The Top 5 FAQs from Endurance Coaches

BY Stephen Hancock

I have had the pleasure of speaking with thousands of coaches and helping them to get started with their Coach Edition accounts. As you can imagine, some questions have just become “commonplace” and almost anticipated through all these years.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of speaking with thousands of coaches and helping them to get started with their Coach Edition accounts. As you can imagine, some questions have just become “commonplace” and almost anticipated through all these years. I thought it would be a good idea to share with you the top five most frequently asked questions from coaches just like yourself, and my thoughts on each of these topics.

1. How should I take payment from my clients – should I accept credit card?

Here are the questions you should ask yourself. What are you comfortable with? Do you want to have automatic, recurring billing for each client so that you both can just set it up and forget about it? Or, are you most comfortable with a client handing you a check? Are your clients mostly local or remote, and do you see them on a regular basis? How many clients do you have? If you are currently coaching, how have you been accepting payments in the past? Is this working for you, or is it causing more work for you? If you are not currently accepting credit card payments, would doing so be too much of an expense? Would it be a hassle to set up? If so, would that “hassle” be worth it in the long run? How would the processing expense affect your pricing – your bottom line?

With the rise of credit card processing offerings now available to the small business owner, your options are much better than they were just 10 years ago. (While PayPal seems to be the most popular choice I’ve seen, there are literally hundreds of processors now to choose from). Some coaches only coach locally and generally see their clients on a weekly basis. It may work well for this coach to receive a check or cash during a training session. While some coaches may also work locally, their main stable of clients may be remote. It might be easier for both you and your client to be set up on credit card processing. Finally, if you have many clients, the benefit of automatic billing becomes quite apparent.

It is definitely beneficial to accept credit cards. You can set up recurring payments, track your income for an easier reconciliation of revenue received come tax time, and save yourself the time and frustration of running down payments owed to you. But while taking credit cards as a payment option has its benefits, it needs to be right for you, your business, and most importantly – your clients.

2. Do I have to have a website to coach?

No, you don’t have to have a website if you want to coach. But, with so many inexpensive options available for hosting and design out there, my question to you is, “Why wouldn’t you?” I could understand not having a website if you only coach a couple of friends for basically nothing or have no ambition to create and/or grow your business. You don’t need a website for a hobby. But, if you are running a business, no matter the size, a website is a must-have.

Even if you are a “local only” coach, a website can be a great way to disseminate information in mass form from a single source. Anytime we can consolidate information into a single point and get that communication out to the masses, it is an efficient way to manage communications. A website can be a great resource for your clients that allows them to read training articles, receive tips, and even submit payments.

A website is also often your first impression to many prospects. How can I learn about you and your training philosophy, packages, and pricing in a low-commitment, low-pressure way without a website? A website can introduce you to many potential clients and help get your name and brand out into the marketplace – worldwide.

Websites can be your most far-reaching marketing tool that helps you grow your business. While you certainly can choose to not have a website, building even the simplest can pay off tenfold very quickly. In today’s coaching business, it is almost a must-have in order to compete in the ever-growing endurance coaching segment.

3. Should I sell training plans?

If I walk into a restaurant and want steak and they only sell chicken, I am turning around, walking out, and finding a place that serves steak. If I am looking for a training plan and am visiting your website and find that you don’t sell training plans, I am moving onto the next coach in my search. Or worse, if I am only looking for a training plan in a plan store and you’re not there, I’ll never even know your name.

Many times, often with beginning athletes, athletes either don’t understand the value of having a coach or simply can’t afford one-on-one coaching. Over the years, the natural progression of an athlete coming into the sport goes like this: Self-coached, purchases a pre-built training plan, coached athlete, and then perhaps even taking the next step to become a coach themselves. Think about your own journey into the sport. What path did you take?

