“Making six figures” has become the gold standard of marketing bullshit in the fitness industry with very little understanding of what it actually means to the individual.

QUESTION 1: Which country are we talking about?

When my fitness camps/personal training team were generating revenues of over £20k per month this equated to about £50k per month in Australian dollars and £30k per month in the USA. I would have been a multi-billionaire in Vietnam.

Brexit changed those exchange rates skewing the mythical figure even more!

QUESTION 2: Are you MAKING figures or are you KEEPING six figures?

There is a potentially huge difference between the two because if you’re making £100,000 in revenue but your costs are at £60,000 per year, you’re taking home £40,000 (before tax etc).

Is that what your goal was? Probably not.

QUESTION 3: What do you have to do to make that money?

Those trainers who do make it to ‘clearing’ £100k often find themselves doing things they really don’t want to do, but now they can’t get out without seeing a lot of that money disappear.

  • Working with clients that make them want to put their face through the nearest window.
  • Using methods they don’t like, such as a highly technical trainer who prefers 121 coaching but who got sold on doing large group training just to make more money
  • Working 90 hours a week to get all the training sessions done plus the client service hours / program design PLUS new enquiry admin and the other twenty jobs they didn’t sign up for!
  • Sacrificing a lot of family time
  • Working weekends
  • Taking long weekends and calling it a holiday as that’s all they can manage
  • Working public holidays to catch up on missed sessions
  • Giving up everything that resembles a fun hobby

QUESTION 4: What’s the out?

I don’t have a problem with a fitness business owner getting their head down and grafting to stockpile money for a while, provided they have an development or exit strategy.

If you want to travel for two years and want to have £100k in the bank before you do, it can be a wise idea to just graft your ass off for two or three years and earn your dream adventure.

Alternatively you may build a business with a view to selling in five years time.

Either is fine if it fits your plan for life and bigger goals, but you need to know your own plan and structure EVERYTHING towards it.

If you want to work for yourself in your local town and build a life for your family with a good and steady income, the way to approach this is likely to be different to building up a gym and selling it.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to work 20 hours per week with real people. Not everyone is cut out for, or wants to build an empire with lots of staff doing the work on the ground while they sit in the office plotting growth strategy.

Only you can decide what will bring you happiness which will have a big impact on determining how best to build your ‘six figure’ business.

HOW DO WE ACTUALLY GO ABOUT MAKING SIX FIGURES?

The first thing I always get Fitness Business Freedom clients to do is to calculate what they really need to earn to live the lifestyle they want.

(Most of the time it’s quite a bit less than six figures but let’s forget that for now!)

To do that we need to know everything from rent/mortgage payments to loans, food costs, insurance, child costs, social expenses, savings, investments etc.

Let’s assume you’ve done a complete lifestyle development plan and calculated that you do in fact need to CLEAR £100,000 (after personal tax) from your business.

Your calculations need to go something like what is detailed below.

Please note that these are example figures to illustrate how to go about creating your business model. You should work out your own figures as accurately as possible accounting for local tax regulations and conditions, national insurance contributions etc.

Required funds per year after income tax and national insurance: £100,000

Tax @ 20% = £20,000

National insurance @ 5% = £5,000

REQUIRED ANNUAL WITHDRAWAL FROM BUSINESS = £125,000

ADD Business indirect costs (overheads that have to be paid however many clients you have such as rent and rates)

ADD Business direct costs (cost of sales incurred ‘per unit’ such as £50 worth of free supplements)

ADD Business tax (obviously this moves up and down with profits)

REVENUE REQUIRED = £125,000 + Indirect costs + Direct costs + Tax

The exact revenue figure required depends on many factors which cannot all be detailed in one article.

You have to go away and manipulate the figures taking into account things like:

  • Your rent (is it fixed or ‘per hour’ if working out of a leisure centre or similar)
  • If you add ten personal training clients your revenue goes up, but so does your direct cost figure if you employ staff to carry out the sessions.
  • Insurance
  • Music license figures may increase if you carry out more sessions per week
  • Impact on tax liabilities

Write out every single expense you have on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

Now you can go about creating the business model that will get you to your target figure.

