• Darren Tebbenham

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.