If your own fitness journey has led to achievements and gains, could helping others make progress be your calling? Enter your career as a fitness influencer: the friendly, encouraging persona who lives inside our phones and is there to help us achieve our fitness goals.
Whether you’re a weight lifter looking to bring your latest tips for muscle bulking to a wider audience or a barre pro with a knack for social media, becoming an influencer in the health, wellness and strength space is a chance to share your training plans and motivational prowess with a global audience, while getting recognition for your efforts. So, if you’re hoping to be the next Joe Wicks or Kayla Itsines, here’s how to get started.
PeopleImages.com - Yuri A/Shutterstock
A fitness influencer is someone who uses their social media profile to share inspiring content, tutorials and tips around physical health, and words of motivation to support their followers’ own journeys. Most successful fitness influencers have likeable online personas, a strong personal brand and their own niche in the fitness market. These influencers will typically have a following in the thousands, tens of thousands or even millions.
PeopleImages.com - Yuri A/Shutterstock
1. Choose your area of influence
As a fitness influencer, you’ll be guiding people on their own personal journeys via your channel. Your potential followers will arrive on your page with their own goals, and will be looking to you for guidance and inspiration, so you’ll want to choose an area where your expertise excels. Is there a sport that you’d consider your strong suit? Or an aspect of gym-going you want to help others grasp? Are you a runner? A yogi? A weightlifter? While many of the big names in fitness are all-round gym go-ers, whose content bounces between cardio and strength training, this market is heavily saturated, which could make it harder to break into as a new name. Focus on your strengths and build a plan to create content around them.
2. Choose your platform and get to work
While many fitness influencers have a presence across several social media platforms, one will likely act as their basecamp, from which they built their name. While already a professional in the fitness and nutrition industries, Joe Wicks became a household name in the UK during the first Covid-19 lockdown, when he hosted his daily workouts programme, PE With Joe, on his YouTube channel The Body Coach. Today, Wicks boasts 4.7M Instagram followers, almost double his 2.8M on YouTube, but his YouTube workouts were his catalyst. So, will it be YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok that you put the most time and energy into initially?
This will likely be determined by your target audience. Who are you trying to reach with your content? What’s their demographic? Where are you likely to find them? Facebook is still the most used social media platform in the world, according to Forbes, but its audience tends to be older than that found on Instagram and Gen Z– favourite TikTok. Which platform you choose will influence the type of content you produce. For example, while the average length of a YouTube video has been clocked at 11.7 minutes, the optimal length of a TikTok video is roughly half a minute.
3. Study the landscape
From the beginning of your journey you’ll want to think about what’s going to set your content apart. Who has inspired your own fitness journey online? Who else is operating in your chosen niche? Now’s the time to study them. What sort of content do they post and how frequently? Do they favour videos or captioned photos? How do they engage with their followers? What is it about their content that appeals to you?
Research which of their photos and videos have received the most likes, comments and shares. Have a think about why that is. On the flipside, is there anything you wish their content gave you more of? If so, could you build this into your offering?
4. Turn your passion into a qualification
There are no rules about gaining a qualification in order to become a fitness influencer. Still, most of the best names in the business – from STRONG Pilates founder Michael Ramsey to running coach Meg Sutherland – are qualified coaches. It’s worth considering pressing pause on your quest for followers and gaining some certification in your chosen field, be it as a sports scientist or nutritionist. Not only will this boost your confidence in the advice you’re giving, having your qualification stamped on your social media bio will give browsing followers another reason to trust you and subscribe.
Impatient to get your name out there? You could document your own training journey on social media.
5. Build your personal brand
Building your brand as a fitness influencer should include a wealth of different factors: what you post (pictures, videos or both?), where you shoot your content (studio, park or beach?), what you wear, and even how you address your following (“what’s up, yogis”, “hey, friends”, “stay strong!”) are all part of creating a cohesive feel to your channel or feed. Consistency is key (more on that later). You want your content to look and feel familiar to your viewers to build their trust and a desire to return.
Your tone of voice is another important facet to your brand. How do you want to be perceived by your followers? Approachable? Friendly? Relatable? A combination of all three is a safe bet. Sure, there are military-style boot camps out there offering tough love to a following of hard-nut masochists, but this is a tricky tone to land when building a following from scratch. Fitness journeys can be intimidating and your following will want to feel supported and encouraged by you.
