How to Become Fully Booked with Online Clients

Easily & Profitably Add Online Coaching to Your Fitness Business

Many trainers want to boost their income but because personal training is a cash for time model, it's really hard to do. It's difficult to keep adding income when your time gets capped. So what can you do about it?

Enter online personal training. It is simply the quickest way to add an extra monthly income, even if you're already super busy and short on time.

But you have to set it up the right way and you need to really focus only on the stuff that truly matters. And there is a hell of a lot of stuff that you could get overwhelmed by that just doesn't matter and won't move the needle for you.

So in this week's podcast I'm helping Masterclass member Jamie easily and profitably add online coaching to his existing offline services. Jamie is already really successful offline, he's fully booked, he's running classes and he's got his own studio. He now wants to harness that extra potential income by adding in an online service.

So this podcast episode is for you if you've been thinking about creating an online program to boost your existing fitness services and income. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Enjoy the show!

    Can't listen right now? Then read the transcript below!

    Episode Highlights:

    3.35 - Meet Jamie

    7.25 - The online coaching program​ - set length vs. minimum term

    12.40 - Costs of setting up an online coaching program and marketing strategies

    16.45 - Growing an online audience

    17.55 - The ideal range of online services​

    19.55 - Focusing on the right things when setting up your online program

    22.25 - Email autoresponders and frequency

    Links and Resources Mentioned:

    Want more strategies for reaching your online goals? 

    If you're a health and fitness pro who would like to learn more about creating a successful, meaningful online fitness business, check out The Exceed Masterclass

    The Exceed Masterclass is your essential resource for the training, advice and support you need to plan, create and grow an online fitness business.

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    Ru: Jamie, tell me what are you up to day to day with your personal training coaching?

    Jamie: I'm doing a little bit of a mix at the moment. I'm still employed by a gym where I do fitness classes there and work on the sort of GP side of things. I do a bit with cardiac rehab too but the main focus is my own private business. I've set up my own fitness studio where I do one to one training there, a few small groups, and I also do sports massages as an added income stream.

    I also run a slimming club, which is a health focused nutrition one, as opposed to your weight watchers. I started that about three months ago and it's gone pretty well and I found that I've got two people from there who wanted to do the small group training, so that's helped. And sadly I'm short of time, which led me towards you and I want to tap into the online market.

    Ru: OK. Awesome. So you must have your hands full by the sounds of things?

    Jamie: Yes. That was one of the reasons I wanted to work with you. You mentioned yourself that you were doing 60 hour weeks in the past. That's where I'm at and I can relate to it and I don't want to do this.

    Ru: Yeah, for sure I can understand that. So a goal of yours then is to claim back some more time and obviously harness the online platform. What's the big goals for that, where do you envision that going to?

    Jamie: I am sort of torn really in my focus at the moment. The reason why I'm doing all of these areas is because I'm trying to get a house, so I can't get rid of my contracted hours yet, until I've gone through the mortgage application. They see me as a risk because I'm self-employed, but there we are.

    Ru: Yeah.

    Jamie: I'm torn between putting all my focus towards getting my one to one where I want it to be because I feel I'm only scratching the surface with that. But then I also want to, like yourself, just write programs from home and regain control of my time. I'd still like to have my own studio as I don't want to lose that personal interaction, I still have quite a lot of focus on that.

    Ru: Yeah, a lot of people I speak to enjoy the one to one stuff, nothing wrong with that. They enjoy the personal interaction and I do as well. But I like the online aspect as well, as you get to chat to people like we are now and it's just a great way of helping people and making them move forward.

    So the goal then is to build the online platform, while still keeping the studio and working with clients in person there. That's perfectly reasonable as you'll get the extra income without having to do the extra time per say. Where are you up to with all of this? Is there anything in particular that I can help you specifically with right now?

