If you’ve ever seen an ad for a personal training course, you know how easy they make a fitness business look. Become qualified, and you’ll make great money doing what you love.
In reality, though, the fitness industry is highly competitive, and personal training can be physically and emotionally draining work. And burnout is an all too common complaint among fitness professionals.
Don’t worry, though; there is a way to avoid the downside of face-to-face personal training: move all or part of your fitness business online. Online training will give you greater control over your time and improve your earning potential.
In this series, you’ll be given all the information you need to start your own online fitness business. By the time you’ve made your way through all the steps, you’ll be ready to set up your virtual training center and filling it with members.
First, a little more on the benefits of an online fitness business…
Why going online will help you optimize your fitness business
Understanding fitness business industry trends
The personal training industry is booming. The obesity epidemic along with people’s increasing health consciousness is fuelling the demand for fitness professionals.
That’s great news for Personal Trainers (PTs).
However, there are a couple of other trends you need to be aware of.
The first is that while the demand for personal trainers is increasing, so is the number of personal trainers. For example, the number of fitness trainers in the US grew 44% between 2001 and 2011.
The second trend is a growing preference for inexpensive, do-it-yourself exercise, like running or learning from freely available YouTube videos or phone apps.
An online fitness business can help you get around both increased competition with other local businesses and increased competition with free instruction.
When you offer your services online, you instantly gain the ability to train clients from anywhere in the world. Compare this to being tied to a physical location where you’re limited to reaching people within a comfortable traveling distance.
Setting up an online business doesn’t come with many of the expensive overheads that face-to-face training requires, such as rent and equipment. Going online gives you the option of providing training at a lower cost and appealing to people who want help with their fitness, but don’t want to pay the Earth for it.
Maximizing your earning potential
Even the most energetic, hard-working, ambitious, and crazy fit personal trainers have human limitations when it comes to training clients in the flesh.
Traditional face-to-face training is a time-for-money trap. That is, you get paid for your time, which means you only make money when you are working. And it puts a ceiling on how much you can earn – there are only so many hours in a day.
When you no longer have to be there with your clients to train them, you can free yourself from the trap and open up unlimited earning potential.
A better lifestyle for you
The irony of personal trainer burnout is that many people get into the fitness industry because they love to exercise and enjoy being healthy, but in the end they find that success in the industry can come at the cost of their own well-being.
An online fitness business gives you much more control over your work life and more freedom to do what you want so you can dodge the dreaded burnout.
You can more easily dictate your work hours. You can choose to take breaks when you need them. You can work from wherever you like (take the laptop to a café or park!). You don’t have to pretend to be enthusiastic when you’re having an off day.
More importantly, an online business also allows you spend less time working while potentially earning more money. That means more time for friends, family, and fun.
Where to start: you need a niche market
You want to build your online fitness business on a solid foundation, right?
Well, creating that solid foundation begins by positioning yourself in a niche market.
A niche is especially important in the fitness industry where it’s tempting to try to be everything to everyone: fat loss expert, injury rehab expert, nutrition expert, pregnancy exercise expert, powerlifting expert, sports performance expert etc.
The problem with the jack-of-all-trades approach is that if you try to please everyone, you won’t please anyone.
Positioning yourself in a niche market helps you target a group of people you can please, and these are the people who will form your loyal client base.
Niche market refresher
No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “niche market” plenty of times, but let’s revisit the definition, so you have a crystal clear picture of what you’re trying to achieve.
According to good old Wikipedia, a niche market is:
“the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines as the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.”
Positioning yourself in a niche market gives you a sharp focus for your fitness business and informs your business strategy.
A niche market also provides the opportunity to for you to earn the reputation of a specialist and true expert in a given area of the fitness industry, which means you will be the go-to trainer in that particular field – clients will seek you out for your expertise.
Examples of fitness businesses that have mastered the niche market
These fitness businesses have done an amazing job of positioning themselves in a niche market and connecting with their target audience.
How do you find a niche?
