Fit Biz Coach, the new get rich quick scheme?
The private message always start with the same language; do you want to make more money and work less? usually its a promise of 6 or even 7 figure salaries with less effort and more freedom. For some reason the "if it seems too good to be true" logic meter, tends to fail so many in this instant gratification world we live, so many people buy into these scams. So many trainers want to be booked full of clients, but want to skip the part where they have no clients and have to grow. As a personal trainer and business owner, I've noticed a trend over the last few years that may or may not affect the general population. I've noticed a significant increase in the number of business coaches, life coaches, gurus and "Insta" coaches. They exist in all industries, as a new niche its hard to say just how big this industry has grown to be. The FTC in the US often deals with businesses that prey on desperate indiciduals by selling them courses that claim to make them large sums of money quickly. According to the FTC, people were offered the chance to pay up to $13,995 for a coaching program that would supposedly give them one-on-one guidance about building their new business. Many of these coaches and businesses share or sell contact information to offer the pitch the the same group of individuals knowing they are more prone to this scam.
I being the sceptic I've become, just can't get past their extravagant claims to ever consider hiring one. Unfortunately, like clockwork I get at least, no word of a lie 3-5 new coaches wanting me to sign up for their program almost daily. Between Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin the number of cold pitches I get is frustrating. The majority of my new connections on LinkedIn are this type of coach and on Facebook my pending request list is only coaches. It's crazy, it's definitely not a product that sells itself, as opposed to my personal training business where I have never advertised, don't cold contact anyone and have people who reach out daily to see If i'm taking clients. The social media for most of these coaches is either poor, with few connections or on the other extreme; paid for connections, if they have 10k plus followers, its likely they have paid, there are many free services to test someones follower health and see how many are bots. I'll leave that up to you to explore. Either they've cold emailed you or you saw something like this on their page.
The following claims are pulled directly from a few "coaches" social media pages;
1. Make your first 6 figures
2. Helping coaches create 10k months
3. Become "insanely" profitable, 10k months
4. Make 7 figures this year! loooool wut?
DM messages usually look along the lines of "Hey, you are killing it! How would you like to earn more money and work less, reduce your workload and help more people? Let's jump on a quick call and we can talk about how we are going to achieve 6 figures in 2020" or something along those lines. I have many many messages just like that, there are a few tactics used in the message to build trust, make you feel good about yourself and create a sense of now or never. Often they will ask for a deposit, but put a short deadline on the deal. On the call their job is to make you convince yourself its a good idea, they ask you what you want and promise to offer just that. You want more time, more money, more freedom, they can give it to you, just 1 hour a week for 8 weeks and 7500 dollars. Like ill mention below the information they give is often generic, obvious and available free online. Better yet, they count on you not being logical about what other things you could use that 3000-10000 for. Often trainers I deal with talk about wanting to travel, have time off, or learn new things, take that money and do that. You want more clients? Invest that money in marketing? Paid ads? Flyers? TV spots; you can get 12 x 60s segments on a local tv news program for about 5000$, thats 3 months of prime time exposure, Radio? even cheaper. How about a new website? A new look? Sponsor some local events? The number of things you can do with that type of money by reinvesting it into your business are endless. You're tired of your schedule? Change your hours and use that money to tide you over until your new schedule fills up, use some of it to reach a new audience. Ive been able to do amazing things with much less cash. So be critical and ask yourself not just is this course worth 5k, what "opportunity cost" am I missing out on? Opportunity cost is "the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen" Doing one thing removes the possibility of thousands of others, so be more critical in your choices.
Anchoring as a sales tactic
Here's a slightly deceptive tactic that all knowledgeable sales people will use to get you to spend more than you need to or then an item is worth. It's using your lack of quick rational thought and lets you rely on autopilot to gauge value. Get someone to fixate on a large number and then offer a lower but still much higher than necessary amount. Example im selling this $2000 bike for $1000 what a deal! not if its a $500 bike, we see this all the time in the service industry, take my $10000 course for $5000, Amazing! You've anchored to the large number so the smaller number looks like a deal, you're ready to pay for free information because the deal is too good to be true. Often they will add a sense of urgency, creating a need to make a decision quickly, "sale ends Monday" don't want to miss out. Lastly they will use our need to conform, be part of a tribe and fall in line by telling you, everyone has taken this program, all successful coaches have coaches, be like successful people and hire them.
How we rationalize big spends
Our brains are wired to make assumptions, make decisions based on emotion and then rationalize them later. This often happens with big spends, the pain of payment is tremendous and the pain of losing something like money hurts up to 2 fold more than the pleasure we get from acquiring something of equal value. We have to leave it up to our brains to start to find ways to rationalize the loss. We will use strategies like selection bias or confirmation bias (a form of selection bias) as ways to select criteria that prove the effectiveness of the program. Our brains cant accept we were swindled so we will ignore the signs and use self talk or self promotion and start talking about the same claims they used to sell you on the program. In the end we would find something to fall back on as a win for taking the program, often feeling attacked when a rational mind confronts us with our folly. I have yet to ever meet a trainer making 6-7 figure salaries, yet one who quit his job making 6 figures to teach people how, and going another step, never heard of someone who now makes 6-7 figures after taking such a program.