    Jamie: Yeah, last year I spent quite a while trying to tap into the online business. I designed a 90 day online coaching plan and set up a private membership with Wishlist on my WordPress site, so clients could log in. I broke it up into three different cycles and added new content every seven days just to keep people in.

    Obviously being a personal trainer you want to think long term but then also when you look at the health and fitness market, a lot of people want things now. What would you recommend, should I be looking to create plans longer than 90 days, or even shorter?

    Ru: This is an interesting topic. I suppose in any industry people want the result the quickest. If someone promises you the quicker timeframe to get that result, it's always going to be appealing. It's a natural instinct for us to take shortcuts and it's very hard to avoid it.

    If someone says to you, do my 12 month online program and I'll get you the best body ever, and someone else then says give me 12 days and I'll get you the best body ever too. That's really difficult to choose from unless you are well versed in how it may work and the pros and cons of each. But people don't particularly know that well when it comes to their nutrition and their training.

    In the fitness industry trainers and coaches always start with this 90 day program. We always do the 12 week thing and I get it. It's almost just like a game, a natural instinct everyone's engrained after reading magazines for years, like men's health and women's health. It's always been a 12 week program to get into your best shape ever and there's pros and cons of it. But 12 weeks isn't that short, it's quite a good timeframe, it's three months. At the same time then we also do have a downside of that, as we lose all of our clients every 12 weeks. That is where I struggled with that type of model the most.

    That's why I really encourage personal trainers to move towards a more long term approach. I actually had a similar call with Sam a few weeks back. We worked one to one and set up his online platform and he's been running his program all of this year (2016). Sam's doing really well and he's getting clients in every 12 weeks. But he said to me now that he's been doing this for a year he needs to stop losing all of those people every 12 weeks and starting from zero again.

    My advice to him was to try to create a program that doesn't sell the 12 week solution but still focuses around the 12 weeks as a minimum. It's not the 90 day plan, it's minimum 90 days to work with me. Because there's a different mentality around that when people think your program finishes in 90 days, they are finished with you, with your program, and with your business too. And it's very difficult to get people to resign up to something like that even if they would benefit from working with you longer. In their mind they cut it off after the 90 days.

    So you could transition more to that membership type model or the longer term model but without saying it's a 6-9-12 months minimum. That's also doable but I think a better approach would be to set everyone up with the recurring payments in place. So that's always going to happen even after the three months but stating it's at least three months to see results. That's how long it's going to take to really see significant results, it's worth your time and energy. And then at the end of those three months it's saying to people, OK, we've worked together for three months now, would you like to continue.

    Jamie: Almost like trying and get that minimum term so you've got that security.

    Ru: Yeah. Because you don't want to attract the wrong type of client, where they'd join for two weeks and then say they've had enough. You can attract good clients by saying it's a minimum term and that's going to keep them coming in. But also not all of your clients will be dropping off every time you run the program. Some people will say they've had enough but there's still a good opportunity for some clients to stay on with you. Then you run the program again and some more stay on with you. Running that model myself, I was working with some clients for a year and sometimes even two years. I've still got clients I've been working with for a couple of years on that model. So it definitely works really well.

    Jamie: Yeah. With my one to one coaching I was offering 12 week packages and then when I get to week 10-11, I'd have that conversation with them and ask if they are carrying on. So I've changed that side of things to try and encourage people just to get going with a monthly membership and I found that's helped with the security, that you don't put an end point, 12 weeks is still just the start really.

    Ru: It is for the majority of people who are in a pretty bad way unless you've got a competition, holiday or wedding date set in stone and want to aim towards that. But otherwise I don't think we should be instilling as trainers and coaches these deadlines into people specifically. Next question?

    Jamie: In order to really make the online coaching work how much cash do you think you have to spend? I know it can be expensive, in the last live workshop you mentioned how much money you spend on Facebook advertising. To start to get quite a few clients obviously the program needs to be right but is Facebook advertising your number one strategy once the program's right?

