Creating Passive Income Streams

As a personal trainer (or anyone that offers a service by time segment), we have limited hours in a day that we can work. If we want to make more money than we are currently making, we don’t have a lot of choices. You need to make more per hour, so, you could raise your prices, raise your hourly income by training more people within that time segment (small group training and/or larger boot camps), or you could take on management roles to increase your income, but, honestly, as someone that’s managed clubs for 37 years, that’s usually just more time for more money. Then, there’s the idea of passive income.


Passive income is creating something someone will want to purchase, set up an auto fulfillment program, such as, then just sit back and watch the money roll in. Well, yes and no. It’s not quite that easy. First, you have to come up with the product idea, create it, and then market the heck out of it. Coming up with the idea may not take so long, but creating it certainly can. (I just finished a book, The Business of Personal Training for Human Kinetics to be released Feb 2018, that took me the better part of 3 years to complete.) Marketing doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time, but it is ongoing and never-ending, well… as long as you want to keep selling your product.

So, let’s look at some of the types of passive income that are out there.

Subscriptions – This could be newsletters, articles, or any other product that is an ongoing by nature. My friend, Brett Contreras has a Research Review subscription where he and Chris Beardsley create a Reader’s Digest version of the research, making it easy for you to keep up with the latest. An example of a physical product subscription is a wine club, where a new bottle(s) of wine is sent to you monthly.

Memberships – Memberships and membership sites, while very similar to subscription sites, typically offer more than just the once/month (or whatever time period) delivery. They may provide on ongoing library of videos, courses, or special discounts for members for events or products. Some options include Intelivideo and powhow.

New products – This could be everything from a white paper, a book, a new piece of fitness equipment, or anything that is a one-time purchase (unless someone wants more than one of something). You can, simply take orders via or you can also check out sites like shopify where you create an online storefront.

Passive income can allow you to increase your income beyond your hourly wage position. This, for many, makes it a very attractive idea. But, while you can make money through passive income, be forewarned that the creation of the product will take time, as will the set up and marketing. It’s never completely passive. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile pursuing, though. I just wanted to help set appropriate expectations.


Should You Be Selling Sessions, Packages, Memberships or Programs? 

As you begin your business or as you reevaluate your business model, you may wonder what the best way is to present and sell your personal training. In the old days (I can say that because I’ve been personal training since the dawn of time.) personal training was sold as a single session or in small to medium sized packages that were increasingly discounted the more you bought. The idea behind selling discounted packages was that the client would see the savings in the larger packages, purchase those and would be committed for a longer period of time. Since then, a number of problems and potential solutions have come to light.

pricesProblem #1: Larger packages, even with their discounts, could run thousands of dollars. This could put them out of reach for those that really needed the financial discount.

Solution #1: I know some clubs that sold nothing less than a 24 session package, but they offered a payment plan for the amount. This made it accessible to those who couldn’t afford the larger sum up front and got that commitment for a longer period of time.

Problem #2: Personal trainers saw the discounting of packages as a discounting of the value of their service.

Solution #2: Choose one, consistent session price and offer bigger packages as a convenience and/or a commitment, not a money saver. This is not a very popular model as many feel it can lead to clients paying session by session and the fear is that the more often the client has to make a financial decision, the more opportunities they have to decide it isn’t worth it. We happen to offer the pay-as-you-go/session by session because a) it doesn’t devalue by discounting the sessions, b) is an easy financial commitment for more people, and c) I believe that if the skill, the service, and the results are there, the client would have no reason stop. (i.e. I had one client that paid session by session, 6 times/wk for 12 years)

Problem #3: With any session by session package, clients can be inconsistent. This leaves the personal trainer and/or club with an ever fluctuating, unpredictable income.

Solution #3: Clubs and studios are now offering “memberships” (monthly agreements) that are generally priced with a session/wk assumption. (i.e. Members pay $x/month for 2 personal training sessions/wk) What makes this more predictable is that it is a monthly fee that is most often set up as an automatic charge to the member’s credit card or bank account. There is the potential for a secondary problem in that if a client needs to cancel and you allow them to make it up, you can build a backlog of sessions that the trainer will “owe” the client. I knew one trainer that, because the member had a difficult time making up the sessions, ended up owing her client over 30 sessions. One way to handle this would be to allow the client to make up the session within a week or it would be otherwise be forfeited.

Problem #4: Finally, there are clients that only want to commit for a certain amount of time and want the maximum results for that time. This means they have to know the expected outcome, be held accountable, and maybe need more than just the exercise sessions to get those results.

8-week-fat-loss-program-for-busy-people-lose-weight-tone-up-build-lean-muscleSolution #4: The idea of creating goal specific small group programs (such as a preseason sports prep i.e. golf conditioning, a specific health concern focus i.e. healthy back program, or bundled offerings i.e. 2 small group training sessions + 1 nutritional coaching session each week), that have a defined start and end date can be a great alternative to other offerings. This could be a 4 week, 8 wk, 12 wk, etc. Do pre and post program assessments to gather data and then use that in setting program expectations, “In this program, the average participant achieved ….” This also assures the income, because clients sign up for the program, not individual sessions. I think the addition of various programs will be the biggest change in our industry in the near future.

These are not all of the issues and they are certainly not all of the possible solutions, but they are some of the most prevalent concerns. This post is meant to be food for thought. There is no wrong answer if your choice is working for you.