I help women in the health and fitness business get more clarity, clients & cash.
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Want to take a look behind the scenes at exactly how I grew my health and fitness coaching business to $150K in 12 months from scratch?
In the post I’m sharing EVERYTHING, the good, the bad and the ugly, about what it took to go from run-of-the-mill personal trainer to a six figure coach with a high end practice – including what worked, what didn’t work and what I struggled with the most along the way.
You see, a lot of ‘guru’s’ in the marketing space always make it sound easy. Just throw up a funnel here, pop in some ads there, and mix in a sprinkle of social media and BOOM – you’re sitting on a profitable business. Right? Wrong.
Because that’s not the reality for most health and fitness coaches.
The truth is that being employed is easy. Showing up, taking a salary, knowing that you’ll get a paycheck at the end of the month, that’s simple. But growing your own client base or running your own business is challenging.
It takes strategy, time, experimentation, patience and the willingness to learn things that make you feel uncomfortable.
When it works, though, being your own boss is so liberating and rewarding.
Cast back to 2014.
I’d just had my son (2nd child) and during my pregnancy I’d realised that continuing as a dance studio owner and production company owner wasn’t going to work out once I had a new baby and a toddler.
I was already struggling to work on weekends and evenings, I wasn’t physically recovered from pregnancy so teaching dance was out, and in truth, I was tired!
I decided, reluctantly, to sell both my businesses and start with a blank slate.
I began working with a trainer and physio as part of my recovery and I found myself fascinated by the process. As a dance teacher, I knew my body but I knew nothing about training for physical change, rather than creative output. And I’m a geek so I wanted to know WHY we did anything.
I decided to spend my new-mom time studying and soon, I was a qualified personal trainer.
But, I still didn’t want to work full time. In fact, I didn’t really want to be a trainer.
At this point, I thought that if I could get out of the house and make a little money while I figured out my next business, that’d be nice!
Here’s where things get interesting.
Because I had clear boundaries and I knew from day one that I wasn’t able to work weekends, before 10am or after 5pm and I knew I need flexibility, I decided to create a program for new moms like me and I only accepted clients who were willing to commit to working out 2-3 times a week for a 12 week period within my boundaries.
I’d accidentally created my first signature program in my niche, new moms.
One for 2 x week and one for 3 x week, and I offered some bonuses such as free passes for a couple of missed sessions. I didn’t allow pay-per-session and my rates weren’t newbie rates.
I priced my signature program at an equivalent of $100 per hour, because for less than that I’d rather be home with my kids, honestly.
I should also mention that I live in an area where this price point is the median, so I wasn’t the cheapest, but I was also travelling to my clients homes and this meant I needed to budget for extra hours on top of each client hour, as I could only reasonably see 4 clients per day with the travel factored in.
To get people into my program, I posted on local Facebook groups and I asked potential clients to complete an application form and have a paid session with me before they committed to the program.
I created a website in Squarespace and because I was niched down, I had clients who wanted to sign up straight away, even without a trial session.
But I also made some mistakes. I found myself taking a few clients who didn’t fit my new mom profile, and training them felt awkward and challenging because it wasn’t my area of expertise.
I took the odd client who said they couldn’t do 2 x a week. I waivered and allowed them to do once a week. But they’d often cancel, they didn’t get results and quit after the 10 pack I’d sold them expired.
I resented giving up my time for these sessions. Each week I hoped those clients would cancel because they weren’t invested. And it was my fault.
I’d set them up for failure by allowing them to choose a program that wouldn’t work. Needless to say, after a couple of these clients, I was much more stringent about the requirement to work with me within my signature program framework!
I know I’m lucky.
Looking back, I realised that the luxury of being able to choose my clients and charge what I wanted, thanks to the financial cushion from my business sale, meant that my mindset was, “If you’re not willing to commit to this, I won’t commit to you.”
But this mindset had an unexpected effect.
Instead of getting less clients, I got more.
I got a reputation as being the specialist go-to for new moms in my area, and because the program I created was designed to ensure results, I got results.
Then my clients would refer their friends, and pretty soon I was working a lot more than I’d planned.
By the time I hit my stride, within 2 months of opening, I had 8 clients, signed onto my signature program (that meant I was working 20 hours a week) and I’d brought in around $25,000 from those clients.
BUT – even though I was working 20 hours week, I was travelling for about 15, and prepping for their sessions another 10 or so (because I was also learning on the job too.) I was studying more courses to help serve them better than a basic qualification, and I was my own marketing department and admin person too.
So, this was still a full time job, and I realised that I couldn’t take any more clients until one of my current clients finished. So that meant no more income.
If I’d continued to get 8 clients a quarter on my program, that still would’ve been $100k a year, but the lifestyle was killing me, and while I liked training, I like growing businesses and having time to chill more.
