When you finally decide to bite the entrepreneurial bullet, it’s hard to stop your brain firing on all levels telling you how you’re soon going to be a millionaire in six months, driving around in your sports car and sitting on the beach stuffing £10 notes in the bikini bottoms of Caribbean waitresses.

Soon, you realise the reality is much closer to 90 hour weeks, daily firefighting and an open invite to the mental asylum.

You had a well-paid job, consistent income and free weekends.

Now you’ve exchanged your 9-5 for a 5-9.

Your hourly rate has in fact plummeted even though technically you get paid more per client-facing hour.

Maybe you make some fast money but that doesn’t mean you’ve got what you really want.

Sure, money buys us fun tokens, but the truth is a lot of people with growing bank accounts don’t have the time or energy to actually do the things they pictured.

In the cold light of day, signing on the dotted line for the gym lease can seem like the day you sold your soul!

I’m all about creating genuine freedom for fitness business owners.

Money definitely plays a part but there is more to it.

Much more.

Here are five signs that you’re not really free.

Your business owns YOU needing you to constantly service it.

#1 THERE’S NO JOY IN YOUR WORK

As I’ve gone through life as a gym instructor, personal trainer, group fitness trainer, course leader, strength and conditioning coach and every other manifestation of ‘fitness teacher’ you can think of, I realised one key thing.

Those who do well in the long-term get immense joy from doing their job even when they’re not creaming money every minute of the day.

They’re a pleasure to watch teaching a class.

They want to connect with the people they teach and find out their back story and future dreams.

They will give the same passion whether they are in front of one person or one hundred.

When you lose the joy in what you do, this should ring alarm bells.

It’s usually the start of clients mysteriously quitting on their training and a fairly rapid unravelling of everything you built up.

Energy is everything in personal service industries.

Not because it’s ‘fitness’ but because people buy from people who fire them up about their own life.

If you’ve lost the joy in your job and feel a slave to your business, this is a pivotal moment requiring big action.

#2 YOU JUST SEE NUMBERS

A successful business owner has a tight grasp on what’s coming in, what’s going out, how things have progressed and how the winds are changing.

However, if this is the only thing you see, it’s another sign that you are simply a cog in your own machine.

Usually it’s a sign of stress closing down the creative part of your brain.

I often find the fitness coaches who are struggling on a business level when I start working with them are in a heightened state of threat for one reason or another.

They can only think about where they might find their next £1,000 or make rent, rather than being able to think about how they can improve their service and make their facility more fun.

Being chained to your business like this is not healthy for you or the company.

Now more than ever, the best performing businesses are those that can think creatively about new and exciting ways to serve their existing clients and get the attention and commitment of new ones.

#3 YOU HAVE A ‘WALLET AND PULSE’ STRATEGY

Have you ever turned down taking on a client or politely informed an existing one that you can’t train them anymore?

If not, there’s a good chance you have a ‘Wallet and Pulse’ strategy.

If someone is breathing and can pay, you’ll take them on as a client even if deep down you know they are not a good fit for your program or methods.

This is closely related to just seeing immediate numbers.

Successful fitness businesses have core values and behavioural requirements that are consciously or subconsciously communicated to make sure that only the right people come into the community, making it bigger and stronger.

You should not be at the mercy of what anyone and everyone wants from you.

You need to decide what your core values are as a person and a business and then align every action and decision with those values.

This can be very hard but will pay off massively in the future as you look to build a strong brand with a clear message.

If people don’t really know what you do and it seems like your message swings further than a demolition ball, very few will be excited to ‘buy in’ because they don’t have a clue how it’s going to go.

#4 YOU HAVE TO STOP BUSINESS WHEN YOU WANT TIME OFF

Having to cancel clients and classes when you need a holiday is another sign that your business controls you rather than the other way around.

This can lose you a lot revenue and by the time you’ve had four weeks holiday per year and your client does the same, you’ve trained them for ten months per year instead of twelve.

That is a 15-20% pay reduction, not to mention the likely stall in progress.

How can you restructure your business to ensure that your money isn’t tied to your physical presence?

This doesn’t mean you have to work online but it does mean you need to learn how to build teams and actually act like a ‘proper’ business.

One of my greatest moments in life was sitting in McDonald’s on the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains about 6 weeks into a 13 week trip including cycling across the USA.

I checked in to see my £5k monthly payment had gone in, got an email from my Number 2 to say that all was well with the fitness camps and got back on the bike.

The day before I had been sat outside the gate to Tom Cruise’s compound near Telluride taking pictures of mountains and thinking about how so many people never get to experience such feelings.

That’s freedom.

The only bad bit of this was that it was 5 degrees celsius outside, my now ex-girlfriend had the early signs of hypothermia and we had to go into McDonald’s to get food and emergency coffee to warm up.

But…shit happens.

#5 YOU HAVE NO MENTAL FREEDOM

Before I got a grasp on building a fitness business as opposed to ‘working for myself’, there was little point in me having free time because my brain just kept churning business stuff.

I may as well have just gone back to the office because I wasn’t at all present with my family or friends when I was with them.

It’s great to be excited about your business but a key skill is to learn when enough is enough and you need to switch off.

If you can’t do this, you’re being controlled by your business.

Take steps to free your brain from business and enjoy doing other things.

You’ll not only get relaxation time but likely come back with insights you wouldn’t have got if you kept churning ideas and numbers in your head 24/7.

I recommend meditation and brain dumping before you finish up for the week to clear your head.

Ask your brain for answers to problems and questions then go do other things and leave your subconscious to find the solutions.

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