From a Side Hustle to a Full-Time Job: Building Your Online Coaching Business

TAGS: online trainer, online coach, business, online coaching, Alycia Israel, advice, coaching, success, personal training, training

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As you may or may not know, I recently left my full-time job at Ohio State University and am now running my online training business, Alycia’s Barbell, full time. This was a three-year project that took a lot of trial and error, but there are some specific strategies I put into place within the last nine to twelve months that sealed the deal and put me in a secure place to leave my full-time job and help as many people as I could doing what I love.

I also want to state that in a world where entrepreneurship has become trendy, there is nothing wrong with a full-time 9-to-5 job. It just wasn’t for me! I personally felt like my time was suffocated and I was creatively limited. I truly loved my position at the university but I knew it was time to embark on my own and live out my true passion.


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I want to be completely transparent here as well because I see a lot of folks that think online training as a career is:

  1. Easy to do;
  2. Easy money (HA! No it ain’t); and
  3. Something everyone can do and be successful with.

WRONG. It is none of those. Every great coach who has been training clients online for a while knows that to be true. Online training is a skill that takes a shit ton of education, practice, communication skills, and patience just like any other career. Again, I want to be as transparent as possible with you and give you a snapshot of what the last three years have looked like for me.

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My first year (three years ago), I took a halfway mediocre dive into online training while juggling my full-time job, and I made $18K in online training. Woof. That was a wake-up call. I was going to have to work much harder and be more strategic if I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

The following year I got a little better at systems and overall programming skills, and my referrals jumped up. I made $45k in online training. OK. That’s progress! Slowly but surely! But still nowhere near what my goals were.

It was this past year, however, that something changed. More than anything I started focusing on mindset, giving as much content away for free as I could, and overall, a more “service” way of thinking. That right there is what turned $45k into a six-figure income. This new mindset completely changed the game for me, and I also connected with amazing mentors who helped pave my path.

I want to share with you all some of the strategies and mindset shifts that have helped me go from side hustle to passionately full time.

Being Resourceful

First and foremost, if you are not a resourceful human, you are not an entrepreneur, period. But what does being resourceful look like? Well, it looks like whenever you are presented with a challenge, you just fucking figure it out. Seriously, put yourself in these next few scenarios.

When presented with a project at work or in life, do you need to be guided the entire way with very little freedom to think outside the box? Do you get easily frustrated when you can’t figure something out the first time? Do you look at problems like challenges you are motivated to overcome or as annoyances?

The way you answer those questions will tell you point-blank if you are a resourceful person. We live in a day and age where you can literally learn how to do anything with a click of a mouse, or swipe of a phone. No one has any excuse as to why they could not figure something out on their own.


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There are even hundreds of free resources out there for every business model, fitness and nutrition program, programming apps, etc. Use what is literally right in front of you! This point will also tie into mentorship, which we will get into later.

Developing Efficient Systems

Having inefficient systems is not only costing you money but also not allowing you to serve your clients the best you could. It is a lose-lose! And I also want to be clear, efficient does not mean cookie-cutter. Cookie-cutter plans are bullshit. Efficient means you can create a custom plan for someone because you’re not wasting time on other unnecessary tasks in your business. Having efficient systems allows you the time and energy to work in your area of genius.

If you are a powerlifting coach who is an amazing programmer, then that is where your energy should be focused on: creating programs! Not invoicing, formatting the way a program looks, making logos, video editing, etc. Contract out for that stuff!

If you waste time outside of your area of genius, you are not setting yourself up for success with your business, and you are leaving a lot of potential on the table.

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Being Clear With My Offer and Whom I Help

I see so many coaches’ content on their platforms, and it is extremely confusing. I should be able to look at a coach’s platform (YouTube, IG, Facebook, etc.) and identify how they serve people within a few scrolls and clicks. Taking videos of yourself lifting and nothing else provides zero value and is not clear about what you do and whom you serve. I have no fucking clue you coach people, and neither does anyone else.