6. Produce consistent, high-quality content
In order to build a following, you’ll need to be consistent. Your followers need to know they can rely on you for regular training advice and messages of encouragement. To help you stay on top of your output, make a schedule for what you’ll be posting and when. When it comes to frequency, social media management platform Hootsuite recommends the following for 2024:
Instagram: Grid posts between three and five times per week, stories twice per day.
Twitter: Post between two and three times per day.
Facebook: Post once or twice per day.
LinkedIn: Post once or twice per day.
TikTok: Post between three and five times per week.
Your content should be good quality too – no blurry pics or wonky angles!
7. Promote your content
Shooting your content is only half of the job: in order to build a following and make a living as an influencer, you need to ensure it’s reaching people. Some ways to promote your content can include:
- Using hashtags tied to your area of expertise
- Engaging with creators who have similar a similar following to your target
- Commenting on content related to your niche
- Promoting your content across channels. (If you just uploaded a new workout on YouTube, tease it on your Instagram, for example)
- Finding ways to collaborate with other creators
8. Engage with your audience
It’s a common misconception that an influencer’s sole goal is increasing the number of followers they have on social media. It’s through engaging with their followers – replying to comments, or liking their reshares – that an influencer conducts their business. As Rochelle Dunn argues in an article on LinkedIn, “When you post on social media, you are starting a conversation with your followers/audience… Engagement with your network can generate business inquiries, email signups, website visits, and more.”
9. Find brands that align with your values
Once you’ve done all of the above, are posting consistently and have a substantial number of followers on your account, it’s time to start reaching out to brands that might want to work with you. Make a list of companies and influencers whose professional mission aligns with the brand you’ve built yourself and prepare something to send them. Scale appropriately: if, for example, your following is under 10,000, look to brands with a similar number of followers rather than the biggest names in the business. Your pitch should answer the question: why should they want to work with you?
While not all fitness enthusiasts with a large social media following will see a financial turnover for their efforts, many out there will have worked out how to monetise their channel.
According to the website exercise.com, “an influencer with a few thousand followers might earn a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per year. Mid-level influencers with followers in the tens of thousands can often earn a comfortable living, potentially in the low to mid five figures.” As for those at the very top end of the scale? Kayla Itsines (12.6m Instagram followers) reportedly earns US$17m – roughly £13.5m or A$26m. Joe Wicks, meanwhile, earns US$15m, and Emily Skye (3m Instagram followers) US$5m.
The good news is that there are several ways to make money from your channel. Sponsored posts, whereby an influencer gets paid to talk about a product on their page, is one of the most common ways to earn money as a fitness influencer. Becoming a brand ambassador for a larger company, wearing their clothing or featuring their products in your content, is another. But if you’re serious about making money as a fitness influencer, it’s worth researching affiliate marketing, merchandising and subscription models for your platform too.
Remember: you don’t need to own endless gym gear from top-range brands or be a member of the swankiest gym in town to get started. In fact, not having any of that stuff could make you more relatable. Remember in lockdown when even the leading gym instructors were filming virtual classes from their homes, and advising people to use bottles or books as weights in lieu of owning a proper set? If they can do it, so can you.
Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock/Courtesy Kayla Itsines/Courtesy Emily Skye
Here are some of the UK and Australia’s famous fitness influencers whose footsteps you could follow in:
Joe Wicks, teacher, nutritionist and founder of The Body Coach
Megan Grubb, fitness trainer whose products focus on women’s fitness
James Smith, a fitness trainer, Sunday Times Best Selling Author, and founder of the James Smith Academy
The Hart Sisters, ex GB skiers offering workout guides on TikTok
James Stirling, aka London Fitness Guy, a fitness trainer offering home workouts
Kayla Itsines, Australia-based personal trainer and founder of the Sweat app
Michael Ramsey, founder of STRONG Pilates and 2023 Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Fitness
Emily Skye, family-focused fitness coach and founder of James Cosmetics
Base Body Babes, fitness coaches with a luxury athleisure brand and female-only gym in Sydney