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  1. #1
    Strength Coach jonmd123's Avatar
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    Growing Your Fitness/Personal Training Business

    Hey everyone! It's been a while since I have been active on here.

    I wanted to put together a thread and share some knowledge on running a fitness business, while also learning from other pros on this forum. I'm hoping this can stay productive and avoid turning into a pissing match between everyone.

    I would like to keep this broad and include topic such as:
    - Marketing
    - Business and training systems
    - Time management
    - Psychology
    - Anything else relevant to running a business

    My background is more on the sports performance end of things. I started as a strength and conditioning coach for a couple years before starting my own business. I was too dumb/stubborn to work for a big box gym for a few years and build up my clientele. Instead, I moved to a new city with no money and no connections, and started from scratch. With no money, I went the gorilla marketing route by hanging flyers, stopping into businesses, and posting ads on Craigslist. When I was lucky enough to find a client, I would bring them to a gym, where I would pay the owner hourly to rent out their space. Eventually, I worked my way up to opening my own facility a few years ago. Currently, my focus is to continue adding members with the plan to expand into a larger facility in the next 12-18 months.

    Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Everyone else is welcome to chime in as well. My hope is that this can turn into a great resource for all trainers/coaches, whether you are just starting out or have been in business for 10+ years.
    Last edited by jonmd123; 08-07-2018 at 01:11 PM.
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  2. #2
    Registered User bluebarbell's Avatar
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    Glad you have gradually moved up in the biz. How much money did you need to open your own gym?
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  3. #3
    Strength Coach jonmd123's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bluebarbell View Post
    Glad you have gradually moved up in the biz. How much money did you need to open your own gym?
    Relatively, not much. Being that we are a free weights gym, I avoided having to pay for expensive machines. It was 1-2 years in the making, so I purchased equipment here and there when there was a good online sale, and I was lucky enough to be able to store it with a family member until I could secure a lease for a facility. With flooring and office furniture added in, we were right around $60k to start up.

    The mistake I made was putting all my money in to equipment and a lease and thinking clients were going to immediately start flooding in to pay for everything. Things were definitely tight the first year and if anything major would of came up, I would of problem went broke. You would want to keep, at a minimum, 3 months' worth of expenses saved up. 6 months would probably be safer.
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  4. #4
    Registered User TerenceBez's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by jonmd123 View Post
    Relatively, not much. Being that we are a free weights gym, I avoided having to pay for expensive machines. It was 1-2 years in the making, so I purchased equipment here and there when there was a good online sale, and I was lucky enough to be able to store it with a family member until I could secure a lease for a facility. With flooring and office furniture added in, we were right around $60k to start up.

    The mistake I made was putting all my money in to equipment and a lease and thinking clients were going to immediately start flooding in to pay for everything. Things were definitely tight the first year and if anything major would of came up, I would of problem went broke. You would want to keep, at a minimum, 3 months' worth of expenses saved up. 6 months would probably be safer.
    Awesome topic of discussion. 34 years old, I done my Athlete nutrition certification last year and then recently passed my certification in Exercise Science a few months ago. I initially decided to study just to better my training for myself as an athlete (runner, crossfitter, obstacle course racing and mountain biking and most recently calisthenics) with doing my practical hours with a personal trainer, I kind of enjoyed the 'teaching' side of things so im considering doing some personal training from home after hours and weekends. I have a fulltime job in health risk management which I wont just leave, I enjoy what I do.

    So start up costs for me are almost zero as I have a full gym at home which we have stocked with equipment over the past few years, not full on commercial equipment but we have barbells, dumbells, kettlebells etc, bench, squat rack, pull up bars, rings etc. Loads of functional fitness equipment like med balls, slam balls, big tyres etc. Cardio equipment we have 2 airdynes, a rower, treadmill and stationary bike. That should be enough equipment to start small.