So, I decided to try to leverage and cut back my hours.
Let’s talk money. At first, this cost me. I now had about 14 clients in these groups, including all of my private clients and some new women I’d recruited.
The price of the term was lower than my signature program, because it was group training, but still enough to encourage commitment.
I worked out that I was on track for about $50,000 per year working these 6 hours a week. Add in another 4 hours per week travel and 2 hours prep time for the classes plus admin, I was down from 40 hours to about 15 hours a week, which was a huge relief for me.
Now, I wanted to know, how am I going to make more money without adding in more hours and overheads?
I went back to what worked in the first place, my signature program.
By now, I’d been working long enough to know that nutrition was vital to accelerating my clients results and that workouts alone weren’t enough in the weight loss space.
So, I’d been studying to get my qualification so I could add coaching services to my programs.
About this time I also started working with my own business coach, who encouraged me to create a high end version of my group program and offer it to private clients, without in person training.
I was nervous. I mean, really nervous. I honestly didn’t know if anyone would go for personal training, without the personal training.
But I listened to my clients and what they wanted and then I realised, they didn’t want a trainer, they wanted a transformation!
I knew I could give them that transformation, I just needed to create a way to do it that didn’t take a lot of time. That’s when I decided to create my online program, Rebelle.
This was a premium program, that lasted 12 weeks and consisted of a VIP day in person (3 hours) where I coached my clients and did a movement screen with them. Then I gave them online workouts and nutrition coaching every week in a group format.
I created an online platform to deliver the program and I enrolled my clients via in depth phone calls rather than in person training sessions.
Essentially, I flipped everything I thought personal trainers should do to get clients on its head and created a high level fitness coaching program that supported my client fully and was scalable.
This was not easy!
I had so many blocks that held me back. I didn’t believe people would pay for the program. I didn’t believe I could offer it without more personal contact. I was so scared I wasn’t adding enough value that I made some huge mistakes with my first round.
I compensated by throwing all my knowledge bombs into one program that was so overwhelming I don’t know how my clients got through it!
I ended up coaching 1:1 and I was horrible at setting boundaries.
While I got 5 clients into my beta for $2k each, and made $10k in a month, I was stressed out!
Plus, I built an expensive custom membership site that failed to deliver on time, so that meant I was struggling with tech, had spent way too much money on a website and was still in a muddle behind-the-scenes.
In truth, running that first program kicked my butt! But I learnt a lot, and after that I set about making it easier to run.
But my signature program worked – my clients got great results.
But I had to let go of feeling responsible for my clients results and that was tough.
When you visit a client in person and stand over them counting reps, you know they’re doing the work. You can’t help what they eat, or how they sleep, but they’re doing the physical work and they will see some kind of results, no matter what.
But online, I realised only 80% of clients would do the work, and there would always be 20% who wouldn’t. I spent a lot of energy, time and guilty hours trying to help that 20%, wondering if I could have done more, done better, wasn’t supporting them.
So, that’s about $147K in total over 12 months, not quite $150k, but close enough!
BUT…that was revenue, not profit.
I also spent a lot of money that first year in business.
I invested in coaches (good) ,software (too much), websites (big mistake!).
I wasted a lot of money on branding when I didn’t need it yet. I had an office for the second part of the year which I hoped I’d be able to film workouts in, but it was unusable due to noise, and I was stuck in my contract which sucked a lot of my profit.
While I made $150K, I only took home a small part of that because I wasn’t controlling my expenses properly and I reinvested a large amount back into growing my business and getting the support I needed to move forward.
If I was starting again today, I’d streamline software, something that’s easy now but wasn’t in 2014, I wouldn’t spend so much money on my website and branding or take office space so early..
I would have also focused on different ways to enrol clients into my program and utilising my email list, and I would have put in place systems for automation a lot earlier to avoid overwhelm.
So there you have it. That’s how I had my first 6 figure year.
The next year was a lot more profitable because I was focused on my online business. I knew that I could scale it and improve it, plus all of the hard work was done.
I missed dancing, and I was so much more in love with marketing and growing my program than being a coach.
I’d gotten so caught up in growing my business, I hadn’t stopped to ask if I was growing the right one.
After all my years as a studio owner and through this two year coaching journey, I’d learnt so much about program creation, business strategy, marketing, Facebook ads, email and automation etc that I knew I had a lot to share with other coaches and business owners so they could be successful without having to make the mistakes I’ve made.
I love making businesses work, I never truly wanted to be a trainer or nutrition coach, but this experience gave me a first hand insight into what it takes to grow a business as a coach, how to support your clients and where you can trip up without the right plan, guidance and support.
Now I consult for both business owners and coaches on how to launch and scale their programs and businesses. To find out how I can help you do more, with less time, fill in an application form here, and let’s chat.
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