I’ve been following James Smith for a while now. A few months ago, I won a giveaway for his membership website. I love all his content so much and that’s why I really wanted to interview him. He’s a personal trainer and he coaches other personal trainers too! In this article, we will discuss everything about James’ business and personal coaching, the business side included.
1. Can you tell us something more about yourself?
I’m from the UK. I turned 23 recently. I was a personal trainer and coach for about five years and I recently gave up one-on-one personal training. I still work online. I still got online clients that I work with. I am very specific about who I work with. People have to apply to work with me. I am now transition over to the business kind of coaching think. I am looking to help other personal trainers build up their business but also improve their coaching services. I feel like there are a lot of business coaches out there and I feel like a lot of it is quite fluffly and they don’t actually really help anyone. I wanted to make it hands on and I want to actually help other personal trainers improve their services: get better at coaching, get better at getting their client results because that is their business. They can know everything about marketing but if they aren’t getting clients results then it is basically pointless. That is their business. They need to be able to provide their service. I launched the membership site. It started doing very well so I then went a way and started getting a custom site built at the moment for the membership site. Rather than being hosted elsewhere, it is now getting a full custom site and we are literally about one to two weeks from launching so it is pretty exciting. It is going to be super cool.
2. You said that you don’t accept every client. What are you looking for when choosing a client?
I’ve got a degree in nutrition. Rather than programming for their training, I like to work more on the nutrition sort of things. My background is also professsional sport so I try and work mainly with athletes and their nutrition whilst a strength and conditioning coach takes part of their training program. It is more of the detail side of things when it comes to athletes rather than your ‘fatloss’ clients or your ‘gaining fitness’ clients. That’s the kind of people I like to work with online. Obviously, I will accept other people. They don’t have to be an athlete per se. It can just be someone that is training for a marathon or more on those lines and they need extra help when it comes to their nutrition. I work with people who have a goal and people who need a little bit more help when it comes to their nutrition.
3. What did you study?
I studied a degree purely in nutrition.
4. Have you always been interested in personal training?
I wouldn’t say I was always interested in personal training. I was always interested in sports. I was always fit and I was always healthy because that’s where my background was. I went to uni before to study business and I didn’t enjoy it so I left. Then I got into personal training. I felt unfulfilled when it came to my career in sports so I wanted to help other people get somewhere. When I was young, I was coaching other kids to play cricket. It just went together. I wanted to help people improve their lives. I had a background in coaching so it just merged into that. That’s where we are today really.
5. Are you focussing most on coaching personal trainers right now?
Yes. My main focus is helping other personal trainers right now. That is where my business is going. The membership provides all the business aspects, along with nutrition and training aspects. It covers the whole business when it comes to personal training. I work with one-to-one personal trainers as well. I need more hands on help. I am working with someone currently and we are building up a group coaching business for them. I am working with him hands on for how you should structure pricing, how I am going to market it and all of that stuff. I do both aspects on it.
6. Would you like to only work with personal trainers and not with clients anymore in the future?
That is a difficult one. I’ve got a whiteboard in my bedroom that has all of my goals written on it and one of my life time goals is to win a world championship with an athlete or a team. I think I would always want to work with atheletes when it comes to their nutrition. I want to be involved somewhere that’s working with a team or I have a one-on-one client that has a high level. I always like to have a finger in that pie should we say but I enjoy helping other personal trainers. If you look at the bigger picture, all personal trainers are there to help people and if I can help more personal trainers to help more people, I am helping more people. That is sort of my vision for it.
7. Is that why you decided to coach personal trainers?
Yes. If I can help more personal trainers, then they can help more people so ultimately, we all help more people.
8. Did you think it was scary to go from being a personal trainer to coaching other personal trainers?
I did but at the time it was an organic transition that needed to happen. Before I even thought of it, I had other personal trainers asking me ‘how do I get clients in the gym?’ or ‘how do I get clients online?’ so I was always like ‘this is what I did so go and do it’. It was an organic process at the time. I did struggle. I am not going to lie. When you completely give up an aspect of your business like one-to-one personal training to persue another avenue, it gets overwhelming and it’s scary because that is what you know. You are earning money from one avenue and it’s not like an online avenue where you can keep it automated and it’s working on the side. One-to-one I have to be there. I completely gave that up to persue helping other personal trainers so it was scary and I struggled at the start but I think it was an organic time and process that needed to take place.
