Virtual fitness, including classes and personal training was growing in popularity before the pandemic. Though the pandemic devasted many gyms and fitness professionals lost countless hours of classes and clients, the pandemic really propelled the online space for fitness professionals to make online fitness a viable career.
ACE sat down with Jill Coleman, the founder and owner of JillFit, a business, fitness, and nutrition company and the provider of ACE Approved Fitness Business Accelerator Program to talk about her experience and growth before the pandemic, as well as what she sees is in store for the future of online fitness.
Q: What is your fitness and business background?
Jill: I was an athlete from a young age and attended Wake Forest University and earned my Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science. After I graduated, I stayed at Wake Forest as the Fitness Coordinator at the Student Recreation Center. I was personal training and teaching group exercise classes for 70+ hours a week. I started blogging in 2010 and started taking on virtual clients while also earning my Master of Science in Nutrition from Bridgeport University. Fast forward 18 months and JillFit had grown to a six-figure a year online fitness brand with five coaches and over 100 virtual clients. I have now been a business coach for over 10 years, helped over 2,500 businesses and JillFit has grossed $5 million over 12 years. We are now a seven-figure a year business and have served over 15,000 clients in fitness, nutrition, and business.
Q: How did you make the transition to an online business?
Jill: I am proud of the fact that JillFit was a six-figure online fitness and nutrition business even before offering business courses and coaching. I started with my blog and then started selling virtual programming and nutrition. We started to pivot to include business material in 2012, which was the very early days of online business. Other fitness professionals started asking how I was so successful in selling my fitness and nutrition programs. I did not know everything by any means, but I knew enough to teach others what I had done.
Q: With the forever changing platforms and trends, how do you stay up to date and ahead?
Jill: Just as I offer mentorship and coaching, I always invest in my own education and mentorship. I participate in a mastermind, I am present at industry events, and I seek out mentors who are successful in areas where I want to grow my business.
Q: How have you seen the landscape change since COVID?
Jill: Though COVID was devastating for the industry, it really accelerated the future of online coaching. It forced so many in-person fitness professionals to figure out how to make their business work online. It also forced consumers, who might have never tried virtual solutions to try something new and different. Though the online space is becoming more saturated with coaches, there are also more potential clients than ever before.
Q: How do you adapt your business for the typical slowing down during the holidays?
Jill: We are seeing that it is taking people longer to recover from the holidays. Even though gyms might be busy in early January, I do not recommend online fitness businesses to sell the first couple weeks of January. Push back your sales to later in January or early February. At this time, kids are back in school, and consumers can actually lift their head and figure out what they want to do.
Q: What do you foresee as the biggest upcoming change for the online fitness industry?
Jill: For the fitness industry in general, more consumers are liking online solutions. For fitness professionals, a lot of trainers who transitioned to online [services] during the pandemic, want to stay online. However, these trainers and other coaches and fitness professionals now need to be good at, not only training and fitness, but also business.
Even the certifying agencies are starting to recognize this and starting to offer more business and marketing courses. I just assisted in writing a chapter on social media in a textbook to help teach just that.
Currently, we are seeing two camps of people. People who still have the money and want to pay in full for a transformation (whether that is for fitness, nutrition, or business). The other camp includes those who want the most affordable option and opt for financing. It is important for coaches to show their clients that it is safe to invest in them. Do the coaches invest in their business and selves?
Another thing for fitness professionals to remember is that online coaching is not as new as it once was. You might actually not be their first online coach. They might have tried other platforms, apps or programs. You have to be a better communicator of the value. Clients are craving small containers. They do not want to be in huge social media groups where they can get lost. They want exclusivity (think small coaching pods). Do not think that clients or success is finite. With the acceleration of online solutions, there are now more clients than ever and more opportunity to change lives.
Want to learn more about growing your online business? Check out Jill’s ACE Approved Fitness Business Accelerator Program or, for the month of February, you can access our course “Adapting Your Services to the Fitness Technology Revolution” for free.