How to build your following by telling your story and being vulnerable (Part 1) (Interview with Sheena Jones)

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Highlights from the interview

[04:12] – Struggling through a cycle of diet fads and pills that didn’t work

[11:31] – How she accidentally created a following during her weight loss journey

[18:53] – From $750 per month clients to $250 per month clients — understanding Sheena’s business model

[24:39] – The macro percentages she uses for her client’s transformation programs and avoiding the pitfalls of using the BMR Mifflin St. Jeor calorie calculator

[27:11] – How she sells lower-priced digital products and the time struggle between creating lower tier Digital Products and your premium coaching clients

[31:00] – Getting 5 to 10 coaching inquiries a day from social media and receiving 100 messages a day on Instagram

About our Guest

Finding her own transformation at 250 pounds

Today on the show is Sheena Jones.

Just a few years ago, she was a mom of four trying to lose weight, but with tenacity, she built up a following as she lost the weight at a high of 250 pounds. 

Now, she looks stunning and has a strong social media presence and has a very profitable online personal training business. She has high ticket clients of $750 a month and general coaching clients from $150 to $250 a month. Oh, and she also has digital products that she sells daily.

Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 43

Kristy: Hey, Sheena.  Welcome to the show. If it is business secrets, thanks for being on it. You have an incredible Instagram page with really an incredible story and great pictures. So Ms. Gorgeous, how are you doing today? 

Sheena: I’m good. 

Kristy: Thanks for being on the show. Tell me, how did you get into personal training and how long have you been servicing clients? 

Sheena: Okay. So basically getting  into personal training kind of happened just as like a natural progression. After I had my last child, I was  250 pounds.

So, I was really struggling with  trying to lose weight and just not eating properly. So, I started to educate myself on the proper way to eat  good nutrition, looking into other forms of training. I was  a big runner and I was not, clearly not out running my diet. So I started bodybuilding and lifting heavy and it was just kind of things started falling into place.

I was really passionate about training right and eating properly. So, I educated myself. I got certified through NASM as a personal trainer and nutrition coaching with a specialization in weight loss.

So after that, I just kind of hit the ground rolling and decided, all right, this is my passion. This is what I love to do. I’m going to transition my career over into personal training and helping people  overcome struggles with weight loss and dieting. Especially other parents, other mothers that are going through kind of the same thing that I went through. So it just became my passion and that’s what I started doing.

And I think I really just really launched things probably three or four months ago, March. Yeah. Okay. I’m really new.

Struggling through a cycle of diet fads and pills that didn’t work

[04:12] Kristy: Well, yeah, I mean, you have an incredible Instagram following and we’ll definitely get to that. So, this is interesting. And I feel like there’s more to the stars if it’s okay.

I mean, 250 pounds in, you mentioned you have four kids and you’re like, Oh, I just started, I mean, what was, was there a point where, because I would imagine at that weight, you might have felt a little hopeless.

Like you might’ve thought you could get to. I mean, right now you’d think it’s easy, but, so what, what was that like at that time? 

Sheena: It was really hard cause I was never a big person. I was always athletic and I played sports and stuff, and I never had the struggle of kind of getting back into shape after  my first couple of children, I had some, a couple of high risk pregnancies right back to back, which kind of led to some excessive weight gain.

And I just could not lose the weight. So I started pretty much what everybody kind of does. I think when they’re it’s extremely obese. And they’re feeling exercises and doing what it’s supposed to do. So you look to  those diet fads,  I’m going to do this detox, or I’m going to try these pills.

So I went through all of that, just really trying to, I guess, cheat the system. And you would lose a little bit because it’s water weight. So you do see some results and you’re like, Oh, okay, cool. This is going to work for me. This is going to work. It’s awesome. And then you gain back the 10 or 13 pounds that you lost while you were doing that.

And I was stuck in a cycle where I was really just losing the same 13 pounds over and over and over again. And I say 13 because it was 13 pounds specifically. I remember it really vividly because  it was so hard for me. You don’t feel like yourself. I was neglecting  my own self care.

And my confidence level was not where it should have been and  it wasn’t healthy and I didn’t feel good. So I knew that I needed to really do something different than what I was doing. And I didn’t know exactly what it was that I needed to do, which is where  the learning and the researching and stuff came in.