9. Did you think it was scary to see yourself as a professional and more knowledgable than other personal trainers?
I don’t think so. I like everyone to give their input. I don’t want people to just listen to me. It’s the same with nutrition and training for example. There are individual differences that come into play. You can’t train every single person the same. Everyone can’t eat the same. There are individual differences. When it comes to marketing your business and running your business, there are certain things that work for certain people. For example the guy I am working with at the moment, he doesn’t want to work online. He likes being in person with the clients so I then got to teach him how to do what I do online but in person. You might love being on video but someone else might be really good at writing. I just want to help people but I also like other people to have their input as well. For example when someone tells me he or she is good at writing, I will give them the strategic elements of being online. Where do more people see you? Is it good for you to have a podcast or are you better at writing?
I feel like you really want to create a community where people can help each other.
Yes, exactly. It needs to be organic and self-sufficient. I don’t want to be sitting here and be like ‘Alright, I’ve got to answer every single question’ because other people are answering it and then I can just provide my opinion. If we can have a community where there are loads of personal trainers helping loads of personal trainers, that would be super cool.
I also think it’s super cool that you are always open to hear other people’s opinion and you don’t think your idea is the truth.
I think that’s how we learn. If you’re super narrow minded and you’re like ‘my opinion is the right way, I am the right person’, then you are never going to expand your knowledge. If you are super down to listening to other people, seeing what they say… and it doesn’t need to get agressive. I had someone on Instagram the other day calling me out. Well, not really calling me out but she just said she disagrees with it. I just DM’d her ‘What did you disgree with? I am just interested to hear your view.’ and we started a discussion. There were no hurtful comments, there was no argument. It was just like ‘Oh ok, I get that point of view. I understand that.’
I’m sometimes afraid to tell someone I don’t agree because I’m afraid of their reaction but when they actually want to discuss something with you and they don’t just disagree, I think it’s super cool that you can really have a conversation about it.
Yes. Don’t get me wrong. I used to be on Instagram and call people out all the time and comment on their stuff and discredit them but now, if I disagree with someone, I just send them a DM. I’m like ‘Yo, I disagree with this. This is why:… I would love to hear your view and why you said it.’ but if they don’t reply they don’t reply. I just leave it.
I think it’s way more fun and you can discuss it in a friendly way and not just being angry.
Yes, exactly. Think about how many people in the fitness industry need our help? We are in an obesity epidemic and loads of people need our help. If we are all arguing together instead of helping people, then what is the point? Let’s all aim to help people. We can discuss between us to find out what really works but what’s the point in argueing? Because if all our energy is argueing with each other to try and prove each other wrong… these people don’t care what’s right. They just need help.
10. Did you follow any courses on how to train other personal trainers or did you just learn by doing?
It’s more of a learn by doing kind of thing. I am not a big sit-down-and-learn kind of person. I struggled with university because someone stood in front of me just shouting at me and I was just struggling to absorb it. I have to go away and and then sit down on my own and draw things out, write things out… doing this kind of thing. It was more just me doing and seeing what work. For example the other day, I put up a post on Instagram about a smart car and pushing people to an e-book and that kind of stuff. I promoted it on Instagram with the paid ad system. Within 5 minutes it was doing really well. I jumped back on promoting it even more with a higher budget. It just worked. For some weird reason that photo/post worked whereas other ones might not work so well. I just like to try and see what happens, trial and error. Then, I can pass that information to other people. If you do a fatloss e-book or fatloss training program and you are going to advertise it online and you are going to do it to females or males, it doesn’t matter but you are going to advertise it online. It is going to help people lose fat. The best time to run ads on that program, is on a Sunday because everyone starts their diet on a Monday. They sat at home, they have eaten all that food and they are like ‘Oh, there is an ad for a fatloss program that starts tomorrow.’. That works best. I only found that out by trying which one worked best but now I’ve just told you and you can go and do it without having to try it. That is how I got to this stage, writing down what works, what doesn’t work… and just passing it on to other people.
I think it’s necessary to do a lot of trial and error because sometimes, I post things on Instagram and I think it is going to be a good post but then I see it’s totally not a good post.
It is funny. I sat at home and made an infograph and I thought ‘oh my god, this is so good.’ but then it didn’t turn out to be good.
11. What is your goal with your business?
I think it’s helping more people and creating a community.
Yes. I’ve got my work book next to me. I’ll read them out so you know what’s going on and what I want. In my lifetime I want to move – this is my vision for the entire business- into property investment, helping people invest in property, investing myself and I want to start a charity. At the moment, with the new membership site for example, every single person that signs up, 5% of their monthly fee goes to charity. We’re already taking movements towards that but the ultimate goal is to own and run a charity. I also want to franchise out a PT academy, set up a personal trainer qualification company that helps personal trainers actually qualify as a PT but also gives them every single aspect they need to become a succesful PT. At the moment, when you get a qualification, you just get a certificate and they are like ‘Hehe, you can go and train people.’.
