Don’t let the “non-essential” label get you down. Gyms may be closed as part of social distancing efforts, but the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated how much fitness plays a role in creating community. That means many fitness professionals are facing a dual challenge right now: encouraging and motivating clients from afar while trying to make ends meet with reduced income. To help you navigate these challenging times, we’re outlining five strategies to help you generate income while gyms are closed.
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Fixed-Price Online Classes
Fitness professionals adapted their offerings to social distancing remarkably quickly, given that most only had a few days’—or even hours’—notice before lockdown restrictions. For many, that meant shifting workouts online.
Zoom has been one of the more popular options for gyms to offer virtual classes. Video-conferencing on Zoom is free for sessions that are 40 minutes or less. For longer sessions and recording capabilities, professional accounts are available for $14.99 to $19.99 per month. Gyms that are continuing to offer paid classes on Zoom can still facilitate sign-up through booking platforms like MindBody and Classpass.
Rather than booking individual classes, some studios are rewarding members who continue paying their monthly fees with unlimited streaming classes, providing Zoom links for each class through a private Facebook group. The advantage of that model is members don’t have to take the class live; the studio can record the Zoom class, and subsequently post the video in the Facebook group.
But Zoom isn’t the only option.
Gyms that have a paid G Suite account with Google could use Google Hangouts Meet as an alternative to Zoom. (You can read a full comparison of the two platforms here.) G Suite Basic, which includes Hangouts Meet access for up to 25 participants at a time, is $6 per month, and G Suit Business, with Meet access for up to 50 participants at a time, is $12 per month. Keep in mind that Google Hangouts Meet works best in the Chrome browser, and participants must have a Google account to log in. For classes with ten participants or fewer, a regular Google Hangout—free for any regular Google account—can do the trick.
Another option for streaming or recorded classes—as well as personal training sessions—is Train-With, a platform that allows trainers to record or go live with classes on their own schedules. After setting up a Train-With account, trainers can choose how many classes they want to teach, how much they want to charge per class, and whether they want to offer a flat-rate unlimited option. Trainers then send customers a link for their virtual class. All classes scheduled on Train-With are automatically listed on the app. Train-With costs $99 every 30 days for access to the platform, and trainers keep the full fee for each class purchased. Train-With is available for web-based personal training on any device, and as an iOS app for classes.
Personal trainers outside of the group fitness world can follow the group video training lead. Reach out to clients, learn what equipment they have in their homes, and build a workout around that and/or bodyweight. When it comes to one-on-one training, you could use any of the options above, or—if you and your client are both using iOS devices—keep it simple with FaceTime.
The main thing to remember? Your solution doesn’t have to be perfect. Everyone is still adapting to the new normal. Do your best to keep delivering dynamic workouts for your clients, and they will keep showing up for you.
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Free Instagram or Facebook Classes… With a Pay-What-You-Can-Pitch
If you have a healthy social media following—or you’re looking to build one—now is the time to lean into Facebook and Instagram live videos. For instance TRX has leaned into this trend with TRX Live, posting daily workouts, delivered by their world-class instructors, on Facebook every weekday at 9am and 5pm and weekends at 9am. If you don't have a Facebook account or you don't like that format, the TRX Live website includes all the live streamed content plus all previous workouts to train on-demand.
Live videos are exactly what they sound like: using the video camera in your computer or mobile device, a live recording is considered native content on Facebook or Instagram, as opposed to uploaded content. That can be helpful in gaining eyeballs because Facebook’s algorithms prioritize native content.
The idea behind live feeds on both Facebook and Instagram is for content creators—here, that means trainers and fitness instructors—to engage with their audience. On either platform, viewers can react to what’s happening in the video, and submit questions or comments for real-time responses. The time limit for live broadcasting on Instagram is 60 minutes. On Facebook, it’s eight hours.
There is no paywall to Facebook or Instagram Live, so trainers can’t charge a fee for their live classes. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ask for a donation. Many trainers who are running live workouts on the platforms will start and end the broadcast asking viewers to donate any amount they want for the class through an online payment platform like Venmo or PayPal. (If you want to make sure they get your payment handle right, have it printed out and show it on the video.) In case your workout participants forget to note your info during the class, consider including your payment pitch—and handle—in your Facebook or Instagram stories, as well as in stand-alone posts on the platforms.
So far, Venmo seems to be the more popular choice because transfers are free. But, Venmo only works with US bank accounts, so you could be limited if you have an international following. PayPal works internationally, but there is a small transaction fee for business transactions.
