How to make money in fitness
If you want to make money you need a certain mindset in any trade. Presenting yourself, choosing the right words at the right time, being comfortable in public and broadening your network are just a few of the skills which not just apply to fitness, but to be good at a job in any industry. After reading a couple of articles and listening to podcasts on how people become successful in the fitness industry some patterns emerged.
If you are just in it for the money or the fame you will not last long. There will be good times, hard times, steady rejection and always someone else who looks better than you is younger than you or just invented the newest gadgets. A thought process which is entirely focused on spinning money gets you clients one time for a nickel but not a long time for a big share of their wallet. After reading and listening I found the following common trades between very successful fitness moguls
- Keen interest in the human body
- Want to test their own limits
- Enjoy passing on their knowledge
- Are competitive
- Are ambitious
- Are studious
- Are life-long learners
- Challenge their own beliefs
- Reinvent themselves
- Track their progress
Being successful start with having a keen interest in the human body and how to shape it in a certain way. Be it bodybuilding, Crossfit, Powerlifting or any other sport the most successful by minute attention to detail to every part of the body in motion. They will do the same movement thousands of times, observe themselves and take notes about what impacts it most.
In addition, the individuals I came across are not satisfied with the status quo and keen to test their own limits and get out of their comfort zone. They challenge their bodies and minds by trying movements they have never done before, starting anew in a different country and focus on what is necessary to become the best.
Most of the seasoned guys also actively pass on their knowledge in seminars, podcasts, on venues and to other competitors. The greatest one gives back to the community that brought them to the top and helps them earn a living. This ensures that the industry and their fans keep on feeding them. Most people who do not share their knowledge do not last for long or are not very successful from a financial point of view.
The best also learn continuously and read everything they can about fitness and how to go about it. A common denominator between the greatest is that they eat up all the information around their chosen sport out of magazines, documentaries, books and from different disciplines of sports. Curiosity is the trade that comes to mind on a life long journey.
You also can not be a competitive athlete forever. At some stage, you have to reinvent yourself and diversify into a gym, product line, coaching profession or another job you pick. You have to evolve and read the signs before getting stuck in your old routines and becoming irrelevant.
Some podcasts to tap into the minds of great athletes and coaches:
- Maximising Strength, Improving Mindset, and Becoming the World’s Fittest Man – Jason Khalipa
- Dorian Yates on High-Intensity Training, Injury Prevention, and Building Maximum Muscle
- The Lion of Olympic Weightlifting, 62-Year-Old Jerzy Gregorek (Also Featuring: Naval Ravikant)
- Charles Poliquin on Strength Training, Shredding Body Fat, and Increasing Testosterone and Sex Drive
- Pavel Tsatsouline on the Tim Ferriss podcast
If you want to make it in the fitness you also need to know some basics about sales. You need to how to
- Build a mailing list
- Put the knowledge about your clients in some kind of CRM
- Follow up with people
- Asking the right questions
- Using the right words
- Shake as many hands as possible and know everyone's names
These are all skills with which you will advance. Only being the best trainer that money can buy is not enough if you can not find the people who need your services and products and make them want what you have.
A good rule of thumb in sales to contact at least one person a day who you do not know. This ensures that the circle of people you influence is constantly growing. Keep a record of all of your conversations in Evernote or a free CRM so that you constantly learn and improve your communication. Remind yourself in regular intervals to keep in touch with people. Depending on how valuable they are to your income you contact on a quarterly, monthly, weekly or maybe even daily basis (for example rehab clients who recover from severe injury).
To ask the right questions the following model can help you to get the most out of each discussion:
- What is your goal?
- What is your plan?
- What are your challenges?
- By when do you want to achieve this goal?
This will make it easier for you to position yourself as a trusted advisor to your clients and move from "drill instructor" who shows the same movements over and over again to the person who helps your customer to create a better version of themselves and reach their goals. That usually also pays better.