I have seen a huge shift in thinking over the past 10 years concerning the authoring of training plans. Back in 2003, I was scoffed at for even suggesting to a coach the mere idea of creating and selling training plans. Today, some coaches have built successful businesses around only selling training plans. Now, I am not suggesting you dump your entire one-on-one client base and become a training plan sales-only coach. But definitely take a look at your business and see whether the offering of training plans as a menu item makes sense for your business.

Training plans can be a great marketing tool too. Imagine if I were to pay you to market to me. I like said marketing and purchase your services directly from that marketing. Training plans can be that marketing. Not only are you offering me “steak”, but you are providing a training structure to me and I am learning about your services and your training philosophy. If I am satisfied with the plan I bought from you, who am I going to look to first when I am ready for one on one coaching?

You may be wondering, how would I create and sell training plans? You can do all this within TrainingPeaks and then sell your plans in our plans store. Learn more about creating and selling plans.

4. Should I offer group training?

Group training is a great way for you to get your business out in front of many clients. Offering group training through a club, team or surrounding a specific event is definitely a nice menu item to have. While group training may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it can be lucrative and a good introduction to your premium, one-on-one services moving forward.

Generally, group training follow a common plan. A coach may write a couple of different plans based on the differing levels of athletes and apply the plans to the individuals accordingly. For the most part, the revenue received is usually above that of selling training plans, but less than what a coach would receive for performing one-on-one services. But, the investment of time is not as high as the latter either.

It is good to outline expectations up front so that each participant understands exactly what they are getting from your service. And, we all know how there is always “that one guy” that will try to get one-on-one coaching service while paying for group training. Communication is key.

Think of group training as an extension of the training plan offering. It too can be a great marketing tool for your business.

5. What is another way I can grow my business?

Events, clubs and local shops. Are there any events in your area? Most likely you will answer “yes” here. If so, partner with an event. Event organizers have a goal of getting participants to return. You can offer a win/win, value added service by offering group training and/or training plans specifically designed for their event. The participant takes advantage of this service, PRs, and returns to do the event again next season. You just got introduced to a lead.

Local running, bike, and tri shops have your customer walking through their doors every day. They are like events. They want their customers to have a good experience and return as well. Think about coupling your menu of services with their products. The customer just bought a $2,000 bike – so write that customer a training plan that will get them on that bike and using it. Schedule their maintenance right into the plan. It is a win/win/win: for you, the shop, and the customer.

Events and local shops are both great ways to reach out and offer your services to the community while at the same time finding new revenue streams for your business.

So, does it work in real life?

I’ve personally followed my own advice on 4 of the 5 topics above in my own coaching business. I began my love for the sport of triathlon in Pensacola, FL when I graduated high school back in 1988. I became a triathlon coach, and while coaching I partnered with a local bike shop and at the same time ran our local tri club’s training program of 85 first-time and newbie triathletes training for local Santa Rosa Island Sprint Triathlon. I volunteered my time to the club and served on the board as a way to give back to my sport and my community.

While I was wanting to grow my coaching hobby, I was also able to give back at the same time. I built a website to get my name and my services out to the world. Through the use of training plans, I was able to offer my services (“steak”) to many customers as well as provide group training through partnering with events, shops, and clubs. Since coaching was always going to be just a hobby to me, I just took checks and stayed pretty much local with my business. But, I ran it like it was a business, efficiently and with different offerings for different types of customers.

My advice here is a combination of what I’ve learned and heard through almost ten years of consulting with endurance coaches, and what I’ve practiced in my own coaching business. I’ve seen it work for myself and many others, and I hope you find it helpful in your own business as well.

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About Stephen Hancock

Stephen “BD” Hancock leads the TrainingPeaks Coach Edition Sales Team. He was TrainingPeaks’ first employee. and in his past 10 years with the company, he has been the coaches’ first point of contact, introducing them to the Coach Edition and educating them on how to best integrate the Coach Edition into their business – no matter how big or small.’ He began racing Triathlons in 1988, racing all distances, and coaching as well.