    My main focus will be functional movement and general healthier lifestyle changes. Small 'crossfit' style functional fitness classes. My main target group will be people who are new to training, just to get them moving better and give them the tools to live a better and healthier life.
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  5. #5
    Strength Coach jonmd123's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by TerenceBez View Post
    Awesome topic of discussion. 34 years old, I done my Athlete nutrition certification last year and then recently passed my certification in Exercise Science a few months ago. I initially decided to study just to better my training for myself as an athlete (runner, crossfitter, obstacle course racing and mountain biking and most recently calisthenics) with doing my practical hours with a personal trainer, I kind of enjoyed the 'teaching' side of things so im considering doing some personal training from home after hours and weekends. I have a fulltime job in health risk management which I wont just leave, I enjoy what I do.

    So start up costs for me are almost zero as I have a full gym at home which we have stocked with equipment over the past few years, not full on commercial equipment but we have barbells, dumbells, kettlebells etc, bench, squat rack, pull up bars, rings etc. Loads of functional fitness equipment like med balls, slam balls, big tyres etc. Cardio equipment we have 2 airdynes, a rower, treadmill and stationary bike. That should be enough equipment to start small.

    My main focus will be functional movement and general healthier lifestyle changes. Small 'crossfit' style functional fitness classes. My main target group will be people who are new to training, just to get them moving better and give them the tools to live a better and healthier life.
    Awesome! Good luck. Be sure to check on the laws in your country and with your insurance about running a gym out of your house.
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  6. #6
    Registered User TerenceBez's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by jonmd123 View Post
    Awesome! Good luck. Be sure to check on the laws in your country and with your insurance about running a gym out of your house.
    Will definitely do so. Thanks.
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  7. #7
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    Here's a little Tuesday Tip for young trainer. Take half an hour at the beginning of the week and schedule out your to-do list on your calendar. I'm sure most of you write down the stuff you need to get done each week, but I'm guessing not many of you actually put them down on the calendar. It may look something like:

    7:00am - Mark 1on1 session
    8:00am - Susan 1on1 session
    9:30am - Workout (leg day)
    11:00am - Lunch
    12:00n - Marketing - hand out flyers
    1:00pm - Update website
    2:00pm - *BREAK*
    2:30pm - Read research journal
    etc.
    etc.

    You'll be amazed at how much more productive you are when you focus on one thing at a time.
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  8. #8
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    I’m exactly where you were. Moved to a new town, sick of working for commercial gyms, little money, renting out a place hourly (like just started last week). It took me what seemed like forever just to get my name out enough to have an offer to do that. What are the steps you took from that point, to being able to afford a gym?
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  9. #9
    Strength Coach jonmd123's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by ShawnDon5 View Post
    I’m exactly where you were. Moved to a new town, sick of working for commercial gyms, little money, renting out a place hourly (like just started last week). It took me what seemed like forever just to get my name out enough to have an offer to do that. What are the steps you took from that point, to being able to afford a gym?
    1. This should be a given, but make sure you're doing a good job with your current clients.
    2. Ask for referrals. If you're doing a good job, your current clients should be more than happy to tell their friends about you. They might not have clients to hand over to you, but maybe they know someone that works at that local business you're trying to get in with.
    3. Create content. I don't have any numbers on this, but all I know is when I write more and do more videos, I get more emails. When I slow down, so do the emails. The nice thing is once you create a piece of content, you have that forever, so it's a really good return on your investment of time.
    4. Run your numbers. Figure out how much your expenses will be and how much you'll need to generate to stay afloat...then add 133% to your expenses, that's how much you'll actually need to break even.
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  10. #10
    husband, father, trainer KyleAaron's Avatar
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    Good advice from Jon. I would add: always be talking to people, and have a niche.

    Message former clients and ask how they're doing. Once they reply and ask how you are, tell them you've moved to a new town and set up a new business. You'll be surprised how often it turns out your former client moved towns too, or knows somebody in the new town. In the last month I had a client from 2012 who is now interstate sign up for distance training, and a guy show up to check us out after being referred by a client I had in 2014. In both cases, I'd talked to the former client in the last few months. Stay in touch.

    Be generally social. My hobby is roleplaying games, I do that once a week. Over the years I've had several gamers ask me for training. These are guys who spend a lot of time sitting on their arses and eating junk food, they're about as far as you can get from athletic and still be ambulant. I don't talk about training at game sessions, I only mention it if someone asks what I do for a living. And I specifically say I game as a break from work, which doesn't exactly invite discussion and a sales pitch. But they still regularly ask to come train. So get a hobby and just have a normal social life, and by being generally social without actually trying to sell, people will ask to come train with you.