If you are faced with objections you can use the following model:
- Clarify (What, Who, Where, When, How, Why)
- Emphasise (I understand that your current size might lead you to believe that you are not attractive and I have seen it in many who could help by...)
- Inform when there is missing information / a misunderstanding
- Prioritise if it is a clear disadvantage and evaluate how important it is to the client in the bigger picture
- Resolve with a commitment from the client to move on
I personally have been in sales for more than ten years. Contact me via the about us page, if you have any questions.
The most important thing in sales is to believe that you can change their lives. Otherwise, no one will buy from you.
When you want to be very successful you will need to build your personal brand and maybe even an entire company. There you have to know the basics of influencing through marketing such as
- Which colours convey which emotions
- How do you define your target group
- How do you analyse potential markets
- How do you assess the competition
- Product, Price, Promotion, Place
- Online marketing and how to build a following
Regarding colours here is a guideline for you when you want to build your own brand and take care of what you wear to the gym or even design your own logo at some stage:
- Red: Associated with sexuality, lust and appetite
- Blue: Calming, reassuring, pleasant, relaxing
- Yellow: Least liked primary colour
- Green: Gentle, peaceful, calming
- Black: Sophistication, Death, wealth, prosperity
When you are trying to establish your target group within a gym or a product think about
- How people make decisions
- What kind of personality traits does your target group have
- Which cultural quirks do you have to think about
- What are the differences between genders, which won are you targeting specifically
Do not go into chasing your dream of making money in fitness blindly. Read up and plan before you give up your day job. Good books to read on marketing to understand better:
If you want to be successful at anything you have to build on your writing skills. Books and E-books are just two components of multiple which can open up additional revenue streams for you, as making money on platforms like Fiverr or writing for fitness magazines.
If you want to build a successful company you will have to write
- Job descriptions
- Annual reports
- Invitations to events
The list never ends. Writing also helps you to process what you learn better to become a better coach. Better coaches have a bigger impact on their client's success and will therefore by employed longer at a higher fee. The easiest and best way to hone your own writing skills is to start a blog. There you can find your voice, build a mailing list and link to others without having to invest too much. Wordpress is a start. Here is some material which helps me on a daily basis to become a better writer
- Compounding blog posts, the best way to grow your traffic
- Answer the public to write about the questions which matter for a topic
- Coschedule Headline analyser and How to write headlines that drive traffic
Long term money is not being made by how good you look as your looks will fade. It is about how many people you can coach to look good which is a bog difference.To coach someone to change their life you have to understand:
- How to give instructions
- Leading by example
- Work / Life Balance
You will no only have to deal with the programming and dieting but even more so with the distractors which keep your clients from achieving their ultimate goal. You need the knowledge and wisdom what to say when to have the most impact. Zou will have to read your clients and what they are most receptive to.
Do they need a proper kick up the rear?
Do they need a shoulder to cry on?
Do they just want to vent their anger with you?
While staying professional and calm at all times.
You can not be an expert on everything at all times. Pick a field in which you will be the best and the clients will come if you are really that good. Pick a demographic, topic or approach nobody else has. Be memorable and have a distinct voice. If you follow the crowd nobody will give a damn.
Build respectful relationships
There are many marketing techniques, especially in online marketing, which can be used to build a followership rapidly. This usually comes at a cost. Some of these techniques are
- Follow for follows
- Criticising people publically
- Being provocative
- Being confrontational
- Unsolicited reach outs
If you look at the profiles of very successful people in the fitness industry you will see that they build entire systems around themselves to protect their time, money and staff from these time sucking activities which do not add any value to their day. Building a readership and followers organically is hard work, which most people avoid like the plague. Also looking pretty on Instagram will get you attention, but not necessarily the type of attention you need to build proper relationships for the future. All of the techniques mentioned above put your selfishness at the centre of the interaction and not delivering a good service to the person at the receiving end. Cheap and angry begets cheap and angry.
Also, keep in touch with your base and make sure that you answer requests in person and individually wherever you can. Show interest in people and do not address your client base as a whole like you are God and they are the minions. Value respect over profit to stay in the game for the long run.
