There’s a belief in the fitness industry that in order to pursue a true, full-time career as a coach you need to own a gym.
The reality is there are far more part-time coaches than full-time, career coaches in the industry today. A 2020 Two-Brain Business report on the state of the industry, for example, found that in a 6,000 square foot facility, the median number of part-time employees is six, while the median number of full-time employees was just two. Further, for CrossFit gyms specifically, the median annual coach salary in 2020 was just $24,000, suggesting that many (arguably most) coaches have a second job, as well.
This, however, does not mean it’s not possible to become a full-time career coach without being a gym owner.
The bottom line is not everyone has entrepreneurial instincts, and with the right pieces of the puzzle in place, it’s possible to lead a fulfilling, professional career as a fitness coach without the hassle and stress that goes along with being a business owner.
Four Tips to Becoming a Professional, Career Coach without Owning a Gym
Find the Right Gym
It goes without saying, if you’re working at a small gym where the owners don’t need or want full-time coaches, you’re likely not going to turn your part-time coaching gig into a full-time career.
It’s important to seek the right gym, the right owner(s), whose goal is to develop professional coaches, or intrapreneurs, within their business. There are tons of gym owners out there who would kill for a coach who is motivated to turn coaching into a full-time career, tons of small gym owners interested in developing professional coaches, and offer financial compensation models that allow both the business and the coach to flourish.
These entrepreneurs/gym owners are out there, but they probably won’t just fall into your lap. You might have to seek them out.
Find a Niche
In the Two-Brain Group Coaching course, Coach Josh Martin stresses the importance of finding your own niche—that thing you’re super passionate about within fitness—and become an expert in this area.
Maybe it’s Olympic weightlifting, maybe it’s gymnastics, or maybe nutrition, but whatever it is, becoming an expert in one specific area can offer the opportunity for you to begin a specialty program at your gym. Specialty courses have the ability to easily make you at least $100 an hour.
Further, you might even eventually grow your program to a place where you can host seminars or events, or offer online programming in your niche.
Tip: Before you rush into starting a specialty program, Martin points out the importance of establishing your authority with the clients at your gym first. Take the time to get to know them, build trust and respect with them, before you ask them to exchange money for your new program.
Go Beyond the Physical
Many coaches get stuck in the technician trap, meaning they think their main job as a coach is to be the best technical coach they can possibly be.
Consider this: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, civil rights activist.
It goes without saying, if you’re a coach you’re going to get a lot more fulfillment if your clients stick around and reach their goals, and helping them do this goes so far beyond mastering the movements in the physical training session.
This is why, in his course, Martin takes a deep dive, not just into being a good technical coach, but also the importance of becoming a great coach who has awareness of both the social and psychological aspects of coaching.
Tip: Whether in a group setting, or as a one-on-one coach, it’s important to dig into your clients’ WHY, into their goals, and then to tie what you’re doing with them to their goal. When they buy into the training program you’re giving them, their intrinsic motivation will go through the roof, and when this happens they’re going to be more compliant and consistent and ultimately more successful. And this has absolutely nothing to do with how good you are at breaking down a clean and jerk.
Build an Online Presence
While some coaches have no desire to become online, remote coaches, for others it’s a great way to make a living, if not full-time, then as an add-on to their in-person coaching.
In-person coaching can be energy-consuming and exhausting if you’re on the floor 30-plus hours a week, so adding an element of online coaching can help reduce burnout, all the while providing flexibility to your schedule and giving you the ability to work from anywhere.
Worth noting: Martin’s Group Coaching Course includes BONUS modules about becoming a successful online coach. It goes into best practices when it comes to:
- Bringing on new clients
- Assessing new clients when it comes to how they move, sleep, eat and manage stress
- Goal setting
- Designing and delivering effective training programs
- Tracking and monitoring progress
- Helping clients be compliant and have success
- And, of course, to retaining your clients.