I've lost my fitness classes and clients after COVID... what should I do?
Fitness pros in England have been back at the gym for just over a month now, and today (31st August) our Scottish counterparts have opened their doors again. However, if you speak to anyone who has been back working for a while, they'll tell you that things are very different now than they were 6 months ago. Even though class attendances are starting to climb in the clubs that I work at, timetables look very different, people are coming in at different times of day and gym membership numbers are still way down on March. It is undeniable that gym footfall has taken a hit, which may be reflected in the amount of PT clients you can pick up or classes that have been put on the timetable.
If you are reading this article, the probability is that you have lost work because of the pandemic. Many chains have removed certain programmes from their timetables and if you only taught these programmes, you might have lost all your classes. You might have lost clients who can no longer afford their gym membership or PT sessions. So, what can you do to start building your timetable back up and get your business back on its feet?
1. Diversify, diversify, diversify
Honestly, if I hadn't diversified my own career from the start I would be in a very difficult position right now. The more options you have to choose from to earn money, the easier it is going to be to pick up enough work to pay your bills. Check out this video for my suggestions on how to diversify your fitness career. If you're a PT, maybe you need to train to teach group ex, or vice versa. You could train in another programme, become a sports massage therapist or look into affiliate marketing.
2. Network like a pro
If you find that you've got a lot more time on your hands now and a freer schedule, become the king or queen of cover. Reach out to all the local gyms in your area and let them know you are available. Be present in local Facebook and Whatsapp cover groups and get yourself any work that comes your way. A lot of people are still hesitant about coming back to working in the gym so there are a lot of cover opportunities to be had. Personally, I'm picking up at least 3-5 covers every week which translates to an extra £120ish per week. Not to be snuffed at!
3. Create and leverage your personal brand
Now I know that posting on social media may not be everybody's cup of tea. Personally I hate posting pictures of myself for the world to see and probably criticise. However, when I started GFT I knew that this was something I had to do. Fitness is a very visual industry and a lot of clubs will stalk your Instagram and Facebook profiles before offering you work. If you have a really strong social media page with quality educational and entertaining content, they will see you and think "wow, we need them in our club!" You will be free advertising for them and this works well for both parties. Maybe think about creating a separate "fitness" profile if you're not comfortable adding class members onto your personal pages. (Side note: try to keep any controversial or polarising views away from any work-related pages. People will follow you for fitness content, not to know which way you voted in the EU referendum or hear about your religious beliefs or political views.)
4. Take your work online
Whilst people are definitely returning to the gym, there is still a big portion that cannot afford to reactivate their gym memberships or don't feel safe enough to step into that environment yet. There are others who have just found a love for home training. These people were being served during lockdown but now we have gone back to work, a lot of people have stopped their online offerings, leaving the people that want them in the lurch. You may want to consider starting online coaching programmes or group classes. You can use services like Get Me Fit or Zoom to start this up. A great place to go if you need kit for teaching online is Sound Dynamics!
5. Pick up a part time job
Now, whilst this may not necessarily take you towards your long-term goals, picking up a part-time job, such as at a supermarket, newsagent or coffee shop may give you a bit of short-term income and reassurance whilst you find your feet again. If you've followed the blog for a few months, you may have read that I have actually been working at Tesco since April. I lost 65% of my income overnight when the gyms closed and didn't qualify for any government help schemes so I needed to pick up another job to survive. Do I want to do people's online shopping forever? Absolutely not. But the extra money I have earned over this time has allowed me to keep paying my bills and stop me panicking about being made homeless. This has been a tough year for us all and sometimes you need to swallow your pride and do what you need to to get through.
Please remember, there are still government help schemes available for those of you reading in the UK, such as the self-employed grant, small business bounce back loans and universal credit. If you are really struggling to find work then don't be afraid to use one or more of these options. If you're not sure which options you may be eligible for, contact Citizens Advice - they were incredibly helpful for me! (International readers, check out your respective government's websites to find out the help available to you)
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