What trainer doesn’t want to help more people, make more money, and work fewer hours with an online training business?
Not many. Some trainers are happy where they are. But maybe they’re the ones whose idea of success is jumping on Bosu balls and standing naked in front of the mirror snappin’ selfies after each workout.
But chances are you want more. And why not?
An online fitness business can be the answer.
As a business coach, I get lots of emails. I usually catch up while sipping my latest obsession, the Best Friend Blend from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.
The emails are along the lines of:
I’m a personal trainer, but I’m tired of working long hours and want to get started online. I’m not sure where to begin and honestly, money is tight. What do you recommend?
I leaned back in my chair, hands clasped behind my head.
I’ve been in the same situation, as have most trainers.
If I had to restart my business from scratch with nothin’ but a laptop, and an IV drip of caffeine in my left ventricle, here’s what I’d do in 10 Steps over four weeks with a limited budget ($228.99 to be precise.)
The key: Taking consistent small actions. Don’t try to do everything at once. In particular, don’t go down the rabbit hole of creating a website and a logo. All that can wait. Here’s what you really need to focus on.
Step One: Build an Email List
Small hinges swing big doors and the biggest hinge in your business is creating an email list. No ifs, ands or buts. You need an email list.
You own your leads. Once you gain an email subscriber, you own that lead. This allows you to build a relationship with readers who may eventually buy your services.
The more control you have over your business, the better. An email list is your best tool and an absolute requirement.
So, what about social media sites like Facebook?
Don’t get me wrong. Social media is a powerful tool. But you don’t own the leads on your Facebook page. You’re held hostage by each minuscule tweak to an algorithm. If Facebook decides they don’t want to show your posts to 94.7% of the people who like your page unless you pay to promote them, then you’re in trouble.
I’ve seen entire businesses collapse because of an over-reliance on Facebook and Facebook ads. Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t put all your eggs in one rented basket.
The sooner you start building your list, the better. Here’s why.
It’s much better to own. Any relationship, business or personal, is built upon trust.
If you want paying customers, you need to provide a constant flow of helpful information. Your readers will get to know, like, and trust you. Eventually, some will buy from you.
When is the last time you bought coaching from a stranger because of an ad? Never. Coaches need to cultivate a relationship first.
Email can fully automate your business. Autoresponders, or pre-planned email sequences, allow you to automatically send out emails.
You’ll constantly interact with your clients and prospective clients. Every article, tip, or trick you use in the gym can be used to build relationships.
You can provide value to your clients every single day. It takes work up front, but then the automation kicks in. Do it right to set yourself for a constant influx of leads and sales.
Email Scales. When training in the gym you have a limited number of hours, meaning your income is capped. Online? Not so much.
Let’s say you want to make $100,000 with online training. An aggressive goal? Yes, but it’s entirely possible, especially with this guide as a gift.
Okay, let’s begin by breaking down the numbers.
Subscribers (people on your email list): 100
Program cost: $1000.00
Conversion Rate ( % of people who buy): 1%
100x.01×1000 = 1 Buyer
Subscribers (people on your email list): 10,000
Program cost: $1000.00
Conversion Rate: (% of people who buy): 1%
10000x.01×1000 = 100 Buyers
These numbers probably seem unimaginable right now, especially if you’re just getting started. I know because I felt the same way when the only people reading my blog were my mom and my aunt. Ah, the good old days. (And thanks, Mom!)
But you can do it.
It takes time.
It takes hard work.
And it takes consistency.
You must always aim to build your list. Which leads us to the next point…
Step 2. Pick Out an Email Service Provider
Cost: 0-$30/month to start.
Start with MailChimp or AWeber. As you get more advanced, consider something like Convert Kit. You’ll need a service provider to store email leads and allow you to create emails to send out.
Keep it simple when you’re getting started. The most important part is to get started. You can always change providers. We started with Aweber and switched to Convert Kit as we grew to tens of thousands of subscribers.
3. Research Your Clients with the 10 Person Rule
The biggest problem most trainers make is they try to serve everyone, rather than finding specific clients to help and problems to solve. (Hat tip to Nathan Berry of Convert Kit for turning me onto this 10-person rule.)
Think of ten people who you know in real life. No, these aren’t people you know solely online. They’re friends, family, clients, and that dude who makes your coffee each morning.
“Hey, I’m starting a new website teaching (busy people how to look good naked without living in the gym). Is this something you’d like to learn more about?”