And once I was really able to learn and educate myself on  nutrition and how food affects the body and the proper way to train. I was able to actually start making changes and see results,  real actual results. And that’s kind of what made me so passionate about fitness and personal training.

Kristy: And how long was it for those  kind of the yoyo diets where you would only lose 13? About how long was that period? 

Sheena: That was probably a good six to 12 months. I wasn’t super, super focused on it in the beginning, right after my son was born because I was also breastfeeding, that’s a whole nother element to trying to lose weight.

So, I didn’t even bother really, really trying for the first few months after I had him. But then when I did start trying to lose weight, I just wasn’t getting anywhere. So yeah, it was probably from about the time that he was six months old to about the time he was eight year when I decided, “Okay, I’m gonna  really buckle down.”

It was about when he was a year old and that’s when the transitions for me really, really started to take place. It was about six months of really just struggling with losing that same 13 pounds. 

Finally finding momentum

Kristy: Yeah. And so it sounds like you’re trying,  and then you researched, what exactly did you do differently? I mean, was it just the bodybuilding and how was your diet different that really started to make things change?

Sheena: Okay. So, I initially was kind of just a runner. I would do a little bit of  YouTube videos of resistance training, but nothing really heavy as far as weight training went. The bodybuilding and actually lifting weights and lifting heavy and doing it the right way, I think was probably massively impactful.

But it doesn’t matter how you’re training if your diet is not on point. So it was really just the actually stopping making the excuses and  really looking at what I was putting into my body. It doesn’t matter  if you go through the day and you’re eating  really well from  sunup to sundown. And then you hop in bed and you have  a sleep of Oreos that is not going to get you where you want to go when it comes to your, your weight loss goals. 

So, I had to really take a look at what I was putting in my body and start calculating my macronutrients. I’m really paying attention to what I was eating. I started weighing and measuring things and was really, really diligent about sticking to a diet and sticking to a plan.

What really kind of kicked me off and got things rolling for me was I started doing Keto and I saw some really good results with that  really quickly. I don’t do it anymore, obviously, because obviously we need carbs to function. And I think when you’re on a diet that you can adhere to that is going to help you maintain a deficit because that’s all that  dieting and nutrition is about. 

When you’re in a deficit, you’ll lose weight. When you’re in a surplus, you’re going to gain. If you’re eating at maintenance, you stay the same weight. So, it was just figuring out the right way to eat the right amount of things to eat and really paying attention to how I was feeling my body that made all the difference and being able to really start seeing some good results 

 Kristy: And to kind of find the right path because the effort was there before. Well, did you have a coach or is there anything that really helped you figure out the right path or you just finally tried it?

Sheena: No. I actually just dove into research and I figured it out for myself. I mean, that’s kind of why I’m such an advocate for it and so passionate about it. And I know how hard it is to actually do what I did. A lot of people look to a trainer to do for them what I was able to do for myself, which also kind of made me really want to help people.

Cause it was, it was hard. It was a lot of late nights of studying and just constantly being divulging all of my free time that I didn’t have as it was anyway into learning how to  eat and how to train in order to reach specific goals or adaptations that you’re looking to achieve with your fitness.

So it was, it was very interesting. I know a lot of people are not  really just the general population is not going to do that and they’re not capable of doing it. So that’s why another reason why I really wanted to get into coaching and personal training is just to take that part out of it for people so that they don’t have to go through it. Just that much more of a struggle in order to  lose weight or get fit or compete in their first bodybuilding competition or whatever their goals may be.

How she accidentally created a following during her weight loss journey

[11:31] Kristy: So, my next question then is, and I probably should’ve started with this is, so you went on this journey and you’ll have to tell me how long it took you.

How did you integrate your Instagram and your social media, because it sounds like you started to get followers just by sharing your journey. And how did you start integrating that? 

Sheena: I actually wasn’t really focusing on marketing my Instagram or my Facebook towards it my business, when my following initially started. 

I was just basically being myself and sharing my journey and sharing my stories and people that it would resonate with would start to follow me. So I kind of organically built a following, based around what I was doing just by being my authentic self and being honest and sharing things that I was going through and my ideas and my struggles and my photos. 

