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  • Dazza Tebbs

3 cornerstones of success and how to ensure your online COACHING business thrives.

Updated: Nov 25, 2018


This report will help you decide whether growing an online “coaching” business is for you and, if it is, how to do so in a way that will shape people’s lives more so than any face-to-face “traditional” Personal Training business ever could.

Why write this report?

I write this report because so many Fitness Professionals and especially Personal Trainers like the idea of taking their business online to create a more flexible life for themselves but end up either procrastinating and never really doing it OR just doing it horribly wrong.

Why can’t I just replicate my face-to-face business online?

Trying to replicate a “training” business online is a big mistake. Creating a fitness product in an online environment is certainly exciting and can be extremely lucrative. However, it must offer value and specifically address the problems people face in a way that plays to the strengths of an online environment, not to its weaknesses.

One of the weaknesses of an online environment when it comes to “training” clients is that what is offered can feel nothing more than an online fitness program a client may or may not do, in a similar way that a gym membership offers an opportunity to attend, which clients may or may not do either.

However, “coach” people online and you play to the strengths of an online environment. You create the space to coach since your time isn’t taken up counting reps, checking form or resting between sets.

In fact, done well, going online can lever your time and expertise in a much more beneficial way that will serve both you and your online clients creating amazing results without the need for equipment, travel or even being in the same physical locality as your client.

You will need to counter the fact clients may not know what exercises to complete, how to complete them properly and, of course, you won’t be able to spot them or correct their form in-person. But this is relatively easily addressed with technology and any one of a number of apps available.

The rest of this report will focus on how to play to the strengths of an online environment as a “Coach”, not trainer and how to build, therefore, an online coaching business that will thrive.

Who is it for?

If you are a caring, ambitious and hard-working professional – this is for you. If you are looking for a quick fix and just want to make money without really trying – then this is definitely not for you!

Why Coach online?

Once launched and operational, you get to lead and enjoy an amazing life, from wherever you choose creating a business around you and your priorities that equally empowers and transforms the lives of others.

Indeed, when you “coach” well you can impact people’s lives even more so than when you spend hours and hours in a traditional fitness environment “training” people!

The world is changing, and when you combine “online” with “coaching” you can create a profitable business model that can deliver amazing results without feeling you are short-changing people or vulnerable awaiting someone else to undercut you, out social-media you or outright steel your clients.

Done properly, you see, your clients will pay you more, champion you and enable you to feel you are leading your best life, serving others in the most impactful way possible.

When we recognise the true problems and barriers clients face when trying to get fit, lose weight or just feeling good again in their own skin, coaching online can create a genuine solution like never before. And this is tremendously exciting for our profession.

What is Online Coaching?

For me online coaching is where we work with a client remotely to help shape their behaviours and support them to make lasting changes in their lives.

It often requires coaching a more supportive mindset, it may require the provision of some kind of accountability to help create new patterns of behaviour and it will likely require personal or small group interaction to help clients become more aware of what they are truly trying to accomplish.

You will need to help clients identify and address what otherwise holds them back and enable them to talk out aloud, so they can hear themselves talk themselves into life-changing alterations in the way they lead their lives.

Often being an online coach requires you to create educational materials, forms and other tools to support your work. But without question an online coach is an accessible, affordable agent of change that helps people change from the inside out. Online coaching is about habit change.

It will likely still require you to create exciting shorter-term accelerated results for clients, but in a way that fosters longer-term change. You see coaching is the key here. The online part makes coaching more accessible. When we coach, we empower. We help a client work out their best strategy for success; we help them connect the dots and set out on a journey that will indeed change their life forever. Fitness is not the end goal but the process through which clients learn to lead a healthier and happier life.

What is the difference between “training” and “coaching” people?

Within the fitness industry, indeed in general, “coaching” has become quite the buzz word. It seems cool and current to call yourself a Coach rather than a Trainer (even when mainly “training” clients). But what precisely is the difference?

If Personal “Training” is about the trainer providing expert fitness and nutrition advice for their clients to achieve great results, Fitness “Coaching” offers a much more collaborative approach of nurturing the right mindset and personal strategy WITH clients as opposed to FOR clients, creating a client-centred plan for them to execute.

A coach may or may not deliver the program, but will certainly help their clients become more accountable, support them to make lasting changes in their lives and assist them to own their own results and genuinely take back control of their health, weight and fitness for good.

One is not necessarily better than the other, but Personal Training positions the trainer as the expert. Their clients are clearly the recipients of their expertise. A good PT will work beyond the confines of exercise and nutrition providing whatever necessary email and closed Facebook support to help a client “comply” with the program or “adhere” to what is prescribed, but principally the client is to follow the trainers lead.

