Sometimes the best way to make more money is to find ways to save it.
If you’re like me, you’ve had the same business to-do list for, well, a long time. While I know that implementing these long-term goals will ultimately move my business forward and generate greater income, the need for more immediate, bill-paying income always seems to win out for my time and attention. But as I’m slogging through day-to-day chores, there’s a nagging voice in the back of my mind, whispering to me about how much time—and ultimately money—I’m wasting on some of these seeming necessities.
One of the best ways to make more money is to take a step back and figure out where you’re spending too much of it. Read on to learn several things you can do to lean out your business practices and beef up your bank account.
“Social media in general can be a major time suck,” says Julie Stubblefield, Lean Fitness business coach and owner of SparkFit LLC in Mechanicsville, Virginia. “We intend to go into Facebook to post about an event or a testimonial, and we lose an hour being distracted by our News Feed.”
As a business owner, you’re well aware that your time is money. You know that every extra minute you spend on your friend’s endless album of baby pictures means another dollar down the drain.
Stubblefield suggests scheduling posts first thing in the morning, so that they are shared throughout the day without your having to log on. “Social media is definitely worth the time when used appropriately,” she advises. “It can raise brand awareness, stimulate engagement, drive subscribers to your list, and allow you to share your content.” To learn how to set up your posts to be released through the day, see the sidebar “How to Schedule Facebook Posts.”
What about paying for social media ads? Are they worth it?
“Until you have a following on social media and/or engagement with ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’ paying for any ad is truly a waste of money,” observes Stubblefield. “What I’ve found, with personal training in particular, is that learning about something resonates with people more when they hear it from a friend. Save your money. Create sharable, likable content, and engage with your audience.”
(Editor's note: To learn more about advertising on Facebook, see the article “How to Market Your Business With Facebook” in this issue.)
The importance of first building and engaging your audience also applies to print ads. “Large facilities can generate volume with print ads,” explains Stubblefield, “because there is already brand recognition and people know what goes on at those places. If you’re different, serving a niche market and offering services that most people don’t know about, then print advertising is a huge waste of money. Niche studio owners generate the highest volume of leads with referrals, through word of mouth and by appearing in print as authors or expert sources to establish credibility.”
Jamie Walker, CEO and cofounder of SweatGuru in San Francisco, agrees. “Try marketing options such as social media and blogging that are free or low cost, and try volunteering your time teaching at local retail stores to let people know who you are and what your teaching style is like. It’s a great way to attract clients, and all you have to donate is your time.”
Managing your time efficiently frees up extra hours for working with new clients or for adding another group session to your schedule. What do you need to complete by the end of each day? A first step in weeding out unnecessary tasks is to know your priorities—both long-term and short-term. I get more done when I’ve written a to-do list for the day. Not only is it gratifying to cross completed tasks off my list, but it also means I actually got them done! This also moves me closer to my long-term goals and gives me more time to make money for my business.
Squelching interruptions is another component of time management. Designate specific times of the day to perform certain tasks, such as checking emails and text messages. Caller ID lets you decide which calls to take now and which ones to respond to later.
My business consists of personal training, teaching, freelance writing and speaking. As much as possible, I try to schedule my clients back to back in the morning. This way I’m never sitting around the gym waiting for my next client. And when I do have between-time, I use it to check emails and text messages. This also allows me to reserve a block of time in the afternoon to work on deadlines—and on those long-term goals.
The Daily Deal
Daily-deal sites offer clients and potential clients discounts on your services. While this can be great for the customer, it’s not necessarily good for you or your business. “When sites like Groupon® took off in the fitness industry, it seemed like everywhere you looked there was another deal for a fitness class,” observes Walker. “Most fitness businesses lose loyal customers, money and time managing all the inbound demand created by the deals.”
Walker suggests focusing on promotions rather than discounts. “To keep clients happy and your business growing, offer your existing clients promotions for special events such as birthdays and anniversaries—rather than daily deals.”
Bigger Is Not Always Better
“Business owners often move into facilities that are too big right from the beginning,” says Stubblefield. “While it’s important to have room for growth, the cost of a large building often racks up debt before clients are lined up. Additionally, too much space means wasted space if programming is not set up for full utilization.”
Instead of paying for a big box, Stubblefield suggests that business owners save money by being creative with programming and floor layout and being conservative with space. This also applies to gear.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends in equipment,” she notes. “We want all the bells and whistles to make us stand out, but we often forget about the fundamental basics of body change. A lean fitness business can truly get by on dumbbells only. That’s all I use! Start with the most basic equipment needed to give clients their results, and add more as your income grows.”
Using antiquated methods, such as index cards, to track customer information and payments can cost you unnecessary time, says Walker. But so can expensive, complicated software programs. “The time and money that fitness pros are investing in either or both of these options doesn’t have a huge return.”
Instead, Walker recommends, try one of the newer, sometimes free, services available to help fitness professionals grow and manage their business more seamlessly and efficiently. “It seems that most businesses—from the smallest studios to the large chains—are using the same tools. There are more cost-effective solutions on the market, such as SweatGuru, that are tailored for smaller businesses. Take the time to evaluate what you’re using!”
Target Your Programming
A surefire way to waste money, says Stubblefield, is to use programming that is not concise and targeted. “If programming is not succinct and isn’t delivered to the right market, results are not seen. When there are fewer results, retention goes down, along with referrals and word-of-mouth support.
“Waffling from program to program also makes it difficult for you to establish credibility in your community. How to lean it out? Pick one type of programming and perfect it. Be the person to go to for your specialty.”
The Last Word
“I work with personal trainers all the time who want to go from working in a big facility to owning one,” comments Stubblefield. “It truly is a recipe for disaster if the right plans are not in place. Don’t be afraid to start small. Invest the smallest amount possible, build revenue, become the expert and grow from there. Clients are drawn to boutique-style studios. It’s where fitness is headed, because people desire the extra support and are willing to pay for it.”
Making more money for your business isn’t always about offering more products and services. Sometimes the simplest way to maintain a healthy bank account is to look at where your money and time are being wasted.