Just accountability. It was really what I was doing by sharing things on social media. If I’m posting my gym selfie every day, then  that I’m here and I’m doing the work and I’m checking in and I get usually an outpouring from people that will check in with me or send me direct messages and say, “Hey. I saw your picture today. I wasn’t going to go to the gym. Now I’m going to the gym. Thank you for the inspiration.” And just things like that. So it really wasn’t set up initially  a push to build a following. It just happened and organically with me  speaking to a specific crowd or people that were in the same position that I was in.

Kristy: And so a lot of people are thinking, okay. So, so maybe that wasn’t your intention, but you’ve, you did a few things that did work well. And you were being  vulnerable,  when did you start recording your journey on social media and how often did you post? 

The going rate for posting on social media is at least one permanent post and no less than four stories daily. More stories the better, but make sure that you’re doing at least four stories and one permanent post.

Sheena: Probably from the very beginning. So it’s from the time that I really started really pushing to lose the weight and transform myself. That was about three years ago, to be honest with you. So, I’ve just posted probably at least once a day to start out with. That’s not what I do now. Right now what the going rate for posting on social media is at least one permanent post and no less than four stories daily. Yeah. Write that down.

More stories the better, but make sure that you’re doing at least four stories and one permanent post. I like to kind of focus with my Instagram. I’ll either post  a picture with something inspirational, just my thoughts on a subject or something that’s going on, or I will post instructional workout videos based on what it seems like people that follow me are really interested in, which is core workouts and glute workouts and things like that.

So since I am  working with a lot of women, that’s the things that they’re interested in. You want  a tight little waist and  a great lower body. So I like to post well, kind of attract women that are looking for the type of physique that I’ve been able to sculpt for myself.

Kristy: How long did it take you? So  at what point did you start  your documentation.  Did you take a picture of yourself on day one or  when did you kind of first said, “Hey, I’m starting to lose weight.”

Sheena: When I actually started to see results for myself was when I was like, okay, I’m going to start sharing this because this is actually working for me. So that’s when I started to kind of gain a little bit more confidence and I was like, awesome. All right. Well, I feel really good about what I’m doing and where I’m going and the results that I’m getting. So I’m going to start sharing this. 

So it was probably, maybe about six months into really changing things up for myself that I really got serious about sharing pictures and  parts of my journey and results and stuff like that.

Kristy: And about how many pounds, you might have made a lot of progress by that point. About how much were you weighing by when you first started your journey on Instagram and social media? 

Sheena: When I first started, I was I think  just over 200, I can’t remember exactly. I think it was  around 213-ish, that’s the 13 pounds that I was dealing with.

It was somewhere around 213. So, that’s when I kind of really started sharing things. And initially, before I even  really got into a huge push with thinking about bodybuilding, I dropped about 40 pounds just by switching up my diet. My training was still relatively the same. I was running, just doing  minor resistance training stuff at home, nothing serious.

It was probably more  muscular endurance type of stuff. But when I really got into hypertrophy and trying to build muscle, in order to compete in a bodybuilding show. That’s when things kind of transitioned, then I got a little bit more serious about sharing things. So  there was an initial six months push where I  lost about 40-50 pounds and started really sharing things like my daily runs and stuff like that. And just photos of my progress.  

I would take a picture of myself in a shirt that I had on a couple of months ago next to a picture of myself in the same shirt, without really even realizing that I’d made the changes that I made. And I was really just proud of myself. So I was sharing my own accomplishments, like, “Hey, this is awesome. I didn’t know that this is how drastically different that I looked at this point.” 

So, sharing things like that I think was really beneficial and people would be like, “Wow, that’s amazing. What are you doing?” So it generates that kind of dialog and that interaction with people that could possibly become  future clients for you.

How a good start for a large following can be from your friends and your family

Kristy: Yeah. And when did you start seeing people follow you? 

Sheena: I had a lot of people following me from the very beginning, I guess,  friends and family. So, as I started to do a little bit more and push a little bit more, they just started to gradually trickle it a little bit. I wasn’t officially  purposely marketing myself on Instagram until maybe about a year ago.

