My first fitness article was published on Bodybuilding.com in 2001, before that, I had already started a website called “Raw Intensity”. You could tell that my attitude back then was VERY different! Just a couple of years out of college with my degree in Exercise Physiology and having interned with some top strength coaches in the industry, I thought I was primed to take over the industry! The internet seemed a perfect opportunity to start doing something very few at the time were doing. The idea of sharing content on the internet was not something a lot of people did and was typically reserved only for the “big names” at the time. So, to get my first article published so young made me believe that it was only a matter of time till the fitness industry was mine.
The reality was that everything was a HUGE struggle! In no way was it as easy as “build it and they will come”. My website didn’t last but a couple of years because I had to pay for it to be up and function, but I had no idea how to make it profitable. Sure, I was doing actually some online training back then but it was a huge hassle. The time it was taking me to not only design the training programs, but to consult with each client and modify things to their likings was resulting in me making much less of an hourly rate than if I trained people in person.
That didn’t halt my online efforts though, rather, it made me want to rethink how I was approaching it. When the opportunity in 2004 came about to do a sandbag training e-book for a group that had a large list of coaches I jumped on it. That e-book resulted in the some of the success that I thought was possible online, but wasn’t sure how it was achieved. Over the years we have had SERIOUS ups and downs because the internet is largely a new space for business. Things change very rapidly and what was “the key” one moment, could be outdated quickly.
After 20 years of doing work online and over a decade having run my own training facility it made sense to start sharing ideas on how we didn’t just end up surviving in the fitness industry, but actually thriving. It didn’t happen over night and it wasn’t always easy, but considering how many people lie about the business of fitness Jessica and I thought some honesty and true tips would be something we could give back. While there are MANY, I wanted to really hit 3 fitness business myths that won’t die and often hurt those that try to follow them as gospel.
Making A Good Living Online Or With A Gym Is Easy
Can we have a moment of honesty here? The vast majority of people who get into fitness won’t become millionaires, it just isn’t happening. We can just look at stats like according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for personal trainers in 2020 was $40,510. You might say, but Josh, that was a bad year for fitness with the pandemic right? Even though there seemed to be countless fitness business coaches saying otherwise, yes, that is pretty bad. However, if we still put it context of the average US salary in 2020 being $67,521 it still tells us that fitness isn’t an easy industry.
That’s only an average Josh right? Yes, it is an average but that means half also made less than that and top 10 percent earned more than $76,550. Which means that the idea of making 6 or 7 figures (um, crazy that people don’t distinguish these as 1 million is ten times that of 100k which is a HUGE difference!). My point is NOT that you can’t earn a good living in the fitness industry, that isn’t at all! Rather, you are probably not a loser, you are more than likely are right where most people in the fitness industry are at financially. We often feel very down on ourselves and think we are doing poorly because we hear people spout off ridiculous (often very made up) numbers.
A LOT of people are selling ideas in line of magic beans
Instead, accept where you are at as a starting point. If someone promises you that you can go from 40k a year to 150k they probably aren’t the person to follow. Even if you make very positive changes to your business, the idea of growing your business in one year at that rate would be almost insane for any industry period. To be very honest, I would have a bunch of questions for someone that claimed that they did so because you have to think, how?! Did you get THAT many more clients and if so how do you provide a service to all of them? Did you have to get more space? If you are online how did you differentiate yourself so strongly to gain that much new business? The truth is that increases in revenue are slow (although they can be appreciable from year to year they don’t go up like that!) and often come with having to reinvest in your business as well.
If you are earning around something like 40k a year right now, a 20% increase (which is great) would take you to 48k. This is NOT to make you feel down, this is great and can be game changing for some. The point is that having realistic expectations allows you to feel like you are on the right track and actually feel motivated in continuing your efforts. I wish, I SO wish I could share with all of you how many people are flat out not telling the truth about what they earn in fitness and those that have made tons of money typically (not all) have done so with selling the dream of “making it” in the industry.
Fitness is NOT an easy industry and I wish people would stop making it out like it is because it makes many in it feel like they have failed. Our first reward and primary purpose should be making a difference with people. Yes, we should be able to make a good living from it, but we have to stop telling people that making over a million dollars a year is a matter of just doing a landing page or the like! Having a successful fitness business whether it is online or live is a long-term play and is a byproduct of doing A LOT of things correctly.
There Are SOOO Many Testimonials!
I know there are a lot of fitness professionals that are skeptical to the numbers that people throw out, but then they see the infamous testimonials. This may or may not shock you, but these can be often skewed as well. Let me give you a pretty close example we saw from a real post.