    Ru: I think we can definitely feel a bit lost with the costs and expenses involved with setting up online coaching. I get people ask me all the time about the monthly cost of getting an online business set up and running. And initially to get your first online clients it can cost minimal.

    I know my spending and the strategy I was using on Facebook. And I can imagine if I had seen the figures a couple of years ago I would have been like whoa, no way, that's not going to happen. I'd be thinking how does that work, where would I ever get the cash for that because I didn't have it. That was really how I was trying to show how to scale your online business with that investment in the actual paid advertising side of things.

    I believe 90 percent of personal trainers or coaches are going to gain that initial traction with Facebook ads, because you can't just rely on word of mouth, particularly online. It doesn't seem to work as well or it's certainly not going to be enough to get clients and to stay in business. It works quite well offline, I know a lot of personal trainers who are pretty busy but don't do any paid advertising or any real marketing. But it's just their local area and community which doesn't work necessarily online.

    I still think no matter what stage you are at, you want to start building an email list. And yes you can reach out to your Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram but ultimately you're going to want a way to reach beyond those people. You can't keep telling the same people about your program every couple of days, you need to reach out to new people, that's where the paid advertising comes into place.

    My recommendations are to start with a simple free thing like an ebook or resource that will really help your ideal clients. Use a small daily budget small on Facebook ads and start getting people to download and subscribe to your email list. From there you've got a very powerful asset that you can contact any time you like sending some content or promoting your new program. You're going to find that you are gaining more traction because every day you're gaining more subscribers. Some will unsubscribe, some won't open another email from you, but some will stay engaged.

    If you've done the front of the funnel right and you've qualified someone well in the Facebook ad they will want what to know other things you have to offer. That's where you're going to see that initial traction.

    So I think some form of advertising there is going to work but I don't believe it needs to cost an arm and a leg. That's the area where you want to put some budget into an online business. Don't start paying hundreds of dollars a month for coaching software that you don't need right now, don't pay 300 pounds a month for some software to make landing pages. Instead put money into a bit of advertising and start growing an audience because you're going to need it.

    Jamie: I've got my main email list which has been collecting subscribers, but to be honest it took me about three years to get to about 100. And since Facebook advertising I went to 250 in the last few months, so that's a positive and shows how effective it is. Would you recommend for the online program, once I get it to where I want it to be, doing a separate email list just targeted at maybe a lead page for the free document or free resource?

    Ru: Yeah definitely. I think you want to try and keep the offline and online business separate, as much as you can. Some people ask should I have a separate website, the answer to that is yes. So that also means you should really have separate social media and separate email lists. You'll put the different offers to them from that as well, so I definitely think you want to have that separate email list. They would be more interested in online coaching as opposed to maybe any marketing you're doing for people in a local area or your community.

    Jamie: That's the thing, I think what I've been guilty of is throwing too many options at people. Trying to hone in on that one option. At the end of my emails I put in that P.S. 'If you want to find out more' and I put in brackets the three options I offer - one to one training, online coaching and the sliming club. So I don't know if that's a good idea by giving too much of choice?

    Ru: We seem to think choice is great and I personally used to do the same but now I've really been able to narrow things down in terms of my offerings. When I was really promoting my nutrition and lifestyle coaching at Exceed Nutrition I started off with all these different packages and different offerings. Eventually it just came to one thing, this is it, this is our tried, tested and proven online coaching program to get you to where you really want to be and that's it. There's no other options, this is what we do and this is what we offer.

    I think you want to really make that clear by bringing down your services and your options, which will draw people to that one thing and you'll be able to get your messages across. You'll be able to show the benefits that it will bring people a lot more and you won't feel pulled in different directions.

    You can create something that's got a nice all round blend to it. If you like certain parts of your different programs bring them together, whether it's a group coaching call once a month online or maybe a personal call now and again. Just come up with one thing and make it the best that you can, that would be a good focus point for next year.

    Jamie: Yeah, a lot to think about. I think I'm going to try and change my branding and think about a program name, I think that will help.

