You don't observe, research and report about the fitness industry for close to four cumulative decades without learning a thing or two about profit centers and revenue streams. As IDEA's editors, we've read and shepherded countless articles from the best minds in the industry. Back in January, we cooked up this feature story to celebrate IDEA's 30th Anniversary. Our aim: to present what we feel are the best (somewhat passive) revenue stream ideas, all in one place.
We hope these ideas will inspire you and launch you into the next three decades with a new perspective on how success can be yours without it eating up all of your time, energy and financial resources.
How well do you know your own ledger? Do you consider yourself an expert on current tax code? Are you making or losing money, and do you have any idea why? If you can’t honestly say you feel as good about the accounting side of your business as you do about your training services, it might be time to reassess and retool. Without professional eyes on your books, you may well be leaking profits into thin air. And you won’t have a clear sense of how much you’re losing, wasting or making until you get an expert on the case.
Are you still selling your clients 10- and 20-pack sessions and then chasing down the money every month? If so, you’re wasting your most precious resource—time—and killing your productivity by selling the same clients the same products over and over. Instead, consider adopting a personal training membership model that you sell and contract once; then you set up client payment through electronic funds transfer (EFT) or auto-debit for an agreed term. According to ACE-certified fitness professional Troy Fontana, chief executive officer of Freedom Fitness Unlimited in Sparks, Nevada, you’ll increase stable cash flow by eliminating missed sessions due to vacations or cancellations. You’ll also strengthen client dedication—and therefore success—by providing an uninterrupted training loop.
If you have a blog or vlog, consider selling ads. If your page(s) is/are in the Google Network of content, as a publisher you can opt to have Google serve up auto text, images, video and rich-media advertisements that match your site content and, presumably, your audience. Once your webmaster has installed the necessary code, Google AdSense will take care of the rest. These ads can generate revenue on either a per-impression or per-click basis. Clicks add up to dimes, which add up to dollars.
David Weck (BOSU® Balance Trainer), Michol Dalcourt (ViPR™), Anthony Carey (Core-Tex™), Randy Hetrick (TRX® and TRX Rip™ Trainer), Mindy Mylrea (Gliding™) and Chalene Johnson (Turbo Jam®, Turbo Kick®, PiYo™) have given life to some of the most valuable and practical training tools and programs available in the fitness industry today. They are just a few of the many industry professionals who had humble fitness beginnings and then started noodling around with a programming idea, an equipment invention or both. Today all of them are successful entrepreneurs.
Make no mistake: Product development, manufacturing and marketing are not exactly cakewalks. There is an ocean of information you have to know about the process. What you need to get things off the ground are a great idea and enough personal fire to see it through.
In a May IDEA Fitness Journal article on corporate wellness opportunities, ACE-certified fitness professional Shirley Archer, JD, MA, writes, “The National Business Group on Health estimates that the corporate wellness market will grow 18% over the next 5 years. This puts the fitness industry in a perfect-storm position to create or embrace the opportunity. The major factors catalyzing this storm are rising disease and disability among Americans and relentless annual increases in healthcare costs.”
But don’t assume this is an easy transition from the fitness world, Archer underscores. There is a lot to learn. You will “need to get educated and credentialed in health promotion and the components of wellness, behavior change, health coaching, psychology and communications.”
A lot of fitness professionals already do this, and with good reason. The market for customers who are motivated to lose weight and look good for a specific occasion is robust. Think of brides and grooms, but also their mothers and fathers. Twentieth high-school reunion on the horizon? Marquee anniversary around the corner? Fiftieth birthday bash coming up? These are all great opportunities to create specific programming of a set duration (8–16 weeks) that aims to give measurable results but also has potential for attracting permanent customers.
As the fitness industry has matured over the past 30 years, so have the world’s challenges with food and nutrition issues tied to obesity. More than ever, people have trouble knowing what and how much to eat, and why they’re failing. If you’re interested in food and nutrition and believe it impacts your clients’ success as much as—or perhaps more than—exercise, established and emerging specialty certifications are available (for example, ACE’s Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach Certification, Precision Nutrition’s Nutrition Certification and NASM’s Fitness Nutrition Specialist). Amass the knowledge you need to help clients achieve healthy-lifestyle and behavior change while remaining grounded in your scope of practice.
From mud runs to triathlons and running competitions of all distances, there are dozens of events that you and your clients already train for every year. If you have experience in race training and competition, why not organize and help clients by designing a training program specific to their race demands and periodized to peak their performance?
