business of fitness online personal training spotlight

Collecting Online Payments for Online Training

Shannon Weinstein
Shannon Weinstein
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If you scroll through Instagram, you will undoubtedly see fitness professionals from all over the world, offering up courses, sessions, and packages all delivered online. This also includes many links to cash apps like Venmo and PayPal. The challenge for many fitness professionals has been navigating the setup of online payments. What may seem like the most comfortable option for you is not necessarily the option that is compliant with rules and restrictions or represents the best client experience for your customers.

First, let’s talk about the cash transfer apps, the most popular being Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal. These platforms' Terms of Service or Terms of Use explicitly state that these apps are not to be used in the course of a trade or business. They are for transferring cash between friends and family, sometimes referred to as parties you know and trust. With the advent of virtual services offered, not all of your clients will fall into this category as your business grows. They are for solving the problem of no one carrying cash to split a hefty restaurant bill, not to serve as your cash register.

PayPal offers a business account option, but before you jump to that platform, understand that none of these apps, including PayPal Business accounts, include seller protection for services. They only protect the sale of goods or tangible products if you are selling services; whether in person or online, you would not be covered as a vendor by PayPal if someone disputes a charge.

These apps also explicitly state they are not to be used in the sale of anything illegal, such as drugs. Why does this matter? If you have a considerable influx of subscriptions due to a launch or promotion and take in a large sum of money, your money can be frozen until the company determines that the transactions are legitimate. This can be very frustrating when you are trying to run your business and have limited cash. The timeline of the freeze can be days or even weeks at a time.

Beyond the legal considerations, these apps also do not aid in a positive customer experience. In this age of virtual businesses, people have infinite choices of a fitness professional to work with, and the most significant factor in your success will be establishing trust with your customers. One of the ways to accomplish that is to make the onboarding process as seamless as possible. If you present one payment link through an app like Venmo, that can make people uncomfortable since they know it is not through a formal processing service. Also, if they do not have Venmo, a barrier is created that may deter them from enrolling because they are inconvenienced by having to download the app and create an account.

Instead, opt for payment processors that integrate with your platforms, like Stripe, Square, or Shopify. QuickBooks also offers a payment platform, and many websites can enable an add-on to collect enrollment fees. It is best to research what integrations are available within the tools you are using to deliver your content so that you can take advantage of the convenience.

While these tools can charge around $3% for certain transactions, that is considered the cost of doing business. It is essential to reframe the mentality that these processors are "taking" a 3% fee from your revenue and understand that you get to pay 3% of your fees because you are making sales as a business. Put it this way: if the 3% processing charges are breaking the bank, you are probably crushing it.

In addition to using a payment processor, make sure that the income you receive is flowing to a separate bank account designated for business income and expenses only. It is always best to keep business income earned separate from your personal cash (think whites and colors in your laundry – never mix the two.) You do not need to commit to one payment processor for all of your products and services, but make sure all of the income received for business is being funneled into that business account. You do not need to have an LLC or other business entity to create a business account. If you do not have a separate business entity, you can open a different checking account in your name to manage the proper categories of income.

The setup of these services is not as daunting as it may seem. Setting up another processor is very easy once you know how you want to deliver your service to your clients. Setting up a bank account takes only a few days or a couple of phone calls and does not require any in-person appointments. Consult with a financial professional if you have any questions on the proper setup and management of these tools.

Tags: business of fitness Tags: online personal training Tags: spotlight

The Author

Shannon Weinstein

Shannon Weinstein

Shannon Weinstein is a CPA and certified group exercise instructor based in Connecticut. Her company, Fitnancial Solutions, provides accounting and tax services for fitness professionals and entrepreneurs all over the country through 100% virtual services. Shannon also hosts live and web-based workshops and educational events for gyms, studios and trade organizations in order to equip professionals with the knowledge they need to be financially fit.