Expert Advice for Personal Trainers: Money-Making Lessons Learned Going From Studio Owner to Online Fitnesspreneur

Money-Making Lessons Learned Going From Studio Owner to Online Fitnesspreneur

I recently had the pleasure of sharing some secrets to success on Jono Petrohilos’ Bootcamp Blueprint Podcast. Jono boasts an all-star lineup of past guests, and I’m thrilled to join the likes of Thomas Plummer, Ryan Lee, and Jack Wheeler as featured guests. 

This one got real. I unveiled the truth behind my personal story and the lessons I learned as I went from Wall Street to fashion to fit pro and studio owner to online entrepreneur. 

If you want more money, more freedom, and more wealth as a fitness professional, these are the things no one else will tell you. 

I had to learn these lessons the hard way. Now, I’m paying it forward… 


My Story: From Wall Street & Fashion To Fitness

A long winding road led me to where I am now. After college, I landed on Wall Street and while I enjoyed the work, I found the lack of ethics and values soul sucking and decided to keep looking for work that fulfilled me inside. 

Next up, I ended up in the fashion industry. I started with Calvin Klein and ended up working for a few Italian fashion houses, but all I did was replace the backstabbing of Wall Street for the superficial priorities of fashion industry. So the search for meaningful work continued…

Then in 2002 in my black leather suit and Gaultier sunglasses (a sight to behold), I strolled into a Crunch on 83rd and Columbus in NYC and asked to speak to the manager. I looked the part of a high-end client who had never stepped foot in a gym, but I took my shot and asked her for a job. After eyeing my outfit, she asked, “Umm … sir … why should I hire you?” “Because I’m not afraid to sell,” I replied. 

She said, “you’re hired.”

And just like that, I was knee-deep in the trenches like many of you. 

At the time, my only talent was selling. If you want to earn more (let’s be real, we all want to earn more), you need to get over your fear of selling… 

If you don’t sell the value of what you do, you’ll always be a commodity priced low on the market trainer. And frankly, I won’t feel bad for you. That kind of money mindset crap is what keeps people living broke. As adults we gotta lay that crap to rest. It’s a hard reality you must face. 

When I got started my first month I would walk in at 5am and leave at 10pm every single day and I gave away my time doing free sessions (this was before we were even paid floor wages) so I could get the chance to sell my help. Well, by the end of my first month, I had 30 clients (told ya I could sell). With 30 new clients, I had a full book a business and was a top producer in the club right away. And as a team we rocked that club.

Then I was asked to head to California to see if I could help a struggling team on the west coast bump up their sales.

California? Yes, please. 

After one quick trip to check out Cali, I headed back east, sold my stuff, and got a one-way ticket west. My sales process worked again .. but this time I had 31 new clients by the end of the month. However, what seemed like a success story ending up being a difficult learning lesson.  


What A Bad Back & A Ton Of Debt Taught Me

Imagine going from producing $13,000 a month to $400/week on Workers Comp. No bueno, my friends. 

I blew out my back in an accident and ended up with 13mm herniation that left me with needing periodic morphine shots, living on steroids and having to do pain management for months. It doesn’t hit you (or you don’t think it can happen to you until it does) that your income relies on your health until something catastrophic like that happens … especially as a fit pro working the fitness floor because you only get paid when you can show up. 

That’s when I learned the value of diversifying your income streams.

I tacked on nutrition and metabolic testing as side gigs to supplement my training income. And just as it does today, it worked back then. My clients were getting what they needed, I was getting paid, and it was a fantastic system … that my employer despised.

Real talk: My extra income streams weren’t hurting the gym’s business one bit. In fact, they were amplifying the results for the clients. But, some corporate suits call that a “conflict of interest.” 

I don’t believe in dogma and despite my success, I was fired. Apparently, earning any money outside of the facility was never going to be accepted. I couldn’t get on board with that bullshit. 

Overnight, I became a business owner. I took all of my clients to a small space in my apartment building. Then, I upgraded to a home gym. And later, my business partner and I bought a studio. 

As a studio owner who didn’t know a damn thing about business and marketing, I realized I had to be on the floor to make any money. There was no time to travel or be sick, because I was strapped to the trenches to earn every penny. 

Are you catching what I’m throwing? Brick-and-mortar is tough, time-consuming stuff. Eh, I won’t sugarcoat it: It’s long hours, little pay, and draining — mentally and physically. 