Market the event training, sign people up and show them you have a plan. Coordinate weekend training groups for open-water swimming and brick workouts. Add a social element by organizing a post-training breakfast during which everyone shares war stories. This creates a sense of community and helps clients step outside themselves to achieve a once “impossible” athletic goal.
Every day, the world’s workforce faces injury and health risks from jobs requiring repetitive motion, heavy lifting, vibration, cold and the dangers of sitting hunched over computers in workspaces that are not optimal for the human body. Consider getting specialized training to acquire expertise in ergonomics job analysis, quantifiable assessment tools and an ergonomics toolbox with practical solutions. Combine that with your knowledge of physical fitness assessment and corrective exercise and you may be looking at a whole new revenue stream or career direction.
In June IDEA Fitness Journal, Trina Gray, owner of the award-winning Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan, introduces readers to the concept of 10-day programs, which she has had great success with over the past 2 years. “Creating simple, replicable 10-day group programs can be a moneymaker in any fitness business,” she writes. The article goes on to discuss her formula for executing this format from “takeoff to touchdown” and gets you ready to increase your bottom line and deepen your impact in your community. To read Gray’s article, visit www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-10-day-program.
According to Mary Bratcher, MA, DipLC, certified life coach from San Diego who specializes in small-business development, “Hosting your own educational workshop is an excellent way to raise your profile as an expert in a health and fitness specialty while providing a great additional revenue stream for your business.”
A lot of work goes into preparing a quality workshop—selecting a topic, securing an appropriate location, developing informational materials, applying for continuing education credits and more besides. But once all that hard work is complete, the time and costs associated with reproducing the event will decrease, says Bratcher. “The process of hosting a successful workshop becomes easier after your initial event. Subsequent workshops tend to require less time and money.”
Savvy fitness professionals are taking advantage of technology’s continued breadth by offering online workout subscriptions. Jill Coleman, MS, owner of JillFit Physiques in Asheville, North Carolina, says her subscription service brings in additional revenue, allows her to help more people and frees up time from in-person training. To satisfy her customer base, she updates her subscription with new workouts three times per week. “If you have the know-how, putting something like this together does not take much time at all,” she says. However, if you are inexperienced, you should look to experts to create an appropriate website and customer management system, she advises. And simply offering a subscription isn’t enough. “You have to build your following, build their trust and cultivate your niche.”
An easy way to generate income without much effort is to sell affiliate products and services. “Becoming an affiliate is a great way to earn a bit of extra income because it is free, easy to join and easy to get started,” says Neil Johnstone, coordinator of digital marketing for TRX in San Francisco. The organization is one of many in the fitness industry that offers an affiliate program. “Once your affiliate account is active with us, you can start earning 15% cash commission on qualifying sales immediately. You send (customers) to our site through your TRX affiliate Web banner or text link, and they browse through our online store until they find the product they want. Once they complete their transaction, your affiliate account gets credited 15% of the total.”
Jade Teta, ND, CSCS, from Asheville, North Carolina, believes online training is the next step in the evolution of fitness. “Trainers are stuck in a time-for-money situation,” he says. “Online programs help them escape the gym and make money whether they are training or not.” This realization inspired Teta to develop his own online programs. “We [make] multiple six figures a year on our online programs, and each launch nets tens of thousands for our business.”
Online programs can be time-consuming at first, but once the groundwork has been laid, the best programs basically run themselves. “When done right, this is more than just extra income for trainers; it completely revolutionizes the way they see themselves and frees them from the time-for-money game.”
Continuing education providers are often on the lookout for clean, high-quality spaces to hold workshops. According to Derrick Price, MS, personal trainer at Function First in San Diego, and a master trainer for ViPR, host studios can reap rewards such as free or discounted equipment and/or passes for one or more employees to attend the event. Hosting a workshop may not immediately result in direct revenue—Price says education companies prefer to barter for space rental; however, you’ll save money on equipment, and employee turnover costs will fall because you’re offering more education. Want to host a workshop? Simply reach out to the company that interests you and offer your space.
Speaking to local organizations can establish you as an expert in your community. While not all organizations will pay you to speak for them, a nonpaid speaking engagement may lead to paid gigs in the future or may generate revenue streams from client referrals. How do you break into the public speaking world? “Look in your local newspaper at the different organizations,” says Nicki Anderson, IDEA presenter and customer service consultant in Naperville, Illinois. She also suggests obtaining a list from the Chamber of Commerce. “Once you have a list, understand who [an] organization’s members are and create an email/letter that introduces who you are, what you do and three topics that would benefit the group,” Anderson adds.
