How to Start a Fitness Brand Online: Guide for Personal Trainer
The global pandemic has caused untold damage to millions of businesses and people across the country and around the world. Few of those businesses are as visible as gyms. Gyms were social hubs, gyms helped keep people healthy, and they kept personal trainers employed. With their closure, personal trainers need to turn elsewhere to keep their careers going.
It’s no surprise that thousands of personal trainers are turning to the internet to keep going. Though they may have lost access to the gym facilities they once used, the internet provides an avenue to build a brand, build one on one relationships with customers to train, and generally keep the dream alive.
The only question is… how?
Step 1: Evaluate Who You Are
While being fit is impressive, there are different kinds of fitness. Are you the kind of personal trainer who focuses on helping obese people lose weight and get down to a healthy weight? Do you prefer working with already fit people to keep them toned and active? Do you try to push people beyond their limits to build showcase-worthy bodies? Do you focus on bodybuilding and bulking, and the dietary and weight lifting guidelines to do it safely?
A “fitness brand” online can be any one of these things, or even all of them, though the broader you go, the harder it will be to find a niche. There are, after all, already thousands of other personal trainers out there running their own fitness brands. We don’t say this to scare you away, you just need to be aware that there is always going to be competition.
One thing to keep in mind is that, with an online fitness brand, your natural charisma and your ability to get hands-on with your customers doesn’t help as much. Instead, you’ll need to be more visually impressive. That’s why you see so many fitness trainers on Instagram. Visually impressive bodies become a goal or a dream for casual users, who may be inspired to follow your advice. After all, it so obviously works for you, right?
Step 2: Decide On Your Goals
What are your goals as an online fitness trainer? Are you doing it because you want to help people, or because you need to make more money and you want to keep your career going?
Are you doing it because you need the accountability and motivation to keep yourself going? Every inspiration is valid, every goal is fine, it just changes how you evaluate your own success moving forward, and will have a major influence on your business model.
Step 3: Invest in Cameras
For all of the platitudes about beauty being more than skin deep, the internet is a very superficial place, especially within the context of personal training. If you’re intending to position yourself as a fitness trainer online, you’re going to need to have a visually impressive body. More importantly, you’re going to need to be able to take pictures – or at least pose while someone else takes the pictures – to convey that body.
You can be a personal trainer without a visually impressive body or even a camera. There are fitness websites out there run by people you never see. They use pictures of models and build relationships with other fitness trainers to use their photos. There are two problems with this. First, it’s harder to appeal to people without being able to use yourself as a prop and as proof of what you can accomplish. Second, it cuts off two of the most visual avenues of fitness marketing: live streams and videos on Instagram.
Instagram is huge for personal trainers looking to build an online presence. The “insta-fitness” trend is more than just a trend, with tags like instafit seeing 53+ million posts, instafitness with 16.5 million, and more.
Investing in a camera, a tripod, a light, and a few other accessories can help make your photos stand out from all of the mirror selfies and quick snaps that make up the bulk of digital photography content. You don’t need to go after a full education on using a DSLR – often a modern phone camera can work – but you want the flexibility to pose and position yourself without needing to hold a camera or a selfie stick.
While you’re at it, read up on some of the fitness photography tricks the top names use to make themselves look more impressive. Some are legitimate, and some are deception, and they’re all tricks you’ll need in your playbook to succeed.
Step 4: Build a Presence
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. This is your holy trinity of social media for a personal trainer.
Each of them serves a defined purpose in your marketing.
- Facebook is a central hub for billions of people around the world. It’s harder to get exposure than other platforms, but it’s best to use for paid advertising, analytics, and growth.
- Instagram is the number one hub for fitness trainers. It’s extremely visual and thus extremely appealing, and it’s easy to get a ton of exposure using the right kinds of hashtags. It’s just a little harder to use to refer people to other platforms.
- YouTube allows you to produce video content, particularly things like exercise tutorials and guides. You can also brand yourself using YouTube primarily, with daily vlogs.
Other social networks and platforms can play a role as well, though they aren’t necessarily as important, so take them or leave them as you decide.
- Twitter is good for direct marketing your content, but it’s a very “flash in the pan” kind of awareness; if people don’t see your content right away, they probably won’t. It takes a lot of dedication to use properly.
- Pinterest is the second most visual platform after Instagram, but it’s inconsistent and often fails to actually refer content back to its source.
