How To Start Your Freelance Fitness Business

The adage, “Do What you Love and the Money will Follow” doesn’t ring true without research, planning, and lining up the right support services.

By Leslie Keough • Dec 23, 2021

So you’ve decided to turn a pass time interest into a full-time business? Congrats! It takes passion, drive, courage, and some business acumen to make the freelance life a financial success. Unfortunately the adage, “Do What you Love and the Money will Follow” doesn’t ring true without research, planning, and lining up the right support services.  There is much to be said for being your own boss, especially in today’s volatile job market; but before you commit the time and money to a professional certification course, consider the following tips I’ve learned setting up my own wellbeing business:

Get Certified.

While titles, certifications and registrations vary widely in the wellness industry (with some folks working without recognized certs at all, which I don’t recommend), it’s best to do the research and select a regionally or nationally accredited school with which to study.  Many of these schools offer flexible schedules with evening or weekend classes (like I did every other weekend for 1 year) to accommodate those with jobs or other daytime obligations. Not only will a reputable school offer the needed paper, but it can function as a networking nucleous for finding jobs and colleagues. Plus, with the opportunity to build a viable online business in addition to local customers, selecting a certification program with the widest recognizable reach is optimal. Get educated then network network network.

Join Industry Organizations.

The best way to learn more about respected colleagues and model your business after their successful methods and practices is to join industry organizations. By reading industry publications, attending meetings/workshops, and even taking classes taught by other freelance professionals, one can appreciate the nuances of running a freelance wellness business and establish mentorships in the field.  Sometimes these groups require membership fees, additional coursework/testing, or even periodic demonstrations of your skills; it’s all informative and supplemental to the education from the classroom experience

Pace Yourself.

Making a passion a profession has its drawbacks when your active outlet (lifting weights, pilates, or cycling) becomes a money-making skill.  If you overcommit yourself with clients and classes due to demand, the burnout potential is high.  As a newly certified yoga instructor I made this mistake teaching at a university, a government center, a pilates studio, a residential complex, a grade school, and taught private clients to boot.  In a very short time, I no longer had the urge to practice yoga myself as I came to view it as a job rather than a passion. Protect your passion and pace yourself.

Get Covered.

No matter your specialty, there are group liability insurance policies to cover freelancers of every stripe from accidents and injuries when running a business.  Once certified, there are group plan policies available through companies like the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or Next Insurance for all types of fitness freelancers from personal trainers to nutrition coaches. Alternatively, there are frequently discounted liability policy rates for freelancers who are members of industry professional groups like Yoga Alliance. Whatever avenue taken to secure current coverage, post it on your website but also have hard copies to supply to vendors when teaching on-site or in venues (even if they have an in-house policy). No such thing as too much coverage.  Better safe than sorry.

Budget for Decompression.

Very fit people leading very active lives, especially those instructing others daily, need to rest and restore. In fact, they need to schedule regular sessions with massage therapists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and the like to keep their systems running optimally just as a workhorse family car needs regular maintenance.  Intense repetition without regular maintenance leads to injury and fatigue. Plan for time to rest and restore.

Define Your Niche.

Narrow your services or online offerings to appeal to a certain demographic rather than the public at large. Picking one demographic and researching them thoroughly will help you understand their needs, their issues, and the best solutions so that you emerge as an expert in your field.  With such saturated markets in wellness, having distinguishing reviews like “region’s best post-pregnancy massage therapist” will help not only with website keywords in SEO but word of mouth travels fastest for captains of industry.  Tailor your services to meet their specific wellness needs with respect to scheduling, intensity, style, and desired results. Then create a website with artwork and copy that defines your brand and uses messaging that speaks directly to that specific group.  Specialization is key!

Use Popular Trusted Payment Services.

With the pandemic surging the popularity of online purchasing and apps, clients are now accustomed to a myriad of payment processing services like PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp. However, not all methods are used by all demographics which makes selecting a target market all the more important and offering their preferred methods. I have multiple payment services on my website and some clients over 65 insist on sending checks to my house. Plus, these options are constantly expanding to include more services so having contemporary and trusted methods are vital to your company’s brand identification.  Know your client’s preferred payment processing methods.

Maintain Your Website.

As wellness trends shift, your skillset expands, and clients need change, you will want to be able to quickly and efficiently update your website and social media. It can be expensive for a freelancer just getting started to hire someone to design and then maintain your site. I recommend using a web design and hosting company like Wix or Squarespace that allows you to create and update your website in real-time without incurring additional designer costs. Maintain design control of your digital footprint.

Keep Studying.

As online fitness and wellness industries get increasingly saturated, it’s no longer recommended but required to stay abreast of current trends to forecast what’s next and anticipate client needs. Maintaining current certifications and seeking additional trainings is something to include in your operating budget. Keep acquiring new skills and certifications.

Dress to Impress.

While you may not personally be concerned with clothing labels, looking aspirational is part of your job description as the namesake of a wellness brand. Aligning with certain brands as an influencer might be an option to get discounted rates as a brand ambassador. Look for partnership options to keep your closet stocked with fresh trending gear. Even if new threads aren’t an option, looking clean-cut and well-rested helps translate the messaging of your lifestyle brand.  Your presentation represents your brand.

Every freelance personal trainer or massage therapist dreams of becoming the next big thing, but running a business and being skilled in your craft are two different animals. To run a successful business after you’ve honed your wellness craft, there are some obligatory tasks in which one must invest both time and money.  A little extra research and planning in start-up mode to line up support services like Lili can pay off large dividends down the road.  I hope some of the tips above help clarify accessible steps to creating a viable path for launching your own wellbeing business, and, intern, sharing your passion for health with others.

Written by
Leslie Keough

Leslie Keough is a wellness-focused instructor with experience in online content production, digital branding, and social media marketing.  She is the founder and principal of Meditate Montclair where she works as an instructor, consultant, and wellness coach online and in the New York metropolitan area.

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