When you are placing content on any platform with the purpose to drive clientele, it has to scream the WHO and the HOW within a few seconds, or the consumer is going to swipe on by not having any idea you could have helped them. That is doing a disservice to them! Your content doesn’t have to be “sales-y” or fake by any means, but it has to give clarity. My business content formula is made up of:

  1. Education
  2. Motivation
  3. Transformation

All of my posts and content revolve around those three things in some capacity. I educate my audience, I motivate my audience, and I show my audience the transformations of the clients I’ve helped (which is the sell).

Side note: The amount of followers you have has nothing to do with your income. The number of followers means nothing. There are coaches with less than 5k followers making insane money while some with 100k followers are broke. How you speak to your current audience, big or small, is the key.

Investing in Mentorship

Continuing education is not just a formality to renew your certifications or licenses. If you truly want to be the best at your craft and serve your clients, invest in mentors! And that doesn’t always mean financially investing such as hiring a coach or joining mentorship programs/masterminds. However, at a certain point, I do think that is wise.

But first, simply build relationships with the people who are kicking ass and taking names. So many times, I see aspiring online coaches talk shit about other coaches who are making seven figures and helping people left and right. That mentality is so odd to me. Jealously ranting and pointing out a successful coach’s perceived flaws will not magically get you to where they are, that’s for sure. Leave your ego at the door, sit down, and take notes. Success leaves clues!


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And most of the time, the ones who have “made it” are more than willing to offer their advice and help for free. Trust me, they aren’t threatened by you; they will, more often than not, give you guidance. This also goes into being resourceful and taking a look at your inner and outer circle of relationships and making connections.

Do you know how many times I have DM’d a successful coach and asked questions? How many times I bought someone coffee to pick their brain? How many times I’ve offered my help to another coach just because? A lot!

And that doesn’t mean that you should only network with those in your industry — it’s quite the opposite. I don’t care what field someone is in; if they are killing it, I want to get to know them.

Also remember, no one got to where they are by themselves. You do not have to go at this alone! Invest in building relationships and learning from those who are where you want to be.

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Showing The Fuck Up

People do not buy coaching. They buy coaches. If your ideal client does not know you, and I mean KNOW you, chances are, they will not buy from you. No matter the platform, it is your obligation to show up authentically as yourself, as intimidating as that might be.

I had a very, very hard time with this for years. Honestly, I still have days where I struggle, but I have gotten better. For a long time, I cared so much about what other people thought that I presented myself on eggshells. I can even go back to my early elitefts articles that I wrote, and it irks me because some definitely were not my true voice.

Showing up as YOU is hard. But if you want to build a successful business that revolves around working with people remotely, not in your backyard, you have to.

When I truly started showing up as me, I am sure some people weren’t a fan, but my business grew! The more I showed up as myself, F-bombs and all, the more I attracted not only my ideal clients but people I am now friends with whom I wouldn’t be otherwise. A lot of this came from opening up about my story, sharing my nutrition and training philosophy, and also sharing about my actual life, my dogs, and my boyfriend/trash panda.

People buy from you because they like you and trust you. If you do not show up, and show up consistently, I might add, you are not giving anyone an opportunity to like you and trust you. Again, people do not buy coaching — they buy coaches. Show the fuck up, my friends.

Serving Before You Sell

Now, this point is the most important of them all. I see so many coaches complain about people asking them for advice for free and that they should be charging for every single thing… blah, blah, blah. Well, here is my FREE advice to you. Give YOUR BEST for free.

I don’t care how long you have been in the game. You want to know how you build a solid clientele base? Provide free value first, help someone first, and serve your audience first. Trust me, when your audience starts recognizing that your free content has positively impacted their life, they will want to buy from you. You must serve before you sell.


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Don’t think of your business solely in transactions. That mindset is so limiting and nearsighted. Provide value first, show that you care first, and help people first. Because when you serve first, the sell is easy and always follows.

Overall, if you are hustling away trying to make online training a full-time gig, I hope this article provides some guidance and direction for you. The entrepreneurship path may not be easy or linear, but it sure is pretty fucking cool to wake up every day on your own terms doing what you love.

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