There are some qualifications here and I think -I didn’t try them- that they are super easy, even for people that don’t train yet. They can just study for it and get the certification.
Yes. You can literally sign up, do a PT course for three weeks and then you’re able to train people. I want to have an academy and help people actually qualify to be a PT. The ultimate vision is helping people and helping people in every single aspect of being a personal trainer. Helping people lose weight because we’ve got super cool, fantastic personal trainers now that feel fulfilled and they know how to actually coach people. With the charity, we also want to help people that are not in a position to even purchase personal training or you might have someone that can’t get a job as a personal trainer because they have got a criminal record or something like that. Within the business, we can help those people get jobs with different gyms, help people qualify -they might not have the funds to qualify as a personal trainer-. Basically, I just want to improve the fitness industry. I feel like the fitness industry is a dark, grey place. There are a lot of problems. A lot of people don’t know what is going on. Overall, we can just help the fitness industry. That would be super cool.
I also think there is too much information on the internet because sometimes, you don’t know what is correct and what isn’t.
Yes, precisely. That is why I included the nutrition and training elements in the membership site as well. It is one place that everyone can go to. You don’t have to go anywhere else. I am not going to bullshit you. This is the one place where everything I am telling you is backed by science. It is simple. Nutrition is simple: how to lose weight, how to gain weight, how to look after yourself… It’s simple but because people are confused and people want silver bullets, they need the results quickly and now. There is so much information out there that people are confused.
12. Do you want to grow your business more international?
Yes, it would be super cool to get people in from all over the world. Most people are now from Europe. I haven’t really marketed it yet to the American market. I’ve haven’t done a lot of marketing research recently anyways because I want to get the website built, get all the old members in first so they can see the new website, give some feedback and then we will start marketing it and also to the American market. We would like to go international at some stage. That would be super cool. I’ve got some people doing things for the website like articles and stuff so they are going to give their different take on things. It will get more international like speakers and interviews but having some members from all over the world would be amazing.
13. Where do you find all the information when you are doing research?
I am lucky that I am still in university because I have access to a lot of scientific resources. I’ve signed up for a few things on Facebook. If you type in something on Facebook in the search bar that is relevant, there will be someone popping up that posts a lot about that. For example there is a page called ‘science for sport’ that provides a lot of research on sport, nutrition, performance… It’s very detailed behind sport and stuff. I just get updates from them. I can then go away and research on that subject so for example, it might be one like vitamin D and recovery for football players. I go and search the article on like PubMed or Google Scholar and then it gives you relevant articles to that scientific study. Then I go throught them and I just read away. I’ll go to the library. I think you just have to go and find what you’re interested in and then read some articles about it. If there’s one article that is super random and it provides weird results, it might not be the actual, right way to go about it. If there are loads of articles or studies saying a specific result type, then you’re safe to say that’s the right thing to go with for example low carb high fat and high carb low fat diets. The majority of studies will say people are more likely to lose weight on a high carb diet than on a hight fat diet so that is the right way to go. You might have one or two that say high fat diets are the best but they might need further research because all other studies are saying the other thing. You’ve also got different study types. If there’s a correlation study, it’s not that reliable because we can literally prove a correlation with everything. For example, sitting on a computer all day is proven to have a correlation with eating more. Understanding study types and what studies are being used. Also look at who sponsored the study and how many money they spent on it it for example when Kellogs want to prove that eating breakfast is better than not eating breakfast. You have to remember that Kellogs is a breakfast company. Of course they want to show that eating breakfast is better. The best thing people can do is find a meta analysis or a systematic review. If you can find a meta analysis that is low carb high fat vs high carb low fat, that is someone who has put all the research together and studied all of the research and then put it in one article. The result findings are written in there.
14. How do you manage to stay on top of things when creating so much content?
I’m not the best person to ask. It’s pretty sporadic. What I tend to do is for example, every single morning, I go into our Facebook group and I write the content for the day for the Facebook group. When it comes to the Facebook group and providing value to them, I just get up and see what has happened. I look at the notifications to see if anything has happened overnight. Then I sit down and start writing or thinking of a video. I might not film the video there and then but I just come up with an idea. When it comes to Instagram, what I tend to do is for example today, I am going to go to the gym and film tree videos. I will film tree videos and then I’ll save them for in the course of the week. I make all the infographics for Instagram on a Monday. For this week there are going to be two infographics, maybe tree but I will make them all today so I’ve got them all ready to go in the course of the week. On a Sunday I will plan the content I want to make, on Monday I film as much of it as possible and then I edit it when I need it. I’ve got it but I still need to edit it.