So that first  year or so year and a half, it just was really just regular organic, regular people growth. I don’t know. Cause I didn’t realize at that point in time that I was going to be having a business, but I do think that just kind of sharing my story and  my accomplishments and my progress, progress was such a big thing that people were drawn to.

Especially some of the other moms that would follow me that were like, “Okay. Wow. We knew you when you were 250 pounds, or we saw you when you were 200 pounds and stuff. And we have, we’ve seen those pictures and they’re like, you look insanely amazing now. That’s crazy. How did you do that?” So that’s been something that has definitely generated clientele for me.

From $750 per month clients to $250 per month clients — understanding Sheena’s business model

[18:53] Kristy: Okay. So, now let’s get into your current social media strategy then, because it sounds like you’re getting clients. To start off about how many clients do you, talking about your business model, how many do you train, I guess, or how many clients do you have a month?

Sheena: Monthly, it kind of varies depending upon whether or not I’m just like throwing out  a just a custom four week plan. Though I can probably do  20-30 a month.

I highest level tier coaching people. I typically will only take four because that’s, it’s 750 a month. So they get a lot of my attention and it’s more about wellness, kind of whole life coaching situation. I only have room for four of those monthly right now with just my, from my 150 to 250, which is basically weekly check-ins.

We do weight measurement pictures. I’ll tweak their meal plan and their fitness plan based on results weekly. So I usually will have about  10 to 15 of those going at one time. 

Kristy: Okay. So you have about four $750 clients. And then how many, what was the $150 to $200 clients? 

Services included in her program

Sheena: Oh right now, I’ve got 10.

Kristy: 10. Okay, great. And then you kind of do, so it sounds like you do  a weekly coaching call or 

is it? And then they do a weigh in?

Sheena: And measurements.

Kristy: Measurements. Great. And then they do the meal plan. You kind of tweak their program. For that part, I’m always curious about the program food and exercise, because it could take a lot of time. How do you do the food, the meal plan in particular, do you give them specific meals?  How does it work? So it doesn’t take too much time and it’s flexible for them. 

Sheena: No, I have a couple of different options that I offer for people. Most people I’m trying to push them into a lifestyle change.

So it’s regular things that they can adhere to and stick to. I provide them with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. And the recipes that coincide with it and exactly how much they need to be eating of everything. So it takes the guesswork out of it for them.

They just follow along, basically like, “Okay, what do I having for breakfast today? This is my breakfast. This is my lunch. This is my choices for my snack. And this is my dinner.” 

If I’m doing something a little bit more strict where we’ve got maybe  a show that somebody wants to do, or they have  three months to lose such and such amount of weight for a wedding or some sort of event or something that they want to go to, then I’ll meal prep, I’ll have them do meal prep things, and it’s a little bit more boring, but they don’t have as much wiggle room, whereas many options for things. And it’s strict. So, those are the kind of the two options that I go through with meal planning.

And it’s also different, the differences reflected in  the price of the training and the coaching. Of course. 

Kristy: So, it sounds like for your  clients you kind of tweak their program, you actually tell them, you basically tell them exactly what to eat because there’s some people just do kind of broad things. But this sounds very specific. 

Sheena:  It’s very specific, like eat this, this is exactly what you need to do because what I do for the most part is I will calculate their macronutrients. And then I create the meals based on  what they need to have in the amounts for each individual person. It’s individual but then it’s also not as individual and this is a business side of it because once I’ve done it for  10-20 people and I go in and I calculate someone’s macro nutrients, and it’s very similar to someone else’s that I’ve already done a meal plan for, I don’t have to go through and completely make a whole new meal plan for  a hundred different people. 

Some of the stuff is you’re able to reuse, it’s not  as time consuming as it sounds because, but for the customer, they’re like, “Oh, I’m getting this customized meal plan that’s based just on me.”

It is it’s based on your macro nutrients, but they feel like it’s personal and it’s just, just for them. But if I have 20 of them already created. Then that’s what I pull from. And I only use a specific number of recipes. I’ve got maybe 50 recipes right now that I use for people. I like 10 smoothies, some breakfast and some lunches and some dinners.