This is as opposed to the Fitness “Coach” who adopts an expert-expert model of working with their clients. Whilst the Coach, like the Trainer, is of course expert in exercise and nutrition, the client is also an expert (not simply the recipient of the Coaches expertise) and their expertise is of equal importance.

Clients’ expertise is in themselves, their preferences, their awareness about what they truly desire, who around them could help and what they most struggle with.

A Coach assumes their client as fundamentally capable and resourceful just needing guidance and support to help them identify and accomplish the result they want in fitness.

The SOLUTION therefore does not come from the coach and certainly is not pre-designed before the two even meet. The solution, in fact, comes from the rich collaboration between coach and client using the coach’s expertise as a resource only.

Coaching versus done-for-you

Coaching and done-for-you models are quite different also. Let’s consider you and your clients first.

You can either take the stance that you already know what is best for your clients as you have worked with people like them before and as such create the ultimate package for their needs before you even meet, OR you can “coach” them. We’ll come to “or you can coach them” shortly. A done-for-you approach relies on you having already accomplished great results for yourself (maybe even for others), marketing to similar people to sell them what got you (and others) in great shape as the ideal way for them to get in shape too. The assumption is that the same program that worked for you and maybe others, will work for them too. And it might. Give it to enough people and surly a few will indeed make a go of it.

A coaching approach, however, takes a very different stance. You see, as a “professional” you have not one but many different approaches to exercising safely and eating healthily that could work for clients. You have principles to guide your practice and, therefore, need not take a one-size-fits-all approach. A Coach also assumes each individual client, even though perhaps similar in their needs, can bring quite different experiences, challenges and capability, indeed, preferences to the table. Your role as a Coach is to work together with your client to create the best-fit solution for them and then use your skills as a trainer to help them best work their unique program for best effect.

I am hoping you see the difference.

Of course, as you offer your expertise and experience there may be a great deal of similarity in terms of the actual exercise plans, indeed nutritional strategies between clients but, and most importantly, they were not dictated by you but created in collaboration with your client.

How such plans are implemented may differ tremendously between clients and how you support each client may be very different also. Indeed, we are not seeking “compliance” or “adherence” but “empowerment” and “ownership” so that, through our work as a Coach, we address and provide solution for the actual problems people face. Rarely do clients’ problems get resolved by an online “training” program or, indeed, a gym-membership alone!

What about you?

The same applies to you and your business, indeed me and mine. There are two ways to get help (avoiding struggling on your own). You can find a done-for-you program to plug-and-play based on a blueprint or system someone else argues has worked for them or other trainers. You are not really part of the equation here. You just need to sign up and follow the program. And if you comply and adhere to all instructions you too, like the blueprint states, will achieve great success.

Honestly, this rarely works. One, there are thousands and thousands of trainers on such programs with a Weight Watcher-like success rate. Sure, pump enough volume through a system and a few positive results will emerge. Like any gym membership, a few people do attend and get fit.

Today’s world tries way too hard to streamline and automate, at the cost of the user. Don’t get me wrong, automation can be incredibly useful, and systems can support us. But, blindly following somebody else’s blueprint is not the same thing.

The alternative to a “done-for-you” or “blueprint” approach is business coaching. A Business Coach has and understands the many different ways of creating a successful business, make money and systemise how you grow it (as opposed to just a single blueprint). They don’t assume anything. Instead, they help you discover more about what you truly want and help you select the best approach for you. Once clear they then help you put everything in place step by step, but with you as an integral part of the process. A Business Coach will be experienced in business, but also coaching. And you end up with an appropriately systemised, and even semi-automated business. But the way it is derived will be very different. Working with a Coach isn’t a numbers game. A Coach won’t have thousands and thousands of clients but, instead, will know every one of them, working closely with each for the very best result possible.

A Coach uses the professional coaching relationship with their clients as the key to creating amazing results in their life. The relationship, if you like, is their blueprint. You see, a blueprint is merely a series of tactics stuck together. The only strategy is to stick to the tactics. Once sold, for whoever sold the blueprint, their job is over.

Once appointed with a Coach, the journey has just begun. The sole job of a Coach is to help a client achieves their goals! The strategy is one of self-actualisation, but let’s not get into that right now. Suffice to say, the approaches are very different. I believe you must coach and be coached to accomplish the very best outcomes for you and that of your clients.