Last but not east, once you made it, help others by giving
- Constructive Criticism on their website, videos and writing
- Getting them in touch with editors
- Help them get guest posts on blogs
- Share their content
- Kepp them in the game rather than stifling them
You never know when the industry will get disrupted and all of you will have to rebuild and rethink. In these times of change, people will remember who helped them and return the favour. There is nothing worse than to be isolated when you need help. Been there, done that.
Ways of making money in fitness
Based on what you want to be and how you form your personal skills you can choose which way you want to make money in the fitness industry. There are many ways which all have their pros and cons. The most lucrative and risky ways of making money are to become independent and define your own prices.
Work in a gym
You can work in a gym to gain experience and hone your coaching skills. This is probably one of the easiest ways of generating income and getting by when you start out in the industry. Especially if you do not come in from a different background in sales and marketing but chose to enter the fitness industry right from the start this is most likely where you start. The pros of working in a gym are
- Secured paycheck at the end of the week/month
- Depending on contract, health coverage, social security, holidays
- Diverse client base with different needs
- Equipment and floor space to do training is provided
- Less cost for you to gain experience in coaching people
- They have training programs
- You are protected from liability
The drawbacks of working in a gym are
- Set prices
- Set packages
- Set rules by contract
- You can not pick the clients you work with
- You can not pick the coworkers you work with
- You can not pick your work hours
All in all, unless you are lucky enough to land a job in a ver high-end establishment, which is hard, working in a gym does not pay that well. You are making someone else's dream come true and you might disagree with the methods they use, the quality standards and the people they serve. It is good advice when you start to suck these things up and gain experience. Be a constant learner and get the maximum out of your time in your gym.
Teach as many classes as you can, meet as many gym members as you can, be seen to keep yourself in shape by being the first in and last out every day and you are setting yourself up for success to either go up to manage the entire facility, a department or learn to start your own thing.
If you like this structured life without having to risk too much, this might even be the better gig for you. It just very unlikely that you will get rich by doing this, if that is the goal, or help as many people as possible, as this model does not scale.
Apart from working in a chain of a big fitness conglomerate, you can also work for private facilities. Private facilities are usually owned by fitness entrepreneurs who were bale to conquer a certain niche within the market with excellent service. Charles Poliquin, Eric Cressey and Jason Khalipa would be examples of this spirit in which one person build a little empire around themselves. In this scenario, you will most likely work as an intern in one of these facilities, if you can make it in. The programs are highly competitive as it is the holy grail for many personal trainers to have worked under these prominent names and have it on their CVs. If you want to go down the route of becoming independent and doing your own thing trying to get into a private facility is a good bet. You will get to observe people who build their own thing and learn from them. Some of the establishments you might want to look at:
Being self-employed usually pays better dividends than working in a gym or doing a free internship long term. The downside of this approach is that it is harder to establish getting paid. While you will take a hit in the first years of your career and expose yourself to a higher risk of failure, the rewards are usually greater when you make it. For this to work it is important that
- You are 110% committed to making it happen
- Play the long game and think in decades
- You are business savvy and like to talk to people and negotiate
- You have a starting capital of 50.000€ to 100.000€ which is your own money
I can not overstress the last point too much. There is this culture out there of pivoting and is it ok to fail, which I think is a bit unrealistic. At some point, people will stop giving you money if you continuously flush it down the toilet. Once that happens you have a problem which will cripple you mentally for life and will be very hard to get out of.
If you are already in debt because of your student loan, work out a plan how you can get out of that with more conventional means while setting yourself up for success during that time to start your own business. Figure out your strength and weaknesses and fitness, analyse the areas around you and make decisions based on what type of life you want to have. Once you have paid your loan or have a promising plan that you have tested which will pay it rapidly by starting your own thing, only then make the leap.
When you become self-employed it is very likely that your business will not make substantial money for the first two to three years. This is usually the time where you build awareness for what you build, make contacts and reach out to people. Especially when you are building your very first business it is unlikely that you will make a rocket start.