    Have a niche. "Weight loss" is not a niche because everyone does it. "Stay at home mums who want to run a marathon" is a niche, even though really they don't care about marathons, they care about some time to themselves, a sense of accomplishment, and leaning out. "Amputees" is a niche. "Older trainees" is a niche. "High school wrestlers" is a niche. And so on. Whatever your niche is, promote the fck out of it and let everyone know. If you don't have a niche, don't worry, give it time and a niche will choose you.

    Often the mentality of trainers is looking for One Big Thing that'll give them all their clients. It's actually several small things. People you've trained before, people you know socially, people who see your advertising, people who are in your particular niche, and so on.

    Remember that we're not talking about zillions of people here. If you only train people 1:1 then you need at most 20 clients to make a living. If it's small group or bootcamps, 30-40, or 50 tops. So just 3-4 enquiries a month turning into 1-2 clients makes for slow and steady growth, and 2-3 clients makes for rapid growth.

    Now if you have a big gym then things are different. But for the small business PT, it's not zillions of people needed.
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  11. #11
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    Anyone with marketing questions? I'd love to get a conversation going, to hopefully help everyone out (including myself).
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    Sure. Anyone got FB/IG stuff to work for them in getting new clients? The consensus from trainers I've talked to is that it just gets tyre-kickers - but maybe we just don't know how to do it properly.
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    Originally Posted by KyleAaron View Post
    Sure. Anyone got FB/IG stuff to work for them in getting new clients? The consensus from trainers I've talked to is that it just gets tyre-kickers - but maybe we just don't know how to do it properly.
    I try to stay as active on both as I can. I could do a lot better, though. It's hard to quantify exactly how well it works for me, but I do generate a large majority of my clients through my website. They say it takes something like 15 exposures to a brand before someone buys. What exactly prompts a person to call/email me? I don't always know. Was it a Facebook post? A video on IG? Driving by my sign outside the gym? Regardless, if you have the time to do it, the wider the reach, the better.

    To be successful, I think your social media needs to fit your brand. Are you more of a positive cheerleader type? More of an educator? Do people pay you to train because you look good in tight pants? I've branded my gym to be results focused, not gimmicky, with attention to detail. Most of my posts are informational and straight to the point. I don't do much to fire people up. I try and stay away from being controversial or hyperbolic. Most of the gyms/trainers in my area post inspirational things or videos of them squatting in their underwear. It works for them, but not our style.

    My general strategy would be this:

    1. Inform, educate, inspire with a majority of your content. This would be based on your target market. What does a 35-55 female that wants to lose 10lb want to see (insert your target market)?
    2. Everyone 4-5 posts you can ask for a sale. Focus on benefits not features. How is losing 10lb going to make them look or feel?
    3. Interact as much as possible. Asks questions. Respond to comments.
    4. Don't post just to post. Posting once a week with good content is better than ****ty content everyday.

    Aside from the organic stuff, we also spend a fair amount on Facebook ads (haven't had any success with IG). I think most people make the mistake of not committing to it. Spending $10/month is not going to get you anywhere these days. Figure out how much a client is worth to you (find what an average client pays you a month X how many months an average client stays with you). For us it's about $3,000. So, realistically, I would be willing to pay over $1,000/client. If I told you last month I spent $1,000 on Facebook and only got 1 client out of it, you'd probably think I wasted a ton of money. In reality, that's a 300% ROI for us. Obviously, overhead increases slightly with each new client, but not drastically.
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  14. #14
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    Hi Jon! Thanks for making this thread. I wanted to chime in a bit as well. My background is more business oriented and I wanted to contribute on the business side of things for PT's. I wrote up a small overview on Sales & Marketing for PT's with a little section FB Advertising as well.
    _______________________

    Just like how getting in shape is a mixture of setting goals, working out (properly) and establishing a proper diet with discipline and consistency. Sales & Marketing is the exact same thing. Do not expect to spend a week or even a month on the sales & marketing portion and expect clients to flood your doors. I’ve found that PT is an incredibly volatile field to work in. One month you could have a full roster and the next month 5 people left you and your revenue instantly gets cut in half. If you have a dedicated process to sales & marketing you can reduce the damage of lost clients by having an established routine that brings in a predictable amount of clients per month.