According to ABI Research, the market for fitness-specific apps could grow to $400 million by 2016. Fitness professionals can take advantage of this expansion by creating their own downloadable apps—either for clients or for the world at large.
That said, New York City–based Declan Condron, co-founder of Pump One—a provider of portable personal training through “made-for-mobile” exercise image and video libraries—urges caution. “It is a difficult market that can be very expensive,” he says. “And with so many apps out there, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.” He suggests opting for currently available platforms that allow you to customize your own images, videos and “packaging.” Or, if you’re not the do-it-yourself type, there are companies that offer prepackaged exercise images or videos with options for adding your own branding.
Studies show that individuals who keep nutrition and fitness journals are more likely to succeed in reaching their goals than those who don’t. Increase your revenue and your clients’ success potential by selling branded log books. You can create yours from scratch, but they should be of high enough quality to ensure a return on investment. What you include is up to you—most books offer spots to jot down exercise and nutrition information. Enhance yours by adding fitness and nutrition tips or other similar information. The process can be quite costly if you produce small quantities, says Angela Manzanares of Newport Beach, California, creator of the fitbook™ fitness and nutrition journal. To minimize the expense, she suggests looking for companies that sell ready-made, customizable journals.
Your clients and members are over the moon about your services. Help them market your services and make some extra cash yourself by selling branded merchandise like T-shirts, sweatshirts or backpacks. But don’t just slap your logo on a crewneck and call it a day. “Avoid companies that simply plaster your logo on a T-shirt or pen,” advises Rafael Lopez, owner of Los Lopez Design & Illustration in San Diego. “The more unique your merchandise looks, the more people will want it.” Lopez suggests hiring a designer for guidance. “To get custom designs for a good price, go to a website like www.99designs.com. You only pay for [a design] if you like it.”
It sounds like a dream come true, but many fitness entrepreneurs are taking vacations—and getting paid for it. Daniel Remon, founder of Fitcorp Asia, a personal training team in Bangkok, runs fitness destination vacations—like weekend beach boot camps—for health-minded travelers. Sound enticing? Charge $100 per person per weekend—not including travel, room and board—and attract 10 people for $1,000 profit, minus your own expenses. “The goal is to make it affordable, but to charge enough to cover your own expenses,” Remon says. Even if you don’t bring in much extra revenue, your trip is paid for. He also suggests building relationships with hotel managers to work out special deals and group rates.
While working one-on-one with a client is traditional, many personal trainers have discovered they can earn more money and make a bigger impact by teaching small groups or developing a customized boot camp. Experience in leading a group is helpful, but not essential. One important key, however, is finding clients with similar goals, according to ACE-certified fitness professional Janet Weller, RN, owner of Weller Bodies Personal Training in Closter, New Jersey. “Clients don’t have to be at the same fitness level (that’s where your expertise comes in), but it helps if they are working toward the same thing (to run a 5K, lose weight or just feel better).”
Small-group training is an efficient way to add income. For example, if you normally charge $70 for a 1-hour session, you can charge $25–$35 per person and make quite a profit, depending on the number of clients in the group.
Express classes have been on group exercise schedules for a few years and have proven quite successful. Many personal training studios have started to adopt this model for their small-group classes. Bird Rock Fit in La Jolla, California, bases its small-group programming on the 30-minute workout, and it is a moneymaker. “By offering 30-minute classes we are able to bring twice as many people through our studio in 1 hour,” says Ethan Kopsch, owner and performance specialist.
Personal trainers generally agree that taking a baseline assessment is essential before designing a client’s program. However, what about advanced movement assessment? While scope of practice could come into play here, if you have the education to offer corrective-exercise and advanced movement screens, why not charge more for them? For example, let’s say a client complains about issues related to running, an activity he does on his own time; if you’re qualified to offer a 30-minute gait analysis that examines patterns and kinetic-chain issues, offering that service for an extra $40 isn’t likely to deter the client and will ultimately benefit your big-picture programming and the client’s overall health and well-being.
Personal trainers who own their own businesses have already invested in the equipment necessary to train a range of clientele. What about going a step further and offering small-equipment packs? If clients need additional motivation to work out on their own and have shown interest in the balls, bands and resistance tubing you use, offer them these items at a small profit.
“I sell yoga mats with a free DVD yoga session of me doing a sun and earth salutation, and I sell the boxing gloves and hand wraps we use in sessions,” says ACE-certified fitness professional Stephen Landrum, a personal trainer from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “People just kept asking me to help them find quality products. Now I have a preorder catalog, and it has [had] fantastic [results].”
