Having a successful online business is the holy grail for many personal trainers. It allows you to help a lot of people, gives you a great income, freedom to work when and where you want and the freedom to follow a life path that makes you happy.
All of this is completely possible but getting to this point is very rarely a case of overnight success and laptops on sun loungers.
There are 3 very distinct stages to an online businesses development and along the way there will be hard work and some degree of self doubt. Once you get through that the rewards are well worth the effort. Here are the 3 stages of an online fitness business:
Stage 1: Start Up
Start up is without doubt the most challenging part. You don't really know what you're doing and exactly how you're going to make it work. There are many moments of self doubt and questions about how can you do it. How can you compete with those that are already successful? How can you find the time and earn the income you need to live on?
In stage one it's important to always remind yourself why you want to set up your online coaching business. What drives you to make this venture successful? Also look at others having the success you want as inspiration that it can be done rather than as competition.
In this stage you're everything in the business, you have to wear multiple hats and learn many new skills. Consistent learning and very long hours are almost inevitable in stage one.
In many cases you will also have a job or other work on the side to pay the bills while you get your online venture off the ground and supporting life.
The three things you need most in stage one are a resolute mindset, constant learning of coaching and business skills, and being prepared to put in a lot of hours working for free to get your name out there and build interest in what you're doing.
Stage 2: Making Money and Letting go of a few things
In stage two your starting to get quite a few things right, confidence is growing, clients are coming in and you're making some money online as well.
Stage two feels pretty good. You have a good idea of what works and know that you can achieve the dreams you set out to at the beginning of this online journey. You start to see the life changing impact you're having on your clients.
It's still hard work in stage two, in fact it's probably getting a bit overwhelming, you have all the work of stage one, plus continued learning and now a lot of client support.
Now's the time your probably starting to really see what people meant when they said set up systems that can scale. In stage one you just wanted to get off the ground. Now you know something has to change or your workload is just going to get bigger and bigger and your growth will be capped.
This is the stage you start to focus of delegating tasks and setting up systems that will help you scale and grow.
If you didn't already set it up at the beginning you should now focus on making sure your challenges and trials are completely automated, that much of your communication and encouragement happens on autopilot and you start setting up group support.
You also realise that Skype/ phone calls with clients are not a great idea as you only have so many hours in a day and other methods such a text or group calls can be much more efficient.
Now can be a good time to think about setting up a flagship product that you can create once and sell to many people regardless of their budget. Then offer your 1-1 bespoke training as a higher priced option to those that can afford it.
At the same time there will be elements of your business that take up a lot of time that you can outsource. For me the first ones to go were SEO work and general social media posting (Facebook business page, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn). This stuff took up a lot of time and I was not very good at it, so the return was low. By getting in specialists for these tasks the results improved massively and I had time to focus on other areas such as business growth, building relationships with members, content creation and increased learning.
Stage 3: Growth and Expansion
In stage three you continue the work you put in place in stage 2. You add to the team around you, bringing in specialists for each task and really expanding what your business is capable of. You should now have systems and a team in place to grow as large as you want to grow.
While there will be ups and downs you see a snowball effect, your community grows, people regularly recommend you, others ask you to speak at events or on Podcasts, online summits etc..
At this point you can finally start thinking about taking holidays and daring to switch off the laptop as your systems and team are in place to make sure everything runs smoothly! You can start considering books like the 4 hour work week rather than the 10X Rule you had to read in stage one.
There's still plenty of work to do but now your thoughts become vital. You are the thought leader and the face of the business. In stage 3 you have the people and systems in place to start looking after yourself again and it becomes more important as you need to be at the top of your game all the time. Your job involves working with others, co-ordinating every-ones efforts, creating the atmosphere of the business and relationships with your members.
While I'm not there yet myself, there's almost certainly a stage four which I believe will be a continuation of stage three. Continued innovation and communication with clients is always likely to be key to the continued success of your online business.