In 2019, mentally and physically burnt out from her high-stress job as a criminologist, Viviane Marrero started questioning her career choice.
“I was no longer happy with what I was doing,” she says. “I had to decide what was most important to me— to have a successful career or a healthy lifestyle. I chose the latter. At that time, I didn’t realize that I could potentially have both. I didn’t have a plan, but I knew I was passionate about Pilates and was determined to learn more.”
Like so many others, Viviane started practicing Pilates in 2016 to relieve her lower back pain, and she became increasingly interested in the method, even working as an administration, marketing and communications assistant at a London, England studio while completing her master’s degree.
Once she decided to leave her job as a criminologist, Viviane threw herself into her STOTT PILATES® instructor training and started documenting her progress on her Instagram account @viviane.pilates.
Fast forward to March 2020, and the world was shutting down due to COVID-19.
By this point, Viviane had built up a loyal following on Instagram and some of her followers— complete strangers— started asking if she could teach them virtually while they were in lockdown.
Recognizing a potential business opportunity, Viviane wasted no time. She got a booking system, business insurance, accounting software, a logo, business email and PAR-Q forms in order and launched her virtual Pilates studio.
“From the start, I was teaching in English and Spanish, so in a blink of an eye, I had clients from different cities and countries joining my sessions. Eventually, I also started teaching in person to some local clients in London, but online has always been the preferred option,” she says.
Since then, her client numbers have continued to grow each month, so much so that she’s been able to earn a living from her new job and hire her brother as an administrative and marketing assistant to help out.
“To be honest, it wasn’t in my life plans at all to work full-time as a Pilates instructor and much less to have my own online business. It all happened in a very unexpected and spontaneous way, but my commitment, hard work and the strenuous number of hours I have put into it made it work out well.”
Having worked for years managing a physical Pilates studio’s administrative affairs has also given her many skills and insights that she’s put into practice in her own virtual business. She shares some of her tips below.
How did you build your client base as a new instructor?
Most of Viviane’s clients discovered her through two main channels: word-of-mouth and social media.
For new instructors just starting out, here’s what she recommends for reaching, attracting and retaining clients.
Raise awareness of your services to attract new clients
- Create valuable content: Post appealing and interesting content that makes people want to follow you. Engage with your audience and encourage them to interact (like, save, comment, share) so your posts reach the biggest audience possible. Use the correct hashtags to find new people who might be interested in your services. Collaborate with brands and other instructors to gain more visibility.
- Leverage word-of-mouth referrals: Clients, family members and friends have spread the word by recommending her classes and that has led to more clients.
- Develop referral relationships: Establish relationships with other local business owners who can recommend your services to their clients and vice-versa.
Viviane Marrero training on the SPX® Max Reformer with Sara Deeley, STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor and owner of Pilates Hub Weybridge in the U.K.
Help clients make a decision to work with you
- Get clients to leave reviews: Reviews can be very useful, especially on Google as the star rating and number of reviews says a lot about your reputation. Sharing positive reviews, recommendations and feedback on social media and your website is the best evidence of the value of your services.
- Free initial consultations: As an online business, Viviane hasn’t had the chance to meet all of her clients in person. By offering a free, informal chat to help them get to know her, find out about her classes, how she can help them reach their goals and answer any questions they may have, has helped her build closer relationships with her clients from the get-go.
Keep clients engaged and retained by sharing your knowledge
- Nurture your clients in every session: Viviane does this by making her sessions a place where her clients learn more about their bodies, feel inspired, motivated and empowered. She challenges them, and helps them discover that they’re more capable than they think. This has a positive impact on their lives and confidence as a whole.
- A holistic teaching approach: By constantly learning and sharing the knowledge she’s gained about topics such as mindfulness, productivity, personal development, exercise, etc. and giving them ‘homework,’ she encourages them to develop healthy, mindful habits in all facets of their lives.
I try to provide a more holistic approach in that I’m not only their instructor, but also the person who enjoys listening to them, getting involved in their lives, and continuously guides them in their journey towards a healthy lifestyle.
Turning her passion into her profession
For many fitness instructors, the explosion of online training during the pandemic has provided some new opportunities for business growth.
“It has opened up a huge window that allows us to become known internationally,” Viviane says. “We’re not just restricted to marketing our services to clients from our local area, but to people anywhere in the world, as long as we have an internet connection and a device.”
Viviane never imagined that during a pandemic, of all times, she’d be able to turn her hobby into her profession.
“I always dreamt of having a career that would allow me to own my time and choose my working hours; that wouldn’t make me feel stressed out every day at work, yet would be rewarding; and most importantly, that would give me the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. That’s precisely what a career in Pilates has given me and I love that free spirit sensation.
“It is extremely rewarding to receive heartfelt messages from clients telling me how much I’ve contributed to changing their lives and helping them overcome difficult situations. That is what fills me with joy and is the engine that keeps me going.”
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