Shannon Fable by Shannon Fable

Let’s be honest—you got into this business because you like to move. You purposefully did not take a desk job and the thought of being confined to a cubicle probably makes you want to scream. But here’s the reality: If you want to stay in the fitness business, you must make time to work on your business as well. And that might require both a computer and an office chair.

O.K., so it doesn’t have to require an office chair—it might be a couch, a comfy armchair at your favorite coffee shop or a lounge chair on your back porch. And you may choose pen and paper over a computer. Whatever you decide, dedicated office hours must be a non-negotiable in your weekly schedule if you plan to create, sustain and grow your fitness business.

As a health and fitness professional, much of your business relies on showing up and trading time for money. You schedule a training session or you teach a class in exchange for a designated rate. And if you do your job well (get clients results or create a memorable experience for your participants), you keep the client or the class and continue to make money. Sounds good, right? Well, it is good—that is, until it isn’t.

Consider this: There will be a time when you lose a client or a class for reasons beyond your control. There will also come a time when you may need to change your hours due to life circumstances. You might need to take an extended leave for pregnancy, injury, illness or family care. Or you may simply want to take a vacation like a normal person. If you don’t strategize prior to these events, however, you may find yourself simply taking a cut in pay and dealing with the aftermath. And who wants to live like that?

Here some good news: It’s completely avoidable. The time you set aside to work on your business should allow you to focus proactively on projects and tasks that can safeguard (and grow) your income. Working on your business goes beyond your general office operations or day-to-day tasks such as answering emails, posting to social media, preparing for classes or clients, billing and paperwork. This must be worked into your weekly schedule as well. The kind of work I’m referring to here is introspective and ongoing, and requires blocks of time.

A good rule of thumb is to set aside a minimum of 20% of your total work hours each week for office work. Of that 20%, at least half should be reserved for business-building work, while the remainder is set aside for your day-to-day operations.

For example, if you are a full-time personal trainer willing to work 40 hours a week, you should be in your business (on the floor, training, teaching, planning, practicing) no more than 32 hours each week, with the other eight hours divided between business building and operational tasks.

Next, you’ll need to be sure you carve out blocks of time for your business-building hours. As you’ll see, the work you’ll need to do cannot be sandwiched in between classes or clients, or done 20 minutes at a time. Even if it’s just one block a week, a bigger chunk of time will net you better results. These hours should not be an afterthought (i.e., I’ll do that Saturday morning while I’m chilling on the couch). These hours should go on your schedule during your work week and should be considered sacred.

Within those business-building hours you’ve blocked off, focus on the following:

  1. Upskilling – continuing education in fitness and beyond fitness (business, marketing, communication)
  2. Self-promotion – networking, direct outreach, referral strategy, speaking, writing, web presence
  3. Additional Revenue Streams – vetting, brainstorming, developing ways to bolster your revenue beyond trading time for money

If you commit to spending time each week on all three of these areas, your business will begin to flourish (as long as you don’t just think about these things, but actually create projects and knock things off your to-do list). How long it takes will vary and is completely dependent on the amount of time you’re willing to spend working on your business versus in your business. But if you’re willing to trade a few guaranteed dollars with a face-to-face client for a future pay off, you’re sure to be rewarded.


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