Lisa and I do BOTH. Our primary business is as Personal Trainers, but we do coaching on the side. To explain this... I'll start off with MY definitions for the two separate jobs.
What is a TRAINER?
A Trainer is a professional who meets with a client MULTIPLE times per week, typically face to face, and for 30-90 minutes at a time. The Trainer provides program design AND program administration, set for set, rep for rep, spotting, teaching, adjusting, selecting weights, and guiding the pace, tempo, and exercise order of the session. Some Trainers provide nutrition guidance, and some do not. Most often that guidance is EDUCATION of what foods to eat, how much, and when... but they are hired PREDOMINANTLY for exercise ACCOUNTABILITY, ADHERANCE, and EDUCATION. These are the three primary jobs of a TRAINER.
What is a COACH?
A Coach is a professional who assists an experienced athlete with strategy, programing adjustments, emphasis, and progression, typically through weekly contact, or every other week contact, rarely face to face. (Lisa and I prefer at least every other week face-to-face contact when possible.) A Coach does NOT administer the programing, attend workouts, spot, pick weights, or address tempo, etc. The client does all of that. A Coach DOES typically address more nutritional details than a Trainer, as the athletes (advanced/competitive clients) they work with have more detailed nutritional requirements... but the client is expected to have a MUCH deeper knowledge of their own nutrition, ability to track macros daily, and MUCH better personal responsibility and adherence.
Who needs a TRAINER?
If you are lacking in personal accountability, skip workouts, under-perform during workouts, and you want much more face-to-face motivation, more education, and a more personal relationship... you need a TRAINER. If you have pre-existing injury, disability, or dysfunction that requires a spotter, immediate form correction, and access to the Trainer's knowledge of a dozen different ways to train a muscle/movement to find the correct version for YOU... you need a Trainer.
Who needs a COACH?
If you have NO problems self-motivating to train, you understand the vast majority of basic exercises, what body parts those exercises train, and how much weight you are safely capable of using in those exercises... but you want to tap into a source of greater knowledge to move FURTHER in your training, you need a Coach. If you understand the difference between a carb, a fat, and a protein, but you want to know what ratio, what amount, and what timing in relation to your training will best optimize your results, you need a Coach.
How much does a TRAINER cost?
Depending on where you live (cost of living), and the experience/availability of the Trainer... you'll pay anywhere from $40-120 per hour for a trainer's time. Trainers typically charge for a "package" of sessions: 5, 10, 20, 50; or they charge monthly based off of usage: 2 sessions per week, or 5... etc. Most people can expect to pay between $300-600/month to hire a one-on-one Personal Trainer.
How much does a COACH cost?
Aging... you pay for experience, and for access. Most coaches are in contact with their clients once or twice a week… more frequently the first month, but then less frequently as time goes on and a routine gets established. Typically a Coach will provide weekly phone or Skype sessions to discuss progress, diet, and training adjustments, and typically for 30-45 minutes max. Most ask for weekly progress pictures, weights, measurements, etc. to assess progress. Coaches may ramp up frequency (and price) as a client approaches a contest, and include posing practice, more frequent diet and training adjustments, and progress pictures, up to and including daily. Many Coaches keep the costs more steady by packaging 6 months, or 12 month rates, but clients understand that their contact with their coach will be minimal in months they are NOT competing, and MUCH more as a Peak Week approaches. Typical rates for coaching run between $100-300 per month... MUCH less than the face-to-face expense of Personal Training! But... you'll get a MUCH less "Personal Experience".
Who gets burned...
If you hire a Coach, at Coaching rates, but EXPECT the personal attention, every-other day contact, and "doting" motivation of a Trainer... you'll be disappointed. If you want/need 3-4 days per week contact, and the personal/intimate relationship of a Trainer... you'll need to hire a Trainer! And... expect to pay Trainer rates.
DON'T HIRE A COACH, then complain that you're not getting the attention you want... when what you need is a Trainer.
DON'T HIRE A TRAINER, then expect to pay what all those online Coaches charge.
Understand the difference, and be a much HAPPIER CLIENT!