Over these last few months, the fitness world, as we knew it, has been turned upside down. Gym restrictions and studio closures have left many fitness instructors without a home. Cold weather forces people to abandon make-shift outdoor classes. And with no definitive end in sight, many instructors are wondering 'what's next?'
For many, the answer is 'virtual fitness'. Moving classes online is not only the safest way to exercise these days, but it's also a chance for instructors to become entrepreneurs. With online classes, they are their own boss. They can teach what they want, wherever and whenever, and best of all, keep most of the profits to themselves.
Of course, opening any new business brings challenges. As an owner, you'll need to wear many hats: accountant, marketer, tech support, and of course, teacher. Choosing the right platform for your online fitness business is an essential step to its success.
Luckily, you have a few choices. You can create a DIY-solution, hacking together a scheduling app, video conferencing, and payment service. Or you can go with an all-in-one platform that eliminates the headache of admin tasks and scales with your growing business.
Analysis paralysis may not be recognized on WebMD as a real condition but it really can hold you back from doing what's most important: growing your online fitness business. (Tip: jump to the end of this post to get our handy online fitness platform comparison guide!) So, don't get hung up on features that don't matter. We talked to hundreds of fitness instructors to learn what features were important to them when choosing an online class platform. Read on to learn what they told us.
"I'm not a big tech person, so it needs to be foolproof."
Look for an easy-to-use platform. As a fitness instructor, you might be more used to stretching your hamstrings than flexing your tech muscles. If you've never used an online platform to teach online before, make sure to choose one that is easy to use! We recommend testing out the ease or difficulty of doing the following:
- Creating a class
- Setting up your camera
- Setting up your audio
- Troubleshooting video and audio problems
Check that you have access to support. A time will come that you'll have a tech question or want recommendations on how to improve your instructor game. Check if you have access to:
- Live chat support (and is it free or paid?)
- A robust FAQ section
- Workshops or webinars that help you improve your classes or business
"Teaching classes online was turning into a multi-step process. I just wanted a platform that did it all for me."
Choose a platform with admin-done-for-you. Teaching a class is only half of the job. Consider how you will send out reminders for payments, collect them, notify students about upcoming classes, or share the class recording afterward. These admin tasks can easily add two hours of work to your day! Can you:
- Automate reminders for payments, upcoming classes?
- Automate a post-class follow-up?
- See who will attend and be able to communicate with them about any conditions or limitations
Make sure scheduling is a breeze (for you and your students). Choose a platform that allows you to schedule your classes for the week or month in a few easy clicks. And try out the attendee experience when they book your class. Can you:
- Schedule classes within the platform?
- Share your calendar of upcoming classes?
- Add details, such as a class description?
- Create recurring classes?
"I don't like chasing people down for money. I want a platform that charges my student automatically."
Opt for a platform with integrated payments. As a business owner, you want to get paid on time and avoid that awkward moment of asking for it. Check that you can:
- Accept payments and deposit directly into your bank account
- Create discounts or coupon codes
- Offer a donation-based class or sliding scale payments
- Offer subscriptions (like Monthly, Weekly, or VOD-only?)
- Keep track of your earnings
"I want to be able to create income while I'm sleeping. That is my dream."
Make sure it has video-on-demand capabilities. One significant advantage of teaching online is that you can record the classes and monetize them through a video library. Many instructors find that this type of passive income makes up a handsome chunk of their monthly revenue. Check that you can:
- Record the session
- Have access to the recording
- Host the recording on the platform
- Charge for access to the recording
"I don't want to pay a monthly subscription fee to host my classes on a platform. I don't need that kind of overhead."
Double-check the fees. As an instructor, you're used to doing all the work and only seeing a small percentage of the profit. But as a business owner, you should be keeping the profits! Be sure to ask:
- Is there an upfront fee to use the platform?
- Is there a monthly fee?
- Is there a fee to receive payments?
"I hate marketing to my friends on Facebook. But I want to grow my audience and find loyal clients."
Ask if they help promote your classes. If you're starting or want to expand your audience, you may be wondering how you'll get the word out about your new studio. Check if there is:
- Networking with other instructors or attendees
- Opportunity for advertising or promoting your classes
"Everyone is using video conferencing. I wanted it to be more professional."
Go through the student experience. Once you've narrowed down your search to a few platforms, get the student experience by hosting a test class. Ask yourself:
- How does the classroom or online studio mimic the in-person experience?
- Are your students able to join with their cameras?
- Can you quickly mute students?
- Do you have the ability to create a 'waiting room' where students can mingle beforehand?
- Do you have the ability to create an 'after-class' experience where students can ask questions?
- Is there a chat feature?
- Are there time restrictions?
"I'm worried about using music that has copyright restrictions."
Make sure you can use music. What's a yoga class without a carefully-curated playlist? But using music online presents its challenges. Double-check if you can:
- Use music if you don't hold the copyright
- Control the volume of the music
Ready to start building your online fitness business? Read Part 2 - Your 10-step Plan.