“Success” in coaching used to mean a nice roster of ~30 in-person clients, full ownership of your practice, and a net profit that afforded you a vacation or two a year. These days, health and fitness coaches are ditching the cookie cutter definitions and building businesses their own way. Here are 7 inspiring coaches who are redefining success in health and fitness coaching and how you can too.
“Making it” as a fitness and health coach used to be pretty straightforward.
“Success” meant having a steady stream of clients knocking on your door, and making enough money to easily pay the bills, live comfortably, and take your family on vacation from time to time.
But, lately, we’ve noticed that health and fitness coaches are getting more creative with their definition of “success”. They’re building their businesses to support specific personal and professional goals.
Everything from: building a practice that allows them to work from anywhere in the world (even amazing, exotic locations), to setting flexible work hours so they can hang out more with their children or pursue other hobbies and interests, to working with specific groups that are most meaningful to them because of past experiences or future aspirations.
It’s awesome to watch.
That’s why we decided to ask a few of our ProCoaches:
What does success look like for you?
And how are you achieving it?
Their stories were so good — so inspiring — that I wanted to share them with you today. They might even help you re-define what success means for you.
Success is… living life on your own terms.
Daniel Hennessey is living the dream.
Thailand, Costa Rica, California… Dan travels around the world with his business partner and fiancé, Wendy, while coaching fitness and nutrition online (and creating an enviable Instagram while he’s at it).
Dan used to live his life on the gym floor (or sitting in traffic on the long commute to work.) But after years as a trainer and gym owner, he finally said to himself, “what am I doing?”
The truth is, life in the gym just wasn’t for him. He wanted to be in the outdoors. To travel. To seek out new perspectives on life, and new ways of being healthy.
Most of all, “I wanted to do things my own way.”
Dan took the plunge. He sold his possessions and embraced the minimalist life, traveling with just a backpack. Meanwhile, he established a new business for himself as an online coach.
Now, at 30, Dan focuses on people who he feels are better served by online, rather than in-person coaching — such as busy moms, or people who feel intimidated by the mere thought of setting foot in a gym.
“With online coaching, a lot more people can have access to this thing called health, and I can coach you while sitting at home.”
How he does it:
Dan uses Procoach to deliver online nutrition coaching. At the higher-end, his services are priced at $200/month; at the lower-end, he offers a “90 day for 90 dollars” program that helps people get started.
“All that really matters is this: What do you want to do, and why? What gives you joy and purpose? Whatever it is, go after it. There’s more to life than living scared.”
Success is… making coaching accessible and inclusive.
Ten years ago, Jon Mills walked into a martial arts studio where he was introduced to a simple mantra: “Anyone who is willing to put in the work is welcome here.”
Unfortunately, he began to notice this approach didn’t seem to apply across the board in health, fitness, or martial arts. Many people were being excluded, especially those from low-income backgrounds. And some, such as LGBTQ folks, found that gyms and studios could be downright hostile.
Today, Jon, 30, offers personal training, martial arts, and mindfulness coaching, and he provides online nutrition coaching through Procoach.
His mission: Make coaching welcoming for anyone.
Jon focuses on providing an inclusive, safe coaching experience for everyone, especially queer and trans clients. And he invites folks with lower incomes to pay what they can — or even train for free.
It might sound crazy, but for Jon, it works.
“The funny thing is, not only am I helping others, it’s working as a business. I’ve learned that people will give what they can, when they can. And they’ll definitely refer you. Plus, because of how I work, I have no competition. My referrals come from the community.”
Jon’s approach is people-focused. “I don’t worry about getting money, and I just concentrate on helping folks,” says Jon. “I’ve come to realize that this isn’t just an ideal, but something that can be fulfilling and sustainable.”
How he does it:
Jon uses Patreon, an online donation service, to collect donations. Clients who can afford to pay do so, and if they wish, add donations to pay for those who can’t afford it. Jon offers his nutrition coaching services through Procoach to both in-person and exclusively online clients.
Jon’s words of advice:
“There’s a lot of stuff in the fitness industry that will tell you to fit a mold. But being yourself is the key to being a great coach, because that’s how people will connect with you. You have to embrace who you are.”
Success is… turning your job into your dream career.
As a Registered Dietitian working in a clinic alongside doctors in Kitchener, Ontario, Irene Pace had started to notice something important: Certain clients don’t seem to get the results they want through the health system’s traditional model of nutrition care.
“Whether it was the psychology of my coaching or the system itself, I just couldn’t provide what they needed. I remember one client in particular who I worked with over a couple of years. Despite my best efforts, her health declined, and her weight went up. I failed to help her.”
Irene thought to herself, “I have to do better.”
So recently, at 40, Irene decided to do a deep dive into the art of nutrition coaching. She got her PN Level 1 Certification, and in time, became an assistant coach at PN. And she’s continued to strengthen her skills with the Level 2 Certification.
Now, Irene has added ProCoach to her RD services — and is seeing the kinds of results she had always hoped to witness. Her clients are surpassing their ‘stuckness’ like they never did before.
“Using this platform, clients can communicate with me on an ongoing basis. They can reach out whenever they feel stuck instead of waiting weeks for an appointment… Having regular contact with clients throughout their change process instead of intermittent visits adds up to big change. It seems magical.”
Irene is feeling the reward of seeing her clients succeed. At the same time, she’s also able to prioritize her family and spend time with her three children.
The result: Irene is building a career that is both personally and professionally rewarding, in a way she never thought possible.
How she does it:
Irene started using ProCoach with a ‘test group’ of friends and family paying $35/month. With the test round done, she launched another cohort paying $50/month. She’s now working on her plans for her next cohort launch of full-paying clients, as she continues to build her business, and find her niche.
