From big box trainer to online trainer charging $2500/mo (Part 1) (Interview with Danny Wilson)

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Highlights from the interview

[02:56] – Moving from being an in-person trainer with a limited schedule to attend his kids events, to a full time high-end online trainer with global clients and total location/time flexibility

[07:43] – The typical coaching approach that doesn’t work well but that most trainers use…And the easy solution to coach better

[14:12] – If you enjoy coaching clients so they don’t just see fitness changes but a fundamental life shift, then consider this “homework” technique

[18:06] – How Danny prices his high-end 12-week programs & what he includes

[19:50] – Can a personal trainer have non-exercising clients?

[21:08] – Danny’s PT App recommendation

About our Guest

Today on the show, we have Danny Wilson. He is a successful online personal trainer, dad of 2 kids who lives in Liverpool in the UK. 

He went from working as a driver to an in-person trainer to a struggling online personal trainer with no time to now a very successful trainer with lots of time for his family. 

He’s come from a body building background but has evolved his business model and his coaching style to be more flexible, introspective and work for anyone even those who don’t want to exercise. 

He’s a really interesting guy and you’ll learn so much from his story today. 

Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 47

Kristy: Hey Danny, thanks so much for being on Fitness Business Secrets. How are you doing today? 

Danny: I’m very, very well. How are you? 

Kristy: I am good. Thank you. Now you have a wonderful accent. Tell me where are you located? 

Danny: I currently live just outside Liverpool in the glorious United Kingdom.

Moving from being an in-person trainer with a limited schedule to attend his kids events, to a full time high-end online trainer with global clients and total location/time flexibility

[02:56] Kristy: Okay. Awesome. So, I know you have currently, and your business has transitioned quite a bit to fit your lifestyle and what you want. Now you sell high end personal training programs. I would call them high end.

Tell me a little bit about your current business and then maybe we’ll backtrack and how you got there, what does your business look like?

Danny: Okay. So as I started on this right now, I am a full time online, basically behavior change, coach, fitness behavior change, that type of thing. I work with high performing busy professional people  who think that they tried everything and can’t quite get their head around why they kind of lacking the success, that they believe that they deserve.

Kristy: Mmm. Okay. So now where are your clients currently? Like, are they in specific areas or? 

Danny: I currently have clients in Australia and New Zealand, America, and a few in England as well, but basically Mr. Worldwide, like they say. 

Kristy: That’s great.  How did you end up getting to this point? Because I know you weren’t, you know, you felt like you got out of school and you started being a personal trainer. What were you doing before that? What made you the do the jump to becoming full time personal trainer?

 Danny: Cool, okay. I’ve been training myself. I’ve been involved in health and fitness in one way or another for the past 25 years. And as with anything that I do, I get really kind of passionately involved and I read a lot. I research a lot. I educate myself, I get badly involved that my passion typically comes a little bit crazy. 

So I’ve been helping all the people for a very, very long time. And then someone said to me, “Why don’t you do this for a job? Why don’t you do this to make money?” You know, for a couple of years, I was like, “No, get lost. I can’t do that.” 

And then one day I just thought, “Why can’t I do that?” So. And that’s what I did. I started, I got qualified as a personal trainer. I started working in  local gyms, doing very, very well and progressing my career, progressing my own knowledge and then looking at I got two kids. 

So as a personal trainer, I’m sure everybody can kind of relate to this it’s early mornings and late finishes. And I was missing sports days, I was missing school productions, I was missing  parent teacher events. I was missing a lot of stuff that my kids would do. And so a friend of mine kind of suggested, “Hey, why don’t we try this whole online stuff?” And again, I was like, “Well, what is that? How  the hell does that even work?” So, I kind of looked into it and fast forward on, here we are.

Kristy: Oh, okay.  So it sounds like  were you just training in gyms and kind of maybe big box or small studios?

Danny: I’m qualified as a personal trainer in a gym called Fitness First in England, it’s probably the same as in there, something like Planet Fitness or something. 

How Danny dealt the uncertain journey of figuring out how to be an online trainer in order to have that better schedule for his kids

Kristy: Okay. So then, I mean, you went the traditional way, which is very common, right? You get your license, you look for some gyms, you start training them. What made you go online? And when you made that decision, was it I’m going to go a hundred percent online or I’m going to go partially online. I’m just going to see how this goes. Tell me about that journey. 

Danny: Okay, cool. So like I kind of just very briefly touched on them. I got two young boys and I was missing a lot of the stuff that kind of, even with school and things like that. Working early in the morning, finishing late at night, having like kind of weird slots of time off in the day.

So, it wasn’t really being a full time in-person trainer, it didn’t fit what I wanted to do. So a friend of mine  introduced me to online coaching. He’s a very successful online coach in a different field, but he’s been doing online for quite a while.