This gives you proof of concept. If you don’t know ten people interested in your topic then chances are you won’t succeed in becoming an expert on the topic. But if you do? Well, your ideal clients will give you the feedback needed to create a lead magnet to gather emails.
Next, you’re going to ask them…
“Where do you go learn to learn about____?”
This allows you to see what your competitors are doing. Don’t copy them. Emulate and deviate. What can you create to solve the same problem in a similar voice yet is unique to you? Success speaks volumes.
Finally, you need to ask: What is your biggest frustration?”
Now, you can create a solution to a similar problem in a similar voice, but in a way that is uniquely your own.
This is your content, your social media posts, and your lead magnets to gather email subscriptions.
All business comes down to finding who you want to serve, finding out what’s holding them back, and crafting better solutions than your competitors.
How much money you make depends on how well you solve the problem and how well you differentiate yourself from competitors.
Now, you’re ready to start building.
4. Create a Lead Magnet To Build Your Email List
A lead magnet is a gift you’ll create to solve your reader’s problems in exchange for their email. This kicks off your relationship and creates a relationship built on reciprocity. By providing value from the beginning, your readers are more likely to invest in you later on.
This lead magnet will get your first subscribers, often the 10 people from the activity above, and their friends. Feature the lead magnet prominently on your website.
Here’s an example:
Here’s how to build it.
Identify your ideal client. Do the 10-Person rule and bookmark this article and you’ll be set. You should have done this in step three. If you haven’t, take five minutes and start now.
Remember: If you want to stand out in the fitness industry you need to define who you’re going to help and fix their problems.
You can’t create solutions for busy moms, 20-year-old dudes trying to get laid, and geriatric grandpa’s all at once.
Give them what they want. You’ve identified your ideal client, so what is the number one thing they ask for? In other words, what struggles did your 10-people highlight?
If it’s how to lose their beer gut, create 10 Simple Tips to Get Rid of Your Beer Gut.
If your clients want to eliminate shoulder pain create 5 Training Tweaks to Reduce Shoulder Pain.
Nothing more, nothing less. Find what your clients want, then create it.
Keep it small. Don’t waste time making an epic 45-page guide. Create a small ten-step checklist or cheatsheet focused on fixing one problem.
- Create an introductory page explaining what this cheat sheet will do for them and a short bio with a headshot.
- Write out ten tips to fix their #1 problem.
- Read it out loud. Have your mom proofread it.
- Go to pixabay.com and get a FREE photo for a cover and slap it on the top.
- Save it as a PDF.
- Save the PDF onto a site like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Create visibility. Your lead magnet does no good rotting in the depths of the interwebz. Instead, you’re going to share it with what’s called a squeeze page or lead page so you can automatically capture leads.
5. Buy Opt-in Software To Share Your Leadpage
Leadpages: 14-day trial, then $37/month
It’s time to create visibility for your lead magnet. The best way is to purchase software to create a magnetic squeeze page. This allows you to create high-converting pages to draw your clients in, offer your free gift, and gather an email in exchange.
We recommend Leadpages when you’re getting started.
With this software, you’ll be able to create opt-ins and even sales pages for your workouts or coaching program without having a website.
You have your software and your offer. Here’s an example of what these can look like.
There are a few essential components to a high converting squeeze page:
- Headline: Attention grabber. Tell what the page is about. “Free Six Week Abs Workout.”
- Subheadline: Supports headline. “Build a ripped midsection…”
- Your Offer: What the reader receives for sharing their email. “Free Workout and Bonus Fat Loss Challenge.”
- Call to action: Tell people what to do. “Fill out the form below.”
- Submit Button: Tell readers how to submit. “Tap to download.”
- Images: Supporting image. In this case: Hungry Eric with abs, eyeballing you as if you had a piece of pizza.
With a little work, these will look very professional. The perception of your business is important. This small investment provides professional looking tools to gather emails and sell your products with a shoestring budget.
Create the lead magnet and share it every few weeks on social media, reach out to friends, offer it at your gym. These steps build your email list and make sales, even without a website.
6. Write an Autoresponder Series
At this point, you’ve selected an email provider, researched your clients, created a lead magnet, and created a spiffy landing page. Since you’re sharing it regularly (hint, hint), you need to make sure your subscribers are getting consistent value.
Email one: Deliver your lead magnet and introduce yourself.
Quite simply, deliver on the offer you just made, tell them who are you, and what you’ll do for them. End by asking, “what are you struggling with most when it comes to ____(fat loss, getting stronger, losing fat)?