“We all come into coaching with many transferable skills. Don’t ever discount the unique things you can bring to the table. There’s something from the experience you’ve had, whether it’s a previous job or your life, that can make you a better coach — if you let it.”
Success is… creating a gym that’s so much more than a gym.
Michael Espinosa runs a gym… but it’s so much more than that.
In addition to in-person training (with a focus on strength/conditioning and Olympic weightlifting), Michael also offers nutrition coaching through ProCoach for free, to any members who want it.
According to Mike, 33, ProCoach adds an important element to the in-person coaching experience: “It allows me to connect better with clients and teach them things like mindset and body awareness… things you can’t think about between your clean and jerk.”
Notably, the gym runs as a non-profit, with the goal of creating an integrated, accessible community. Middle and high school students get free training; university students get a discounted rate.
In addition, the gym boasts a community garden, “so that kids can see what broccoli or radish looks like when it’s growing,” and a small outdoor calisthenics park that’s free to the public.
Why give so much stuff away for free? Michael says it comes down to his core values.
“Justice is one of my values. The area we’re in has seen a lot of injustice. This is my way of tipping the scales. I provide a safe space for people to work out together, and make it a diverse community. Families, professors, university students, kids in the neighborhood, anyone is welcome here.”
How he does it:
Those who can afford it pay a monthly membership fee ($144 for adults; $100 for students), which fund the gym. Michael acknowledges that it’s not a lucrative business. For him, the success lies in having a positive impact on the community and changing people’s lives — things he strongly values.
“Be unapologetically aware of what you’re doing and why. Do some honest reflection with yourself. And keep learning and growing; flowing water never goes stale.”
Success is… helping people build stronger communities.
“The last thing you want to talk about is nutrition when you’re standing on the roof of your house.”
After seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, A’Tondra, 35, decided she didn’t just want to help people get healthier, she wanted to help them get stronger so they could serve their communities better.
To do that, A’Tondra made the choice to serve a smaller group of people, some in-person and some online. She tailored her services to provide a high degree of personalized attention and accountability, and to help her clients develop their own support systems.
“I’ve learned that when a person feels supported, they’re able to find purpose. And that makes everything better not only for themselves, but for all the people in their life.”
At first, reducing her number of clients was scary. But after the first year, “I had fewer clients but had nearly tripled my income. Plus, I was having a bigger impact on my clients.”
A’Tondra has watched her clients not only get healthier and stronger, but also give more back to their work, families, and neighborhoods.
At the same time, she’s able to spend more time with her own community, especially her family. “I have four children, and I’m able to make all their science competitions, basketball games and chess tournaments. That means a lot to me.”
How she does it:
For three months of in-person exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle coaching, A’Tondra charges $3,500 for individuals and $6,800 per couple, upfront. (She finds that couples who train together tend to support each other well.) Online clients, who she serves through ProCoach, pay approximately half the in-person price.
“Learn to appreciate what’s good about where you’re at. It can be easy to think you need hundreds of clients, people banging down your door to work with you. But with fewer clients, I make a bigger impact on them, it’s better for me financially, and I own my time.”
Success is… loving what you do, and earning a good living at it.
Living and working just steps away from the beach, Christie Miller has something many people aspire to: She truly loves what she does for a living — and she makes good money at it.
Not only is she passionate about health and fitness, she’s able to coach at a price point that is financially rewarding. As a result, “I wake up every morning and think… ‘I get to do this for a living — and get paid for it?’.”
Christie, 53, wasn’t an overnight success. After a number of different careers, she started her online coaching business — only to be met with frustration and stacks of bills.
(In fact, after her second year of business, the IRS came calling; they didn’t believe anyone could lose that much money. But she had.)
But after a few years, Christie identified her ideal clientele, and that made all the difference. Now, she helps “ambitious women who want to lose weight and play to win in all aspects of their lives.”
For this type of client, a higher price point was more effective. It attracted the kind of dedicated, driven clients she was looking for: people who were determined to get results and willing to pay for it.
Christie’s income absolutely exploded: By the second quarter of year three, she earned $57,789 — more than she made in the first two years of her business combined.
How she does it:
Christie incorporates ProCoach into her six-month group program and reaches women all over Europe, North America, and even Dubai. New clients are offered this program at $597 a month. After the initial six months, some clients are invited to continue for another six.
“Be polarizing. Know exactly who your target audience is, and who they aren’t. It can be scary and can be a rollercoaster ride sometimes. But it’s absolutely worth it.”
Success is… helping women take back their health and empowerment.
Once upon a time, Stephanie Hinders found herself in an abusive relationship. Once she managed to get out, and get healthy (with support from her community at a local gym), she made it her mission to help other women take back control over their own lives too.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why did I go through all of that, if not to use the experience to help others?’.”
Today, 29-year-old Stephanie provides a combination of in-person and online coaching services to help women who feel disempowered regain their health, strength and self-confidence.
Seeing the changes in her clients is incredibly meaningful to Stephanie.
“I’m able to see clients go from berating themselves to celebrating their own progress. They find the light on the other side of the tunnel. They regain their confidence, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s hard to describe how much that means to me.”
How she does it:
Stephanie has been training people in a local gym in Powell, Ohio, for more than four years. This past year, she added ProCoach services, beginning with an offer of three months free, in exchange for feedback. Stephanie is currently working on implementing a new pricing structure, and expanding her online client base. She’s pregnant and is excited that ProCoach will allow her to continue coaching with a flexible schedule when her new baby arrives.
“Be truthful to your own story. It can be intimidating when you look at other coaches, and easy to second guess yourself. You might look around and think ‘maybe I should be doing it like that.’ But you know your own reasons for doing what you do, and it’s important to remember that.”
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.
If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.