- Twitch is the main hub for live streams. While the majority of the content on the site is gaming-related, they have fitness and health channels, and you can find a niche there. Alternatively, you can also live stream through both Facebook/Instagram and YouTube, so experiment to see which works best for you.
Decide on a brand name for your personal training business. This can be as simple as your name, or it can be a brand name, whatever works best for you. We recommend using your real name, so long as you don’t have a very generic name because it’s easier to stand out. Generic names have trouble when building websites just because the domain names and usernames on social networks are already taken.
Step 5: Grow and Market a Website
In addition to registering all of those social media profiles, you’ll also want to build a website. Rather than go over every step of the process here, we’re going to give you a series of tutorials that can help you with each step of the process.
First, you want to register a domain name. Here’s how to get one for cheap or free. You can often get a domain name free when you buy a hosting package for webspace, which you also need to do, so look into that.
Next, you want to set up a blog. A simple WordPress site will suffice.
- Here’s how to install WordPress on the hosting you bought.
- Here’s a guide for setting up a fitness blog with some basic tips, like using HTTPS for secure traffic.
- Here’s a more in-depth guide including setting up marketing channels like email lists and paid advertising.
You also might want to set up some WordPress plugins to give your site additional functionality for marketing, and for fitness-specific features. This post outlines a lot of the general-use “best” plugins for things like SEO. This one covers plugins for fitness features you might want to use if they fit your goals.
Once you have your site up and running, you need to start populating it with content. In general, writing one blog post per week should be plenty, but if you have more to say, you can write blog posts more often. Try not to go longer than writing one a week, and try not to be too variable; consistency is the most important part of building an online brand.
This post has some tips for running a fitness blog, while these two have more general tips for blogging that apply to any industry. There’s a lot of overlap between them, so feel free to skim sections you’ve read before.
If all of this seems like a lot of work, well, it is. You’re running a business entirely from your computer. You have to handle content production, marketing, upkeep, maintenance, customer relations, outreach, and all the rest.
Some of it, you can outsource. You can, for example, pay a company to write blog posts and manage a blog for you. You’ll want to look for a fitness-specific writer or blogging agency so they know what they’re talking about, but that’s not too difficult. The main problem there is just that it costs money, and if you’re out of work because your personal trainer role at the local gym is closed down, you might be tight on funds.
Step 6: Promote Your Blog
Once you’ve got content production down, it’s time to get to the promotion. Promoting your blog and your social profiles is probably more important than posting fresh content on your website, simply because it’s how you attract and draw in new visitors. Your website is the anchor that keeps them around, but your outreach is how you find them in the first place. Having a fishhook doesn’t help if you don’t have a line.
Post on your social media profiles daily. Instagram can support more than one post per day without hurting your exposure, but Facebook prefers once per day. Others can support however much content you want to make for them, like YouTube.
Make sure to frequently link back to your website and to your other social profiles. On Instagram, that means using the profile link, since other links aren’t clickable. Other social networks, you can link in your posts directly. Try to get your audiences to follow you on each social network and join a mailing list so you can email them with new content, tips, and products to sell.
Step 7: Make Money
Only once you’ve built up a large enough audience can you really start to make money. There are a lot of different options to explore, but some are better than others for a personal trainer and a fitness blog.
Display ads are easy to set up and run, but they don’t pay very well. The fitness niche is pretty saturated and a lot of people use ad blockers anyway.
Affiliate links, either to Amazon, to a third party, or to a first-party product manufacturer, are generally the way most fitness blogs go. Here’s a list of high paying fitness affiliate programs to explore. Always be sure to believe in what you want to promote. It doesn’t do you any good to write blog posts about how much you hate protein powders only to turn around and try to sell them in another post.
You can also sell your own services as a consultant. You can do this as one-on-one video consultations and guidance, one-to-many fitness classes, live streams, courses through a site like Udemy, or anything else you can get people to pay for.
Lastly, the best way to make the most money is to sell products. This is also the toughest thing to do, but it has the highest reward. You can either sell your products, which will yield the most return, or sell other people’s products, which is a bit easier but yields less of a return.
Remember that making money will happen, but it may start slow. It takes time to build a site and web presence up to the point where you’re turning a profit, let alone making a living. Persistence is key; if you don’t keep at it, you won’t succeed. Thankfully, if you have the persistence to maintain your fitness levels enough to be a trainer, you have the persistence to keep a website going. Just keep at it!
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