So what happens after you go live? After a brief review process, Facebook will post your Facebook Live videos on your Facebook page as timeline posts. Facebook offers tips and instructions for everything you need to know about Facebook Live.
With Instagram, you’ll have the option of saving your video at the end of the broadcast. You can then post the video to your stories, or to IGTV. There are, however, time limitations on IGTV. IGTV videos must be at least 60 seconds. If uploaded from mobile, IGTV videos are capped at 15 minutes. If uploaded from the web, IGTV videos can be up to 60 minutes long. (Instagram has instructions for both IGTV upload requirements and uploading procedures.
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Maybe live-streaming isn’t your thing. That’s okay. You can still create an online coaching program.
For free programming, the easiest video platform to start on is YouTube. Depending on your level of video-editing skill, you can upload either raw or edited video. If you’re looking for tutorials on how to edit a video on iPhone, check here. For Android editing video app recommendations, check here. And for free video-editing software recs, check here.
Just like with free Instagram or Facebook programming, you’re welcome to include a donation pitch in your video. While it is possible to monetize directly through YouTube, you must first be approved through the YouTube Partner Program. To qualify for the program, you must (1) live in a country or region where the YouTube Partner Program is available, (2) have more than 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months, (3) have more than 1,000 subscribers, and (4) have a linked AdSense account.
There are also video options with fewer steps to monetization; specifically, platforms that use a paywall.
A paywall is a barricade between a viewer and premium video content. Much like a toll booth, it requires the viewer to pay up in order to view the full video. If you want to start charging viewers for your training content from the beginning, consider a platform like Vimeo on Demand, Uscreen, or Dacast.
- Vimeo on Demand users pay $20 per month for the service, and take home 90% of revenue after transaction costs.
- Uscreen’s basic package costs $99, but it does not include a revenue-sharing component. One of the perks of Uscreen is you can sync to your Youtube, Vimeo or Wistia account and automatically upload all your content over to Uscreen.
- DaCast also starts at $99 per month, with no revenue sharing or transaction fees.
Covid-19 lockdowns are a temporary, albeit scary, setback. In anticipation of a return to business as usual, many gyms and trainers are asking clients to consider pre-paying for packs of classes or sessions.
Let’s discuss this plan.
The most obvious advantage is cash up front. While many of your clients may be experiencing their own financial obstacles right now, those who are in a position to help you keep your business going will likely consider pre-purchasing classes. If you typically place an expiration date on class packs, be sure to extend that date, and tell your clients up front about that extension.
Another way to motivate clients to purchase now is to offer a discount on sessions. Keep in mind, however, that discounts need to be at a rate that allows you to sustain your business later.
This becomes a bigger issue with one-on-one personal training sessions. In the heyday of the flash sale coupon website, many service providers found that undercutting their services for lead generation or a temporary income boost was a bad financial decision.
A personal trainer, for example, has to spend the same amount of time with the client who paid full price for an appointment as she spends with the client who purchased an appointment half-off. If you have 100 clients attempting to redeem deeply-discounted personal training sessions when regular business resumes, you may have (1) already spent the fee they paid and (2) have to decline new business from full-price clients while you fulfill your obligations for the discounted packages.
Financially, discounted packs are a better option for group fitness classes than for personal training sessions. The good news for personal trainers? You can use Zoom or FaceTime right now to keep coaching your clients remotely.
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In a time of constant change, routine feels reassuring—both for fitness professionals and for clients. Tap into the need for normalcy by creating a wellness challenge. Depending on your bandwidth and expertise, offer a six, eight, ten, or twelve-week program for participants.
Trainers with a nutrition background could design a healthy menu program for large groups—incorporating common shelf-stable items that participants are likely to have in their home—or personalized recipe coaching for smaller groups. Got mobility expertise? Design a program of activation exercises and stretches to help newly-minted work-from-home employees. Running or cycling more your speed? Design a marathon, half-marathon, or racing program.
The benefit of large multi-week challenges is you only have to design one program for the full group, and hosting a private Facebook group for your participants can help everyone tap into a community during a difficult time. Plus, unlike group fitness clients, virtual challenge participants can live anywhere. Tap into your social networks, and encourage members to invite their friends and family from afar.
Whether you opt to share your expertise online, or take time now to plan for the future, TRX wants to help you succeed. Right now, we’re offering the Live Virtual Edition of our TRX Suspension Training Course, usually $295, for free. (New sessions are being added, so check back if the listed courses are full.) Fitness professionals have a tough road ahead, but TRX is here to support you through this uncertain time.