So he suggested it to me. And then we started kind of putting little things in place to enable me to start taking on clients online. So at first I was kind of  half online, half offline, and then two years ago, I transitioned in completely just to be fully online. 

Kristy: How did you first get started on being online? Like your first clients? Was that scary at all? 

Danny: Do you know what it wasn’t, I’m a very confident person, so it wasn’t scary. It was just a little bit “What, what do I do now?” type of thing, you know, I had a couple of online clients. I didn’t know much about marketing. I didn’t know much about what kind of systems do you use or anything like that.

So it was quite a steep learning curve. So  I wasn’t nervous, but I was just a little bit wary of “Right now, what am I going to do?”

Kristy: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really a different type of way to approach training. You can’t just adjust them and you can’t just like, you have to show up cause I’m going to be there.

The typical coaching approach that doesn’t work well but that most trainers use…And the easy solution to coach better

[07:43] Kristy: So what did your initial program look like? Or what did you end up concluding about how you would train people virtually.

Danny: So with me, it was very, very much trial and error. It was very much trial. This system, try this system, or don’t like this system, let’s try this system and it was a very basic, very basic fitness program, to be honest, I kind of like look back at it now and I’m like, “Oh my God. People want to pay me money for this.”

Yeah. But yeah, it was very, very, it was very, macro based. Very, very kind of gym bodybuilder based, you know, I was a bodybuilder for 20 something years. So my mindset, my thinking was that everybody’s a bodybuilder. So everybody was getting bodybuilder workouts, which in hindsight was a terrible thing.

Kristy: Hmm. Okay. So it sounds like you’re doing either you did an initial program based off of maybe what you would have imagined for yourself. 

Danny: Totally. A hundred percent. Yeah. I kind of, I suggested people at the same that I did. I suggested they have the same meal patterns, the same meal choices as I did. Which, you know, as we kind of know for 90% of the population that just isn’t going to work.

Kristy: Yeah, that’s really interesting because I haven’t really heard, I think everyone has that the self bias, I mean, you know, when prescribing things, so that’s an interesting reflection.  

Kristy: Okay, so now I want to get into, so you pivoted your business into trying to change. And you also mentioned behavioral coaching, which I know I had talked to another coach about that. Is that a specific methodology? Could you talk about that if it is? 

Danny: Sure. Yeah. So the way that the way that behavior change coaching works is, we kind of strip everything back and we work out exactly what it is which is stopping the client get the results that they want. Now, generally it’s usually, it’s nothing to do with a lack of information.

It’s more to do with the lack of implementation. So. We need to kind of work together and work out exactly what’s stopping people do the things that they know that they need to do. Cause you know, let’s be honest. People know what they need to do. They just need help actually realizing it. That’s what they have to do.

Does that make sense? Was that a clear description? 

Kristy: Yeah, well, I think that I totally get it and they want coaching versus just information. So it sounds like there’s a number of things that sort of changed in your approach to personal training. Do you want to just maybe go over the different things that brought you to where you are now?

It sounds like you changed the recommendations. Maybe, I’m not sure if you changed your meal plan or your food suggestions, and then also even how you coach maybe the phone call format. So it’s very interesting because I think everyone has basically started in the same place that you’re talking about.

Danny: Yeah. So like I just kind of said that when I initially started, when I first started personal training, I was very, very narrow minded. I was heavily, heavily, heavily involved in bodybuilding and  my bias was so strong that I couldn’t see. Why people were refusing to eat chicken and broccoli 19 times a day, and they didn’t want to go to the gym 20 times a week.

I couldn’t see it. My bias was that strong and I was like, what’s going on? What’s going on? But as I kind of matured, as I developed, basically as a person and as a human being, I started to kind of realize and started to think, “Why is this, why don’t these people want to do what I do?” So then I kind of took a step back and I was like, Ah, okay. Okay. 

So I started to kind of change my tactic and try and rather than make  my client fit the plan that I was offering, I was making my plan fit the clients.

So I started to kind of change my tactic and try and rather than make  my client fit the plan that I was offering, I was making my plan fit the clients.

 I started to get really good results and I started to kind of put myself out there on social media a bit. I started to put my opinions across. People started to listen to me, which again, like I said before, I kind of get very involved and I get very, very passionate and everything that I do, which may be kind of look a little bit deeper into kind of behavior change coaching, and why people think that the way they do, why people self-sabotage, why people know what they need to do.

Well, they keep reverting to type whenever anything gets a little uncomfortable, when everything starts getting a little bit unfamiliar, people generally kind of revert to type, and then they kind of start the cycle all over again. So I started looking at ways that I could implement change by involving the clients a lot more in the decision making process.

