My e-mail inbox got slammed all day yesterday with questions, comments, new blog sign-ups, and TOP-LEVEL TRAINER MANUAL orders, and it took me a little while to figure out what happened – PFP had finally released their TRENDS that had the piece they asked me to write as the feature article.
Speaking of trends, it was all about ONLINE TRAINING. This is such a hot topic that you’ll remember we spent a very good bit of time focusing on it here on the blog. Well the article definitely struck a hot button with the audience and got a lot of interest. It’s kind of ironic that this was their first digital only issue and they’re featuring online fitness in it, but it looks like that’s where things are headed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let me steal their thunder a bit and re-post the article here – but be sure to check it the hi-tech digital version of this months issue here: personal training magazine. They did an excellent job editing and formatting the article. It starts on page 8 and goes all the way to page 12, and is really a beautiful piece. That magazine has really taken off since Shelby took the reigns, and each issue is even better than the one before it. They even took a screenshot of Super-Trainer and posted it in the article (what were they thinking?).
PFP September 2009
Header: Jump Start
Title: Web, Ho!
Subtitle: Time to start your online fitness business
By Kaiser Serajuddin
You literally cannot take the “personal” out of personal training. Working with clients hands-on, watching over them and even getting a little sweat on you at times is ingrained in the job description.
However, there’s a trend going on in fitness today that’s on the opposite side of the spectrum to the hands-on approach. The only thing that makes it remotely similar to personal training in any way is that it deals with transmitting fitness information from trainer to client. What we’re talking about is having an online fitness business.
The trend has drawn a lot of attention and has in some way piqued the interest of nearly every trainer in the industry. Some call it a mockery of the fitness profession; others call it the wave of the future. Let’s explore everything that goes into starting an online fitness business, and you can be the judge.
For the first time you’ll here me (and anyone else for that matter) talk about the CONS of online fitness.
The desire of the public to consume fitness services online shouldn’t be shocking to anyone in the fitness profession right now. Today, the majority of the public is consuming nearly everything in their lives through a computer screen. Although it’s not readily obvious to the trainer in the trenches, the average working person in America is glued to a computer screen for as much as seven hours of their work day. On top of that, they may spend an additional three hours of their leisure time still in front of a computer screen every day. It’s exactly these habits that have made the need for fitness trainers that much more important, but also why these same people are looking to the web to be educated about fitness. Yes, it’s ironic. But that’s just how it is, and it probably won’t be changing any time soon.
Do not underestimate how big fitness is on the internet – we’re talking on an international level.
It’s true that taking a fitness business online can feel like a natural fit. Besides in-person supervision, almost every other part of what we do as trainers can translate online. That goes for the workout regimens we prescribe, knowledge we transmit and the communication, contact and ongoing support that are part of being a trainer. However, before you decide to “dump the gym” and switch to working from home in your underwear, there is a long list of potential drawbacks to taking your fitness business online. Take a look at the sidebar to see these disadvantages, as well as the benefits to working online!
Getting Started Online
Like I mentioned in the beginning, the trend toward taking a fitness business online has exploded recently; the thought may even have crossed your mind a time or two. If that’s the case, here are the things you’ll need to do before you jump in:
1. Identify your niche. Being a generic, one-size-fits-all personal trainer may have cut in the gym setting, but on the Internet, you’ll find your message completely drowned out unless you specialize. It’s essential that you clearly identify who it is you are and what you have to offer to your target market. When your prospects meet you on the web, you want them to be able to clearly identify you as exactly the person they’ve been looking for. This step is essential, and if it’s not given proper attention, then failure is almost certain.
You CANNOT be a generalist online. Being a generalist is actually encouraged and is a good earning model OFF-line, but online you’re basically dead in the water if you try to be everything to everyone.
2. Start a blog. Blogging has to be called the “magic bullet of online marketing” because it does so many things at once. It creates trust with your visitors, is a great networking tool, allows you to survey your market and find out what they want, and it’s a great way to get noticed by the search engines and get tons of free, natural traffic. In short, a blog is a tremendous communication and sales vehicle disguised as free content. That makes starting a blog one of the key parts of online fitness success.
3. Learn Internet marketing. Marketing is one of the most essential responsibilities of any small business owner, but is also often the most overlooked. No doubt, that is what leads to the infamous statistic of how 95% of new businesses fail within the first five years.
But add to that the technology side of selling fitness online, and things get a little more hairy. Learning to get traffic, optimizing for search engines and mastering pay-per-click advertising are just a few of the areas you need to learn inside and out in order to succeed.
Do not be fooled by all of the gurus telling you how easy it is, or the big dollar figures being thrown around out there. Making a million dollars online is just as hard as making it off-line, and takes a similar amount of knowledge, study, application, and preparation.
Online Products and Services
Now that you have your fitness business online, what can you sell, and how is it that you’ll actually make money? This is the fun part:
• Informational products — When it comes to achieving a true passive income, nothing beats informational products. These are products that we use to educate our consumers, and they can come in the form of e-books, audio programs or DVD learning programs. These products take the educator role of being a trainer and do it for us so we don’t have to physically be there, making the number of people we can teach unlimited.