The 50.000€ to 100.000€ in the bank is relatively and I can be less for you. Calculate how much money you would need at the bare minimum to have a roof over your head and pay for food for the next three years depending on your own commitment and the family around you. Have that money in the bank as a cushion so that you can fully concentrate on kicking ass to build your empire.
Here are some books to help you on this path
Being a fitness writer for different magazines is another way of making money in the fitness industry. Your fee will highly depend on your level of popularity in the business. Expect to start out at a very low level of 5€ to 50€ a piece. For this, to work it is advisable that you already have something to show for yourself like certifications and other achievements.
The magazines will have to put a little bio beside your picture when you write for them. It looks bad on them if they promote some nobody who has no credentials or experience in the industry. For this, it is not relevant that your content might be better researched, written, presented or in any other way better than by people who have the necessary credentials. The public wants verification that you are an expert in your field. The easiest way to show that is by getting certified in something. Having credentials is a hygiene factor for editors to do business with you. Read up on Hertzberg's two-factor theory to dig deeper on this.
If you are very good and enjoy writing, but do not have the necessary credentials yet, ghostwriting can be an option connect to people who can further your interests, while helping them out by saving time or even making a little money off it. Platforms like Fiverr will give access to many people quicker than ever before to deliver these services to someone.
If you want to turn this into a steady income think about how you can become the fitness and nutrition advisor to a local newspaper and start a column. This might be a nice lifestyle alternative to making money while not having to deal with clients too much in your own gym and running a business.
Another way of making money in the fitness industry is by providing supplements through your own brand. The internet made it a lot easier to outsource the production process to a low-cost country, designing the necessary labels and marketing them in an aggressive fashion. This is a tactic which is being followed especially by younger individuals who look excellent and want others to emulate what they did. You sell the supplement as the secret sauce which drives the change to an excellent physique.
This strategy works, especially when you have an excellent body. The clients you will attract with this will most likely be gullible young men with relatively small wallets. Be prepared that you will have to build an empire which has to constantly market and sell itself out to ever new hordes of adolescents who are aggressive, impatient and price sensitive.
In 2017 I can also see a trend towards supplements being discredited and coming more and more under scrutiny as the industry as highly unregulated.
To make this work find a supplier who provides drop shipping, do some research on the current market and find a niche of supplement which has not been addressed yet, set the price per tub under 100€ and run a design contest at 99designs to build a brand. Enjoy!
If you want the first glimpse into the industry I have compared the two main Whey Protein competitors in the European market.
Your own gym
Your own gym is the way to go if you want to keep things local, are not necessarily interested in building a global brand and you have the necessary certification and insurance under your belt to keep liability risk to a minimum. This means that you are protected in case some idiot breaks his neck in your gym and comes after you to sue you for his/her own stupidity (that is if you run a gym where you do care and take care of people, because then they most certainly did not listen to you, if you did not care about them man up and face the consequences). Things to consider when you open up your own gym
- Investment for floor space
- Investment for equipment
- Income in the area
- Density of gyms in the area
- Lifestyle of the area (fitness aware, fitness unaware)
- Location and Accessibility of your gym
- Local support from groups (Bank, sports clubs, Businesses)
- Availability of skilled labour
Having your own has a big advantage over personal training as it brings in regular recurring revenue. Recurring revenue is the holy grail of building a stable business and this is often overlooked by entrepreneurs in the fitness industry. As a personal trainer, you sell your lifetime by the hour and you have to ask yourself how much each of your life hours is worth to you. You will never get them back. Therefore I would recommend thinking as early as possible about models which go along the lines of Evernote, Netflix and other subscription services you find to build an underbelly of steady income on which you can build other revenue streams like personal coaching on top.
