Working as a team when your self employed

A few weeks ago a friend (a fellow instructor) said of me and another instructor (a mutual friend) “it’s nice you work together”.  This was in response to us arranging coffee mornings at the gym where we both teach the majority of our classes.

To be honest, doing this as a team was never in question when we had the idea- we’ve always worked as a team with ideas (technique sessions, communicating with the gym etc.) because at the end of the day, we both want the same results, want to do the best for our class members and the gym and know that working together makes that more achievable.  In fact, the same is said for all of the class instructors at the gym in question – we support each others Social Media posts, communicate and look to work as one where we can.  It’s beneficial to us, in a job that can be quite isolating we have support.  It’s beneficial to our members, who know we are all working towards one goal of providing the best experience we can.

I know, from stories and from Facebook groups, this isn’t the case everywhere.  For every team that works as a team there seems to be people that sometimes seem to go out of their way to outdo others.  You hear bonkers stories of instructors encouraging people to not turn up to the cover instructors class when they’re on holiday, or to complain about another instructor or that get upset when a member says they also like the classes of someone else too.

I’m thankful that they are stories for me, in my time teaching I’ve met amazing instructors who helped me, advised me, taught me things and haven’t ever been like that.  I’ve never turned up to cover and found a hostile class, those I’ve covered for are more likely to have told the class to be nice or that they’ll enjoy my class.  I always big up cover that the class might not have met before, I’ve left aux leads and batteries and stereo instructions stashed away for people attending the studio for the first time as my cover.  It’s in my interest for my class to like the cover and them to enjoy teaching the class – it makes finding cover easier!

Let’s face it-  we all get it wrong sometimes and it’s hard to never feel competitive or compare ourselves to others, but generally, and especially as I have gained experience, I’ve realised more and more, the benefit of us fitness professionals working with each other rather than against each other.

I would class myself as a decent instructor.  I’m comfortable enough to know there are some things that the instructors I work with are better at that I am, I know there are things I’m strong at and things I’m less strong at.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and beyond that we all have different approaches and styles of teaching.  By working as a unit we provide variety (if you don’t like my teaching style they’ll be other instructors who’s classes suit you better and vice versa, what we care about is you find the classes you do enjoy – in reality most people come to all our classes and like the fact that we offer a different experience which keeps things interesting), we can plug each others gaps – refer people to one another if we think someone else would be able to answer a question more effectively.

Will there be fewer classes when we return? We really don’t know at this stage.  The industry as a whole will take time to build back to full capacity.  We don’t yet know whether the timetable for us will be as before straight away or gradually built up over time.  We don’t know whether we will get all our classes back yet.  What we haven’t done is decide to look out for ourselves in a bid to make sure we are the one to get our classes back if some do need to be dropped.

We’ve agreed this is an opportunity.  We’ve stayed connected with class members throughout in different ways.  We have ideas of how we can help the gym promote classes when we return, we’ve been fortunate in that the gym has stayed in touch (and furloughed us) even if they can’t provide certainty on classes right now, and we know there’s an opportunity to build on connections built in lockdown and be an asset to the gym (another thing we sometimes forget when trying to argue or worth – we need to be able to show the gym why we are worth what we’re asking for, be that in monetary terms or what classes we get).  There are no certainties right now of course, but it feels like this is a much better approach than competing with one another for classes.

And in fitness overall this perhaps the attitude we need to take in general. Of course we are technically competing with others for clients, for classes, but we are equally all different and offering different services, so some clients will be suited to us, others better suited for someone else.  Away from the gym I teach most of my classes at I am also involved with lots of other group fitness instructors as part of Jump 4.2 and with a group of other fit pros on a Business Mastermind.  Again these are environments where even though the majority of the group (or all the group in the case of the Mastermind) are fitness instructors competition is replaced by support, being able to ask questions or put forward ideas and get honest feedback without worrying about sounding silly.  In recent months I’ve seen so many fitness professionals do amazing things with the encouragement of their peers, which shows why working with rather than against each other could give the self employed fitness professionals a bigger chance to flourish than just focusing on outdoing our closest ‘rivals’ for classes ever will.

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