Marketing and nutrition quick fix mentality

You see there is tremendous similarity between how members of the public frantically look for a quick fix (done-for-you program) rather than finding a long-term solution that will actually work and how Personal Trainers do exactly the same seeking a quick fix to their marketing problems rather a longer-lasting coaching solution.

Coaching versus a done-for-you solution

Please, take note. Just like when a member of the public diets and then binges with their weight yo-yoing as a consequence, the real cost is to their self-esteem and personal resolve.

And when you do the same, your confidence too can be damaged ending up in a vicious cycle of quick-fix efforts to earn money. It’s time to break free and help your clients do the same.

Who is Darren Tebbenham and why listen?

I am a Coach. I have been a Trainer. I am also an educator. I am the founder of the European Institute of Fitness, was previously a University lecturer having gained my Master’s degree in 2000, however, my greatest claim to fame is the many trainers I have helped over more than 17 years now working in 6 different continents and more than 30 countries around the world.

I am also a dad and husband. Indeed, I am mainly a father and husband and love my life as a business owner with an online business, a retreat-style face-to-face business and PT School. Indeed, over the last 10 years my businesses have turned over more than £10 million enabling me to enjoy life as a business owner as opposed to feeling swamped by it.

As an experienced Coach I have worked with elite athletes, weight loss clients, cardiac rehabilitation patients and, of course, personal trainers. My passion and expertise is in the areas of mindset, business and coaching online.

Like many of the trainers I work with, I too have felt confused and overwhelmed by marketing and social media not knowing which way to turn. I have experienced the normal ups and downs of business and throughout valued the role of coaching.

I have created traditional face-to-face businesses and moved from solely working face-to-face to now enjoying working online. I still deliver face-to-face retreats and courses but enjoy the balance of owning both.

I have myself had several coaches to help me, including using Michael Gerber’s E-Myth coaching and currently I have a both an out and out business coach and social media mentor that I work with.

Why listen? The fitness industry drives me nuts. Yet fitness is so powerful. It has become so noisy, people can get lost and often can’t see the woods for the trees. Fitness is simple. Coaching is simple, and business is actually very simple.

I am very aware of the many shiny new things that flood our industry, but also know how trends come and go. Principles, however, last.

The three cornerstones I will discuss below relate to these key principles that exist whatever your specific business endeavour. This report is designed to show you these key ingredients that I believe are essential to building an amazing coaching business online.

Three Cornerstones of Success.

As we work through these three cornerstones they will apply to both you as a Coach and as a business owner. You see when applied they will help you create a better coaching business but will also help you coach others.

Cornerstone One - Mindset

First up is mindset. I think we can likely all agree, mindset is critical. With a positive winning one, we are more likely to succeed.

We will still need to execute the right strategies, but we will more likely do so with the right mindset in place. With a negative mindset, we are likely doomed before we even begin. However, whilst recognising the importance of mindset is one thing, changing our or somebody else’s can be quite another; but is an integral aspect of being a great Coach.


The first of three components of creating a success mindset is clarity. You see when someone gets clear about precisely what they want, they create a vivid picture in their minds. Our minds think in pictures and this image we create filters all information coming in. It constantly searches out ways to bring this vision into fruition.

Our unconscious mind is especially powerful and with clarity and consistency, it works behind the scenes to create this new reality. The trouble is people are not clear. You are not clear. And when we lack clarity and change our minds, like all the time, we create doubt and confusion. Doubt and confusion create a lack of confidence and, therefore, action!

So, clarity must come first. Highly successful people, not only get clear but prioritise such clarity, creating cues in their environment, visual reminders and schedules and often a coach to ensure they are able to do so. This leads us to the second component, focus.


Once clear, we must focus. If we want to be successful we must find ways to stop our mind wandering. Goals achieve this particularly well. And all successful people value goal setting or certainly have the habit of creating short-term action plans to incrementally work towards their longer-term goals. However, not everyone focuses well. As a Coach we must create systems to help keep our clients more accountable, we need to provide journaling-like activities to help keep their eye on the goal and, more than anything, be there when their focus becomes cloudy.

With such Intention (clarity) – Attention (focus) balance we can help a client become quite unstoppable. When we do the same for ourselves too, we can create a phenomenal business for ourselves. However, the simple truth is most people can’t and don’t and, therefore, need a Coach (not a trainer) to help. Creating space for this work is key and is permitted particularly well online!

How clear are you about what YOU want? Does your mind keep changing and do you have that clear image, or would you say things are cloudy? Do you have focus? Do you wake up every morning clear about what you need to accomplish that day? Do you have a weekly plan, an annual plan? Or are you lost and maybe a little overwhelmed?