15. Do you have tips to grow your Instagram?
I want to grow faster. The infographic did well for me when I started. I had a few infographics that went viral like the ones with alcohol and stuff for example when I compared alcohol with burgers. Photos don’t do as well for me. I don’t get a lot of engagement on photos. Videos are good for me but it depends on the video subject. If it is a fitness subject for example about nutrition or training, people love it. If I am talking about business, it doesn’t get the greates engagement. The people that are watching the business video are probably the people that I want to target, even though the video gets less engagement. It’s a catch 22 when it comes to that. I think being consistent is very important. I’ve been posting consistently every single day for 265 days. Some days, my content is a bit rubbish. I rushed it and didn’t really think about it but sometimes I am going super detailed, I put a lot of time and effort into it. I think my tip is: be there daily. Produce daily content that is good. When you see something that works, keep making that kind of content. For example if you are a relationship coach and you audience hates it when you post about being single but they love it when you post about being in a relationship, then keep posting about being in a relationship. I think it’s finding what works and nailing it and continuing with it.
I think that it’s hard to find something that your audience enjoys but that you enjoy posting too.
I don’t like being in photos. When we are in a busy place and Lauren wants to take a photo, I’m like ‘oh no, everyone’s looking at me’. I don’t enjoy being on video too much either but I feel comfortable doing it.
I think it’s important to post pictures of yourself for your personal brand.
Yes, for sure. I went to an event where Tai Lopez was speaking. Tai Lopez is an internet marketeer. He made a few viral videos with him and his Lambourghini. People hated it because he was showing off his Lambourghini. It got him the business and it grew him to where he is today. He was basically looking at people’s Instagram who were in the audience and he was saying things they were doing wrong and what they were doing right. His message was that no one does enough video. Your audience wants to see who you are, they want to see how you speak, they want to see how you convey information. In a photo, they can just read the caption and they don’t really get to know you. If you are talking to them, you are conveying information by speaking to them. They can get to know you and they can fall in love with you more. I am going to start a YouTube channel soon because on Instagram, you get to know me for a maximum of 60 seconds. Other than that, you don’t really get to know me. If I can provide a 10-15 minute video having context, giving a little inside into my life, how I work… People will get to know me better, approach me more. I am super open. I love talking to people. I want people to reach out and feel like they can be like ‘can we grab a coffee together?’. I don’t want people to think they can’t talk to me. Being with Lauren has opened my eyes a bit more. She has 100k followers and she talks to them. I would never want to message someone with 100k followers. I don’t ever want people to feel like they can’t talk to me. I want them to know that I will always reply. People are where you used to be when they are starting their business. Why should you not help them because they are not in the same position as you? For example Gymshark will not sponsor someone that has under 10k followers for example. What they don’t realize is that someone with less than 10k followers might be growing super fast but they don’t have what they have currently. When they reached 10k, Gymshark may want to sponsor them but they didn’t support them from the start so why should they agree? I think it’s important to support people when they are starting because I was once in that place. Maybe one or two people helped me out. I owe everything to them. Why should I just ignore someone reaching out to me?
I think you also need to think long term because those people might become clients and support you as much as they can.
I asked someone in America to make a video for the site about how he built his online business and to give advice for new online coaches just starting out. He replied that he didn’t see what he would get out of this so he said no. My business is bigger than his when it comes to online coaching. I am providing way more value than what I am charging people for. All I asked him to do is make one video. I was going to promote the video on Facebook, Instagram, across the site… and he said no because he didn’t want to spend 10 minutes. Even if you only reach two people, that are two people who have never seen me before. We are all fighting for attention from other people. We don’t have a giant business. We don’t have thousands of houses or thousands of pounds that we can throw to people asik people to help you grow your business. We are after attention. If I can turn around to Gary Vee one day and I don’t have money to pay him but I have a million people on my site, he is going to do the video because there are a million people that are going to see him. It is stupid if you don’t support other people and get the attention you can get.
Sometimes I have the feeling that people who say no, think they are better than you.
Some people only want to do videos when I have 50k views and I get that. They know how much their time is worth. They will say they are super down to do it but not until you’ve got a few more eyes on you. Completely not replying or not turning up is rude.
I think James answers were so interesting that the interview got really long. That’s why I decided to post part 2 online next week. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with all the information. I already want to thank James for doing this interview. I learned a lot and I hope you did too! If you want to follow James on instagram, click here. Click here to go to his membership site.