The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Virtual Fitness Professional in 2020
Starting your virtual fitness business
Navigating the world of business can be a tricky thing. Especially if you’re turning a passion (like fitness) into a business, it can be hard to even know where to begin. We’ve compiled a list of steps you can start taking today to build your virtual fitness business!
Don’t be afraid to call it a business
First things first, if fitness started as a passion or hobby and is morphing into a business for you, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make money off of it. Running a business is never easy, even when you’re doing something you love!
Of course, it's always a plus if you can find a career that you can have fun with, but that doesn’t cancel out all the hard work you put in to make it successful. Creating a business plan, networking, marketing, and taking care of your clients are all major components needed for your business to thrive. These things aren't necessarily “fun,” but they definitely will contribute to the success of your business.
Demand your reward
Keep in mind that you created your business to be able to support yourself. If you don’t charge the appropriate amount for your services, you’ll find yourself overworked and underpaid. That can lead to you feeling resentment towards your business and even your clients, and obviously nobody wants that. You want to enjoy your work and be properly compensated at the same time.
So try to be balanced and charge what you think you deserve, and also don’t let yourself become consumed with the money. If you want to host a charity class or offer discounts here and there, go for it! But never feel obligated to provide your services for free.
Pricing your services might seem a little overwhelming at first so we’ve created this helpful step-by-step guide on how to create your menu of drop-in, class pack and membership pricings.
You don't have to teach every day
Unfortunately, letting your business consume your life can lead to burnout very quickly. Don’t be afraid to take the day off to focus on yourself and not your business. These little breaks will keep you excited and motivated to keep creating new content for your clients when you are on the clock!
Going hand in hand with the last point, you have to let yourself wind down and separate yourself from your business. We know how it is when you’re seen as the fitness expert among your friends and family, so they may take every opportunity they can to ask you about workouts, diets, and tips. But don’t be afraid to tell them it's your day off! When you’re trying to take a break and enjoy yourself, don’t feel bad for drawing the line.
Keep educating yourself
If you run a business now, you’re in it for the long haul. This means you have to continuously educate yourself on what’s new in the fitness world. If your client asks you about a new workout or health trend, you don’t want to be stuck and not know what to say!
At the same time, it can be easy to become overly obsessed with new trends. So find a healthy balance where you’re staying informed and still having fun and taking the time to be attentive to your clients!
Which platforms you need to run your virtual fitness business
Before we get into which platform to use, it’s important to understand that this is probably the LEAST important section of this guide.
There are plenty of tools out there, and if you follow the strategies and advice in this guide, you’ll set yourself up for success in growing your virtual fitness business as a fitness professional. So if you’re already using a tool that you like, keep using it to grow!
If you are looking for a platform to build your own virtual fitness business the good news is that it’s MUCH easier than it once was.
Before you might have thought about building your own website - super intimidating! But the good news is you don’t have to hire an expensive developer or learn how to code to set up your site. There are plenty of easy solutions that make it easy to build a dynamic virtual fitness site, and in this section, we break down all the tools you’ll need for a website that grows with your business and your audience. Let’s start building!
Where do I start?
In the past, fitness professionals would need to wire up a whole series of apps and plugins to run their virtual fitness business. Here are some of the important features you should look for when choosing a virtual fitness platform to build your business.
- Automate class bookings
- Upload your on-demand library
- Ability to offer memberships and class packs
- Accept online payment
- Integrate with Zoom or other live streaming solutions
- Automate transaction & confirmation emails
- Build your client database
- Create a custom website
It was enough to make any fitness professional break out in a nervous sweat.
Today, there’s a single platform that does all of this for you, with a simple, fitness professional friendly design that will make building your virtual fitness business easy.
We know because we built it 😏
onPodio’s platform for fitness professionals makes it easy for you to start, run and grow your business and:
- Accept and manage class bookings
- Sell your on-demand recordings to generate new income
- Earn predictable, recurring revenue by offering clients a membership option
- Offer upfront discounts to clients by selling class packages
- Accept online payments seamlessly
- Automate the transaction emails and links for your classes
- Create a custom website that’s true to you!
onPodio is completely free to use for the fitness professional, and you can sign up and be up and running in less than 5 minutes here.
That said, there are a few cases where onPodio might not be the best fit for you. Some examples are below, along with the alternatives we recommend
- If you’re looking strictly to be discovered by new clients who you don’t know, check out Eventbrite
- If you have the technical chops and want to build a custom website for your business, then you can create the website with Squarespace and integrate Acuity for class bookings and Vimeo for on-demand recordings
But wait, I have other questions?
Do I need to collect liability waivers?
