How to start an online fitness business during COVID-19
Even before Covid-19 happened, virtual fitness was being hyped as a big fitness trend.
And why not! Being able to work out under the expertise of some of the best trainers in the industry right from the privacy of one’s living room definitely sounds convenient. But over the last few months, the appeal for online fitness classes has changed.
Coupled with a completely new value proposition of ‘being safe from Covid-19’ by not stepping inside a gym with common surfaces and strangers, virtual fitness has peaked and the case for digital fitness has only gained weight over the last quarter!
In light of this trend, many business owners in the fitness industry have evolved their business model to include virtual fitness and are already making profits with it.
As a gym owner, personal trainer, yoga guru, or fitness center owner, are you still on the fence about digital fitness?
Whether you want to start an online fitness business to ride out this crisis, or you want to make it a permanent part of your business model post-Covid-19, experimenting with it is the only way to answer that question for your business.
We have broken down the process of setting up your virtual fitness classes into 6 simple steps. And don’t worry, our advice isn’t about buying expensive equipment, a camera, or lights!
In this blog, we tried to focus on the start-small-and-scale-when-it-works model.
All the steps below help you start your online fitness business with minimum investment and the bare minimum setup. You can try it out, and see for yourself how it works out for your fitness studio, gym, yoga classes, or Zumba sessions!
Here’s a snapshot of what’s in this blog. You can click on any section to jump to it directly.
- How to start your online fitness business: 6 simple steps
- In conclusion
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How to start your online fitness business: 6 simple steps
1. Finalize your offerings
To decide which services you can offer virtually, consider the following two factors:
If you offer a mix of nutrition advice, fitness consultancy, and workout training, you’ll have to figure out which services can be offered virtually.
You will have to consider the physical and financial feasibility of each service for both you and your clients.
For example, it’s not going to be possible for them to access treadmills or ellipticals at their homes. Which makes it important for you to design and adapt your virtual workouts according to what’s accessible and convenient for them.
In these times of crisis, the necessity for physical and mental well-being has peaked, and so has the demand for services that ensure this.
Before shifting all your services online, gauge the community pulse in your area to find out what it is that your members are actually looking for. You can also see what other competitors are doing to get a general idea of what’s trending.
Which services can you offer virtually?
You can offer group sessions for popular workouts like Zumba or aerobics using our group scheduling software. This will help keep the motivation of your members up and ensure that they have fun while attending your online sessions.
Personal training will help you provide personalized support to members who want to meet their fitness goals even from home. This will ensure that current members continue getting better results from your services.
You can offer easy to make-at-home recipes and diets that take into account the pressures of a work-from-home lifestyle. Create special packages and provide consultancy to your members to stay fit during Covid-19. You can add immunity-boosting elements in their diet plans and check on them regularly.
Rental equipment for an at-home workout
Consider making some extra money by renting equipment that is currently unused at your gym to members who want to workout with your virtual classes. Simple things like light dumbbells, bands, steps, etc.
But a word of caution – make sure these equipment are thoroughly sanitized and cleaned before renting them again to someone else. You can also make them sign a contract stating that they were to return it and they are responsible for any damage caused to it.
2. Price and package your services
Your pricing model can depend on various factors – if you have a boutique gym or various fitness clubs, yoga or a HIIT fitness studio, and more.
The way you price your online services should be profitable and yield enough returns. We’ll be talking about different pricing strategies you can use according to what suits your business the best.
Drop-in price or pay-as-you-go
In this kind of model, instead of paying for full membership, clients pay per fitness class.
This is ideal for people who are just exploring your offering for the first time and want the flexibility of exploring other options as well.
You can also offer them package prices where you bundle up a number of classes for a fixed charge. For example – 15 classes for $300 or 5 classes for $90.
Potential clients are more likely to sign up for your classes with such a price offering as it requires minimal commitment from their end. This is a great way to charge for your classes if you’re looking to acquire more customers.
With an exceptional training experience from your end, these pay-as-you-go customers are more likely to convert to longer membership clients. They serve as more qualified leads for you to convince them to take up longer plans with your fitness center.
