Which qualifications do you need as an online coach?

By Johnny and Yusef

We’re often asked which qualifications you need as an online coach. To answer this question, we thought we’d start by telling you how we got this so catastrophically wrong when we started out.

Hopefully this will save you some of the stress and hassle if you’re starting your own online business.

Johnny had just quit accountancy, and we travelled to Leeds for a seminar on periodisation. We’d spent money on travel, a hotel and the seminar itself to sit in a freezing sports hall reading slides from an overhead projector. But the elephant in the room was the fact that there wasn’t a lot of money coming into the business at the time. Client-based revenue and business performance were slowly declining, and none of the content from the training was going to solve this.

So, we’d spent quite a lot of money on this seminar, and a few other seminars when we were new to online personal training, each time telling ourselves:

This is the thing that’s going to bring in clients”.

None of the training did anything for the business. And in hindsight, it’s so obvious.

A photo of Yusef reading a book

We have yet to work with a client who is limited in their ability because of the depth of their understanding of the Krebs cycle.

But because training and acquiring knowledge is something we can control, it’s something we all naturally gravitate towards. If you think about it, it’s far more important that you:

  • know the basics
  • have seen and got results yourself
  • can communicate well with people and listen to what your clients need

Those are all the skills you really need.f

How do you decide which training is essential?

We thought we’d share a framework to help you decide which qualifications you actually need to take as an online coach. There are two sides to training. There’s:

  • the stuff that’s essential in order to practice legally and safely as an online coach
  • further learning – the stuff that helps you give the best service to your clients.

It’s important to start by making this distinction.

But remember that neither of these will help you get more clients.

To do this, you’ll be better off dedicating your time and resource to learn about

  • marketing
  • automation
  • business systems
  • sales

By doing this, you’ll quickly get to the point where your business is making a stable revenue. And at that point, you might decide to attend some training because you find it interesting or it’s something you want to get even better at.

But your clients are your greatest teacher. And you’ll learn far more from them than any amount of training or planning.

What training do you legally need to start an online coaching business?

It’s important to make sure you have the legal and practical basics in place. These include:

  • liability insurance
  • A Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)
  • a Level Three qualification if you’re working in-person or online/hybrid.

As well as these, it’s important to remember not to write meal plans unless you are a dietitian. Legally, this is something you’re not allowed to do.

And finally, don’t just take our advice. These requirements will differ slightly depending on where you’re operating from, so you should also do your own research and speak to a broker for advice if you need to.

One other thing, for your own peace of mind, is that you can tell your client to check a technique with staff at their gym if they’re not sure about something you’ve set them in your programme. This will put your mind at rest that they’re training safely.

Further learning

As well as the basics, there’s a wealth of further learning out there. Anything outside of what’s legally required is for your own personal sense of satisfaction. You might find it reassuring to carry out additional training to make sure you’re giving your clients the best service possible.

But ultimately, the best cure for any imposter syndrome is to just get out there and start working with clients.

And the best way to get results for your clients is to imagine you’re training yourself, five years ago. This way, you’ll understand exactly what sort of problems they’re experiencing and how you can help them. You can find out more about this in our video on picking a niche:

It’s also important to look at your business as a whole and identify where you are weakest. Is it getting leads where you might fall down? Is it closing sales where you fall short? Once you’ve identified this, you can aim to find a solution to this through any further reading or training.

The next thing to do is to find a way of drawing together all of the insights and learning you’re getting from your experience as an online coach. This will help you answer any clients’ questions in the future as well as documenting any processes. Not only will this help you become a better coach, but this knowledge can also be turned into course material for your clients further down the line.

We’d recommend building a Second Brain to help you build your systems. At a basic level, there are resources like Apple Notes, or Obsidian will help create more of a neural network and is great for keeping everything in one place.

You can watch this video to find out more about how Obsidian works (and why you should build a Second Brain):

What’s next?

So, that’s a quick run-through of the qualifications you need as an online coach and what else you can do to make sure you’re offering the best service to your clients while growing your business. Don’t forget to differentiate between the essentials and the things that you’re doing for your own further learning. And always start by identifying the problems you’re solving, so that you can find a way of addressing these.

We’ve got loads of other content to help you address common issues you might experience as an online coach on our YouTube channel and our Podcast.

You can also access some free online training here, which takes you through the processes and systems we use at Propane.

Finally, if you’d like to speak to one of us about how our mentoring programme can help you build your online business, book a call here.

free video guide: ⬇️

The EXACT process we used to build PropaneFitness to 15k/month: