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Streamlining Your Online Fitness Studio

Photo by class participant Vanessa Bishop-Schempp

Back when, what seems like years ago but was really just mid March, the studio where I teach announced they were closing for in-person sessions and it was clear I was going to have to get myself set up to teach online pretty quickly to maintain any sort of income I managed to get going with my online teaching pretty quickly. I then spent a lot of time helping colleagues through the same process, which lead me to write a blog post called Zooming to Get Up and Running with Online Teaching outlining how to get started.

Since then, as online teaching has begun to feel more natural and life has settled into a bit of a new routine, I’ve managed to streamline and refine some of the processes to reduce my administrative time and make a smoother user experience for my clients. I’ll share here what I’ve done since those first days, when the focus was just simply getting started, to make my system a bit less clunky. If you’re not yet set up for online teaching it might be worth having a look at the first post for the basics.

Again, I must preface this with saying I am not a “tech” person, I’m simply a movement teacher who had to figure this stuff out in order to make a living through the pandemic.

Automate anything you possibly can. Online teaching is exhausting. Add to that the stress and emotional drain of life in isolation, with many of us also homeschooling kids, and you really can’t be wasting any extra energy or resources on busy work that could be automated.

Integrate your booking and teaching platforms: One of the easiest ways to automate registration is to link your booking platform to your online teaching platform. I use Acuity for booking and Zoom for teaching. Acuity has a page for “Integrations” (on the left hand side bar when you’re logged into the website). In “Integrations” scroll down until you find Zoom, then “enable” it. You’ll just have to be sure that you look at the list of your class offerings that will appear and make sure all the online classes have a tick mark. If there’s a tick mark by a class the system knows to automatically generate a Zoom link when that class is scheduled. Acuity will automatically send a confirmation email with the Zoom link when a client books into the class. All they have to do is click the link when it’s time to join class. They won’t need a password or anything else.

Keep in mind, when you schedule a class a Zoom link won’t be generated until someone registers. So you’ll either have to just trust that it’s working, or register for your own class to test it. And remember that any time you add a new class type you’ll have to go into Integrations and tick the box for that class, or else the system won’t know to generate a link.

I’ve had a few people contact me because of confusion over how simple this is. Once you’ve integrated Acuity with Zoom DO NOT create/schedule a link in Zoom. You’ll end up with two links for the same class and your students may not be able to find you. Just set it up in Acuity and let the system do the rest for you. You don’t need to email anyone anything, as everything they need to know will go to them in the automated confirmation email.

Trouble shooting glitches:

Occasionally problems can arise. Sometimes confirmation emails will go to junk mail, in which case hopefully the client will contact you in time so that you can forward them your copy of their confirmation email. Alternatively, you can click “invite” from the Zoom meeting and invite them on the spot via their email address, or copy and paste the meeting login info to their email, text, or messenger app.

If a client clicks the direct link from their confirmation email it will take them directly to your class, but if they should read the link on one device and then type it into another sometimes they will be asked for a password. I don’t know why (as I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not a “tech” person), but that seems to happen every so often. In that case look in the Zoom meeting and you will see the password for the meeting and can just text it to them. I set up my confirmation emails with a message that say if they have trouble logging into class to text me, and of course included my number (this can be set up in “customize appearance” which you’ll find in that left hand side bar).

One aspect that I do still have to do manually, since Zoom made changes to their set up for security reasons, is I have to go through my meetings on Zoom every couple of days and double check that “enable waiting room” is switched off. It now is enabled by default and I haven’t found a way around it, other than manually going into “my meetings” and editing the meetings individually to disable the waiting room feature. Every so often I’ve missed one and I haven’t noticed until the meeting had started. Once the meeting starts you can no longer disable it, so you’ll have to manually admit each participant. If they’re late to sign in to class they won’t get in if you’re busy teaching, and if they lose their internet connection for a moment they won’t be able to get back into class.

