In today’s world, gaining social media fame can seem like the equivalent to winning the lottery. You can find children reviewing their toys on YouTube as if they’re experts and adults are quitting their day jobs to be travel photographers, online fitness enthusiasts, or food bloggers. Gone are the days where you pick a job, work in that field for 30 years, and retire. Just as society is changing, so is the personal training industry.
Generally, fitness professionals come from three different backgrounds:
- They went to school for an exercise-related field.
- They had their own transformation story and now want to share their journey with others.
- They were always into fitness or sports and hated working in corporate America, so they wanted to be trainers or coaches.
Everyone has a different story, message, and style. But no matter how they got into the industry, they likely started training people in person. However, now we see the industry of online training emerging and competing with one-on-one training or group fitness models.
You used to have to ask someone in front of you to continue training with you, which is one of the biggest if not THE biggest challenge for most new trainers, but now you can live in a small town in Iowa while coaching someone who lives in Japan because of the world wide web. Times have changed indeed.
But many people will mistakenly take this to believe that building an online business is easy. You start an Instagram or YouTube account, grow a following, and sell stuff, right? And just be yourself? Not exactly. Yes, there are people who have built successful platforms out of thin air using social media, but let it be known that is the exception, not the rule.
If you’re interested in taking your fitness coaching online or starting out your training career in the modern-day world, here are five tips to help you get there.
Find your niche and own it
It doesn’t work if you just say you’re a strength and conditioning coach. It’s too broad of a field and you won’t stand out enough for people to work with you. One common mistake beginner trainers make is trying to be experts on everything. They say they’re a weight-loss coach, a kettlebell specialist, a mobility expert, a yoga teacher, and the list goes on. But if you don’t give people a specific reason to work with you, they won’t come up with one on their own.
Decide what you’re an expert in and stay in your lane. Are you a Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) coach? An Olympic weightlifting trainer? A weight-loss expert? Whatever you choose is entirely up to you. But own your niche and show people the specific expertise you have to offer.
When you’re just starting out it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in training multiple different populations so you not only know how to communicate with different types of people but also to help define your targeted audience. Many of you may come into this business expecting to train high-level athletes, but that fact of the matter is, even the gyms and coaches who do work with high-level athletes know it’s a seasonal business and coaching the general population is what will pay the bills.
As a young trainer, your primary demographic or audience will start revealing itself as you build your business and it’ll happen without you really noticing. You’ll be focused on adding clients and selling sessions when all of a sudden you look back and notice a lot of your clients are similar in nature. Once you do lock down on your demographic, you should be specific in your messaging as to who you help.
Continue your own education no matter what
There’s a tendency to get your certification and just ride the wave of that for a while. Just because you got your CPT (Certified Personal Trainer Certification) ,, doesn’t mean you’ve learned everything you need to know, though. The fitness and health industry is always shifting; it’s important to keep up with what’s going on so you can at the very least answer clients’ questions when they inquire about certain topics. Because now, with tools like Instagram and YouTube and the growing number of blogs and books hitting the market every day, consumers are more educated now than they ever have been
Even more importantly, having a wide range of knowledge in addition to your area of expertise makes you a covetable and effective trainer. Health and fitness don’t simply exist within a vacuum. For example, if you have a client who comes to you for strength training, they might have some restrictions in their shoulders due to injury-caused mobility issues, which would diminish the amount of overhead work you’re able to do together. This would be the perfect time to whip out all the knowledge you recently acquired about end range mobility and injury rehabilitation. If your only tool is a hammer, everything will look like a nail.
Use social media, but use it wisely
Social media is part of the game today. This is a hard fact to deny. That doesn’t mean all your success will come from having a large following, but it certainly doesn’t mean you can totally blow off social media altogether. Choose which platforms you’re going to use and figure out why. For example, you can use Instagram to build the aesthetic of your brand and show some teaser videos of your expertise. You could create a Facebook group to foster an online community of clients to regularly communicate about their progress and post questions.
At the end of the day, social media can be used to your advantage, but it shouldn’t consume all your attention and take away from the real work, like finding new clients, building solid programming for your clients, and staying true to your brand (more on that below). Get the photos and videos done, but don’t spend too much time putzing around on Instagram.
Network as often as you can
You can’t do it alone, no matter what your career trajectory looks like! Stay close to other trainers or entrepreneurs who inspire you. Your inner circle will be your greatest motivation, so make sure you’re surrounded by successful, trustworthy people. Keep your eyes set on expanding your network as well. Attend events regularly, introduce yourself to the people you don’t know at the certifications you attend, and be friendly to people you encounter in your day-to-day life. You never know who will end up being a solid connection.
As a trainer who works with people locally, you should have a list of clinicians you can refer your clients to when they’re in need of additional support, like physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. If you’re a remote coach, it’s good to have resources in other cities as well, or at least a way to reach out to someone if you don’t have the necessary connections.
Stay true to your unique brand
It’s tempting to deviate from your brand when you see others being so successful with their own brand. But no matter how successful other people may seem, don’t try to copy their unique platform. It may sound cheesy, but your uniqueness is what makes your brand yours. Know what you offer people and don’t ever feel guilty for sticking to your guns. So what if that Instagram trainer down the street is showing their abs and traveling to sports resorts all the time? That doesn’t mean you have to start doing the same, especially if that doesn’t fit in your brand. Stay true to who you are, no matter what.
The bottom line
There are countless different ways to build your fitness business. You don’t have to follow the cookie cutter path that was once the only way to become a trainer. Choose your direction wisely, be fully invested in your work, and grow your brand consciously. The Internet can be used in your favor, not against it, if you use it wisely.