    Step 1 - Isolating your target client & Figuring out their pain points

    Before you get started with anything you have to figure out your target client and determine what their pain points are. For example, you might be targeting females, who just gave birth and are looking to lose the baby weight. Or engaged females looking to get in shape before marriage. Then you will directly curate your advertising message to those people and solve their pain. Everything from your call to action, your graphics, testimonials, verbiage should all be dedicated to that target. You also don’t have to target just one (although it’s good to start off with one and then branch out afterwards)

    Step 2 - Marketing Techniques and Tactics

    If you’re serious at all in building a PT business you need to have a dedicated budget to marketing. All businesses have one, you are no different. Sure, you can get away with getting a few close friends here and there, but if you are serious about building out a brand with long term benefits, set aside a few dollars to marketing.

    Types of Marketing

    There are two main types of marketing categories - Digital & Traditional.

    Digital consists majority of your online tactics such as: Social Media, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Email, Affiliate, Banner ads etc

    Traditional consists majority of your offline tactics such as: Radio, TV and Print advertisements

    Although in this day and age, digital is clearly the most effective. Do not underestimate the power of traditional advertising, especially if you are advertising locally.

    I could realistically take make a full write-up about everything discussed above. But you don’t have time for that and I definitely don’t either.

    For now I will focus on the thing that will provide you with the most bang for your buck and is the thing that’s seems to be the most trendy. ~~ Facebook Ads ~~ I will touch on other marketing methods later as well.

    Facebook Advertising

    As stated above, you need to have an adequate marketing budget. Give or take $100-$200 a week for the first little while until the FB algorithm does the heavy lifting for you. A full roster for most people is around 10-15 people. So it’s not like you need 100’s of leads coming in per month. About 10 leads should do you just fine and with a properly outlined sales process you can increase your close rate to close between 10-50% people or (1-5 people a month).

    I’m going to write up a full article on this as it’s definitely deserving of it. But I will outline the basics here in a few simple steps:

    Facebook advertising is broken up into three main sections:

    Campaigns
    Ad Sets
    Ads



    Campaign
    The campaign is where you determine your objective. There are three main ways you can create your objective:

    Awareness
    Brand Awareness
    Reach

    Consideration
    Traffic
    Engagement
    App Installs
    Video Views
    Lead Generation
    Messages

    Conversion
    Conversions
    Catalog Sales
    Store Visits

    This selection tells Facebook what your goal is for the campaign.

    The objective specific for you will most likely be lead generation. As in, people will fill out a form that you create. Provide you their information and you will then contact them. These are what are referred to as warm leads. Warm leads are people that message you for your service. Whereas cold leads are the strangers you personally have to reach out to (cold calling, cold emails & cold approaches). Warm leads are easier to convert than cold leads.

    Ad Set
    The ad set is made up of:

    Audience Selection

    This is where you input the information for your target audience.

    For example:
    Sex: Females
    Age: 25-30
    Location: Toronto, Canada
    Demographic: New Parents 0-12 months


    Ad Placement
    This is where you want your ad to physically be in FB’s ecosystem
    Facebook
    Instagram
    Messenger
    etc

    Budget & Schedule
    The amount of money you will spend and the timing schedule of your ads.


    Ad
    This is the section where you create your actual ad. Your message, call to action, picture, video, etc.

    If you are doing lead generation, this is also where you create your Lead Form.

    There is tons more information on FB ads that I’ll go through. But this post is long already and I haven’t even gone through sales as yet. Bottom line, a good FB ad has good targeting and good message and has gone through enough testing (a/b testing) to determine the best ad for your purposes and objectives.

    Once you have mastered your FB ad, you will have a marketing machine working for you that will bring you in highly targeted leads at the click of a button. If your ad costs $5 a lead and you need 10 leads to close 1 person. You made your money back in multiples and this is a very low estimate.

    Step 3 - Sales

    Okay, you’ve created an awesome FB ad, along with other marketing materials to bring in your desired amount of leads you want.

    Sales is all about the conversion rate. How many people talk to you and how many people do you close? AKA how many people give you their money in return for your service.

