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5 Highly Flexible and Profitable Business Models Health and Fitness Professionals Should Consider to Make More Money & Maintain Their Sanity

Little to no breathing space between one-to-one sessions. Work, work, work—Mondays through Sundays (Rest days? Nope, never heard of them.)

Yet, despite how overstretched and overwhelmed you feel, your bank account says you’re still a far cry from your ideal income. What now?

After all, when you’re already teetering on the edge of burnout, slotting just one more client into your schedule may be the thing that tips you over. And, even if it isn’t, it might hurt the coaching experience you deliver to your existing clients.

So, is there anything you could do to get yourself out of this frustrating catch-22? Yes. But you may need to overhaul your current business model

Wait, What’s a “Business Model”?

Countless research papers and books have been written on the concept of business models, and experts still argue about the exact definition.

For this article, we’re going with the simplest definition of a business model per Michael Lewis, an American author and financial journalist, in his book, “The New, New Thing”: “All it really meant was how you planned to make money”.

With this in mind, let’s examine your current business model (i.e., how you’re generating income now) and take a closer look at how it could be limiting your impact and earning potential.

You have a private, 1-on-1 coaching model where you dedicate a timeslot on your calendar to a single client. This client pays you a fixed rate per coaching session, which you may deliver face-to-face or online.

To earn more on this business model, you have three options:

  1. Raise your per-session rates
  2. Take on more clients
  3. Increase your coaching rates and get more clients

Unfortunately, as highlighted earlier, option #2 isn’t realistic (which means option #3 is pretty much out of the question, too)—leaving you only with option #1.

Sure, you could increase your rates but whether it’s to $100, $1,000, or $10,000, there’s always an upper limit to how much one client is able or willing to pay per coaching session. What does this mean?

You must change your business model if you wish to break through your income ceiling.

Below, you’ll find five business models suitable for health and fitness coaches that are profitable and offer flexibility to you and your clients.

Note: depending on your preferences, you could:

  • Add one or a mix of the following models to one-to-one coaching.
  • Adopt one or a blend of the following models while removing one-to-one coaching from your services.
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#1: Group Coaching

Group coaching: more impact and income, with less time. Let’s see how with some (purely illustrative) numbers:

  • Your current coaching rate: $150 per hour
  • Group coaching structure: You coach 12 clients per session, each paying $50/hour. What’s your hourly coaching rate now? $600/hour—you’ve essentially quadrupled your income while putting in the same amount of time.

There are a few ways to structure your group coaching sessions, which might include the following:

  • Membership model: Clients pay for a set number of sessions within a specified period (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or annually) and can book your available timeslots based on their schedule and particular needs. 

o   Pros: More predictable revenue. Your clients may appreciate the flexibility.

o   Cons: You may run into scheduling issues, where certain timeslots are overbooked and others are under-booked. Clients within a session may vary widely in their knowledge or experience, which may make catering to their needs challenging.

EXAMPLE: Patrick Beach runs an online community-centric yoga studio, Commune, that offers monthly and annual subscription options. 

  • “Cohort-based” model: Clients sign up for a clear “start-to-finish” path (e.g., “how to transition to a healthier lifestyle in 12 weeks” or “master beginner yoga postures in 8 weeks”). In most cases, they’ll have to stick to a set class schedule, such as every Wednesday at 10 am. 

o   Pros: Your clients are working toward the same goal; this helps generate a sense of community that could benefit client motivation and retention.

o   Cons: Finding a group of clients with the same needs and desires, plus corresponding schedule availability, could be difficult. Clients may also compare their progress with their cohort members—potentially leading to discouragement if they feel they’re making slower progress than others.


EXAMPLE: Meg Gallagher offers eight-week nutrition courses that take the guesswork out of eating and dieting on Strong Strong Friends.

#2: Digital Offerings

Group coaching sounds great. But what if it’s:

  • Not aligned with your area of expertise—for example, helping 20 clients who have different needs and lifestyle preferences transition to a plant-based diet as a Plant-Based Nutrition Specialist.
  • A far stretch from helping you achieve your dream income, no matter how you tweak your per-session client count or rates. 
  • Not something you wish to pursue.

Consider venturing into digital offerings.

You create courses, programs, and resources once but keep selling them to countless new clients without additional production efforts. It’s an income source that allows you to stop trading your time for money.

When it comes to how you structure your digital offerings as a health and fitness professional, you’re only limited by your imagination. The possibilities are truly endless.

Here are two ideas that’ll hopefully spark your creativity:

  • “Pay-per-use”: Your clients pay a one-time access fee for a digital product, such as a course, program, eBook, or template.

o   Pros: You may not need to set up a complete e-commerce store. Instead, you could opt for third-party digital delivery services, like Gumroad, Sendowl, and Sellfy, which typically charge a relatively affordable fee of around $30 per month.   

o   Cons: Given the low start-up and overhead costs, the digital media market is becoming increasingly crowded. To capture your ideal client’s attention and, thus, sale, you must demonstrate the unique value of your product. This, of course, isn’t always easy to do.

EXAMPLE: Lauren Simpson offers an extensive range of fitness programs available through a dedicated app. There are always new upcoming products while popular offerings are frequently updated. 

