As a fitness instructor, your personal brand is essential to your success. From getting your foot in the door at new studios to establishing lasting relationships at these facilities and, eventually, rising up the ranks to become a lead instructor at your place of employment, having a strong presence and dedicated following of class members that show up for you is crucial.

A big part of growing and maintaining that following comes from establishing a recognizable brand – one that resonates both with class members and studio owners alike. You want your brand to be authentic to who you are as a person and an instructor, one that’s relatable and accessible to your followers. Not sure how to get started? We asked a few successful fitness instructors how they built their personal brand.

Get clear on your core values

What are the most important values that you want to impart on your students as a fitness instructor? Figuring out her top three worked for Laura St. John, owner of Pearl Street Fitness.

“To build my brand outside of our gym, I first focused on what top three core values excite me,” she explains. “Those became my three pillars of the nucleus of my brand. Then I asked myself, ‘how do I connect my real-life experiences in our workouts to the digital world outside our four walls of the gym?’ I breathed life into those three areas and expressed myself in pictures, motivational videos, and quotes through that lens. Immediately, I started attracting people who were searching or seeking those attributes. It’s a learn as you go process in building your brand, and it’s important to create that nucleus so you know who you are and who you are not.”

To start the process, St. John says to ask yourself a key question. “Strip back the layers and ask yourself ‘What do I want people to feel when they see my brand?” she says. “We build everything from that feeling and it continues to attract world class partners wherever we go!” 

Highlight what makes you unique

When establishing your brand, you want to set yourself apart from other instructors in your field – and that doesn’t always have to be in a fitness capacity. For Jai Sugrim, instructor at Yoga Vida and Five Pillars, sharing his adventures is as much a part of his brand as the yoga classes he teaches. “Your story is the most important part of you – it’s how people relate to you as a person,” he says. “I’ve been to the depths of the jungle in the Amazon for a full body cleanse and took my motorcycle through India and the Himalayas for six months. I won a World Series ring with the New York Yankees in 2000. My adventures are something that make me stand out and differentiate me from the average yoga instructor.” Showcasing what makes you unique helps your clients remember you and makes you stand out on a class roster, so they keep coming back.

Don’t make it perfect

Building a brand that inspires others to work toward their own fitness goals doesn’t always mean posting perfectly filtered photos of your rock hard abs on Instagram. “Offer truthful and authentic glimpses into your world,” says Jesse Alexander, cyclemaster at Cyclebar. “Not just the traditional ‘fitpro’ pictures with perfect lighting, and flawless abs for days. I find those don’t always make us relatable.”

Check out: An Instructor’s Guide to Curating Instagram Content

So, what should you be posting? “Personally, I find a mix of humor/family/professional photos work for me,” Alexander says. “For example, on my Instagram story on any given day you’ll find me on the bike at CycleBar doing choreography to promote my schedule, show proper form and safety, or showing something funny of my kids.”

Be reliable

“One of the best ways to grow your brand on social media is by providing consistent and reliable content,” says Manning Sumner, founder of Legacy Fit. “Everyone can post photos or videos of themselves working out, but instructional videos showing that you know your stuff really stand out. Ask yourself what the ‘why’ is for performing certain exercises and share it.”

Choose the right social network for you

You may think that the more places you can promote your brand the better – but Ashlee Wilkes, cycle instructor at REV Cycle Studio says she’s found success by knowing where her target audience is, and building her strongest presence on the platforms that give her the best return on investment for her time.

“Instagram is my favorite way to connect with Baltimore and share info about what is going on,” she says. “Instagram stories have been a great tool for quick, easy messages. I like giving sub alerts or sharing pictures from class that day. The ease of it is great. For posting to my Instagram feed, I will share photos with either my entire week’s schedule or words that I think will inspire and motivate my clients for the week ahead.”

If your students are always asking about your playlist, use your music platform of choice as another way to connect. “Spotify has also become a platform to continue connecting with my clients outside the studio,” says Ashley. “After class, a lot of clients ask where they can get certain songs or playlists that may have inspired them during class. I love sharing my Spotify handle and playlists public so people can keep rockin’ out to a song that motivated them all week. You don’t always have to use every tool, being really good at one or two can get you a great following and help build your client base. It’s important not to over-extend and lose your authenticity.”