So rather than me saying, you will do this. I then started saying, shall we do this? Would you like to do this? What do you think that we should do? And that has literally revolutionized my way of thinking when it comes to coaching.

Kristy: Oh, I see. Okay.  Did you work with Tim Drummond by chance? Cause I know he does a lot of these. 

Danny: Yes. You know, Tim is one of my mentors. 

How Danny went from struggling online trainer working 24 hours/day to cash generating trainer with lots of free time

Kristy: Yeah. Really interesting. Okay. So, you implemented behavior change. What about your, with this new approach, besides just the coaching, how did your recommendations change from, did you have a different focus on what you focus on every session now? 

Danny: So the way that my coaching program has evolved is I went from not charging a lot of money at all. Scrambling round looking for, you know, $200 a month clients. When I did get those clients, I was given them absolutely everything I was, they would have, they have kind of a 24 hour contact, seven days a week. I was doing the meals. I was doing their training and I was doing the recipes. I was doing absolutely everything.

And it was kind of burning me out. It was kind of making me exhausted. My girlfriend was going crazy because it’d be like 11 o’clock at night and I’d just be replying to someone before they’re asleep. And I kind of realized that it wasn’t the way to kind of do things. 

So I kind of stripped everything back and I started implementing a weekly coaching call where we get absolutely everything that we kind of need to do.

I have the program that I do is very, very structured and there is kind of there’s homework. It sounds a bit scary, but there’s something with that for them to do. And then we kind of, we cover everything that they need to do in that coaching session, which means that I get a lot more time with my kids and my girlfriend and my dog.

If you enjoy coaching clients so they don’t just see fitness changes but a fundamental life shift, then consider this “homework” technique

[14:12] Kristy: Yeah. Could you tell me about the homework that you assigned to them? It is and actually, maybe I’ll rewind a little bit. Your current program, what does it look like? I saw something about 12-week program. And do people only stay with you for 12 weeks?

Danny: So as it stands right now, my program is 12 weeks long.

There is an option depending on if we vibe well, if we get in very, very good results at the end of the 12 weeks. I will offer an extension into a six month program, but not everybody gets that. You know, a lot of people don’t need that. A lot of people don’t even want that. A lot of people get fantastic results and they kind of feel that they can kind of continue on their own. For those that want a little bit more, for those that kind of, that like having me to kind of talk to, I offer them a six months kind of extension onto that.

So the homeworks that they do. I probably shouldn’t call them homeworks because it kind of elicits memories of school and being shouted at and stuff. It’s basically just self-discovery exercises and stripping the client back, finding out who they actually are. A lot of people don’t really know who they are.

It’s basically just self-discovery exercises and stripping the client back, finding out who they actually are. A lot of people don’t really know who they are.

A lot of people on the outside, on the surface, they think that they know who they are, but when we kind of ask certain questions and we ask them to do certain exercises, write about their life, it brings feelings to the surface and it brings values that they kind of didn’t really realize.

So that’s what the coaching exercises are all about. You know, we look at kind of where you’re coming from. We look at where you are. We look at the who, who exactly do you want to be? You know, it’s all very well saying, Oh, I want to lose this. And I want to lose that. Why do you wanna do that? You know, it’s like having a map, it will get you to where you want to go.

But if you don’t know the destination, you’re just going to kind of go around in circles. So if we can literally cement exactly who you want to be and how you want your life to be, we could really start to kind of zero in on that. Then we start asking questions. I start asking clients to tell me the reasons why they can’t achieve what they dream of and what they really, really want to do.

And then in that same exercise. We say, so right now  you tell me why each one of those excuses isn’t valid. So it’s very interesting. You know, it gets the coaching calls get very emotional. There’s a lot of deep rooted trauma that comes up, which is quite, you know, it’s quite cool. It’s quite nice to witness people changing mentally and physically. 

Kristy: Yeah. And I’m just curious because it sounds really different from your initial programming,  how do you feel about that?  It sounds like you went in to initially tell people and preach the gospel of macros and work out this and do these types of things.

And now you’re like, how does that feel? What is, you know, and I think that’s great and you’re right on point, but how, how did you feel about that change? 

Danny: I think it’s very rewarding. A lot of my clients, they get fantastic physical results, but due to the, due to the renewed, self-belief due to the renewed vision of who they are and what they can actually do.

They start to kind of excel in other areas of their life. They start to kind of put themselves forward for jobs that they never would have done. Because they kind of, you know, they spent their entire life making excuses. There’s certain limits, like hiding behind this person who they don’t really know, but then when they find out who they are, when they find out what they’re capable of. They Excel in all areas of their life. So it’s very rewarding. It’s very interesting. It’s very enlightening. I guess. It’s very, sometimes I kind of got off a coaching call and I’ll be probably in tears and I’ll be like, Whoa. Wow. 