Automate payments. I’ve heard from a few people that their booking and payment systems aren’t linked. So clients sign up for the classes and then the trainer will send an email and ask for payment via PayPal or Venmo. In a pinch this works, but it takes a lot of time, tracking, and organization. I highly recommend setting up a system that will save this hassle. I have my Square account linked with my Acuity, but Acuity also links with PayPal as well as Stripe. It’s pretty easy to set up. Acuity walked me through linking Square when I initially set up my account, but you can do it after the fact through Integrations, just like linking your Zoom account.

Recording classes on Zoom. If you’d like to record your classes on Zoom so that they’re available either for participants to view again later, or if you’d like to make the classes available for rent to those who might not be able to take your classes at the times they’re offered, you can do that really easily. Keep in mind when you’re recording, at least in the United States but I believe in many countries, it’s illegal to record someone without their permission. So you have to set up your Zoom recording so you don’t inadvertently capture a participant on the recording.

The way I do it is as soon as someone logs into my class I click on the video of myself and text will appear over my image. There’s an option to “pin video”. I pin the video of myself. Then I click back up on the gallery view option, because pinning the video will pull it by default into “speaker view”, which is just me big on the screen so I can’t see my students well. After I’ve greeted all my students and it’s time to start class I first “mute all”, then I hit record. There will be an option to record to the cloud, which is on Zoom, or onto your computer. Record onto the cloud, otherwise (at least on my Mac) I end up getting the participants showing up in the recording. When I do it this way on the cloud I get just the video of me teaching without the students’ images. As soon as I finish class I first stop the recording and then unmute. If I time it right I don’t need to edit the video at all. However sometimes I catch just a blip of a student and I have to trim it off in iMovie. Or if you were to stop the video and answer questions midway through you’d have to edit that out afterward.

You can keep your recordings on Zoom, but the basic paid plan only allows for storage of a few hours of video. You can pay to upgrade to more storage, but this didn’t seem like a great deal when I looked at it. It was an extra $40 a month to be able to store probably a week’s worth of classes. Then if you want to share/sell access of those videos it seems like you have to do it all manually.

My solution was to use a service called Gumroad. Gumroad offers more privacy than Vimeo, which is critical for GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® trainers, as any of our videos have to be password protected and only made available to our existing clients. After hours of working with Vimeo I was still unable to find a way that my videos could be both password protected and also available for sale. If I wanted to sell access to stream them through a password protected page on my website the videos still had to be public on Vimeo. Gumroad allows the videos to not appear through Gumroad, yet be available as streaming rentals through my password protected page. Plus Gumroad is free. They take a percentage of any sales (8.5 % + 30 cents), so factor that into your pricing, but there is no membership fee and apparently no limit to how much you can upload. Vimeo was going to cost me over $200 a year, plus they take a percentage of sales.

From Zoom I upload the videos to my computer, then upload them from the computer to Gumroad. Be sure to delete your recording from Zoom once you’ve uploaded it to your computer so you have room to record your next class. I also delete them from my computer once they’re on Gumroad to save memory. I can always download them from Gumroad later if I need them.

I opt for a rental option only, so they have access for only a limited time, and only make it available via streaming (no downloads) which keeps me in line with GYROTONIC® guidelines. Also this keeps me more flexible should I decided to change platforms in the future. If a client buys my video to have forever then I’m pretty much committed to the platform on which it was sold.

Aside from having to upload the videos to Gumroad and then paste them into my password protected video page, all the payment and streaming links are handled automatically.

I’m still working on the details of my insurance to cover recorded videos, but they are only available to my existing clients, not the general public, so that should be more insurable. I put my liability waiver in the class description and state that by purchasing the rental the participant agrees to the liability waiver. This is my preliminary legal protection and I will post an update when I nail that down better.

This is all a fluid, dynamic process and I don’t profess to know all the answers. But hopefully some of what I’ve figured out will be helpful to you. You’ll have to make yourself a coffee and spend a good few hours with your laptop to get it going, but once everything is place you should find your days a bit more calm and settled.

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