What do you get?
Like I mentioned, I have yet to meet 6-7 figure personal trainers, easy math shows that to earn 100k in a year at 40 hour work weeks with no time off you'd need to earn on average $50/hour, thats no days off and thats assuming, no cancelled training sessions, no sick days, no free consultations, and no operating costs. Glassdoor has the average personal trainer salary in Canada listed at 37000 CAD, this is probably reasonable as I made 44000 a year at the highest salary ever paid to a trainer at my last commercial employer. As a freelance trainer I made 70000/year GROSS before all my expenses including travel, fees paid in memberships, dues to fitness facilities for using space etc. I net about 50k which was a comfortable living, I was able to write off education and clothing, workout free and took 4 weeks off unpaid every year. I worked 6 hours a day and had a break mid day to workout. A 100000 salary was within reach but wasn't worth etc opportunity cost of working more, charging more or grouping my clients together.
More money doesn't mean more freedom. Advice I always get from these coaches is to "charge what you're worth" they ignore their own sales tactics that include anchoring and other biases, clients won't pay for my service if im double or 3 times the market average. Next piece of advice is usually to group clients together, reducing the quality of the service and the personal tends to disappear from "personal training". My female clients often talk to me about periods, bloating, sex, diarrhea, consitpation, gas, as well as a host of psychological concerns. You lose this ability to have a dialogue when you start grouping clients into groups. Your earning per hour may go up, but the quality of the product you offer tends to suffer. The last piece of advice is usually to get online, sell programs and coach online. Ive covered this before so I won't go into detail, but unless you have a good relationship with the online client; adherence tends to be lower, safety much lower (not sure how you correct form and ensure appropriate loading online). I train a few clients online but I spend a lot of time on Facebook messenger, FaceTime and text, sending lots of videos back and forth, it costs me more time and opportunity cost to coach this type of client. So I have to charge more for online than in person. I refuse to automate my online product, its not coaching if its just templates and videos, people can google that. Its the "personal" in personal training that people pay for!
"The FTC’s lawsuit stops this scheme in its tracks, but the best way to protect yourself from illegal schemes is to learn about how to spot them. You can start by checking out the FTC’s information on work-at-home related scams. And whenever you think you've spotted one, tell the FTC." source FTC Website
Three suggestions from the FTC:
1. Don’t pay for free information.
They suggest You can get free business development advice and counselling by experts in the field through government agencies like the Small Business Administration and community colleges with small business centres. I'd go a step further to say, find a mentor, I mentor many coaches and give them all plenty of free advice on the mistakes I've made. You can also find free information on Coursera, iTunesU, Udemy, Youtube and many other online course platforms. Most have free business coaching programs and information. So no need to pay 3-10 thousand or more dollars for free information.
2. Do your own research. Are you familiar with the company and its products or services? Is the company affiliated with a legitimate certification or business accreditation program? Does the company have a good reputation? A good way to find out is to type the company name in a search engine with terms like “scam” or “complaint.” Most of these business coaches have a certificate from a "coaches coaching program" the Flow institute has several course ranging from 2000 to 7000 dollars to become a certified business coach. PT Power offers a service that claims to increase your gym sales by several 100k to millions for 199USD on sale from 799. The big trend is individuals who take these courses, usually former trainers, often not very successful as trainers. So look for testimonials, make sure its not their friends or colleagues, as I've seen many local coaches that use members in the community. People that actually didn't take the course and didn't pay the big bucks they want from you, instead look at tip #1 above.
3. Beware of the “upsell.” If you find yourself paying for a product or service you have yet to receive, and then get additional calls pressuring you to plunk down even more money for another level of product or service, that’s a red flag. It’s better to cut your losses now. If you think it’s a scam, file a complaint with the FTC. Its very common that you are approached with a massively discounted service, $5000 course on sale just for you, for $3000, beware, they are using a psychological tactic known as anchoring, you focus on the bigger number so 3000 looks like a deal, its not, if this tactic works you can expect future upsells on added programs and courses, to get you to that 7 figure salary on no work. Beware!
In conclusion, im not targeting anyone directly. Im just suggesting that you be much more critical of how you spend your hard earned money. Don't be quick to buy in to these new age "get rich quick" schemes. Thats all this is, old tactics, dressed up for the internet age. Other people will get rich off of an industry full of trainers who want to skip the hard part, the time before your schedule is full and you can choose your own hours. We've all been there, it took me 5 years to feel comfortable enough to say no to clients after 8pm or before 9pm, another 3 more years until I said I'm only working business hours. There's lots of free info out there, add me on social media @topcoachdino if you have any questions about being a personal trainer or coach!