Knowing you need to position yourself in a niche market is all well and good, but how do you go about finding your niche?
Step 1: Ask yourself some questions
It’s important to love your niche! If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and dedicated to sharing that passion with others, you’re going to be more successful.
So start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What sort of training do you love doing yourself? And what do you dislike?
- What sort of training makes you hungry for more knowledge and drives you to keep learning?
- What type of client do you enjoy working with? And who are the clients that drive you nuts?
- What are the training outcomes you see in clients that give you the greatest sense of job satisfaction?
- What are you good at? And what are you good at communicating?
By answering these questions, you’ve hopefully arrived at a corner of the fitness industry that makes you happy, inspires you to continue honing your skills, and attracts the type of client you like working with. This is your potential niche market.
Let’s use an example that we can follow through the process:
You love rock climbing – it’s how you spend all of your spare time, and you’re always thinking about the next climb. You regularly read climbing magazines and are constantly talking to other rock climbers. You enjoy training other climbers in the gym, and prescribing strength training programs that improve their climbing – it’s so satisfying when they come back and tell you’re they breezed through a climb they’d found difficult in the past because of your great training!
Your potential niche market: strength training for rock climbers.
Step 2: Describe your ideal customer
You’ve got an idea for a niche market, but to assess its viability you need to understand your target audience. A great way to better understand who you’re trying to reach is to create a description of your ideal customer. Get specific for this profile – the more detail, the better.
Here are some points to explore for your ideal customer:
- Marital status
- Personality traits
- Physical appearance
You can even give your fictional ideal customer a name!
Example (this is a very brief profile for the sake of the example, but you’d want to go into more detail for yours):
Your ideal customer is a single woman in her mid-twenties named Angela. She works a 9-to-5 job in an office and earns $50,000 per year. She’s single and enjoys spending weekends rock climbing with a group of friends. She’s fit and cares about her health. She’s a high-achiever and a perfectionist. She wants to improve her strength and endurance so she can tackle more difficult climbs with her more experienced rock climbing buddies.
Step 3: Ask some questions about the niche
With your niche and ideal customer profile in mind, it’s time to consider whether or not your niche market can support a successful online personal training business.
- How big is the niche? (There are some tips for using Google Adwords Keywords tool to do this here.)
- How much competition is there in the niche? (You can also use Google Adwords Keywords to assess this.)
- Does your ideal customer care about what you’re offering them?
- Does your ideal customer have the resources to make use of your services (things like time and money)?
Ideally, you’re after a big niche with little competition that appeals to people who are motivated and have the means to buy your services. But even a niche that scores well on two or three of the above points may be worth pursuing.
Your niche market – strength training for rock climbers – is relatively small, but there isn’t a lot of competition in the online training market. Your ideal customer does want help to solve her problem and become a better climber. She also has spare time and disposable income to be able to use your training services.
So, in this example your niche market definitely has promise.
Step 4: Further market research
If your chosen niche shows promise, don’t stop there – you want to be certain it’s going to be profitable.
Once you’ve assessed the theoretical potential of your niche, ask real people in your target demographic what they think.
You can obtain your target audience’s opinion in several ways, such as speaking to them in person, conducting focus groups, or sending out surveys. The more people you ask, the more reliable the information you collect will be.
Here are some general questions that may provide helpful answers:
- How important to you is solving this problem?
- Do you need or want these services?
- Do you already access similar services, or have you accessed them in the past?
- Would you pay for these services? If so, how much?
- Do you already pay for these services, or have you done so in the past? If so, how much?
You’ve decided your strength training for rock climbers market has potential. So you start asking rock climbing friends and climbers outside your circle if they would be interested in online training programs to help them with their sport. If you get positive responses, great! You’re probably onto something good. If you get negative responses – perhaps rock climbers generally prefer to get free strength training advice on blogs and YouTube – you need to take a step back and take another look at it. Perhaps you can shift your focus to stay within the general field you are passionate about to find a group that does want your services.