My selling skills kept me humming along, but eventually I separated from my business partner and ditched the studio life. 

In the process, I went into serious debt ($105K but who’s counting), lost my house, and lost my girl. 

Welcome to rock bottom, Vito. 

Well, rock bottom led me online. And if you’re in the fitness game — regardless of your role — you need to get online right here, right now. 


Getting Online Saved My Career (And My Life)

Thanks to my online endeavors, I built a 7-figure business of my own. WITHOUT being tied to the trenches, time clock, bogus policies, or crappy employers…

My success has been a solid middle finger to the old-school time-for-money mentality that requires most of us to work to the bone for little reward and limited freedom. 

I studied the crap out of high-performance, business, and marketing to get where I am. Now, I teach fit pros like you how to get online and make serious moolah. I was stuck because I didn’t understand the online space, business, and marketing. Now, I teach the things I wish I knew then. 

Brendon Burchard said, “There’s only two things that change your life. Something new comes into your life or something new comes out of you.” 

If you don’t have new things coming in, there’s no way new things can come out. Or as I like to put it, you’re only as good as what you last read, learn, or studied and took action on!

So, keep reading. Now that you know my story, let’s dive into my teachings a little bit more based on the questions Jono posed to me in this podcast. 


5 Experts Tips for Trainers to Make More Money Now

  1. Raise Your Rates Immediately.

Raise your rates 5% right now. In 5 years, you’ll be making 28-30% more than you make today. Do the math on 10 years, and you’ll be convinced. Don’t overthink it … just do it. Every business raises its rates — yours should be no different. And if a 5% increase still puts you at an uber-low rate, know your freakin’ worth and correct it. You gotta get in the ballpark to play BIG.

2. Build Passive Income Streams.

If you’re worried about losing clients when raising your rates, you’re worried about the wrong thing. If you lose ‘em, you’re still making more per person than you were before. And that extra time can go to building passive income streams and marketing systems. Free up your schedule, make more with fewer clients (#winning), and get online in your free time. 

3. Stop. Selling. Packages. 

Move into selling training sessions as continuity or membership options. This will help combat cancellations, late payments, and out-of-town clients. Create a policy: We don’t cancel, we reschedule. You get your money up front thanks to your new membership options and you ensure your clients get results by forcing their hand to reschedule. For as many garbage policies as I dealt with in my past life, the rescheduling policy is a gamechanger for trainers. 

4. Get Started With Online Challenges & Nutrition Sales. 

Get out of your own way and get going on these NOW. This is low-hanging fruit every single fit pro in the world needs to capitalize on. Online Challenges remove the boundaries of brick-and-mortar and nutrition is hands down the best and most effective upsell out there. Offer challenges and builtd nutrition into them for a double whammy of revenue and results. These kind of income streams that I built in 2010 starting with Shakeology and Facebook Groups are still paying me today. Feel free to email me and ask me how at 

5. Get the Right Mentors & Role Models

I’m a student of high performance and I nerd out learning from the best. Success leaves clues and I scooped ‘em up along the way from people like Pat Rigsby, Todd Durkin, Dan Kennedy, Brendon Burchard, Jeff Walker, Darren Hardy and Ryan Deiss to help build the freedom lifestyle. Now, I’m leaving clues for you. If you’re really read to fix your vision and monetize beyond the boundaries of brick-and-mortar so you can enjoy the freedom lifestyle, click here to get my Clear Vision Planner. This 7-day commitment to finding the clarity you need to develop the lifestyle you want is the only place to start. Rome wasn’t built in a day … but we can build a sturdy foundation that can get you on the path to more success in just 7 days.  

Stop feeling undervalued, underpaid, and overworked, and design the future of your dreams here and now. Plan for time- and money-freedom now, so you don’t have to hit rock bottom to change your life for the better. 

Get outside the box and start seeing the bigger future of what’s possible. My last tip to you is to be willing to be evolutionary. My evolution saved my entire career. You must grow and evolve to avoid being stuck. 

Dream big!


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By Vito LaFata

As a certified High Performance and Funnel Optimization Coach, Vito La Fata, is the NO BS business & personal brand coach to the wellness and fitness professional or company that is looking to get outside the box of the industry and start learning how to grow a personal brand online and offline utilizing a hybrid business model of offline and online marketing strategies that deploy customer value optimization systems in order to create as much benefit and offering for the customer and as much profit and lifestyle for the company as possible.

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