Before you dive in, training anyone and everyone at every time of day and getting excited as your income grows, take a little time to think about which model will best serve the lifestyle you want.

There is little point expecting happiness from earning six figures if you have a wife and two children but never see them because you have to work until 9pm every week day and then half of Saturday.

Similarly, if your ultimate dream is to travel, you won’t do it if you don’t employ anyone and have to either settle for never getting a holiday or losing a month of income (and probably some pissed off clients) whenever you go away.

Each possible business model comes with different pros, cons, opportunities, costs, risks and responsibilities. Consider these carefully.

  • Work for yourself in your own PT studio
  • Employ other trainers in your PT studio
  • Semi-private groups (6-10 people)
  • Large group fitness camps
  • Hydrid models – you can run large groups in the busy hours before and after work with personal training sessions during the day. Alternatively you can run a certain number of PT sessions per day whilst you grow your online business.

I am going to use three common models for demonstration purposes but the key message is that there are virtually infinite ways to ‘make six figures’.

There is no right or wrong answer other than the one that makes you the most amount of money, living the lifestyle you want to live or at least making sure you are heading in the right direction and not building something that then becomes a ball and chain!

You can access a spreadsheet to help you manipulate figures for each model and watch the changes to profitability on the Fitness Business Freedom program.

Alternatively, get someone to show you how to create an Excel spreadsheet.

EXAMPLE £100K MODELS

Remember that overheads will be unique to each situation and must be fully understood before you blindly copy someone else’s model expecting the same results.

This figure includes rent, rates, insurance, licensing etc. The tax man will also want a juicy cut and this will differ depending where you live.

Remember in our earlier example we said we need to withdraw £125,000 BEFORE tax and national insurance to ‘clear’ £100,000 for our personal bank account.

Some figures are rounded up or down for simplicity.

PERSONAL TRAINING STUDIO 

Annual overheads, direct costs and approx tax liabilities = £20,000

£125,000 + £20,000 = £145,000

Because you work for yourself and want 4 weeks holiday per year, you must generate this figure in 48 weeks not 52 weeks.

£145,000 / 48 = £3,000 per week

You want to work 40 hours per week to make your money.

£3,000 / 40 = £75 per hour

Now we know that you must charge £75 per hour to make this figure.

HOWEVER, the likelihood is that you will only work 90% of predicted hours (when you hit full capacity) due to clients missing sessions, falling ill and so on.

Now that figure changes to £3,000 / 36 hours = £83 per hour.

You now have to consider whether you can command these fees.

If not, you must either up your skills and the perceived value to the client to enable those fees, take on more clients or rethink your business model.

See how the game works?!

SEMI-PRIVATE GROUP STUDIO

Let’s take the same figures from above but assume we only want to work 20 hours per week.

We must generate our £3,000 revenue target from 20 hours of semi-private group training.

These 20 hours will be from Monday, Wednesday, Friday groups at 7am, 8am, 6pm and 7pm (12 hours) and Tuesday, Thursday groups at 7am, 8am, 6pm and 7pm (8 hours).

£3,000 / 20 hours = £150 per hour

We don’t want more than 6 people in each group for quality and programming reasons so we know we must charge £150 / 6 = £25 per hour per client.

Again, if we don’t think this is possible we must look at improving the service and value attributed to it by prospective clients. Alternatively, we can look at manipulating the numbers.

Maybe we can get 8 people in a session?

£150 / 8 = £18.75 or £19 per hour per client.

That might seem more reasonable now it’s under the £20 per hour mark.

Let’s now consider what happens if we bring in a part-time trainer so we don’t actually coach the group sessions and can spend time growing other areas of the business or just enjoying life outside of work!

We are going to pay a trainer or trainers £20 per hour to conduct the group sessions

(This includes their personal tax and national insurance liabilities.)

Now we must generate revenue of £170 per hour from the session.

We must either charge £170 / 8 = £21.25 or £22 per hour per client.

Maybe this is fine and people are happy to pay that or maybe we need to increase numbers to 10 and charge £170 / 10 = £17 per hour per client.