    The beautiful thing about sales is that closing more people automatically boosts your monthly revenue. If you get 10 leads and close 3 instead of 1. You’re automatically multiplying your revenue by 3 without having to spend any additional money.

    How do you get better at sales you ask? You have to develop a process and then tweak to optimize it.

    An example sales process would be:

    Inquiry get sent to you
    Email them back
    Book a phone call
    Book a meeting/consultation
    Close the sale

    These five steps seem simple, but what are you doing during those 5 steps? Some things to consider.

    How fast are you replying to inquiries?
    Does the hard sell work better? Or the relationship/friendly sell work better?
    What are you emailing them?
    Should you just call them right away instead of emailing them?
    Do you immediately book the consultation or do you walk them through your program when communication?
    What do you do during your consultation?
    Do you just walk them through a workout?
    Do you outline a workout program for them during the consultation and then do a sample workout?
    How do you interact with your customer?
    Can you improve on anything during that interaction?
    Etc. etc. I can go on and on.

    The point is to develop a baseline process and make it better. Just like when you workout with a new client. You develop a basic workout and diet plan and tweak based on their needs.
    There is tons more information and detail I will go into on future posts. But this post is long already and a good start for the basics.

    Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
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    This is a great thread!
    I had a similar situation, I pcked and moved from Michigan to Texas where I knew absolutely no one and didn't really want to go back to training in a commercial gym down here.

    I started in home personal training with $100 of start up equipment that would fit in the back of my car (bands, dumbbells, ropes, mats). Used social media (facebook, nextdoor, Instagram ect.) to build up my clientele. Didn't take me long before I was almost completely booked Monday-Friday 5am-7pm with my breaks being between 12p-3p daily.
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    For in home trainers here, do you give your self distance time limit to driving to your client?

    I always go 10-15 minutes tops.And try to keep it local
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    Even though it seems that you were forced into a specific business model, I'd like to commend you for making the most of what you have. It seems that you've got a lot figured out, and I really appreciate that you're taking the time to seek more wisdom. More power to you, no wonder you've been inactive — you been busy! And that's NEVER bad thing
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    interesting read

    Originally Posted by jonmd123 View Post
    Hey everyone! It's been a while since I have been active on here.

    I wanted to put together a thread and share some knowledge on running a fitness business, while also learning from other pros on this forum. I'm hoping this can stay productive and avoid turning into a pissing match between everyone.

    I would like to keep this broad and include topic such as:
    - Marketing
    - Business and training systems
    - Time management
    - Psychology
    - Anything else relevant to running a business

    My background is more on the sports performance end of things. I started as a strength and conditioning coach for a couple years before starting my own business. I was too dumb/stubborn to work for a big box gym for a few years and build up my clientele. Instead, I moved to a new city with no money and no connections, and started from scratch. With no money, I went the gorilla marketing route by hanging flyers, stopping into businesses, and posting ads on Craigslist. When I was lucky enough to find a client, I would bring them to a gym, where I would pay the owner hourly to rent out their space. Eventually, I worked my way up to opening my own facility a few years ago. Currently, my focus is to continue adding members with the plan to expand into a larger facility in the next 12-18 months.

    Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Everyone else is welcome to chime in as well. My hope is that this can turn into a great resource for all trainers/coaches, whether you are just starting out or have been in business for 10+ years.
    Amazing advice, Jon! I love your main focus with the personal training info.
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    Great share!
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    Hate it or love it, January is just around the corner, and with it comes a new flood of potential clients. What is everyone doing to capitalize on this, so these newbies workout with you and not with someone at Globo Gym down the street?
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    Originally Posted by jonmd123 View Post
    Hate it or love it, January is just around the corner, and with it comes a new flood of potential clients. What is everyone doing to capitalize on this, so these newbies workout with you and not with someone at Globo Gym down the street?
    Tbh I wish I knew. Im still on the end of learning how to market myself.

    I had just moved to a new area and while Ive been tempted to apply at these globo gyms, my gut tells me no otherwise.

    What do you suggest to capitalizing on January clients? Ads? Social media as usual?
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    Originally Posted by Manletbolic View Post
    Tbh I wish I knew. Im still on the end of learning how to market myself.