- Yes, you should collect waivers for every booking which we help you do automatically via onPodio. You can read more about it here via our blog post on the topic
Why can’t I use Venmo or PayPal for payments?
- The reality is that there are many limitations in using P2P money transfer apps — some legal and some administrative— that comes with it. There are also serious privacy reasons why we don’t recommend using a service like Venmo which might put your client's information at risk.
How to price your virtual fitness classes
Setting your prices might seem a little daunting but here are a few tips on how you can approach it in a formulaic way with the first step being to set your drop-in rate.
First...set your drop-in rate
Your drop-in rate will be the benchmark price you use to go on to define your menu of pricing options. Here’s a few helpful tips and steps to take!
First, work backwards from your goal. How much are you hoping to make per month or year, and therefore what does that translate to into the number of bookings you need and thereby price you need to charge?
If you want to make $2,000 a month teaching 20 classes a month then that's $100 per class.
- Do you think you will have an average of 10 clients or 20 clients per class?
- And so what does that mean for the implied price you need to charge?
Second, work upwards from your market. How much do you think your clients would be willing to pay? How much did they used to pay at the local studio or gym and how does it compare? How often do you think they will attend?
Use these two approaches to help you narrow in on a price point to set for your drop-in classes.
The typical cost of a class on onPodio is between $6-$10
That’s not to say your drop-in rate should fall within that bound, we certainly have instructors on the platform charging less and more than this.
Ultimately pricing is a very personal decision - it depends on your geography, cost of living and most importantly your purpose and goals so don’t look too closely at what others are doing and focus on what you’re setting out to achieve.
Then...create your class packs & memberships
Once you’ve established your drop-in rate the rest of your pricing options will flow naturally from this number. To help we prepared two guides:
- A simple step by step guide on how to calculate your other offerings which you can read about in our post “How much should I charge for my virtual fitness class?”; and
- A pricing & income template spreadsheet which you can access and download directly here: onPodio.com Virtual Fitness Pro Pricing & Income Calculator
Getting your first 10 clients
It’s 2020, the pandemic has been frankly a whirlwind and it’s now time to level up your virtual game.
The world is no longer moving online — it has moved online. So it’s time to create an online presence using a platform like onPodio for your fitness business that…
- Reflects your unique fitness brand and style;
- Promotes all your services; and
- Builds upon and leverages your reputation.
Remember if you are just getting started, set yourself an attainable goal. You don’t need 100s of clients overnight, all you need to begin with is to find that first 10.
Attending 3 times a week
Paying $10 a class
$1,200 in sales a month.
Here’s some advice on getting your first 10 regular clients...
Post on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc about your fitness business and ask your followers to check it out.
- Tell them what your fitness style is all about, what you’ll be delivering each week or month and why you think they’d like it.
Tell your friends, coworkers, and acquaintances that you’ve started a fitness business.
- It’s okay to email them from your personal email to let them know. Be sure to include a link to your onPodio page (here's a preview of what you can create in 5 minutes with onPodio) so they can drop into a class if they choose. Bring it up in conversation, over lunch, and whenever you meet someone new.
Link to your booking and memberships pages everywhere you can.
- Make yourself discoverable to increase the chances that a stranger will stumble upon your page.
- If you are using onPodio then add your unique URL to your email signature, personal website, and bio on Twitter, Instagram, etc. like some of the onPodio instructors like Francy Stoyer
Pick a regular class schedule.
- Whether it’s daily, every other day, mornings, evenings or some other combination, the important part is being consistent and making it incredibly easy for your clients to see your schedule and book in.
- Setting a consistent schedule will help you and your clients find their rhythm.
- As new clients come across you, they’re more likely to sign up when they see that you’re active and consistent.
Let your personality shine through.
- The best part about fitness is that it is so personal and everyone brings their own style and flair to their classes and sessions. So be yourself!
- Take advantage of your onPodio page by adding your IG feed, sharing your background or connecting your Spotify playlist to each class so people can feel your vibes ahead of time!
- Also, don’t forget to start collecting reviews on your page from your loyal clients as it’s the most powerful way to get the trust of new clients.
Sprinkle in some free community classes.
- Whether you are starting out or already have your client base sprinkling in an occasional free community class can be a good way to increase exposure to new “try before they buy” clients.
- Maybe it’s a quick 25-minute lunch power session as a bit of teaser or maybe you can use free community classes as a way to test new concepts, themes or variations to what you know is tried and proven.
Tap into other people’s audiences
At this point, you’ve tapped your immediate network and taught a bunch of classes you’re proud of. Now spread the word to people you don’t know.
Try reaching out to brands you admire whose audience overlaps with yours and offer to collaborate (e.g. free IG live class).
