How to Coach Without a Gym

A man shooting a video on the end of a dock at sunrise, how to coach without a gym

Your gym is a tool. It’s part of your coaching practice. But it’s not your entire practice—not even close.

Many gym owners are wrestling with tough decisions about their bricks-and-mortar locations right now. Most of our expenses, as owners, are tied up in our physical spaces: the rent, the equipment loan, the staff, etc.

But what if you didn’t need that space at all?

What if you could operate your coaching practice without the millstone of a lease?

This week, I’m going to share three proven strategies for running a coaching business without owning a physical space. Even if you have a physical space now, these are all viable options for your future—or options you can add to your current business to create opportunities for your coaches and grow your revenue.

Today, the option we’ve been talking about a lot recently: coaching online.

Coaching Online: The Step-by-Step Plan

Here are the steps to take to move your business entirely online:

1. Start with your Perfect Day. Write it down.

2. Address finance. How much money do you need to achieve that lifestyle?

3. Run the numbers. How many clients, at your current rates, would you need to keep if you had zero expenses?

4. Measure your commitments: Can you get out of them? What are your expenses—like your lease and your loans? If you had to get out of them today, how would you do it? If you can’t get out of them today, use them as a decision point: “I’ll do the work by X to have a clear decision in mind.”

5. Measure your opportunities: Do enough clients really want this? Survey your clients. How many said, “I’ll stay online forever” or “I’ll stay online for the foreseeable future”?

6. Maintain three points of contact. Don’t change anything yet, but free up your time to start building your online business. Put everything else into “maintenance mode” while you follow the old rock-climber’s strategy of staying in contact with existing holds while reaching for a new one. That means your business should be systemized: Your delivery, retention, sales and marketing systems should keep operating at 10/10 without you.

7. Sell online while running your current gym. With everything else running smoothly, focus your attention on building your online audience. Publish every day; create free giveaways and an expensive product to sell.

8. When you reach your minimum amount of online revenue, begin tapering down physical operations. Pivot as many clients as you can to online training. This is really the point of no return: Most in-person clients won’t go online until the in-person option disappears. When I was still doing PT with 34 clients per week, I tried to drop down to 10 clients and move 24 to my other trainers. But, of course, when I told my clients, “I’m only keeping 10,” they all wanted to be in the 10. Some clients will promise to switch to online training and then hate it. Some won’t switch until they don’t have a choice. That’s why you don’t want to count on any switching. Consider your in-person clients a bonus to your new model.

9. Close physical locations before you dip below breakeven. Don’t force your online revenue to support your physical location.

10. Narrow your niche to scale up. To get more clients, you’re best to be the biggest fish in a very small pond. Yes, there appears to be more opportunity when you think broadly. It’s always tempting to invent something new. But inventors rarely make any money. The most successful people connect two existing ideas. For example: online training for referees. Online training for soccer players. Online nutrition coaching for people with eating disorders. You can help these people more by becoming an expert in that narrow niche.

11. Be patient. “Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.” —Nassim Taleb

Moving to Online Coaching: Pros and Cons

Here’s how certified Two-Brain mentor and business owner Ashley Mak moved online: Two-Brain Radio.

New fitness pros will probably start with training people online before deciding whether to open a gym or not. You’re at that point now.

If you were starting from scratch today, what would you do differently? All options are on the table.


Less overhead.
Fewer clients required.
You’ve already done the hardest part: building an audience.

Read: “What if You Love Online Coaching?”


You’re in the honeymoon phase.
It’s harder to get new clients online.
Your audience didn’t really sign up for this.

Read: “What if You Hate Hate Online Coaching?”

Start With Your Goal

You can make the pivot. Others have done it. It will take time to undo your current business. But if you work backward from where you want to be, it’s achievable.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.