    I had just moved to a new area and while Ive been tempted to apply at these globo gyms, my gut tells me no otherwise.

    What do you suggest to capitalizing on January clients? Ads? Social media as usual?
    Depends on your situation. If you're working at a chain gym, your hands are pretty tied. If you're independent/own a facility/do in-home, I would spend the entire month of December doing everything I could to get in front of people - videos on Facebook/IG with helpful information, networking events, introducing yourself to area businesses, etc. That way when they wake up 1/1/19 and start thinking about their fitness goals, hopefully, you'll be the first person that pops into their head.

    My area is pretty saturated with "free 8-week challenge" type of gyms, so we try to position ourselves as the end of spectrum to differentiate a little. We'll do a bunch of free content online and offer a free or low priced goal setting workshop right after the new year. Then hit them with our fairly expensive 8-week program during the middle of the month.

    If you have the resources, I would spend everything I could on Facebook ads. It's not as easy as it once was, but still very profitable.
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    Originally Posted by jonmd123 View Post
    Depends on your situation. If you're working at a chain gym, your hands are pretty tied. If you're independent/own a facility/do in-home, I would spend the entire month of December doing everything I could to get in front of people - videos on Facebook/IG with helpful information, networking events, introducing yourself to area businesses, etc. That way when they wake up 1/1/19 and start thinking about their fitness goals, hopefully, you'll be the first person that pops into their head.

    My area is pretty saturated with "free 8-week challenge" type of gyms, so we try to position ourselves as the end of spectrum to differentiate a little. We'll do a bunch of free content online and offer a free or low priced goal setting workshop right after the new year. Then hit them with our fairly expensive 8-week program during the middle of the month.

    If you have the resources, I would spend everything I could on Facebook ads. It's not as easy as it once was, but still very profitable.
    awesome advice, thanks jon!
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    Originally Posted by KyleAaron View Post
    Good advice from Jon. I would add: always be talking to people, and have a niche.

    Message former clients and ask how they're doing. Once they reply and ask how you are, tell them you've moved to a new town and set up a new business. You'll be surprised how often it turns out your former client moved towns too, or knows somebody in the new town. In the last month I had a client from 2012 who is now interstate sign up for distance training, and a guy show up to check us out after being referred by a client I had in 2014. In both cases, I'd talked to the former client in the last few months. Stay in touch.

    Be generally social. My hobby is roleplaying games, I do that once a week. Over the years I've had several gamers ask me for training. These are guys who spend a lot of time sitting on their arses and eating junk food, they're about as far as you can get from athletic and still be ambulant. I don't talk about training at game sessions, I only mention it if someone asks what I do for a living. And I specifically say I game as a break from work, which doesn't exactly invite discussion and a sales pitch. But they still regularly ask to come train. So get a hobby and just have a normal social life, and by being generally social without actually trying to sell, people will ask to come train with you.

    Have a niche. "Weight loss" is not a niche because everyone does it. "Stay at home mums who want to run a marathon" is a niche, even though really they don't care about marathons, they care about some time to themselves, a sense of accomplishment, and leaning out. "Amputees" is a niche. "Older trainees" is a niche. "High school wrestlers" is a niche. And so on. Whatever your niche is, promote the fck out of it and let everyone know. If you don't have a niche, don't worry, give it time and a niche will choose you.

    Often the mentality of trainers is looking for One Big Thing that'll give them all their clients. It's actually several small things. People you've trained before, people you know socially, people who see your advertising, people who are in your particular niche, and so on.

    Remember that we're not talking about zillions of people here. If you only train people 1:1 then you need at most 20 clients to make a living. If it's small group or bootcamps, 30-40, or 50 tops. So just 3-4 enquiries a month turning into 1-2 clients makes for slow and steady growth, and 2-3 clients makes for rapid growth.

    Now if you have a big gym then things are different. But for the small business PT, it's not zillions of people needed.
    YES to the niche aspect. This is imperative for running a successful business!
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    have your tried seo?
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    Corporate accounts. Without them, you will not make a lot of money. Handing out fliers is not a marketing strategy. In fact, it is a waste of time. Go out, meet with local businesses. Have them pay for a wellness program for their employees. You need to think bigger.
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