- One of the best aspects of the virtual shift is that it can be truly global so reach out to brands or influencers on Instagram or other platforms and offer to do a free class on their social media handle.
- You are no longer limited by zip codes so tapping into the global audiences of brands you like can be super valuable!
- And it doesn’t necessarily need to be a large multinational brand, it can be a small niche business you love or a brand you once came across while travelling, sometimes the more niche the better as you may resonate more closely with that audience.
Connect with businesses to offer a corporate program.
- Many companies are looking for ways to keep their teams socially connected while physically distant.
- Use this as an opportunity to connect with local (or global!) HR / People Ops teams or company leadership to support well-being initiatives with regular small group training sessions for the company’s team.
It can take time to build your client base, but the value of your client base compounds over time. With each new person who becomes a client, you increase your chances of those people telling their friends about you and getting that many more clients. Be patient and keep at it!
Running your virtual classes
Before jumping into the Zoom room (or any livestream platform for that matter) it’s probably worth a little investment in time and possibly equipment to optimize the experience for your clients so they keep coming back.
Here’s a couple of our tips on how you might make your live stream look professional.
Master the virtual live stream class
Spend a little time first setting up your space. Nothing fancy needed here and before spending any money on any equipment you should run a few classes with what you have around the house when it comes to these three things:
- Try to find a simple, clutter-free environment where you have a clean and ideally light or white background.
- Find the room or area in your house with the most amount of natural light. Of course if after a while you think you might need a little more light then you might consider investing in a ring light such as one of these top 5 ring lights
- Test your audio and mic setup to find a balance between the volume of each or share a Spotify playlist with your clients when they book which they can play on their end directly - something you can easily do with onPodio’s Spotify integration.
- We highly recommend Zoom for your virtual live streams given the stability of the platform and ease of use. Creating a Zoom class is incredibly simple with onPodio’s Zoom integration which creates a Zoom link in just 1-click
Adapting your face-to-face classes for virtual
Now with the space setup you might consider tweaking your typical face-to-face training style to better adapt for the virtual world with specific focus on these 3 things:
Slow down to speed up:
- It’s often helpful to spend the time upfront to explain the workout routine and explain each step clearly given your clients might be viewing this on a smaller screen then when in person.
Give a heads up on equipment:
- Make sure your clients know in advance of the workout, what’s involved and what they need. I.e., gym towels, yoga mat, plenty of space, etc.
- And if your clients need equipment be sure to suggest some alternative equipment pieces, like a backpack, steps or a couch.
Start the live stream early and conduct a 5-min warm-up:
- Try to start your stream a little early so you can get the setup out of the way.
- Also where possible we recommend saving the class chats with your clients to after the class for a couple of reasons:
- If you plan to record the video and make it available on-demand then cropping the end of the video is typically easier than the start
- Some clients may feel a little awkward if they aren’t part of the conversation and so saving this for end gives them the choice to drop if they choose
If you’re looking for a guide on how to play music over your live stream via Zoom take a read of our guide here and if you need to share the instructions for setting up Zoom you can download our template here.
Tackle the hybrid in-person & live stream class
Nowadays, it's so important to be flexible and adapt to the world’s current circumstances, and fitness professionals are no exception to this.
If you live in an area where COVID restrictions are being lifted, congratulations! You’re probably thrilled to be able to start going back to normal. However, in most places, these restrictions aren’t completely lifted. What does this mean for you, as a fitness instructor?
Because most gyms and studios will have capacity limits once they are opened, it may be difficult to get back to those full house classes like you once did. So how do you solve this: with a Hybrid Strategy.
Many fitness instructors are taking advantage of this time and utilizing all possible platforms to grow their business and satisfy their clients. To learn more about why you should follow suit and use hybrid solutions check out our post “Why every fitness instructor should simultaneously livestream in-person classes?”
Offer your classes on-demand
If you started the virtual journey at the start of the pandemic, you’ve probably ironed out a lot of the kinks with live streams and have hit your groove. But if you aren’t already doing this, here’s why you should make sure to get into the habit of recording your classes and offering them as an on-demand option.
At its simplest, the cost vs. benefit of recording live streams and offering classes on-demand makes sense.
You pour a ton of time and energy orchestrating each and every live stream class - the music, the programming, the promotion and then ultimately the game-day performance in class. So with an extra 5 minutes, you can unlock an entirely new revenue stream - one that can literally generate revenue for you in your sleep.