Email two: Highlight the problem
Early in the relationship, your audience wants to know they can relate to you more than blindly reading fitness tips. Highlight their struggles. Show them you understand. Conclude by telling them you’ll be back tomorrow to fix the problems you’ve just highlighted.
Email Three: Provide Value/Solutions
Your subscribers know you have their interest at heart and you understand them. Now start providing solutions to their common problems.
Email Four: Imagine This.
Provide more value and paint a picture of what’s possible. Ideally, you can tie in a client story/testimonial on what’s possible.
- “Imagine this”
- Sell the destination of what they’ll accomplish with your product or service.
- Send value, whether it’s a new story, old blog post, or quick tip.
Finish with a P.S. Stay tuned for tomorrow. I’ll show you what we did.
Email Five The First Invitation
You’ll continue providing value and show the reader more ways you can help them solve the problem. You’ve been showing value, authenticity, and examples of how you’ve changed or help others change their life.
Now, it’s time to gauge whether they’re ready to start taking action.You’ll promote a call to action, whether that’s to hop on a phone call or purchase a product.
Email Six: The Sale
Show them what they need to do to accomplish their goal. BUT, don’t show them exactly how. “How” is your coaching program.
Your goal here is to get them on the phone or to take action on a sales page but obviously in an ethical, non-douchey way.
No-one likes being sold to. This is why you need to create a relationship, show your readers you’re a real person, and provide so much value that your readers want to invest in you. This is the art of building a successful business and ethical selling. Oh, and here’s a sales script you’ll be able to use.
7. Make More Money From Current Clients
Cost: $100 if you pay for referrals.
Ask for referrals.
Your service should be so good your clients can’t help but refer others. Still, you need to ask.
“Hey, I’m expanding my business to help more people and adding a new twist: online coaching. I’ll be able to help people anywhere, anytime, and at an affordable rate. Do you think your brother Rick who’s been struggling with his weight would benefit from my coaching the same way you have?”
Alternatively, pay cash for referrals. $100 is a worthwhile investment to get your clients referring business, especially if it leads to thousands of dollars down the road.
Raise your rates.
Inflation is 3.2% per year. This means every year your rate doesn’t increase by at least 3.2% you’re actually losing money compared to the year before.
As your skills and demand as a trainer increase so should your prices.
Know your value.
- Begin using a semi-private model and train multiple clients at once.
- Increase your rates $5/year/minimum.
- Adopt a hybrid training model in which your clients pay monthly for both in-person and online training. Learn why the Hybrid Training Model is best for you and your business with this free guide.
8. Announce Your Program To the World
The biggest reason most trainers don’t make money online is they’re afraid to ask for the sale, even if they have the services set up. Here’s a clear cut example of how to let the world know your program is ready to roll.
9. Read These Books and Resources
You’re now a business owner.
Turning wasted time into productive time and writing good copy are two of the most important skills you can develop.
These resources will get you there.
As a side note, you should spend the same, if not more time to learn how to run a business as you do reading about training.
- Joey Percia: Copywriting 101 for Personal Trainers
- The One Thing $14.04
- The 80/20 Rule $13.97
- IT was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences $10.42
- The Copywriters Handbook $13.36
- On Writing Well $10.20
10. Post Content Regularly
Just as you tell your clients consistency is key to transforming their body, consistency is key in building your business.
I’d recommend you complete…
- One Facebook post per day.
- One Instagram/Youtube post per day.
- One email each week.
- One article per month.
- One book per month.
Is more better? Yes. But start small and build the habit of creating content. In time, creating constant value is what helps you stand out in a crowded industry.
P.S. If you need help creating content, read this.
Going Forward With Your Online Training Business
As a personal trainer, the deck is stacked against you.
Long hours, benefit-free labor, and low pay are designed to help big gyms and corporations.
It’s time to fight back, and I’m here to help.
The advice in this article is just a start. But with the right amount of hustle you too can retake your time, make more money, and help more people.
And if you’re still flustered, overwhelmed, and unsure of where to turn?
I’m more than happy to chat with you for 15 minutes (100% free) and give you some pointers to get started. Book a short call here, and well chat.
Meantime, remember these 10 tips.
1. Build an email list
2. Pick out an email service provider
3. Research your clients with the 10-person rule
4. Create a lead magnet to build your list
5. Buy Opt-in Software
6. Write an Autoresponder
7. Make More Money From Current Connections
8. Announce Your Program To the World
9. Read These Books and Resources
10. Post Content Regularly