• Online fitness training programs — Often looked at as the redheaded stepchild of personal training, online training programs can prove to be effective and lucrative and are highly in demand. Many people simply don’t want meet with or pay the full rates of a personal trainer but do want to pick the brain of a fitness expert who happens to specialize in what they’re trying to achieve. An online fitness program can serve this need and help people get results without you physically being there. The essential part to making it work is automating it as much as possible. If you’re planning to actually answer every email or talk to your clients three times per week on the phone, you’re better off keeping your gym job.
• Online communities — The need for ongoing support and guidance is an important part of fitness, which is obvious to anyone starting a fitness regimen. That’s why an online fitness community is a good way to get this lasting supervision and also get a feeling of community. With the web being almost entirely social today, this is the kind of experience many people are looking for, and it can also turn out to be the most profitable for the trainer running it.
Believe it or not, product creation is the easiest part of the entire process. Just find out what your customers want first, and then give it to them. But everything that comes before this is much harder. Now that’s the opposite of OFF-line publishing. There, product creation is the hardest part, and marketing and distribution is typically handled by “someone else”.
A career in fitness has always been one of the most unique out there, and with the introduction of the web to the mix, that’s only becoming clearer. Rather than a be all and end all, an online fitness business is just one more option for a trainer to find the exact career track that’s a perfect match for their goals and personality. If you think it’s for you, you just need to know it’s going to take some work. But of all the fitness career options out there, this is one is truly without limits.
Sidebar: Online Fit Biz +/-
1. Low start-up costs — The startup costs of starting an online business today are lower than any other potential business model. In the old days, you had to spend thousands of dollars on a web designer and graphics. Today, most website templates are already done for you and are unbelievably free. Beyond the cost of the Internet connection and some programming, hardly any other money is required up front.
2. Not trading time for money — A traditional trainer will almost always find themselves limited in their income by the amount of time they can spend training clients, and they only get paid for hours they are physically present and working. An online fitness business has the potential to free you from that by selling products and virtual services, thus earning a “passive” income.
3. Freedom of location — Spending time in traffic, working unfriendly hours or taking time away from family are the major drawbacks of any job. Having an online fitness business comes with the potential of freeing yourself from being bound to any particular location and work from anywhere you please.
Yes, the upside is big if you can get it right …
1. Diminished returns — If you’re like most trainers, you’ve thought about or even tried to start an online training program with little success. For most trainers that try, starting an online fitness business proves to be hugely unprofitable, but if an online training business isn’t structured properly, it ends up taking up much more time to manage than an offline fitness business and pays much less to do it.
2. Steep learning curve — When it comes to starting a home-based Internet business, most people imagine simply plugging in to their broadband line and the cash pouring in. If only it was that easy; more often than not, the learning curve is so steep that many trainers have a very difficult time making the jump.
3. Sedentary lifestyle — Starting and running an online fitness business is really only suited to a certain personality type, someone that happens to be more tech-savvy, likes the writing aspect of online communication and prefers virtual over face-to-face communication. If you can’t stand being at home in front of a screen for hours at a time, it’s not for you.
But it definitely isn’t for everyone. I would say that MOST people are better suited to growing and mastering their offline businesses rather than trying to learn and master the process of selling fitness online.
That being said, getting heavily involved in some way online is encouraged for everyone in fitness today. There isn’t a better place to network with other like-minded professionals (griping on online forums doesn’t count!) and learning at warp speed. The speed and power of the internet will carry you along with it, so no matter who are, make sure you dive in. And if that starts making you some money, hey, even better.
Special thanks to the great managing editor John Thompson who does a great job of putting together some excellent content and gently reminding me to get my pieces in according to schedule – also thanks to the amazing art team over at PFP.
And I recently recently warehoused the hard-core BIG-MONEY program, but with the release of the article and all of the questions I’ve been getting because of it, I thought I’d mention it again here. Like I said in the article, growing an online fitness business isn’t for everyone, but if you’re serious about getting started online and want to jump your learning curve ahead by a few years, check it out here: BIG-MONEY ONLINE FITNESS.
Hi Kaiser, it’s often missed but going online can also make you a better Trainer. You start seeing a bigger picture of where you fit in plus you get instant feedback on your efforts if you track your stats/results which you can use to consistently grow you and your business. You can then take this knowledge and apply it offline. Just like as a Trainer you are never really on/off as a Trainer (because you must eat well, train yourself, show up publically in your spare time etc), it’s no longer really about being online/offline as a Trainer – but more about your commitment to what you do, how well you do it + how many people you are able to serve!
Hey Noel – whats up buddy – I totally agree – I noticed that myself firsthand – I tried to point that out in the article and thanks for driving it home again, that going online makes you a better businessperson and trainer all the way across the board.
Great stuff…. I tried the online training with hitech trainer about 3 years ago and didn’t have much luck. It does take a lot of time to do it right. I now have a better understanding of what it takes to be successful online. I would definitely reccomend getting started with a blog and an autoresponder system. Start growing your list and get used to writing. Don’t try to sell much at first. Just get used to giving great content and building the trust of your subscribers. Just like offline training you need to get your followers to know, like and trust you. Then you can start offering products and services online. Thanks again.
I totally agree Jeff – that’s exactly what I suggest to all of the BIG-MONEY owners – start the blog and do the on the fly market research – you can in fact even sell some product during this phase, but it’s very important – you have to go through the process of learning about, surveying, and honing your market before you jump in head first –