From $0 to $6,000 a Month: 3 Keys to Earning a Professional Wage as a Fitness Coach

One of the focuses at the upcoming MadLab Group Las Vegas Summit will be on coaches helping coaches. Tom Sarosi will be on hand to tell his story about how he showed up at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver and enrolled in the apprentice program (now the Professional Coach Development Program – PCDP) in 2012 without a single client. Today, he is an associate coach who consistently earns a professional wage as a fitness coach. 

You’ll have to come to Vegas to hear all his secrets, but for now, here’s a teaser:

Tom Sarosi was a 21-year-old pipe fitter when he moved from Uxbridge Ontario to Vancouver, B.C. three and a half years ago to learn how to become a coach from some of the most experienced fitness coaches in the industry.

While he didn’t mind the physical labour of being a pipefitter, he was tired of commuting an hour-and-a-half each way at 5 a.m., and was sick of the union environment, which he described as: “Work as slowly as possible to make as much money as possible.”

Tom wasn’t sure if it was even possible to make the kind of living he could in a union environment working as a full-time coach, but he knew he loved fitness, and he knew coaching didn’t feel like work to him.

Needless to say, he was skeptical:

“Three years ago, I would have rather been paid by the hour. I thought that was a better fit for me. But as time went on, that changed. It’s satisfying to know I’m making a difference in people’s lives. Sometimes the reason someone new starts personal training is because they’re buying me, my services, my knowledge, my coaching. But getting paid by the hour would mean that person would be buying a generic product rather than how I can help them,” Tom said. “When a client is mine, it allows me to educate them, and allows me to play a bigger role in their health and fitness.”

And after two-and-a-half long years slugging it out in the trenches building his coaching business, Tom has become one of the top revenue earners at MSOF, and is earning as much, and often more, than he would as a pipefitter—except he doesn’t have to work 50-hours a week doing manual labour, and he gets to do what’s he’s passionate about everyday.

tom 3

Hard to put a price on getting to do what you love everyday

The best part, though, is—unlike pipefitting, where you’re paid based on seniority and have a ceiling on your earnings—as a coach in the MadLab system, he gets paid based on how good he is at bringing people in, and on how well he coaches and retains clients. There’s no ceiling on his potential earnings.

Three Keys to Tom’s Success:

3. Hybrid Memberships

Last year, MSOF added a hybrid membership to its list of monthly options. Hybrid memberships mean clients, both new and experienced ones, add personal training to their group class membership. Some clients meet with their coach once a week, others once a month, or once every six weeks. Some also pay additional fees for individual programming, which allows them to focus on specific weaknesses or goals they want to achieve.

The reasons MSOF added a hybrid membership option was because it was obvious that group classes alone weren’t enough for most clients, including those with lingering injuries, health or mobility issues, and especially for those who have been attending group classes for a number of years and are no longer improving as fast as they did in their first year.

His clients on hybrid memberships spend between $300 and $500 a month, depending on the plan they choose, Tom said, adding that hybrid memberships have helped his clients and his business in many ways.

First, his clients are happier because they’re getting the one-on-one attention they need. They’re more educated and have a better understanding of the method behind getting fit, Tom explained, and as a result are seeing big improvements. Because of this, his client retention is through the roof.

“Meeting my clients once a week or once a month helps them because it gives them consistency. And it means they’re more prepared for what’s coming up on any given cycle during the group classes,” Tom said. “And because they’re more prepared, they have more enthusiasm for training, and are more excited about the program they’re following.”

And on the coach end, Tom is happy because he is able to help his clients in a more hands-on way than he would if he coached them once a week during a group class.

“And I have a more in-depth relationship with everyone now than I would (without personal training). More time spent with everyone means better relationships, and equals more dollars per hour, too,” he said.

Today, Tom—an associate coach who earns 40% to 50% of the revenue he generates each month—has 31 clients, 13 of which are on hybrid memberships. Hybrid memberships easily earn him an additional $1,000-$1,200 each month than he would if his experienced clients only did group classes.

tom and me and dash

Cheers to that!

2. Competitor’s Program

Tom is also the head coach of the competitor’s program, called the Development Program (DP) at MSOF. The group of athletes—generally more experienced athletes who are looking for a little more volume than the regular programming— trains together three days a week, usually for two to two-and-a-half hour sessions. His top athlete, Natalie Duronio, is competing at the upcoming West Regional competition.

Not only have athletes in DP seen tremendous gains from following Tom’s program, coaching a group of highly-motivated athletes is one of the favourite parts of his job. It provides him with all the freedom in the world because he has complete ownership over the program, he said.

“And because I’m in charge of everything that happens there, I try to take better care of it,” he said.

There are currently 20 athletes in DP, and Tom earns an additional $1,500-$1,800 a month from the program.

tom 2

Tom overseeing his athletes at a throwdown 

1. Passion

Hybrid memberships and DP aside, the biggest reason Tom believes he has been successful is because of his passion for fitness. He is the guy who is constantly educating himself about current trends in the industry, constantly geeking out learning to become the best technical coach he can. His clients know and appreciate this as it helps them gain fitness in the most safe and effective way possible.

Part of what keeps this passion alive for Tom is the fact that, unlike many fitness coaches, he doesn’t have to coach 15-plus group classes a week, where more time is spent cheerleading than coaching.

“I would be very bored coaching the same group class more than three times a day,” he said.

Instead, his love and passion for coaching is intact because of the variety he has in his days, and because of the one-on-one relationships he has developed with his hybrid membership and DP clients. He coaches just 6 group classes a week, 3 DP sessions, and fills another 8-12 hours each week with both hybrid membership and new personal training clients.

It means that Tom isn’t going to burn out. He is on-board to be a full-time career coach—making a living doing something that “doesn’t even feel like work,” he said.


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