By Katie Scott
With Tumblr reporting a colossal 291.7 million blogs across its platform in April 2016, increasing ranks of clients and potential clients are searching for their fitness know-how online, using blogs by personal trainers as a more approachable springboard into the wonderful world of fitness.
As a new – and maybe nervous – gym goer, why would you loiter uncomfortably around the free weights in your local gym when you could be studying top hypertrophy tips from a strength and conditioning coach’s blog? Reading blogs can be a useful first step to introducing new clients to their fitness journey.
Why should fitpros blog?
Rachael Field Roddis (@rachael_pt), a personal trainer and fitness writer based in North London, has a journalistic background, so for her, writing posts for popular fitness magazines and local health blogs seemed like a natural next step. “It obviously raises your industry profile and further opportunities can come from that,” she explains.
Tom Godwin, Managing Director at Foresight Fitness (www.tomgodwin.co.uk), explains how building a blog provides the perfect opportunity for potential clients to find out a little more about you as a trainer, as well as discover what your specific interests and niches may be. He continues: “Writing is a very good way to build your profile within the industry, which is always a good thing. Writing from a brand point of view allows potential clients to find out a little bit more about you and your thoughts on the issues you are discussing. I always think that if you can write well, you can speak well, and this says a lot about you as a professional.”
Personal trainer and fitness writer Mollie Millington has certainly made good use of her blog (www.ptmollie.com) to raise her fitness profile. As she says: “My blog started out as a way to showcase my knowledge as a fitpro and inspire people to be more active. By writing for other publications, it helps me gain a profile in the fitness community as well as pushing me to learn more about fitness activities.”
Experienced fitness blogger and CrossFit lover Georgina Ellis, meanwhile, has built her blossoming fitness brand off the back of her successful blog, Fitcetera (www.fitcetera.co.uk), navigating social media as the bricks and mortar of her blogging basics. Talking about blogging as a prime marketing tool, she advises: “Blogging is a good way of offering clients more – you can coach them for an hour once or twice per week, but by having a blog, you are present in their lives a good few times per week. This can have more of an influence on their adherence to a plan than those short periods of training you provide in person.”
As well as highlighting the business benefits of a raised profile within the industry and presenting more networking and project opportunities due to this visibility, Georgina also mentions the more personal plus points of maintaining a blogging platform. “Blogging really helps me keep at the top of my game in terms of continuously educating myself – if you stand still you actually just go backwards as new techniques and methods progress without you.”
Blogging and your client base
Two of the biggest concerns for fitness professionals is attracting enough clients to make a living and then being able to retain them for a continued source of income. Although blogging may have you stationed at your laptop rather than the chest press, sharing your thoughts online can still indirectly influence how many clients are in your portfolio.
Rachael explains that knowing your current client demographic and using this information can be vital in tailoring your content to suit your specialities. This in turn, will generate new clients who are looking for exactly what you are offering. Mollie adds to this, saying: “If you are in a widely-promoted publication, your name will be exposed to its readers. It will also show your personality and let you showcase what you know about fitness training.”
Tom goes further: “Good quality content can be used to drive potential clients to your site. This in turn, can then help to convert these potentials into paying clients. I think the blog on a business site should be in your own voice, so not too formal or academic. This will allow the potential clients to understand more about who you are and can help the buying decision.”
A blog can signpost who you are and your skillset, but can it also help keep the clients you already have? “If your client already knows you, your articles might expose them to new activities which you might not discuss in your sessions,” Mollie says. “My clients like that I hear about new products and fitness studios opening up so they can be ‘in the know’ before their friends.” Rachael, on the other hand, uses her PT sessions to inspire conversations on her blog. She expands: “Writing ideas often come from personal training sessions and conversations with clients. This means your writing is directly relevant to your clients. You don’t always have the time to expand on what’s been discussed in a PT session, but you could do a blog or article.”
Tackling the blogosphere
The reasoning behind starting a blog is solid, but how can personal trainers fit writing blog posts and snazzy social media promotion into a busy working day? You may be seeing your first client at 6am and your last client at 9pm – this doesn’t leave you bags of time to get your creative juices flowing. Mollie maximises all the time she has, writing on the tube, finishing posts during her lunch hour, even staying up late a few nights a week to get the job done. “It isn’t easy, but I love it,” she says. Georgina utilises a similar method, aiming for two new posts a week, usually writing during her lunch break at her day job or hitting the laptop once she gets home from work. “I like to feel flexible when it comes to my content, and to be able to write wherever I please,” she adds.
Although Tom often finds it a struggle getting the family and work balance right, for him, practice makes perfect. “When I first started writing, it was much harder, as I generally need peace and quiet. Now, though, I can write anywhere!” He adds that it helps that he enjoys writing, as you tend to make more time for the activities you enjoy. Rachael takes a more formal approach to her writing.
“I schedule writing or research into my week. I use iCal for my diary, so I put an event in and stick to it. Treat it like any other meeting, training session or appointment.”
