So You Want to Be an Online Trainer — Growing Your Business

TAGS: target audience, Growing Your Business, So You Want to Be an Online Trainer, value system, marketing strategy, online training, why?, training template, Alycia Israel, time management

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If you haven’t checked out the first article of this series, definitely give it some time so you have some context. If you have read it and are ready for some deeper insight, welcome back! Let’s dig right into it and discuss how to grow your online business more effectively.

Figuring Out Your “Why” and Your Values

If you haven’t read my article from a while back, Finding Your Values – Useful For More Than Business, read that first, then come back to this. Before you venture into growing an actual business, no matter the field you need to ask yourself two questions:

  • Why am I creating this business?
  • What values do I take a stand on?

If you don’t have concrete answers to these questions, your business will not have a vision or direction long term. I will give you my online business as an example below.

First, my WHY.

Why did I create an online training business? I created an online training business specifically geared towards helping women achieve their fitness goals because the fitness industry is drowning in misinformation directed specifically toward this population…on purpose. And that just pissed me off. I was and am sick of women being taken advantage of and straight lied to about how they can best achieve their goals. Wraps? Detoxes? Magic Booty Blasters? The list of bullshit never ends! If I saw one more woman doing 500 fire hydrants a day or becoming a vegan in order to “look good,” I was literally going to lose my shit. Women deserve better than that, so I did something about it.


Part 1: So You Want to Be an Online Trainer — Three Steps to Getting Started


I will note, if your “why” is “to make a lot of money” then you are headed down the wrong path.

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Second, my VALUES. What values do I take a stand on?

  • Empowerment — Are my services empowering women?
  • Education — Am I providing a space for education based on current research and logic, rather than belief or tradition?
  • Passion — Am I providing a passionate experience for my clients?
  • Discipline — Am I reinforcing discipline and lifelong habits in my own life as a role model?
  • Honesty — Am I honest and transparent with my clients?
  • Impact — Are my services positively impacting the women that I serve and setting them up for success?

These are my core values for my business but also my life in general. Every day I ask myself the questions above when I create programming. These values and questions keep me and my business on the right track every day. So even though these are specific to me and my business, I highly recommend reflecting on what is important to you. I personally think a lot of folks skip this piece of the puzzle and go straight to the business side of things. Don’t do yourself a disservice. Figure out your "why" and what you value.

Nailing Down Your Target Audience

When you first start training clients I think it is extremely helpful from a learning perspective to train as many people as possible from all walks of life and goals. Down the road, this not only allows you to develop your skills within a wide range but also learn what you are really good at and passionate about. At some point, in order to be successful, you need to narrow down your target population and get really fucking good at training them specifically. No one wants to hire someone who can train anyone with any goal at a mediocre level. They want to hire someone who is the best for them. So at some point, in order to create a successful business long term, you need to develop a strong skill set geared toward a specific population.

With that being said, once you pinpoint your target audience, your marketing needs to reflect your service specifically to them. Whether it is social media, websites, ads, etc., make sure your marketing strategies always have your target audience in mind. I had a hard time with this (and still do) because for the longest time I cared so much about what everyone and their mom thought about my presence, specifically on social media. And don’t get me wrong, I think the vast majority of people misuse social media tools and come across as unprofessional idiots. However, this constant fear of judgment that I had in my mind hurt me and my business for a long time. If you are creating intentional content through social media for your business (which I think you definitely should do), then always keep your target population in mind. Is your target population your weird aunt that stalks your Facebook daily and likes to private message you when she doesn’t agree with something you say? No? Then who gives a shit what she thinks! As long as your content is productive for your target audience, let the side comments from your “non-target” audience roll off your back.

Managing Your Time While Maintaining Quality Service

This specific point was one of the first recommendations Meadows had for me when I started my business. As your clientele grows, your systems and procedures will need to change in order to maintain your quality of service while managing your time appropriately. I thought I understood what he meant by that at the time, but I didn’t fully understand it until I experienced it myself.

For me, as my business grew by roughly 10 more people, I needed to change or adjust something in how I operated. It is crazy because you wouldn’t think 10 more clients would make a difference in how you have to operate, but it definitely did. So in terms of time management and service quality, we are going to touch on a few things.

1. Have a system or templates already in place.

Now, this does not mean have “pre-made” plans to sell to people claiming they are custom. Not at all. What I do suggest is to have a base template or structured plan that you can simply manipulate based on the client needs and goals. Starting with a completely empty canvas (how I used to operate when I only had five clients on my plate) is not logical or even necessary once you have 15 to 20 or more clients consistently month to month, let alone when you are in a position of 75 clients. Holy moly! You would work 24/7 and then some, which isn’t sustainable.

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As an example, I have the following 12-16 week “structures” already created:

  • Bikini and Figure (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • Women’s Physique (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • General Fat Loss (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • General Hypertrophy (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • General Strength/Raw PL (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)

I have approximately 15 base structures for the majority of my programming, but all of these structures I can easily manipulate to meet the client where they are at in their journey. These aren’t “pre-made” programs; they are simply a guide.

For example, say I have a beginner client who is interested in doing her first figure show but has some knee issues going on. I can go into my Beginner Figure template and simply manipulate the lower body movements to suit her needs. Say she also needs to develop more back thickness rather than back width? I can go into the upper days and focus more on horizontal and low rows rather than vertical pulling.

Having templates to start from when you are programming allows you to actually serve the client better! Don’t view templates as negative or lazy. View it as a way to better spend your time on the details and modifications each client needs specifically for them. Creating programming from a completely empty slate is not only inefficient but when you do so you then don’t have the time for the details. Use templates so you have time to be specific and creative.

Also, having structure allows me to take on more clients in a short period of time. I never want to be in a place where I have to turn people away because I am behind or can’t keep up. Make organization a priority here.

2. Manage communication with your clients.

So this is where I can definitely speak since I royally screwed up this up when I started. I actually over-communicated with clients in the beginning. What I mean is, I encouraged them to reach out whenever they needed via call, text, you name it, 24/7. Big mistakes with good intentions. I would be away from my phone for two hours and come back and literally have 60 unread text messages. That is not even an exaggeration! I think I actually broke down and cried a little.

You must—I repeat, you must—set boundaries with your clients when it comes to communication, or you will drown. I would get texts upon texts at all hours of the day. I would get phone calls at 10 PM. It was mayhem! Not only was that super stressful for me, but it also wasn’t benefiting the client long term. Having pieces of information or dialogue in a million different places is a recipe for disaster. It was at that breaking point where I implemented email only communication with all clients. I have some wiggle room if a client is a few weeks out from a show, but other than that it is email only, 100%.


MORE: Steps Toward Success: Your First Year as a Personal Trainer


What sucked about this transition is that I actually got some push back from some clients when I did this. They were so used to me being at their disposal all day, every day, that switching to a more structured communication style pissed them off (even though I check my email about ten times a day). So, I highly recommend having strict communication boundaries right from the beginning so you can avoid that mess.

There are so many pieces to starting an online training business, and I honestly feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I have learned so much from great mentors, personal experience, and screwing up. However, as I move through this process, I doubt this will be the last article on this topic. I am excited to share more about my journey with all of you.

To wrap this piece up, simply figure out why you want to do online training and what is important to you, define your target audience, and learn how to manage your time. If you accomplish those small tasks you will at least be headed in the right direction.

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