One of these programs promoted a testimonial where someone was so excited they made 60k in one month using their program. Sounds pretty impressive right? At such a monthly income, if we put that over 12 months that comes out to $720,000 a year. Who could say that isn’t incredible right? This program MUST be legit no? Well, this is where being a smart consumer becomes really important.
Let’s say that they did make 60k in one month to help our example. What was done to achieve that number? For example, did you change the way you collect money, or did you start using contracts? How do I mean? For our example, let’s say you charge on average $250 a month for training of one person. You sign that person to a year contract which comes out to $3,000 for the year for that one person. If you change your model and maybe get a few new people in the process, that would mean this person signed up 20 people that month. Such a number doesn’t sound crazy, but here is the thing…
How often are you going to be able to not only sign up people for a year, but actually enforce a year contract? Sure, you have a contract and if that person breaks it you can take them to court right? Well, it is probably MORE expensive for you to take legal action than to let them out of the contract, so that isn’t probably going to happen. More importantly though you see that 60k in one month can be very misleading. Yes, in theory you have collected 60k, but that will be over the span of a year’s worth of services, you following me?
Most people are providing highly manipulated numbers that become their testimonials. They are betting you won’t ask questions to find out what those numbers really mean or if they actually panned out the way that it is presented.
The reality is that most clients stay with a trainer for 3-6 months on average. Yes, I know some stay years, I was very fortunate to have many of those clients, but we are talking about industry averages. So, how many people are really going to honor that year contract? Trust me, I know it is possible to sell people on big promises! When I began in the industry I was training in a commercial gym and befriended an amazing salesman for the club. He got me several times clients that purchased 100 session packages. I could probably count on two fingers the number of those individuals that actually completed those 100 sessions, this happens for MANY reasons.
The point is that if you are interested in any fitness business program, ask questions, like A LOT of them. Especially bigger the promise of success ask what different numbers mean and get references to those people that they say are “killing it.” Jessica and I had a gentleman harass us pretty strongly about working with him to help our business (he knew nothing about our business but claimed he was an internet business master) and when we asked him one simple question he disappeared. The question? “Can we have references to anyone that you worked with?” That is all it took!
It Doesn’t Take Work
Not only do people often put out outlandish numbers, they do so with the promise that it takes relatively no to little effort to accomplish. No, you don’t need to do the things that almost every successful business in every industry does, they have a way for you to make tons of money and have to do little work. As much as in fitness we tell people there is no magic weight loss pill, in business there is no magic get rich pill!
I see a lot of fitness professionals abandon their plans when they realize that being successful takes effort. To be honest, I get it. Most of us think fitness is going to be fun! We are going to spend our days in the gym, sharing our love of fitness and making a positive impact upon people. Then those that wish to become actually financially successful realize that there are parts of the job that aren’t what they enjoy most. The great majority of fitness professionals actually struggle with the idea of being a business owner first and a fitness coach second. After all, doing the day to day business stuff and planning isn’t why most of us got into the industry right? However, it is what is going to KEEP us in the industry and allow us to have our visions come to fruition.
Ironically, one of the best tips I could give fitness professionals to be successful is the same advice that they give their clients for achieving their fitness goals. That is having discipline to do what is necessary and not just what is enjoyable. We often wonder why people don’t like staying disciplined on their nutrition or training plans, but the truth is most people don’t enjoy them (that is one big reason they come to us is to hold them accountable). So, we have to be good role models and be willing to do the same when it comes to items that we don’t enjoy. Such as developing a business plan, having budgets for things like equipment and education, setting specific goals and plans on how they will be achieved, spending time investing in our knowledge of being a business owner, and so forth.
There are many parallels between fitness and business success. The difference typically lies in the fact the fitness coach enjoys the challenges of fitness, but tends to act like many clients when it comes to the business side of things. We hear all the time when we are asked to consult that people are too busy, they don’t have the money to reinvest, the same things we tend to get frustrated by people when we hear about why they may not invest in our fitness business.
We don’t want to dissuade you from being in the fitness industry, rather, we want to provide you with facts and true ideas that can make a difference. For many years we have seen colleagues that were great pros leave the industry because they wouldn’t do the business side and we have heard sad story after sad story of those wanting to make the difference but just not knowing the right tools. The truth is we don’t have all the answers, but we are trying to share with you truths that are based in good business so you can have that fitness business that you find rewarding in many different ways.
Here is a discussion I wanted to share about a topic many people in the industry ignore which is financial health! Hope this helps many people have a better perspective.
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