Food for thought from my site when you are planning a gym. I personally go to the gym for strength purposes as I know how to take care of cardiovascular training outdoors myself (see Vienna Marathon, Frankfurt Marathon, Dublin marathon). For this purpose there three gyms in my local area which can be considered. One is a CrossFit box in the next town as there is none in my own town. This would mean a 15-minute drive for me which I am not willing to take so it is off the list. The remaining two gyms are a commercial gym which charges 150€ for three months of membership and a private facility run by an ex-national rugby player for the Team of England who charges 100€ a month. I joined the 150€ option first, as they have everything I need to progress. They lost me as a client as they started to ask me to "deadlift without making noise" which majorly pissed me off. Since then I looked into options and stayed with my current facility as they let me make as much noise as I want, have a reverse hyper which no one else in the area has and the business is run by a guy who actually cares about me. This way they are able to charge double the fee than the other establishment. My income is in the bracket of 100.000€ to 150.000€ a year (not showing off, but it is vital information for this case study). I am a stepdad of two, have a college degree and work in sales.
If you want to look into further case studies of opening your own gym and taking it from there I would recommend looking deeper into the stories of Chris Duffin who is a world record holding powerlifter from the US and Dorian Yates who is a multiple time Mr. Olympia from the UK.
Once you have to build a brand and followership you can put your name more or less on anything and sell it. Things you can sell online are
- Gym equipment
The easiest way to start this are probably E-Books and programs which can be somewhere between 1 to 50€ a pop. Zou can find a good inspiration for this in my opinion in the E-Shop of the Juggernaut method. To sell online you will need to run a website. Therefore make yourself familiar with platforms like
Another way of making money is to become a brand ambassador in a big contract for a supplement company or apparel company. Here it is all about the looks and you have to be young and successful to get a chance of securing such a deal. There are also other forms of getting these deals done, but this is the most likely route. Smaller forms of this are to get free material for your YouTube channel or blog to review, which is more commonplace. In these scenarios, you would proactively reach out to the company and ask them for a free tester of whatever they have to offer. Then you do a review. Be aware that this approach is copied many times and might decrease the value of your brand long term of you whore yourself out for little money in the beginning phases. I would personally recommend building a strong enough brand first so that people come to you and offer their merchandise proactively.
Brandon Campbell fitness and his cooperations with Citadel nutrition and A7 apparel are examples of the lighter forms of cooperation in which you exchange the product for exposure to your followership.
The deals between My Protein and their athletes, especially Simeon Panda is a good example of long-term arrangements in which you will sell yourself exclusively to one brand for a certain amount of time. These arrangements are usually harder to get. Be aware that these contracts come at a price.
The company you sign up with will demand a Return on Investment on this contract and fill up your schedule with photo shoots, handshaking events and still demand that you look your best. The relationship between Panda and MyProtein did not last too long, probably because he wanted to set his own prices and sell his own things based on what I see. Be mindful of these things when you get offered a contract which pays you 50.000€ for working 150 hours a week. If you commit full-time and solely focus your brand it should really make a difference to your goals and bank account.
What I personally respect a lot is what Mark Bell and Layne Norton do with their respective brands. They were smart about getting deals with Rogue and bodybuilding.com to get video series done on products and movements while keeping their own brands intact.
If you have a great physique which is cover worthy you can get into the modelling business. To make this work invest into an agency which will do the leg work of getting you appointments. I have become a big fan of outsourcing my time for these kinds of tasks. While it will look pricey at first the time you will save searching for good opportunities is worth its Dollars in Gold.
To model, you need good teeth, a great body and be willing to take orders from the people at the photo shoot. You are the canvas they paint on and artists do not take it too kindly when the canvas is talking back to them while they are trying to paint. Be prepared to start with low paid local arrangements at your local gym and move your way up from there. If your teeth are bad, consider to get some work done as photoshopping your coffee stained teeth out is the time the people who hire you do not want to invest.
Training is a more common alternative to making money in the fitness industry which is more accessible than modelling and being a brand ambassador as you do not necessarily have to be famous to get into this. You can start when you are working in a local gym as an employee to make some money on the side with very ambitious clients if your contract allows for that. There are several modes you can operate in.
