you will always trump the people who do know you…  This means to hit these goals the focus would need to be on getting the name and business out there in the public and the site in front of eyeballs.

This meant testing and measuring…

  • Headlines.
  • And ad copy.
  • And images.
  • And layout.
  • And reviewing ad spend
  • And pay per click campaigns
  • And email funnels
  • And search engine optimisation
  • And in-between that, actually servicing clients
  • And if you wanted to grow; creating systems and employing staff.
  • All of which meant, to make it work, you would need to work around the clock; achieving the opposite goal of what I started with; automation and passive.

Not giving up and persistent to make the online model work; I thought, if I create a ‘low barrier to entry product’ I will build a big list then everyone will buy my online membership program.

So, through days and nights, weeks and months, endless hours researching and writing, I wrote my first eBook, The Truth About Supplements. I got 42 sales in the first two days. I was on my way…

Except after the third, fourth and fifth day everyone stopped buying. I was lucky to get a sale a week.

So I spend hours and hours trialing and testing different headlines, images and layouts to make the site convert traffic better. After all that, I was sitting at about 1 sale a week.

So I spent even more time trialing and testing different headlines, images and layouts to make the site convert traffic better. The result, still about 1 sale a week.

Then it hit. 

The unbelievable obvious.

If I wanted this to work I needed to spend more time marketing and selling and less time training clients.

The thing was; I did not become a trainer to sit behind a computer screen. I became a trainer because I loved the gym and loved sharing my passion with people.

So I knew something had to change. I decided I would spend the time I was spending to online; offline.

This meant actually training people and going out of my way to deliver above and beyond. To actually ‘get good’ at my craft… Crazy right?

Dedicating myself to ‘offline’ grew my reputation and business faster than anything else I ever did online.

It wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t fast.

No one promised me that it would rain cash and I would be jumping out of helicopters into swimming pools of liquor and strippers. There was nothing gangsta or wolf of wall street about it.

It was early cold mornings and late-to-bed nights. It was all day at the gym. It was… Personal Training. 

AND I loved it.

The Online Trainers.

The amount of trainers these days who will point to Kayla Itsines, Ashy Bines or even Michelle Bridges and say; ‘but look… they’re killing it’.

No shit Sherlock. Check out their websites and businesses, their works of art in sales, marketing and automation. None of these businesses are where they are because of what they know about ‘training and nutrition’ but because of a very good business proposition to the general public with what would have to be smart marketing dollars behind it.

Comparing your online business to theirs would be like comparing my gym to Fitness First. Fitness First is a multi-national company with some very serious investors and money behind it. I have one gym and only pennies to spend in comparison to Fitness First’s almost endless supply of cash.

These online successes have the right face, money and business savvy behind them. You might be a solo trainer with limited business knowledge and money to wear things like advertising and building business infrastructure.

Additionally, you can’t compete with giants like these on their terms. They have more money and resources than you.

I once knew a guy who spent 20k on this online membership site. He had great videos, a great site and all of the packaging and service stuff you would expect. The one thing he didn’t have was a name or reputation to make anyone care about buying from him. He also didn’t have the marketing dollars or capital behind him to spend on ads, nor did he have the ‘know-how’ to do it competitively himself.

I know another guy. He doesn’t have a website yet he trains all his clients “online”. He does very well for himself. His carved a number out for himself training competitors and drinking coffee. He built his rep in the gym training and consulting which yields results. Those results now are his marketing which creates a referral system which keeps him in business and doing very well.

So taken from the above examples, as a trainer; to make online both successful and profitable you have two options:

1. You hang up the PT polo and become a marketer. You write ad copy, test headlines and measure your pay-per-click. You don’t service any clients yourself, better yet, find a face of the business and market them. You commit to doing all the behind the scenes-business stuff.


2. You become known for getting results. You invest years and years into training clients and your education. You prove what you do works. Your marketing is the results you get. You will not be able to do this in the first 5 years of your career. You will not make money quick. You will not achieve ‘passive income’ however when you become an expert, people may care about your opinion. Not before.

Both will take about the same time and dedication just one has the perception of faster and better. If marketing is what you want to do why not pair up with someone who loves training and help market them and leave the training to the professionals.

Mark Ottobre

Enterprise Fitness


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