Two things to consider are potential liability issues and excess inventory, so do your legal homework and gauge your ability to store wholesale packages.
Clients may have balked at using the foam roller for movement preparation when they first started working with you, but now they look forward to it. Why not buy foam rollers and other SMR tools (such as soft balls) and sell them to clients? You can even cut full rollers in half or thirds to maximize their use. This is a great way to help clients in their recovery and restoration efforts while bringing in a little extra money for your business. Be sure clients are familiar with the techniques, know about contraindications and have used SMR tools before they take them home. Include a sample routine with clear guidelines.
Mastermind groups—networks of professionals who meet to share ideas—are a valuable asset to anyone seeking to improve his or her business. Fellow mastermind participants become catalysts for your growth, devil’s advocates and supportive colleagues. This moneymaking idea is an investment; the payoff comes down the road as ideas flow and doors start to open.
ACE-certified fitness professional Debra Atkinson, owner of Voice for Fitness in Ames, Iowa, has belonged to a mastermind group with other businesspeople, but she is now considering “the value of turning that time to a mastermind group entirely of fitness pros.”
Being part of a mastermind group has given her new insights, says Atkinson, who adds that the variety of expertise among the group has helped her solve problems and provide new angles.
Personal trainers do not exist in a professional vacuum. Now more than ever, the training field overlaps with other wellness options, and consumers often look for one-stop shopping. It’s always been a good idea to have a file of allied health professionals on hand for referrals, but why not expand that idea to include personal chefs, massage therapists, acupuncturists and healing practitioners? Also look for opportunities to volunteer your expertise at community gatherings. The referrals you get can expand your client base exponentially in the long term.
If your personal training studio has the square footage and you have downtime in the schedule, consider renting your space to independent contractors or making it available for workshops. Offer an hourly rate for other health and wellness professionals who need a place to train or see clients. You might even designate an empty room for this very purpose.
LaRue Cook, owner of LEC Fitness LLC, in Alexandria, Virginia, suggests you have “rock-solid liability insurance” and “an iron-clad contract with the potential lessees” before going down this path. Other things to consider, according to Susan D’Alonzo, owner of D-Fit Workout Outdoor Bootcamps and In Home Personal Training in Pinole, California, who managed a studio for 25 years, are references for the professionals renting your space, proof of their liability insurance and CPR training, shoe restrictions for the floor, food policy, cleaning policy and whether or not you will require a security deposit.
If you have a blog or vlog that features pertinent health and fitness information for your clients, why not repurpose it and maybe make a little extra cash? There are many fitness-related websites that need content, and hospitals, community centers and other health-related businesses are looking for expert advice. The beauty of this is that you’ve already written the article or blog. The next step is to repackage it for a particular audience.
If you have written a series of blogs or articles on how to start a strength training program, for example, you can take the same information and rewrite it for almost any audience as long as you have the expertise and are a good enough writer. Use the template and add customized information for older adults, new moms and any other special population you’re qualified to work with. You may or may not be paid for your work; however, the exposure itself is free marketing.
“Medical fitness” facilities, as well as many wellness centers that combine personal training services with chiropractic and other options, have been offering saliva, point-of-care testing and other reports for years. Point-of-care testing can serve as a baseline for knowing relevant health information such as cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Saliva tests can help determine hormone levels, which are key to understanding how to design a perfect wellness program. Kelly J. Gibas, founder and executive of clinical nutrition and fitness operations at Bristlecone Med-Fitness Inc., in Maple Grove, Minnesota, provides this service as a health and wellness initiative. She works in “relationship with preventative health physicians,” and personal trainers on her staff have advanced degrees with specialties in biochemistry—in particular “the endocrine system of hormonal transportation.”
Ribas believes clients’ issues are all “really a hormonal battle at the very root,” and her facility uses test results to create “very personalized workout routines.” Ribas cautions that a personal trainer must have advanced education before “he or she attempts to administer or educate regarding saliva testing.” The right business model, backed by expertise, could be a viable profit center.
The depth and breadth of choices fitness professionals have to earn extra revenue through income streams that can be self-generating once they’re set up and nurtured a bit is pretty staggering. The industry has come a long way and will continue to progress.
What will be your approach to maximizing your revenue while minimizing the time you must spend working at it? It’s up to you to find the motivation and inspiration to be on the cusp of the next great idea—or to create it—and then ride it with minimal effort as far as you can take it.
A robust list of helpful resources for ideas presented in this article can be found on the IDEA website at www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/30-ways-to-make-more-money-resources.