Another facet to consider when blogging is who your target audience is. “Your writing needs to be at the level of your audience, for example, brand new runners versus seasoned marathoners. It will also influence how much background info to include,” Mollie emphasises. Having an adaptable writing style to tackle numerous audiences can be a plus point, especially if you write guest blogs or articles for other publications as this can really widen your reach. For Tom, the audience is the “most important aspect of writing.” He continues: “If you don’t know who your reader is, then you can’t pitch ideas for potential articles. By knowing the readership, you can ensure that you cover the right topics, in the right voice, at the right level.”
Although planning and preparing your blog can be time consuming, the hard work is worth the results you could potentially reap as a PT. Tom continues: “People will regularly check back in at your site; this can be great if on a first visit the potential client was not ready to make a purchasing decision. By having them regularly read your content, you start to build a relationship with them. This means that when they are ready to purchase, you are at the top of their mind.” Mollie concurs, highlighting that: “It shows you are a business professional. Potential clients will have a strong first impression from your website and associated content and will be more inclined to contact you.” Rachael concludes: “If it’s properly researched, written well and authentically voiced, it can only be a positive for your business.”
Linking to social media
Whether you are a Twitter fan, a Facebook scroller or prefer picture-based platforms such as Instagram, social media is undoubtedly one of the biggest buzzwords when it comes to promoting your brand, your business and what you can offer clients. Aided by apps, hashtags and check-ins, the search bar’s the limit when it comes to your business visibility.
Georgina has a very active social media presence across a variety of channels, although she explains that half of all her social traffic comes directly from Facebook, with 27% coming from Twitter and 18% from Pinterest. She says: “I use social media to build a more personal connection with my readers, attempting to show my real life and the different sides of myself through images, questions and comments. I’m also working to build a YouTube channel through video content, which is really fun to make, but scary to be confident with.”
Of all the platforms available, Georgina promptly picks Instagram as her favourite: “I love photography, and looking through my feed is a quick and easy way to catch up with what people are doing and enjoying. I also look there for inspiration on exercises, meals, active wear, etc. It can feel a bit like a showreel sometimes though, it’s important to keep that in mind when looking at peoples’ seemingly perfect lives.”
Alongside a blog, or even instead of one, social media is a fantastic way of engaging a community among your clients, as well as providing a place where they can find support, from both yourself and their peers. Georgina adds: “Even if you don’t have a blog, having a strong social media presence and building a community for your clients is key to helping them stick to working towards their goals. It really can make the difference between someone being invested or not. You can provide a positive influence for one to two hours per week with training sessions, or as much as every day with the addition of social media.”
Case study: ‘Train like a dog to look like a god’
Personal trainer Craig Libby has taken his blog (www.craigsfitness.com) to the next level – by developing it into an e-book.
He started out with a traditional blogging platform as an add-on to his personal training website, showcasing his services and specialities as a fitness trainer. Planning five or six blog themes, in turn, Craig would stick the coffee on and then bulk-write a batch of posts. What made Craig’s posts stand out, however, was the unusual theme. All of his articles utilised a Greek mythology theme to capture his audience’s attention and help to make fitness relatable, by correlating it to stories many of us have grown up with. This can be a great tool for reaching out to those who are contemplating increasing their fitness levels, or are just starting out on their exercise journey.
Craig explains: “Tying Greek mythologies to training or nutrition helped me talk about different subjects and explain them in less ‘fitness-y’ terms. The Greek mythology blogs were titled ‘Train like a dog to look like a god’ which was part of the marketing that would inspire potential clients to come and train with me. The marketing behind the blog worked – they still love the slogan!”
Building from the traction his blog was developing, Craig turned his posts into an e-book. He has now also put together e-books on nutrition which he uses as an extra line of income via his website, although they also work well as free gifts for clients. Craig’s focus on nutrition for his e-books is no coincidence either. He explains: “As I will only see most of my clients two to three hours a week, and the majority of my clients have fat loss or lean gain goals, educating them on nutrition is a must.
During a training session, I want my clients to be contracting the right muscles, feeling the movements and focused on the training session, so trying to talk nutrition at the same time would be difficult. We would spend the warm up and stretching part of the session going over key points on nutrition, but the e-book really helps them with meal ideas.”
Another key use of Craig’s e-book is a reward for those who recommend his services via word of mouth, either in person or on social media. “Having it ready to say thank you to people at no real expense for myself is great” he adds.
Top time management tips:
Struggling to make the most of the hours in your day? Try Craig’s top tips to make your working day as productive as possible:
- When writing, don’t distract yourself with the TV, even for background noise.
- Always carry something to write on, such as a journal or tablet – you never know when inspiration will strike!
- Be methodical and write a to-do list – prioritise what needs to be done and set deadlines for any tasks without one, making sure you keep to them.
- Don’t try and start too many things at once – concentrate on finishing a task, article or blog before starting the next. This also ensures the quality of your work stays high.