And I just cycle through those. And for the most part, people don’t get bored. They enjoy what they’re eating. If I do run into someone that has special needs or allergies or they’re vegetarian. And it does take me a little bit more time, but I do, I do charge a premium for that because vegetarian and vegan diets are not my thing.

It’s not even really  my recommendation, but I will work with anyone. So it does take me a little bit more time to figure out those kinds of meals for people. So I do charge a little bit more when it comes down to  dietary restrictions and preferences for food.  I’ve got a girl that I’m working with now that just doesn’t like seafood, which really limits a lot of what I can provide her to eat.

So I just let her know upfront like,  “Hey, you’re limiting yourself. So if I create you a meal plan, because you don’t like shrimp, you’re making it to where you don’t have as many options.” So I make sure that I preface that upfront so that I’m not putting myself in a position where I’m having to give someone too much for the amount of money that they’re paying me.

I’m not going to overextend myself if it’s not worth it. 

The macro percentages she uses for her client’s transformation programs

[24:39] Kristy: Okay, so you have preset plans and then you customize and then you’ll charge a premium if it’s sort of out of your normal scope. And what’s the macros you usually use for protein, carbs and fats.

Sheena: The percentage wise, you mean? 

Kristy: Yeah.

Sheena: Okay. So for fats, I usually keep it a little bit lower than what is recommended, but I try to go 40, 60 with carbs of 20, 30 protein, and then  15 to 30, depending on how things are with fats.  

Kristy: Okay. And what’s the calories you usually use? 

Sheena:  It’s just dependent upon what their TDE is or their daily expenditure. So I go through and I’d calculate that individually with, for each person. I like the Mifflin St. Jeor equation for that is the one that I prefer to using.

Avoiding the pitfalls of using the BMR Mifflin St. Jeor calorie calculator to estimate daily calorie needs

Kristy: Okay, cool. And what software do you usually use to calculate the macros? 

Sheena: I actually don’t do a software. I just use the equation and I go through and I do the math myself. I mean, I could, I mean, easily, they have it available to, you can just plug it in. You can Google it. It’s not like something that’s not really common knowledge.

It isn’t a secret. So you can just jump on Google and Google Mifflin St. Jeor calorie calculations, but there you have to really actually have a little bit of a knack for the minor nuances in the amount of calories that a specific person needs. So you do have to, it’s something you have to learn and kind of play with, or just even have  a real knack for.

For instance, there was a guy that I was working with in his upper, upper thirties, almost 40, really, really fast metabolism, struggling to  put it on weight. And he went through and he’s like, well, look, this is what they say the calculator says my nutrient or my macro should be. And I’m like, that’s not enough for you. It just isn’t clearly. 

So I added probably another 400 calories worth and he was able to put on eight pounds of lean muscle in a matter of a couple of months. So yeah, you just have to be able to have an eye for it and really understand it well. It’s also something that you might have to just learn as you go, because there is a science to it, but there is also a little bit more to it per individual person. But you can’t do that with everyone. 

How she sells lower-priced digital products

[27:11] Sheena:Your lower tier clients are not going to get that kind of attention, but I’m also, if I just throw someone a meal plan, they’re paying me $40 for it. So here I give it to them and I tell them, you need to follow this it’ll work for you, but you’re not gonna get weekly check ins from me. I’m not gonna tweak things for you if you’re struggling with a week. So that’s always something that’s available to people, but it’s not my recommendation.

Kristy: Okay. So you also just sell, it’s almost like a product. Okay. 

Sheena: I have a couple of those that I do. So it’s like a meal plan, a workout plan. I have a kettlebell plan and I’m getting ready to launch a core program that I just have  programs for sale that are kind of running in the background.

Kristy: Nice. How are  these product programs that are kind of  low service. So you’re not really doing an additional coaching with that when they just kind of, I guess you can just buy it now, sort of. Cool. How  was that revenue stream for you? 

Sheena: It’s actually, I haven’t really been focusing on it more. So kind of, I don’t even really try it very well. I didn’t get the notification when it comes in and I’ll see the payment and I’ll go through and I’ll send a thank you,  thank you for purchasing this type of email or whatever, and just go from there, but I haven’t launched the core program yet, but I’ve been kind of amping it up for the past couple of months while I’ve been working on it and working with my videographer and stuff to get everything  streamlined and in place.