 I kind of don’t work with that many people at the same time, because of the level of intensity of the coaching. I only work with like 15 people at a time, you know, I don’t really kind of work with them more than that. But if you do three or four, five coaching sessions in a day, and that they are all highly emotional,  you go to bed and you sleep because you are tired. You’re drained.

How Danny prices his high-end 12-week programs & what he includes 

[18:06] Kristy: Wow. So that actually brings me to my next question.

I’m not sure if I asked you on-air or off-air, how much do you currently charge for your program? What do they get  in that program? 

Danny: Okay, so right now, the 12-week program with me is $2,500. 

Kristy: Okay. And what do they get? 

Danny: Yeah. So with that, they get, it’s very difficult to kind of say because it’s a totally bespoke program. So one person might need more than the next person. The next person might need more than the next person, but the nuts and bolts is nutrition, support, guidance, information, help, training nutrition, training guidance, support and help. If they need it, a lot of people don’t even train. A lot of my clients don’t even go to the gym.

Oh, wow. Which is kind of far removed from my initial kind of business model. And then we have a 45 minutes to an hour coaching call once a week, where we go through everything that we kind of need to do. Everything’s structured. And then if they need me outside of these coaching calls, they just email me and then I’ll get back to them, usually within 24 hours, because I have clients all over the world, you know, I’ve got three clients Australia at the moment. You know, I talk to them, I have my coaching call for me it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, for them it’s it’s 8:00 PM in the evening. So, you know, I get back to them as soon as I possibly can, but it works very, very well.

It helps them be a little bit more autonomous. It helps them be a little bit more kind of thinking on their own feet rather than texting me every 20 minutes. Oh, can I have ketchup? Can I have mustard? Can I have white rice instead of Brown rice? So it  works, it streamline things, bringing everything back in, focusing on the coaching session. It works very, very well.

Can a personal trainer have non-exercising clients?

[19:50] Kristy: Yeah. So, the people who don’t exercise, is that a purely nutrition program?

Danny: Yeah. Yeah. Nutrition habits. Again, self belief. Self-confidence. The majority of people, the very least, you know, we’ll have kind of an activity goal for them. I’ll say to them, you know, it might be, you want to go for a walk. A lot of people, especially with the way that the world is right now,  a lot of gyms are closed.

My guys in Australia, they have just been told that there’s possibly the COVID restrictions are going to be increased for the next six months. And one of my guys is allowed out of his house for an hour a day. 

Kristy: Oh, wow. That’s tough.

Danny: I send him home workouts to do, and he’s lost, this is his ninth week and he’s lost 20 to 23 pounds.

Kristy: Wow. That’s great. Do you charge the same amount despite if they’re only doing nutrition or if you’re also designing that fitness program for them?

Danny: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. It’s a totally bespoke, so some people need a bit more, some people need a bit less, some people don’t want any more. Some people have no interest in going to the gym. 

Kristy: Right, right. And that’s, it’s a good point. I think a lot of people would be like, they have like a convulsion, like, Oh really? But being open, everyone is different and that works for them. And that way being a coach. That works for them. So yeah.

Danny’s PT App recommendation

[21:08] Kristy: What type of app do you use for your program or nutrition and fitness, if there’s that?

Danny: Yeah. Yeah. So, I have my own app that I use and which has got, we kind of track their progress and, you know, if we all look into calories, a lot of the time. We don’t really look at calories for the first few weeks. When we do start looking at calories, they can link it to MyFitnessPal, they can link it to Fitbit. It’s a pretty cool app. 

Kristy: Okay, cool. Do you know what the company behind it is? The app that you use?

Danny: Yeah. It’s called PT Distinction.

Kristy: Oh, okay, cool. I know that there’s a lot of different types and it’s when I was curious, which one you prefer. Yeah. Okay. So then, let’s say somebody does fitness and nutrition. Do you give them a program like what exercise to do, almost like basically a time by time workout for each workout.

Danny: So again, it all depends what the client kind of wants. Some clients, obviously with the type of people that I kind of generally work with someone I’ve got a fair amount of money, you know, they sometimes have their gyms. Some people have got, just got a few kettlebells. Some people have got gym access. Some people, just the kind of body weight workouts.

So we don’t, it all depends on where that client is in their kind of particular journey. If they are, if they’re literally just starting out then a couple of home workouts per week, they’re gonna be more than enough to help them kind of progress where they want to go.

Stay tuned for the second part of this interview with Danny!

Danny Wilson

Facebook: Danny Wilson
Website: Danny Wilson Fit

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