You should charge this as a monthly payment so for your MWF group they will pay 12 x 17 = £204 per month and the TT group will pay 8 x £17 = £136 per month.

You could round these down and up to £199 and £149 per month for tidy pricing purposes.

LARGE BOOTCAMPS

Hopefully now you’re getting the idea of how to design your business model so you’re not barking up the wrong tree in growing a business to achieve the lifestyle you want.

Let’s look at large groups.

How do we generate £145,000 per year without doing any of the coaching?

Let’s stick with our 8 group times, paying our trainer £20 per hour and assume we can get 30 people per group.

£170 / 30 = £5.50 per hour

Again we will charge a monthly fee so our MWF group pays £12 x 5.50 = £66 per month and our TT group pays 8 x £5.50 = £44 per month.

Tidy the prices up to £69 per month and £49 per month.

If you know you can charge more than this then charge more and either earn more or reduce the member numbers for coaching quality reasons.

I found £59 p/m (8 sessions per week) and £79 p/m (12 sessions per week) worked well for a 12 month commitment.

SOME PRO’S AND CON’S

Every business model comes with pro’s and con’s.

  • If you work for yourself and don’t employ anyone, you risk a loss of income every time you go on holiday or you get ill. You also risk a larger reduction in revenue if someone leaves.
  • When working as a 121 trainer it is likely to be easier over time to move to a more 9-5 working day as you build reputation, have higher demand and can be more choosy as to who you train and when you train them.
  • Your beliefs about coaching may mean you are more comfortable working in a 121 environment. Maybe you personality doesn’t suit high energy, large group coaching.
  • Semi-private and large group models make it easier to create a ‘club’ or community feel in your business with a stickier culture that people don’t want to leave. They feel part of something and don’t want to lose the social connections which is a huge factor for many people and should be given serious thought when designing business models.
  • Group businesses tend to require working hours before and after office work hours so this may put a strain on family and relationships. It may also make you uncomfortable if you feel coaching clients should receive a lot of personal attention in their coaching. This is largely personal preference.

WHAT ELSE?

You can create an infinite number of hybrid models combining group and personal training.

The approach to building the model is exactly the same, there are just more numbers to play with!

With large member numbers you should also consider the profits that can be made from supplement and smoothie sales (where possible).

If you can generate £2000 per month in profits from supplements (which can be sold before or after group sessions), you can adjust your other numbers accordingly.

Always look to increase the monthly and lifetime value of existing clients – they are likely to spend more money in your business if you can explain how it will improve their results.

HOW TO MAKE TRANSITIONS

Unless you want to work for yourself forever with no employees, it is inevitable that you will go through transition periods as you alter the model to ensure you’re still making the money you need to.

Here are some ideas to help out:

  • Unpaid internships where a trainer works hours in exchange for going through your development program including study, workshops etc. At the end, assuming you are happy with their work, they will move into a paid role.
  • Employ a new trainer as a support trainer in group sessions on a lower rate with a view to taking on the lead role in classes at the full rate after 12 weeks (for example).
  • If you want to bring in a full time trainer (or they will only take the job with a certain number of hours) you can start with a few months of teaching existing group sessions (which they can do concurrently with the office job they don’t want anymore!) whilst you pre-sell personal training sessions for when they make the leap. You could offer sessions at a reduced rate at first to enable the trainer to make the transition. You may make next to nothing on these sessions at first, but it enables you to make the transition you need to move closer to your perfect business model.
  • If you want to remove yourself from some or all of your personal training commitments, have your new trainer shadow you and get to know your clients for a certain number of weeks and then take over the sessions. You may or may not reduce the personal training fees to ‘pacify’ clients who may be disappointed at not working with you anymore.
  • If you want to make more of a sudden leap from one model to another, you could work to stockpile some cash to see you through the transition period when you simply stop offering certain services. If you need a certain number of free hours to build out a new service and market it, you may need to simply drop ten hours of personal training. As Bruce Lee said, “The value of the cup is in its emptiness”.

READY TO BUILD THE BUSINESS YOU REALLY WANT?