So, I’m expecting that one to do very well, because there’s been  the buildup to it which is something that’s actually really important when you’re marketing a product is having that anticipation. And it’s something that’s been a big demand from my clients to see because everyone usually will reach out to me and say, “Wow, your abs are amazing. How did you get your abs?” That’s what they want. 

So, this I’ve been kind of talking about for the last few months and working on for the last couple of months, and I should be able to kind of drop that launch that here within the next couple of weeks. So that’s really exciting. I’m really actually quite excited about getting that going, but I think it’s important if you do have products like that, you have to always be advertising them or marketing them.

The time struggle between creating lower tier Digital Products and your premium  coaching clients

And I have not done the world’s best job of that. I kind of really do focus on my coaching because I feel like it is a little bit more lucrative for me to do the coaching stuff, but just always have the other options available that are kind of working and growing in the background for me. 

Kristy: Yeah. So the new program you’re coming out with, it’s a core program and it’s a downloadable product. And how much is that going to be? 

Sheena: It’s going to be 50 bucks. I only launched my website and probably three months ago. So I’m not  swimming in cash or making a huge amount of money from that yet. So it’s something that I’m working on and growing and kind of learning how to market  in the process. So majority of what I do sell in my business revenue does come from coaching stuff and not from my products that are kind of just sitting in the background. Since I push for people to go with a coaching option instead of a lower tier option. I probably sold as far as  lowered tier just programs, probably what  10 a month or so, 10-20 a month between the two of them fitness and exercise or fitness and nutrition programs. 

Kristy: Okay. Well,  that’s still really cool. And I totally get it. I see that a lot because I mean that  $750 and a lot of people charge between 500 to a thousand dollars. So that totally makes sense.

Getting 5 to 10 coaching inquiries a day from social media

[31:00] Kristy: So then how many leads or people reaching out to you specifically saying, because I know you have a good following, but how many people who DM you specifically say, “Hey, I’m interested in coaching, with being coached by you.” How many leads do you get let’s say all week?

Sheena: They’re saying specifically that they want coaching,  will you coach me probably maybe five to 10. I’ll get a lot of more vague inquiries. Hey, can you help me? And I’ll be like, well. They’ll say, Hey, I saw you on TikTok, or I saw you on Instagram or I follow you on Facebook. Can you help me? This is what I want to lose weight. Can you help me? So that’s like, I couldn’t even tell you like a hundred a day. I don’t usually get to them, but I get a lot of direct messages. 

Kristy: Do they turn into leads? So it sounds like that could be a decent amount of leads.

Sheena: Yeah, they do. A lot of times they do. Sometimes they’re just like, Hey help me for free because it is social media and that’s kind of just comes with the territory. People have this expectation that because you do something that you’re supposed to just help them out or give them things or tell them what to do. So I do like to try and go through and interact and answer questions.

I won’t give anything away, but just to kind of create that relationship a little bit with people so that they’re like, Oh, okay. And then,  I will direct them to schedule an official consultation through my website, so, or even just send them there so that they can make a purchase on their own if they want, if they don’t want to go the coaching route.

And receiving 100 messages a day on Instagram

Kristy: Wow. Okay. So you said you get a hundred messages a day,  just new people, just even though they’re vague.

Sheena: Up to somewhere from  50 to a hundred and something like that. Yeah. And then I haven’t really sat down and counted them, but it’s a lot, I think right now in my Instagram requests via last time I looked at it, I had  19 message requests as of just this morning that I haven’t had a chance to jump in and grab yet.

But yeah. So it’s kind of a constant thing, but they come from a lot of different social media platforms. And I think that’s also really important. Instagram is a big one and that’s,  it’s really good for growing your business, but you also have to make sure that you’re thinking about using things like Reddit, Twitter, TikTok, even Facebook as well, just as many places as you can get yourself out there so that people see you and know who you are and know what you do the better.

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

Sheena Jones

Facebook: Sheena Benson
Instagram: @sheena_thesculptor

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