Saturday, March 14, 2020 I was faced with the scariest business decision I had ever had to make.
I received notice that the building I rent for my fitness classes would be closed for 3 weeks due to COVID-19. That meant no income for 3 weeks and maybe even longer because would everyone come back to class when we started up again in April??
After many tears and some deep breathing, I found myself researching and then signing up for a free account with Zoom that same night.
Wednesday, March 18th I went LIVE with my first on-line class.
This month, by March 18th, 2021 I will have delivered over 500 classes, all via Zoom. One whole year of only Zoom classes.
How did I get from then to now?
1. Test Meetings
This was the most important thing I offered in those first few days.
Test meetings were key to making everyone feel comfortable and confident enough to join the actual class when the time came. We all needed an opportunity to figure this new platform out. By doing it together, we could actually talk about volume, muting, cameras, screen size, etc. and eliminate some of the anxiety we were all feeling about exercising on camera.
To this day, when I find out there’s something else I can do on Zoom, I send out a link and ask people to join me at a test meeting so I can explore it with them before I bring it to a class.
2. Increased Communication
I was apprehensive about this but it was necessary. Pre-COVID, I was sending maybe one or two group emails a week, with the odd text here and there to check in with everyone. In those first few COVID days, I sent multiple emails, every day, that included links and how-to Zoom videos.
On top of that, I was sending texts to let them know I had sent these emails so they could check they had received it and it had not gone to their spam box or lost in cyberspace. I was able to decrease those messages as the months went on.
Now the emails include links along with a list of what they will need at class (weights, dice, cards, pens, timers) though my clients still ask me to send them reminder texts. And I still do weekly check ins with each of them to see how they are doing.
3. Provided Access to All of My Equipment
This was the hardest thing for me to do.
I have invested thousands of dollars in my equipment–dumbbells, kettlebells, slam balls, wall balls, mats, resistance bands. Being able to offer a variety of exercises and workouts, because of this equipment, is one reason why people kept coming back to classes.
Not everyone has a home gym, some don’t even own a dumbbell. I had to let them borrow it (it wasn’t going to be for long, right?).
Everyone submitted their “orders” to me, I sanitized it all and left it on my porch for them to pick up.
During that first week, there was a steady stream of cars to my house and I was pretty sure my neighbours were going to call the lockdown police on me. They didn’t and all of my equipment is still out there in very good hands.
4. Recycled Old Workouts
This was a time saver. I wasn’t about to reinvent the wheel because I didn’t even know how.
I had no experience with any type of on-line workouts. But I did have pages and pages of old workouts that I knew people liked.
Up to that point, I had never repeated a workout. Now was the time. As I searched through my books, I looked for workouts with a simple format that I could plug in exercises they knew and could perform confidently. I knew I had to use a timer to keep everyone together and to stay true to the length of the class.
Though we had nothing but time on our hands, I am known for starting and ending my classes on time and I wasn’t going to change that. The first few workouts were simply me with a timer, telling them what exercise was next, reminding them of form and encouraging them as much as I could without really seeing what they were all doing.
Once I realized we were going to be doing this for a lot longer than we originally thought, I started to branch out with breakout rooms and screen sharing (more test meetings) but I still went back to old workouts for inspiration.
5. Invested in New-To-Me Technology
I am a strong believer in “ you have to spend money to make money”.
After I ended that very first, live Zoom class, I received the pop up ad to upgrade my account from the free version to the Pro version. I did without any hesitation.
Next, I ordered a new webcam and mic. Though there wasn’t much out there by the time I made this decision, it made such a big difference in the delivery of my classes.
Then, I signed up for Dropbox. This is how I get the recorded classes to anyone that wants them. So easy for everyone to access through a link that I send out.
I purchased a second hand TV to use as a big screen for my group fitness classes.
I recently upgraded my microphone, now that there is stock available.
All of these additions have certainly made me feel more confident about the quality of classes that I am offering.
Really, though, I made it from then to now because of:
6. My Amazing Clients
So I asked them what they saw me do in the beginning and why they stuck through it all with me. Here’s the top 5 responses I received:
- Kept the class times the same
- Kept the format/style of classes the same
- Provide recordings for missed classes
- Reminder and follow up texts & messages
- Kept me sane
That scariest business decision ever has turned out to be the best business decision I have ever made.
How it’s impacted my business
90% of my clients were on board with the transition to on-line classes and are still joining today.
5% live in rural locations and knew that their internet service would not be reliable so they opted out, thinking it would be only a couple of weeks. We know now that was not the case and those 5% have never joined my online classes. Nor have they stayed in touch with me.
For the remaining 5%, there were a variety of “reasons” that I tried to work through with them. Such as, not wanting to be in front of a camera or not being technology inclined to figure things out or no space in their house to workout or no time away from the kids or too noisy first thing in the morning, etc. Of these, a few did figure it out and still join today.
Going on-line allows anyone from anywhere to join so I have a few new clients from across the province.
I have lost a few clients for very valid reasons: pregnancies, financial losses because of COVID, etc but they all have the good intention to join again.
As of today, I have 90% retention rate from March of last year.
Going forward, I have every intention to stay on line except for maybe Saturday Bootcamp classes, once the weather is good again. The feedback I have received is all in support of staying on-line. The main reason is the time saved. No more traveling from home to class and back again. Also, many of my clients no longer feel comfortable in a group setting.
For me, I could never sustain my business with the protocols I’d have to follow for in-person classes–10 per class, no more back to back classes, cleaning in between classes. It would not make any financial sense for me.
I really believe that I have found a niche market and I am going to do my best to keep it going.
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