How I Built My Business: How I Built a Following, Recurring Revenue, and Life I’m Passionate About
“How did you build your Instagram following?” “How do you land a sponsored post?” “How do you get brands to pay you?” “How did you create an online program?” “How did you—”
These are just a few business related questions that slide into my DMs. I addressed some of these before, but always in bits and pieces, never explaining the full evolution of my business.
I’m writing this post to set the record straight about launching an online business—particularly in the wellness industry. Just as there are plenty of over-promised miracle solutions in the fitness industry (just two minutes a day to six-pack abs!) there is plenty of misguided information in the online business community (just do this ONE thing to build a six-figure business in 8 weeks!). When, in reality, you and I know the truth: There is no such thing as a miracle pill solution. Building anything worth having—self-confidence, a healthy body, and a successful business—takes hard work, determination, and once in awhile, falling on your beautiful ass.
How I Built My Business: Step One—Focus on What You’re Passionate About
Misconception: My goal was to be an Instagram Influencer
Reality: My goal was to educate and inspire people
I didn’t wake up one day and think, “I want to be an Instagram influencer.” I published my first Instagram post before I became a certified personal trainer, writing about running and sharing ideas for training schedules.
When I got certified as a personal trainer, my content shifted because my area of expertise shifted. I traded in my running shoes for HIIT workouts and heavy lifts, continuing to post about my journey on Instagram. I wanted to educate women on the value of a well-rounded program, one complete with strength, cardio, yoga, and mobility work (sound familiar?), instead of strictly running in the streets.
I didn’t post because something was on-brand or clickbait—I posted because I loved the message and wanted to share it. If a message—even if that message comes in the form of a 200-word Instagram caption—is worth sharing, you better stand behind that message. Post about something you love so much that you can’t bear to keep it to yourself (and yes, that’s how I feel about squat racks).
Step Two: Growing A Following—Always Giving Away Free Content
Misconception: You should always charge for your time and expertise
Reality: People only buy when they trust you know what you’re talking about
The more I posted, the more questions came flooding in: “Won’t lifting make me bulky?” “Can I just do lower body strength days?” “What do you do for cardio though?” which helped guide my content.
If someone in my audience asked a question, I wrote a post about it. Simple. If was a question I didn’t know the answer to, I explicitly said that. And if a series of unanswerable questions made it clear there was a gap in my knowledge base, I went and learned about it. I got trained in yoga, durability, and kettlebells because my audience was looking for answers and I wanted to be the girl who had them.
Posting educational content was how I built a level of trust with my audience. And even though it was never my intention, that standard of trust is how I monetized my audience in the future.
Step Three: Getting People in the Door—My First In-Person Clients
Misconception: You should never discount your product or services
Reality: Get in front of people first, and share what you know
At this point in my story, I still held a full-time job at a marketing agency. It wasn’t until the agency folded and I got laid off that I tried to make fitness my sole source of income.
In that moment, my number one goal was simply getting in front of people. I taught classes for free. I coached large events to get my name out. And I offered heavily discounted personal training packages to my first clients.
I offered three-pack training sessions for less than $90—or what I charge for one session today. I made it clear this was an intro offer early, and raised my rates once they understood my coaching style.
Step Four: Creating Residual Income—My First Attempt at An Online Program
Misconception: If you have an idea for a product, go all-in
Reality: Test the market first on a small scale before you create your dream product
While I loved (and still love) the connections made with one-on-one clients, I wanted to create a product with the potential of reaching a large group of people. I also wanted to make fitness accessible to everyone, sold at a much lower price point than personal training. But before I could design the foundation of the TL Method, I had to test the market.
My first “trial run” for the TL Method was an 8-week program. At the time, I didn’t even have an email list, or any way to connect with potential members outside social media. I decided to host a free, one-week challenge to 1) build an email list, 2) display my knowledge as a personal trainer, and 3) create excitement for the 8-week program.
The Free Week Challenge was a success, as was the 8-week program. A great group of people signed up and completed the challenge, and provided me with plenty of feedback to the launch the TL Method.
Step Five: Investing in Yourself—Putting Every Dime Back into Your Business
Misconception: If you create a recurring revenue stream, you can go sip margs on the beach
Reality: Investing in your business is the best way to build a business
I took almost every cent I made from the 8-week challenge and put it toward building a membership portal for the TL Method.
While there are plenty of pre-built membership portals available online, nothing fit what I wanted to build. After speaking to several developers, it became clear that a template solution would not provide all the features I wanted, so I opted for a custom-built website.
The build-out of the TL Method was, quite arguably, one of the most stressful periods of my life (cue first ever panic attack). My developer fixed bugs up until the day the program launched, and continued to find errors for weeks following.
Step Six: Continuing to Provide Value—Refining the TL Method
Misconception: Once you build a product, you create money in your sleep
Reality: You have to continuously improve your product based on client feedback
The launch of the TL Method is not the end of my story—far from it, in fact.
Every single quarter, I send out a survey to every TL Method member asking what they like and what features they would like to see added. I added a timer so members could hear a *ding! when a set is finished. I added new yoga flows. I added over one thousand exercises to the TL Method database. And I continued to work with my developer to address any issues with the site.
A product—even a subscription program—is not a set-it-and-forget it solution. You have to continue to provide value, make sure your customers are happy, and find ways to improve your offering.
Final Thoughts: What I learned Over the Past 5 Years of Building My Business
I could write a half dozen blog posts on building a business, but I’ll leave you with these final thoughts:
Be selfish: You can’t drink from an empty cup. I put my myself and my business above everything to avoid burnout, stay creative, and to create a quality product.
Keep a sense of urgency: When I launched Free Week, then the 8-week challenge, then the TL Method, my goal was to stay at the forefront of everyone’s minds. You can’t launch one, static offering then afford to lose the benefit of momentum.
Hire help: I hired a lot of contractors, including a photographer, designer, and web developer to help build a product I believe in. Remember that you can’t do everything yourself.
And lastly, always return to step one: Do something you’re passionate about. My passion is inspiring people to move in ways that feels good to them. This keeps me going when I’m working past 10PM or when I’m typing on my Mac on a gym floor between coaching classes. Do something you love, that motivates you, and that drives you, and “working hard” won’t feel like hard work.