As you’ve probably seen before your incredibly loyal clients will do what it takes to make it to your live streams, but life happens and that might not always be possible so class recordings can also:
- Make your classes more accessible for clients who can’t join live
- Add a new dimension to your creator business
- Offer a free class recording as a promotional tool for new clients
- Build a library which you can also use as a personal learning tool
Some of the instructors on the onPodio platform such as Brittney from Stay Fit Virtual who has grown her business exponentially by offering her classes on-demand to accommodate for the convenience of her client’s schedules.
It takes just a single sale per live stream for it to be worthwhile. We highly recommend Zoom’s Cloud recording functionality if you are already running your classes with Zoom and dive into what it takes in our post “Why every virtual fitness professional should record their live classes & offer them on-demand”.
Growing your virtual fitness business
Build your community
You’ve probably thought about it or maybe you’ve begun to build yours, but what is community?
A lot of the time the community might just seem like a “vibe”. Or you might define it as a group of individuals that enjoy each other's company and who you can rely on at times when you need them? But at its core community is really about bringing people together over a shared topic, perspective or goal. It’s a network of people who connect and learn with one another, not just from you!
So before thinking about how to spend the time upfront defining who you’re bringing together and why. This will not only help you keep focus but will help the community build organically as they engage and interact with one another.
We wrote this blog post to help you think about how you might begin to frame and build your special community as a fitness creator.
It can be challenging to know who exactly is a fan, follower and client of yours. For everyone who might have hung out after class to chat, there are probably 100s of others who might have been too shy or too busy to do so and with whom you probably may never have interacted with. And candidly the virtual world has made it that much harder!
So to help frame your space, your community, think about what is…
“the social glue that [will] bind [the community] together for the greater good”¹
As you think about your who — or rather “the social glue” — try to avoid defining your audience by demographic in the traditional sense of the word. Instead think about the topic, perspective or goal that they share equally. Perhaps it’s a physical, spiritual or mental health goal or a passion for an activity, movement or even intensity in how you train.
In answering why— the “greater good” — give thought to what challenges might exist that together you can uniquely solve or what change you want to achieve.
And remember as you define your who and why be specific and narrow. In the beginnings of creating community there is nothing more powerful to a member who finds something unique that speaks to them at the intersection of your community’s who and why.
Building… your community
With a better understanding of who you are creating a community for and why you can now start to think about the how.
The space you create for your community might manifest itself in many formats— WhatsApp, Facebook Groups, private Instagram accounts, Zoom hangouts—but in reality, the most important thing to consider in deciding this is, what is convenient for your community and which environment will foster the most number of interactions and connections.
You’ve now defined who the community is for, why you are coming together, and how you will connect. So what’s next?
Start small. Reach out to those first 10 members who might represent a tiny subset of what you hope the community one day becomes but that initially represent individuals who perfectly intersect with your who and why. Find ways to connect intimately and personally so that not only can you connect with them on another level but to allow members to connect with one another — maybe even creating lifelong friends between them.
Expanding your virtual offering
While the shift to virtual fitness has mostly been dominated by group fitness classes don’t forget small group and 1-on-1 private sessions.
Each format offers subtle differences in experience across motivation, personalization and community, appealing to slightly different client segments. In many ways the smaller the group the easier it is to run virtually so develop your menu of options for clients to select from to ensure you’re appealing to all segments of the market.
Build-in loyalty and retention in your offerings
Make your virtual class offering uniquely yours — an experience they can’t get elsewhere. For example, consider:
- Gamifying workouts by borrowing from studio concepts like Hell Week (Orangetheory), Higher Education (Barry’s) or SoulCup (SoulCycle)
- Tracking client progress in a structured way to keep them engaged (this could be as simple as a Google Sheet!);
- Designing programs that require a small investment by clients into 1 or 2 pieces of equipment to get their buy-in;
- Providing special access to clients to a community you create (a simple WhatsApp group, or to your Close Friends list on Instagram)
Setup a newsletter for your community
Newsletters can be an overlooked aspect of any virtual business. But did you know it can actually be a very powerful tool if done correctly? Using newsletters can be a great way to stay connected with your clients and help get them excited for upcoming virtual classes and really help you foster a collaborative and cohesive community.
If you are looking for a super simple solution, you can use onPodio’s functionality that allows you to email the client list you have built on the platform. It literally takes one click and the onPodio platform will pre-populate an email from your inbox with everyone’s email address added.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little heavier duty then we’ve found that MailChimp is the easiest tool to use for a more comprehensive newsletter solution. With Mailchimp you can:
- Set up your mailing list
- Import email addresses
- Track open and click rates
- Design templates
and more. There is a bit of a learning curve as to getting started but is a leader in the space.
To learn more about what type of content you should include, how often you should send a newsletter and more take a read of “Starting a newsletter as a virtual fitness instructor”