You might like to book in for a complimentary coaching call to accomplish such clarity and focus!


The third critical component of mindset is resourcefulness. You know, the journey to success is never a straight line. It winds and speeds up and definitely slows down along route. Being resourceful and, indeed, resilient is key. You have heard of the term when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Embracing the simple formula E+R=O is central to this component where O is the outcome we are currently experiencing because of some event (E) that has occurred and the way we have chosen to respond (R) to it. You see many things will potentially trip us up along the way. A Facebook Ad that doesn’t deliver, unexpected competition copying what we do, or our laptop getting stolen before we remember to back it up…. But these Events do not create the Outcomes we experience, but how we Respond to them does! When we give Events meaning, we create the opportunity to grow, or not. And the meaning we give stuff defines the Outcomes we ultimately experience. A failed Facebook Ad can be interpreted as another way we now know doesn’t work, which is good so that we can find a better approach, or it can confirm Facebook is just a complete an utter waste of time. Unexpected competition will help us raise our game, or will just outright frustrate the hell out of us. And a stolen laptop can teach us to back up properly next time, or act as the final straw to simply give up!

Clients are no different. They skip workouts, pick up injuries, eat that cake or flat out don’t see a result on the scale, in their clothes size or even body fat percentage. And they too can skip a workout but then smash the next, or they can skip the rest of the week. They can feel a niggle and find an alternative exercise routine for a while, or they can give up exercising altogether. And they can eat that cake, enjoy it and get right back on track tomorrow, or they can eat the cake, beat themselves up, eat another to console themselves and lose all momentum. A number on a scale, a dress size and indeed a body fat percentage is just that, a number. What a client does with that number is on them. When we coach resourcefulness, we coach the ability to create results for life, and in any endeavour.

So, to create a stronger mindset we need to become clear, focused and resourceful. To coach another we need to help them get clear, create focus and support them to deal with set-backs resourcefully. And by the way, resourcefulness isn’t just about responding to potentially negative events well, but anything. When a person is more resourceful they are more independent, proactive, ask for help when they need it, don’t blame others and take full responsibility for their outcomes. The goal, right…

Cornerstone Two - Strategy

Okay. So, we have mindset in the bag. You are clear, focused and ready. There are five key strategies to creating a successful online coaching business that will thrive.

Strategy One – Be a Better Coach.

First up you must, and I mean absolutely must be a great Coach. You can’t, as explained above, just continue being a “Trainer” and now call yourself a “Coach”.

That’s why the first part of my Coaching Mentorship for FitPROs covers the essence of being a great Coach first, teaching the key skills of a great Coach. You also get access to a variety of tools too, for you to use online with your clients.

You know when a Counsellor or Therapist or Coach, in fact, Lawyer, Doctor or Vet qualify they enter a program of supervised experience to learn their trade properly and ultimately master their new profession. Personal Trainers get, well, not a lot. They are left to fend for themselves really. And being a great Coach is more challenging than being a great Trainer.

This coach mentoring component really is great, helping you master coaching especially online. However you accomplish it though, it is a must.

Strategy Two - Your Coaching Approach.

Next up you will need to create your coaching strategy, that is how you will work with your client over what duration, with what tools and resources and with what specific client agreement in place?

This is about you creating your coaching product. This is exciting to build. You will need to select your software and/or create your videos and/or your nutritional downloads and materials. You will need to set up your scheduling and communication systems and price yourself accordingly. This is what we do during the first part of the mentorship, together.

Strategy Three - Your Marketing.

You will then need to take your coaching product to market. This will likely require setting up a sales funnel. You may use Facebook Ads, other paid sources and non-paid methods of steering people to where you want them. This will be some kind of webinar, video series, report or free trial. From here you will set up a call or group training to get to know your prospective client and establish whether a good fit or not. In the process you will need a landing page for your traffic, thank you sales-page to promote your services, email sequence to continue engagement and monitoring system to systematically adjust and refine your system to eventually automate getting new prospects. All of this can be done alone. I recommend Leadpages or Click Funnels and promote getting off social media somewhat in terms of organic efforts to get your message out there and, instead, create a more professional lead generating system you can better control and scale.

The challenge here is not the technology but the messaging. The real job is creating a great message, being clear and appealing to your target audience’s pain and pleasure points.

I have to say this isn’t always that easy, but is easier with help.

Strategy Four - Your Sales System.

Once you capture the imagination of your prospective client you will need to create know, like and trust and amplify your authority so that they really want your help. There is no “selling” as such in a modern-day coaching sales system. You just need to coach well.