    Ru: I think it does help but I wouldn't want you to get caught up in the branding, naming and logos when you don't need to. I do this with the coaches I'm working one to one with right now, it's like OK, we need to get you a better looking website and develop the program a bit more, give it a nice name, but it's not exactly what we need to get your first online client or to double your clients.

    What I'm getting people to do is exactly what I've mentioned to you, put an offer out there, whether that's for a free e-book or a free consultation call with you and then provide your offer. Say, look if you've enjoyed this free ebook here's my program. And then people will say yes this sounds great, this is exactly what I was looking for and why I downloaded your ebook, I'm going to sign up.

    So you've got your online client but they haven't really been on your website, they don't really give a shit about what name your program is because you've actually given the benefits of it. You've shown them how it's going to improve their lives or their bodies.

    What I would recommend to you is not getting too caught up in that stuff, create your offer put it into your one core program and then get it out there in the world using some paid advertising. So they would come into our email list via the free ebook and then you could have a few email autoresponders hooked up that will, for example, pull them towards an application form to get on the phone. Then you can tell them about your program and they can say yes or no, and you could have your first online client without your website, without your program name or a new logo. Focusing on the right things mate, that's exactly it.

    Jamie: After you've given them the ebook would you say you don't want to bombard them every day with email or is a weekly email maybe not be enough?

    Ru: Yeah. If you look at the training that I put into the Masterclass from our live call, I laid out the five day autoresponder sequence to use after someone downloads your e-book. Go and check that out, it'll give you the exact steps on how to set up the first five days, that will point people towards the application form. It works really well because it builds a lot 'know like and trust'. After that sequence you're probably best moving towards a weekly type broadcast with your email subscribers.

    I'd intersperse that with some content and then some promotional stuff. So you could work in a 12 week block which would suit your program. Every quarter of the year you would run a week or two week long promo for your program, driving people to the application form or a sales page. Then in between you would give your audience a bit of a rest and provide some more value in form of a blog, video or podcast.

    Jamie: Yeah that sounds good.

    Ru: So that's what I'd recommend. Go and check out that workshop because I also touch on the how to set up a Facebook ad to drive people to the application form to fill your online program ASAP. So that might be worth looking at for you.

    Jamie: Yeah I'll do that.

    Ru: OK Jamie, let's wrap this up. So in the next day or two, what is the first thing you're going to start implementing from our call?

    Jamie: I think I'm going to write all this stuff up and I'll check out the autoresponder workshop rather than focusing too much on getting everything perfect. I'll just get it out there like you said. With the last program I spent months and months getting all the finer details done for the membership site where I probably just needed to get it out there.

    Ru: Definitely. And once it's out there you can start asking your online clients, what did you like, what do you need more of. Then you can actually create stuff that they genuinely want and need.

    Jamie: Yeah definitely, you just got to get it out there.

    Ru: It is doesn't need to be perfect. It's all about progression not perfection.

    Jamie: Yeah cool, thank your for doing this.

    Ru: No problem I hope it's been a benefit.

    Jamie: Yeah I find the Masterclass great. I just force myself even if I only have a couple of hours just to do something. Even if it's just watching one of the videos just because it keeps me accountable. I found that even though this is the busiest I've ever been in my life I'm still as productive as ever.

    Ru: Yeah that's what I like to see and hopefully we also create that really productive, accountable, action taking environment in Masterclass, so I'm hoping these calls can really drive people forward into the New Year as well.

    Jamie: Definitely, it's going to be a good kick up the arse towards the end of the year.

    Ru: Awesome man. Thank you very much.

    Let's build your online fitness business together

    If you're a health and fitness pro who would like to learn more about creating a successful, meaningful online fitness business, check out The Exceed Masterclass

    The Exceed Masterclass is your essential resource for the training, advice and support you need on how to become an online personal trainer.

    You'll receive proven, practical training to help you reach more people and create more impact online.

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