If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would be running a 6-figure/yr. online nutrition business while spending my days at home in sweatpants or taking long midday hikes with my dogs, I would’ve thought you had officially lost your mind.
Seriously, five years ago, things were not looking good for me and my fitness and nutrition business. Even though I’ve already spoiled the ending and you know it’s a happy one, let me fill you in on the whole story.
How My Business Started
In January 2013, I put in my two-week notice to quit my personal training job in the big box, corporate-y gym I had worked in for the past 8 years. I was d-o-n-e. I was sick of working for someone else, abiding by rules that didn’t make sense, following scripts and sales goals instead of doing what was best for my clients. I knew I was meant to do something bigger.
Two weeks later, I was officially a business owner. I had no money in my bank account, no previous entrepreneurial experience, and no business plan. What I did have was a passion for helping others and the determination to never work for someone else again.
I contacted some past clients and offered to come to their homes and train them at a fraction of what it cost for personal training at the gym (big mistake…didn’t realize how badly I was undercharging at the time). Soon, I had a decent client roster and was driving all across the county as an in-home personal trainer.
My 3-Year Ride On The Strugglebus
I spent the next three years in a cycle of charging my clients too little, spending too much time driving and not enough time working, and spinning my wheels trying to get more clients. By the end of 2016, I was $20,000 in debt and burned out with a bad case of adrenal burnout.
On the upside, during this time I also officially became a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and added virtual nutrition consultations to my offerings for clients. (Because I know I’ll get this question…I went through the Nutritional Therapy Association and I absolutely, highly recommend it. Best nutrition certification hands down.)
I LOVED it! It was so fun to help people in this way and to do so from the comfort of my own home—a way better business model than spending hours per day in my car! But, I was still struggling to find clients and make enough money to fully support myself and my new online nutrition business.
The Rock Bottom Moment
Before you have a moment that changes everything, there first must come a rock bottom moment where things couldn’t possibly get worse.
For me, it was in the fall of 2016. I was about a year into dealing with mold illness and the accompanying awful symptoms that left me feeling exhausted, depressed, foggy, and in pain. I was on a treatment plan, but the healing was slow and the medical bills were high…very, very high.
I found a place to live that passed a mold inspection but also happened to be twice as much rent than I’d ever paid in my life. I couldn’t pass up on a safe space to heal (shockingly hard to find) so I committed to finding a way to pay for this new place.
At the same time, my symptoms had gotten SO bad that I didn’t have the strength or energy to continue doing my at-home personal training business. While it was the one piece of my business that was bringing in a steady, reliable income (albeit low), it was also the piece that I was no longer passionate about and was ready to move on to working solely with nutrition clients virtually in my online nutrition business.
Let’s review—$20K in debt, astronomical medical expenses, pricey rent…and now quitting the piece of my business that’s actually bringing in income.
Yeah, I was bold (read: crazy). But also, deep down, I knew I would be fine.
The Shift That Changed Everything
Not more than a month went by before I reached the pivotal moment that changed everything. I was taking on more one-on-one nutrition clients and really enjoying the work I was doing with each of them in my online nutrition business.
Except something about it just didn’t seem right.
I found myself saying the same thing over and over to each client, feeling energetically drained after each day of 1:1 sessions, and still not making the income that felt appropriate for the profound work I was doing to help these people heal their bodies.
On a walk one day I got an idea: “Why don’t I take the things I’m saying over and over again to my clients and put it all into an online hub where they can go through it as a group?”
It made perfect sense. I could help more than one client at a time—especially with the foundational work that every client needs at the start—and wouldn’t have to spend all day repeating myself to one person at a time. My clients would get the help and support they needed from me and would also get the camaraderie of a close-knit group of people that were going through something similar.
At the time, I didn’t know what an online program was, I just knew this idea I had wasn’t something I could ignore. It sounded like the perfect situation for me, my business, and my clients. I got home from my walk and immediately started Googling to see how I could make it happen.
How I Turned My Nutrition Practice Turned Into A 6-Figure/Year Online Business
I joined Kajabi (the BEST platform out there for all things online business) and spent the final two months of 2016 taking my notes from all of my one-on-one clients and organizing them into a framework that would help the masses.
I launched my very first signature program in January of 2017, recruiting 30 people to be founding members and test it for me. The initial group was a huge success and I felt a twinge of confidence that this little idea for an online nutrition program could actually be a hit.
Curious how I built the program and got people to buy it? I’m spilling all my group program secrets in my FREE masterclass “Burnout-Proof Your Business With A Group Program” Click here to save your spot. It’s free!
I spent the rest of 2017 re-launching my program every few months while growing my audience full of people who would be a perfect fit for the program through my highly-targeted podcast, blog posts, and social media.
By the end of 2017, that ONE program had made $150,000 for my business. Remember how not even a year earlier I didn’t know how I was going to afford my rent? Yeah, this was a BIG deal. I also had transitioned to only doing high-level one-on-one nutrition consultations, so I had most days completely free of any appointments or obligations. I’ve got one word for how I was feeling at that moment…FREEDOM!
In 2018, I continued to build my audience full of people who would be perfect for my program with weekly podcast episodes and continued to host groups in my program every other month. I then created two more specialized group coaching programs for those that were on a more specific healing journey.
By the end of 2018, I had three successful online nutrition programs that totaled $435,000 in revenue for that year. I was spending less time working than I ever thought possible. I was traveling a ton and bringing my work along with me when I wanted (which really just meant having my phone and laptop nearby for an occasional check-in), and I was helping thousands of people feel well again. It truly was a dream come true and something I never thought would be possible for me only a few years earlier.
Online Programs: The Most Sustainable Business Model
I’m writing this post 3 years later having created 3 more signature programs (6 total in 5 years!) and continuing to reap the benefits of this business model. It truly is the most sustainable business model, especially for nutritionists, health coaches, personal trainers, therapists, and other wellness business owners.
Having one-on-one clients is great, but it is very hard to give top-notch service to the number of clients you need to make a decent income. It takes a lot of time and energy, and your income will always be capped by the amount of time and energy you have for those clients.
What creating these online programs did for me and my business can be the case for yours too. You can create a super impactful, really professional group program that will provide even more value to your clients than working with you one-on-one and at a lower price point. Plus, they get the added benefit of connecting with like-minded people who are on a similar journey.
You, on the other hand, get a wide-open calendar with more flexibility in how you spend your days, unlimited income potential as your groups grow, and the confidence that you’re making a real difference in the world by helping more people at one time.
The Best Business Move Over
Having that random idea (I call it an intuitive nudge.) back in 2016 to take what I knew and turn it into a group program was the absolute best thing for me and my online nutrition business. Now, it’s your turn.
PS…You don’t need to have a big audience, a ton of money to invest (Remember, I created my program in the middle of major money struggles.), or a full client roster to make it happen.
Ready to add a signature program to your business? Get a jumpstart on the first three critical steps to make it a reality with my FREE Signature Program Starter Kit!