  • Membership site: Instead of selling individual digital products, you can bundle them together to create an extensive resource library, then require a paid subscription to generate recurring revenue. For example, you could offer tiered membership levels, where clients who pay more could unlock exclusive content.

o   Pros: This business model could offer you more predictable revenue. Content on membership sites is also less vulnerable to piracy than one-time digital downloads. 

o   Cons: Clients could get bored and cancel their subscriptions after utilizing your resource library. That means you must make an effort to regularly update, refresh, and add content to your membership site.


EXAMPLE: Kayla Itsines offers a selection of digital workouts through an app using a monthly subscription model.

#3: Workshops

Think of workshops as an offshoot of group coaching, with the following differentiators:

  • Brief: Workshops typically run from a couple of hours to a few days.
  • Intensive, with a singular focus: Workshops are run with a clear goal or outcome. For example, if you’re a Certified Personal Trainer, you could run a two-day workshop covering effective, science-based recovery strategies—and how participants could fit them into their schedules. Or, if you’re a Health & Wellness Coach, a half-day workshop on mindfulness exercises. 
  • Participants may not be clients: Workshop participants may attend in order to learn something specific from you. They don’t necessarily have to be in or enter into a coaching-client relationship with you.

Here are the pros and cons of generating income from workshops as a health and fitness professional:

  • Pros: Since you’re offering “specialized” knowledge and expertise, you could charge higher rates. Assuming you get 30 participants for a two-day workshop and charge $199 each, you’ll make $5,940. That’s impressive. Consistently running workshops on a particular focus area could help position you as an expert.
  • Cons: Running successful workshops takes preparation, logistics, and planning. Once you consider these factors, you may realize that workshops aren’t as profitable as they may look at first glance. In addition, getting participants to sign up for your workshops may be challenging.

EXAMPLE: Layne Norton regularly offers paid workshops and seminars on fitness and nutrition.

#4: Wellness Retreats

The wellness tourism market is booming.

So, why not capitalize on this trend by hosting a wellness retreat, a multi-day event designed to help participants work on their physical and emotional health away from the hustle and bustle of daily life?

A recent Verywell Fit article hints at the profitability of this business model.

According to the writer, an all-inclusive wellness retreat that offers accommodations, meals, fitness classes, spa treatments, and other activities could range from $3,000 to $6,000 per participant, per week.

Imagine if you managed to attract 30 participants for a week-long retreat.

That’ll give you between $90,000 to $180,000 in revenue. Of course, you’ll have to subtract the costs of hosting the retreat (e.g., securing your retreat space, engaging a meal delivery service, and partnering with other wellness activity providers) to calculate your actual profit.

If you spend:

  • $14,000 on accommodations
  • $10,000 on other wellness activities
  • $7,560 on meals
  • Total: $31,560

you’ll still take home between $58,440 to $148,440.

Disclaimer: this data is used purely as an example but gives a rough idea of the potential monetary returns associated with hosting wellness retreats.

What about the pros and cons?

  • Pros: You could strengthen relationships with existing clients. Wellness retreats are highly in-demand, which means you may find attracting new clients easier.
  • Cons: Unless the retreat is going to be done on a small scale, you’d likely need two to four months to plan the event. Delivering wellness experiences while juggling the logistics of the retreat could be incredibly difficult, so you might need additional help (e.g., from a travel company).

EXAMPLE: Kayla Nielsen, a yoga teacher, hosts wellness retreats around the world. She also offers education and mentorship for aspiring yoga practitioners and teachers.

#5: Affiliate Marketing 

Chances are that your clients frequently ask you for advice about tools and products that can support them on their wellness journeys.

Why not monetize your recommendations by becoming an affiliate marketer? For the uninitiated, affiliate marketing is the process of earning money (in the form of commissions) every time you promote a company’s products or services and drive a sale.

So, let’s say you’re a Pilates Fitness Instructor, and your client asks you for suitable Pilates equipment to help them get an effective workout at home.

If you’ve always purchased your Pilates equipment from a particular company and know that they offer high-quality products, you could ask them if it’s possible to become an affiliate marketer for their company.

If they agree, they’ll usually provide you with a unique affiliate link to pass on to your clients. You’ll receive a commission when your clients purchase products through your link.

Here are the pros and cons of becoming an affiliate marketer:

  • Pros: You’re likely already recommending tools and products to clients. This helps you monetize your advice with minimal effort.
  • Cons: You could come across as overly pushy and “salesy”, potentially putting off your clients. Also, unless you’re recommending expensive products, your earnings from affiliate marketing are unlikely to come close to a typical full-time salary.

EXAMPLE: Whitney Simmons taps on her massive social media following on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to promote the fitness apparel brand, Gymshark, through affiliate marketing.

Takeaways

Time will always limit your earning potential when you exclusively offer one-to-one coaching sessions.

Overhauling your current business model could help change that—putting you one step closer to achieving your dream income. 

As your business changes and evolves, so should your business model.

Evaluate your business model periodically to ensure it’s still serving you and your clients. 

One final tip: no matter which business model you choose, remember that your choice isn’t set in stone.

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References

https://www.michaellewiswrites.com/#the-new-new-thing
https://gumroad.com
https://www.sendowl.com
https://sellfy.com
https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/GWI-WE-Monitor-2021_final-digital.pdf
https://www.verywellfit.com/best-wellness-retreats-4788010
https://neilpatel.com/what-is-affiliate-marketing
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