- Personal training
- Group training
- Boot camps
- Assault courses
- Zombie runs
- Hiking and walking trips
- Mini Olympics
- Outdoor calisthenics
- Online training
- Pre-packaged training
Personal training is the classic one. Here you will be able to charge the most per hour depending on who your clients are. Your clients usually accept that if you are paying exclusive attention to them that you charge a premium price. See your pricing in relation to their monthly salary. If your pricing is far off you might be wondering why you are not getting any hours in. If it is too low you are underselling yourself and raising prices afterwards with the same clients is usually hard. In addition, you also might want to think about how many clients you can take on a day at a maximum. The reports i read go along the lines that more than four a day can become really challenging. Be mindful of what you want to earn a month, which other commitments you might have and what your overall lifestyle choices will be.
Group training is another option. While this takes up the same amount of time as personal training you will reach more people and therefore cover more ground especially when you are starting out. Expect the price per person to be a lot under what you can get for personal training as many group training classes can already be gotten for free or online which led to prices dropping. You can use group settings in the local gym you are working for to recruit for your personal training roster. Make sure that the type of group training you offer stands out from the crowd and is something people are not used to already. This will help you to raise your profile as an expert and I have outlined some of the examples I found in my research.
Online training has now become a viable option to run personal training or group coaching from your own home. The advantage is that you do not have to travel to a specific facility or your client's home to do that kind of training which gives you more time to focus on your development or getting more money in in less time. The back draw of this is that certain things can hardly be coached remotely as for examples the finest details of a stretch for correction. It is also likely that you will charge even less for this than for the on-site group training. The very low barrier to entry makes this a very good option for aspiring coached to hone their skills and build their base. The body coach and Bikini Body Mommy are good examples of this approach.
Once you have done enough sessions and recorded some of them in high quality you can also think about selling them in pre-packaged. P90X, Bikini Body Mommies 7 Day surge and other programs like Fitranx are very good examples of this.
Fitness Seminars can be another source of income once you have established yourself as an expert in a certain field. Start with your local schools, church gatherings, venues and markets and move your way up to fitness conventions. The ultimate goal here is to run seminars to teach other coaches to better at getting their clients results. Once you can get paid for this you made it far within the food chain of the fitness industry. Dmitry Klokov is a great example of a professional weightlifter who has gone on to make money out of seminars.
There are several ways to get qualified in the fitness industry from internships to courses to going back to university. This wholly depends on whether you come in from a different profession, learn things from the ground up after school or had a career as an athlete before.
Going back to school
Going back to school is an option if you can afford to lower your income to a certain degree if you already have a job or if you are in your early twenties just after finishing school. This is especially interesting when apart from being a fitness enthusiast you have nothing much to show on your resume yet. A bachelor's degree also helps to get into other jobs for which this is usually a minimum to get into even if you were to change career. This process usually takes two years and please do some research into courses to take and which universities are best for sports science and nutrition.
Internships are good opportunities for people who study or already have a job in the fitness industry to build up their profile and make connections with the right people to advance their career. Again keep time in mind and that you have to get food on the table while you are doing your internships.
There are numerous councils and bodies out there which will certify you as a nutritionist or personal trainer. The time you have to invest to get certified reaches from minutes to send over money to some dubious institution overseas to invest half a year of proper instruction in a classroom or online. Usually, you get what you pay for in terms of respect and learning curve for the program you choose. Choose wisely as I hope you want to be in the game for the long run. Hereby you will find some links to get started:
- American Council on exercise
- National Academy of Sports Medicine
- International Sports Sciences Association
- American College if Sports Medicine
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
There are numerous ways to make money in the fitness industry. The ones with the lowest barrier to enter are the online sources like e-books, online courses and pre-packages programs for which you almost need no qualification whatsoever. If you want to get into personal training and building your own brand as an expert you will have to go further and invest in your education. Same goes for building a constant client base. It is important to think in a lifetime if you enter this business. Beauty will also so long and this job has to feed you and your family for the next 30 - 50 years. Plan accordingly.
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