8 Steps to Making a Living in the Fitness Industry
It’s a saturated market, for sure, but don’t let that discourage you. If all you have to offer is the same as every other gym rat and know-nothing trainer, then you won’t be going anywhere – but that’s not you, right? With some genuine passion, knowledge and experience – and with a lot of hard work and sound business skills – you can make a good, honest living as a fitness professional. Instead of the usual unrealistic BS about making millions after your first few years in the business, here are eight actionable steps you can take to further your fitness career.
1. Learn Math
That’s right, math! Remember, this is a business first and foremost, and if you can’t calculate your costs, revenues and everything else that impacts your bottom line, you’ll be going nowhere fast. Entrepreneurs in every industry open up shop because they have a passion for what they do, but they usually fall flat because of a lack of basic business and finance skills. Before you invest in a fancy website or the perfect studio spot, take a personal finance class and read a few books on business and finance.
2. Pick Your Location
We’re jumping the gun a little bit here, but location is crucial. When you’re first starting out, you’re not going to have the capital for a premium studio in the hottest part of town. Focus on finding a spot that has the right combination of foot traffic, visibility and affordability. It doesn’t matter how good you think your space is if you can’t get clients and pay the rent!
Oh, and if you were thinking about opening up shop solely online – don’t. You may eventually gravitate towards online training and consultations, but if you want to get your business off the ground and gain experience, you’re going to need to interact with clients in person. To break into the online world in any meaningful way, you’ll have to slowly build your reputation and image until people who’ve never met you know who you are. In the meantime, those in-person clients are going to keep the lights on.
3. Hustle, Hustle, Hustle
You’ve opened up an account, you’ve picked a spot, and you’ve set up your training studio or office. Now it’s time to hustle! You never really understand how hard it is to run your own business until you’re actually doing it, and the only way to create a consistent cash flow is to pound the pavement until you have a steady clientele. Phone calls, emails, in-person networking, referrals, even pinching prospects from the gyms you used to work at – leave no stone unturned in your quest for clients!
4. Know What You Are – and What You Aren’t!
I don’t buy into the idea that every fitness professional needs to become a mini-celebrity, but you do need to know what you’re all about. Do you train athletes, the general population or both? Do you specialize in nutrition, training or a combination of the two? How do you define your approach to health, fitness and performance? You can’t be all things to all people, and you need to be able to sum up what you do in a few short sentences. In a world full of mediocre jacks-of-all-trades, your best bet is to become very good – and very well-known – for just a few things.
5. Build Your Brand
Once you’ve identified your niche or ideal spot in the fitness industry, you need to start building your brand. What are you selling points? What value do you bring to your clients’ lives? Why should anyone hire you instead of your competitors? Whether you’re marketing online, over the phone or in person, you need to answer these questions as consistently as possible. Most people won’t buy into a product, person or idea until it’s been drilled into their heads! And remember, you may be giving your elevator pitch for the umpteenth time every time you speak to someone new – but it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it. Always bring your A game!
6. Avoid Gimmicks
As important as it is to build your brand and appeal to prospects, it’s just as critical that you avoid gimmicks. The fitness industry – particularly supplement companies – are chock full of empty promises and flash-in-the-pan “professionals,” and their tactics will only tarnish your reputation in the long run. Grandiose promises might land you a few clients in the here and now, but what happens when they realize you can’t deliver? Do you want to depend on a revolving door of short-term clients, always wondering who’s going to be writing the next check? Or do you want to build a solid base of clients who trust you, and who will constantly refer you to their friends? I’ve met a lot of other successful trainers and coaches, and not one of them built their business with false advertising or amazing claims.
7. Multiple Marketing Channels
Websites, emails, flyers, word-of-mouth referrals and even paid search engine ads – These are all viable marketing tools, but none of them will suffice as your sole solution. If you want to reach enough prospects enough times to build a steady clientele, you need to be marketing through multiple channels. Don’t be swayed by the online marketing “gurus” who claim that this “one marketing tactic” is the secret to your success, either. They’re just as bad as the online “trainers” who claim one little exercise or diet tweak is your ticket to a top physique. Keep plugging away at every honest marketing method you can find, tweak your process according to your results, and you’ll eventually reap the rewards.
8. Small Steps Lead to Big Success
Your first goal shouldn’t be to make millions as a fitness professional. In fact, making a living as a coach or trainer shouldn’t even be your main focus from day to day – even if it is your primary goal. Instead, focus on one small step at a time. Make those next five phone calls, write that next email or pitch to a magazine editor, train that one client who’s trusted you to deliver real results.
Legend has it that Arnold himself used to tally his sets with a piece of chalk. No matter where he was in the workout, if you asked him how many sets he had left, he’d say one – the next one. That needs to be your mindset! The early stages of a business rarely go according to plan, and you’ll just spin your wheels if you focus on long-term goals at the expense of short-term steps. You can’t control every outcome, but you can control the work you put in. Get to it!