Asking the right questions, being genuine and authentic, ensuring a clear system and being organised is what counts here.

Most just don’t have any system at all, tell way too much and feel pressured by sales, instead of excited about it. Sales, of course, gives life to your online business and is, therefore, essential!

Strategy Five - Your Delivery.

Once you have your new paying clients you now need to deliver well and help them say wow, recommend you to others and, of course, achieve the very results they said they wanted at the beginning.

Cornerstone Three - Execution

To complete the picture there are also five key areas of delivery to consider when it comes to coaching well.

Client Induction and On-Boarding.

This is about setting up the new coaching relationship properly, clarifying boundaries and expectations and ensuring the journey ahead is clear. This is especially important since you will be coaching remotely. In the busyness of traditional personal training, this often gets missed or done poorly. We compensate with being friendly and using our personality more than is likely possible online. Therefore, this first aspect needs doing especially well when operating online.

Mindset Coaching.

You will need to create at least one dedicated mindset coaching session and perhaps more. You do not necessarily need to call it mindset coaching, but what you do need to do is create that clarity, focus and resourcefulness we talked about earlier.

It may be that this session is your first complimentary coaching session to help clients get clear before enrolling. You see with clarity comes excitement and desire to progress. This work may also show up in later reviews or in your ongoing coaching, of course. But be sure to create space for this critical component early days.

Assessment and Programming.

There are various online forms to use here, video-based assessment techniques, and software to report and track progress. The key thing for a coaching relationship, however, is to keep this client-centred and not prescriptive. Especially when it comes to the programming, you will need to remain coach-like and create the best-fit program together.

Think of your coaching as a filter for the world wide web. Your clients can access everything they need already. There is nothing you know that is not readily available online. And this is the problem. Clients are confused and overwhelmed.

So, don’t just shout louder. There will always be someone who will shout louder still. Instead, direct their attention and present options based on your prior questioning to gain clarity about what exercise will likely work best. Do the same for nutrition. Avoid taking a definite position, dictating only one “right” way. Remain open to the fact there are many ways, and even more variability in how to implement such ways. The key is to work together. Discuss and collaborate. But once agreed help your client, who will also now more likely truly own this new way you have created, to run with it.

To be clear. Clients often want a diet plan. This is not the most effective intervention. Diets really don’t work. If we write a diet plan anyway believing we know best, it is indeed just a diet. Instead, offer your expertise in nutrition but integrate it with what your client knows about themselves, their preferences and tailor things accordingly. Do the same for exercise. Behind-the-scenes program writing is not your best option. Engage first to create client buy-in and believe in a more collaborative approach, it will serve you longer term.

To be even clearer. I know about marketing. But if I just say write a headline based on the notion get outcome X, without barrier Y i.e. get a bikini body without going on a diet, it likely won’t work. It is a marketing prescription without any context. Collaboration is key. When you tell me that your product is a 12-month coaching plan for women in their 40s who feel fed up with dieting, well that changes things. Sick of quick fixes, fed up with being told to eat less and do more – make this time the last time you ever need lose weight again, might work better. The exact headline comes from knowing your client, their frustrations and pain points combined with clarity about your product and its benefits. This is how we create a compelling message. We can talk more about your messaging on a call!

Strategic Review.

Ensure you have pre-planned, appointed reviews along the way. This offers the opportunity to reflect and affirm progress. Without strategic reviews you will likely remain reactive, potentially even losing interest and ultimately under-coach your client. Strategic reviews are essential. They keep things real.

Breakout Coaching and Troubleshooting.

Finally, you need the ability to coach when you need to. Sometimes you can’t wait for a planned review (perhaps every 4-6 weeks) and so can create messaging-based (WhatsApp for example) and Facebook-based ways to coach. You can even use phone calls, of course. But for this part of your coaching system you will need rules. You will need to remain coach-like in your style and continue to believe your clients to be fundamentally resourceful and, therefore, support this in the way you help them.


There are three cornerstones: Mindset, Strategy and Execution. You need to be clear, you need to focus, and you must remain resourceful as you grow a new online coaching business [mindset]. You will need to be a better coach, you will need to create your own bespoke coaching product, you will need to develop your marketing system, a sales process and delivery to ensure clients say wow to ensure success [strategy]. Finally, you will need a clear client induction process, dedicated mindset coaching sessions, a client-centred programming approach, scheduled strategic reviews and breakout coaching system to develop a robust approach (execution).

Darren T

We ignite passion, inspire success and help people imagine a future they can get excited about -


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