With COVID-19 doing an unending cameo in 2020, gyms and other fitness studios are less likely to reopen this year, which is why virtual membership plans don’t seem too far-fetched, now.
This is a typical pricing strategy used in various industries, where customers pay a fixed fee for a number of months to access your services. Keeping the current situation in mind, you can offer discounts on your membership plans to get more people to sign up for them.
3. Decide the form of online workout
As times change every passing day, the fitness industry sees major disruption in the way they function. With fitness businesses moving online, you can choose to cater to your customers with – live streams or pre-recorded workouts.
Around 70% of fitness enthusiasts prefer online workouts as they give them enough room to be flexible, according to Les Mills. Adopting both will give them a broader spectrum of flexibility and uniformity. You too will know what works better for you as you get a pulse of your member community.
So, what are the pros and cons of both?
- Your classes will be real-time. This will be a great way of motivating your members as you get to interact with them as the class goes on.
- You work out like a community – just like you did in-studio. Your members will feel connected when they are working out with other people. You can ask them to switch on their cameras and check how they are performing. You can correct their postures and encourage them to keep going in real-time.
- You wouldn’t need to edit anything. This makes live-streaming a great option for people who aren’t editing pros and are looking to save time!
- This sets a defined schedule for your members. Your members are less likely to slack off when they have to show up for the class at a set time of the day.
- Going live means you need a detailed plan beforehand. A lot of time and resources would go by for you to come with a flawless and consistent schedule before you go live.
- There’ll be no retakes. Mistakes are common and happen quite frequently on live streams. But, you can’t rewind them. So, you’ll need to make sure you are thorough with your exercise routines.
- Pre-recorded workouts offer great flexibility. Your members won’t be bound by a schedule set by you and can stream the workouts at their own convenience.
- They are great for tutorials. Not everyone would get a hang of a particular workout and might need assistance again. Pre-recorded videos would be of great help to them, and you wouldn’t need to redo the workouts all over again.
- No mishaps and better presentation. Since pre-recorded workouts give you the flexibility to edit at a later time, your workout videos will have no room for errors and they’ll turn out flawless.
- No real connectivity. Since your classes are not streamed in real-time by your members, you can’t actually engage with them during their workouts. For example, you can’t correct their postures during a pre-recorded workout.
- You can’t personalize your workouts. Different people will have different needs and medical limitations that you might not be able to cater to as pre-recorded workouts are designed for the majority.
Tip: You can come with a “Workout of The Day” and upload it to your Facebook and Instagram at a set time every day. You can also use videos from your live streams and reuse them as your tutorial videos which you can then upload to your Youtube/Instagram/Facebook.
4. Initial equipment/tools checklist
Spotlight? check! Camera? check! Sound? check!
Before you start live streaming or recording tutorials for your viewers, you need to tick every item off your equipment checklist. You need to take care of all the items you’ll be needing, which is, camera, sound, lighting, and editing tools, and start planning your equipment checklist from about two weeks prior to your launching date.
Here’s how to go about it:
This is the important thing to remember when you are just starting out. Start with the essentials and scale up to fancy lights and cameras as your virtual fitness business grows. Don’t invest in the best of the best equipment right at the start!
Many trainers and fitness experts have started their own online businesses with a lean model during Covid-19 and gradually grew their business. You can follow the same model and improvise on the go!
You need a stable and good-quality camera to stream workouts. But before you make a hasty decision, you need to assess your options and decide on a camera that suits you the best. Ideally, you should go for a camera that records high-quality HD videos.
You can browse various options depending on your budget and recording needs.
Having separate lighting equipment might not be necessary if you’re recording in an area with rich ambient lighting. But having a piece of lighting equipment can go away with any dark spots and even out the overall brightness of the room.
Test this out before going ahead to reduce noise and shadows that might show up in the reel.
Alternatively, a quick Amazon search should give you great results to choose from too.
Your instructions need to be loud and crisp if you want your viewers to understand what you say clearly. If you’re low on budget, you can just use your laptop for filming and use its in-built microphone if there is no noise or any kind of distraction in the background.
But if you’re looking for sound support, you can go for a wireless mic or an affordable USB mic, since your training sessions would require you to move around a lot. However, you wouldn’t need to empty out your pockets even if you’re looking for external sound equipment.
There are a plethora of free editing tools available online to use for editing videos, so you really don’t need to break a bank on any of the professional editing software.
Openshot and VSDC are a couple of editing tools ideal for beginners not looking for professional options. Lightworks, on the other hand, has advanced features you can get a hang of with their detailed tutorial videos.
A few advanced options you can look into with a wide spectrum of features are Blender, Shotcut, and Filmora. These editing tools are packed with powerful features like 3D animation, multiple slots for adding images, audio, videos, and 4K resolution support.
5. Set up your booking process and tech infrastructure
As you gear up to start your fitness classes online, you have to make sure you have the right tools required to take care of all the needs. Whether it’s an online scheduling tool or a way to air your classes, you should have all these tools in place before you set up your online fitness classes.
When you’re looking to start your business online, you’ll need an online scheduling platform, a payment processing system, a platform where you can stream your classes, and a way to get their feedback and reviews.
Fitness class booking system – As you go online, managing and keeping your appointments in one place becomes very important. A fitness booking software will let your members easily book their classes with you online and let you manage all your classes from one place.
Payment processing system – Investing in trustworthy payment software is required for you to make sure you don’t lose any money in any way. A good payment system would be one your members trust and that lets you accept prepayments to avoid any last-minute changes or cancellations.
Streaming platform – After the booking is done, you would also need a platform through which you can live-stream your classes to your members. Choose a platform that you can trust with your privacy.
There are a number of live-streaming options available online for you to use. However, you can go with Zoom if you’re looking for private group sessions with your members.
- Zoom allows up to 100 participants in a video conference.
- Participants can also choose to only have the trainer’s screen visible to them instead of a number of faces in the conference view.
Review management tool – After your classes, you can rebook another class with them or take feedback from them. Invest in a good review management system since constructive feedback will make you understand your members’ needs better and help you repurpose your offering accordingly.
That might look like a lot of new tools to play around with and finalize, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Given the increasing popularity of online fitness in recent years, there have been many tools in the market that have a combination of these features.
In fact, Appointy is a one-stop solution for all your online fitness business needs! It helps you simplify your online booking process, live-stream using Zoom, accept pre-payments online, manage client database, and accept reviews – all in a single interface!
That sounds pretty much on autopilot, doesn’t it?
That’s because Appointy’s fitness management software is designed to keep in mind all of your business’s needs. It will not only help you get started, but also help run your online fitness classes smoothly.
In fact, during the past few weeks, we have onboarded hundreds of trainers and fitness businesses to Appointy to help them switch to online fitness during Covid-19.
6. Get the word out!
Now, that you’re starting your classes online, you want to make sure your clients know about it. The way marketing works online will be a bit different from how it works offline – your online offering and your way of delivering it is different. You need to keep this in mind before you reach out to your customers.
Make announcements on your website
Update your website to reflect your operational changes. You’re shifting your fitness classes online, so make sure your customers are aware of it. This should show up on the first page of your website clearly mentioning the following information –
- What you’re offering
- How are you delivering (Live-streaming or pre-recorded videos)
- How are you taking payments
- Working hours and available slots
Update your social media profiles
Edit your bios, pages, and business profiles on social media. Make announcement posts on these pages and profiles as well so that your followers and potential clients know about your online fitness business.
Your social media can also be a great way to take polls, and understand the community pulse for your services and offerings.
There’s a lot of planning that goes into starting an online fitness business, and even more so when you’re reworking your offering on a different platform altogether. But with prior planning, you wouldn’t miss out on a thing.
You’ll have to rethink the way you have been operating your business all this while and automate a lot of your admin chores.
Here’s where Appointy comes to your rescue!
Appointy’s fitness studio scheduling software can be your trusted right-hand man when it comes to easing your workload as you shift your fitness business online. You can take care of your class schedules, workout live-streaming, payments – all from a single interface.
Are you still hesitant and don’t know how to go about it? Don’t worry! Just reach out to us here and our rockstar support team will get you started in no time. It’s easy and hassle-free.
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog, or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
We love a good talk!