In recent months, I’ve been approached by at least five different people on Instagram asking if I’d be interested in becoming a health/fitness coach. They are mostly coaches for Beachbody (the company behind the P90X and Insanity workouts), while others are affiliated with different but similar companies. For this post, I’m going to focus on Beachbody since I’ve been contacted by their coaches the most.
The conversation usually starts like this: Hi, this is totally random but I love your page and was wondering if you’ve ever considered becoming a health coach. You could help others through their health journey while earning an income. Does that peak any interest?
When I first received these messages, I was flattered and definitely interested. These coaches claim to be entrepreneurs– business owners with financial freedom who empower others to reach their health/fitness goals. You can do it part time or full time, and the company even gives free getaway vacations to its top performers! Sounded pretty ideal to me.
So how exactly does coaching work? Well, after some conversations with coaches and research, I figured out the deal. I’m not going to go into too much detail, because this website breaks it down much better than I ever could, but I’ll give the basics.
As a coach, you are basically selling Shakeology products (meal replacement drinks). Beachbody utilizes the MLM (multi-level marketing) strategy– coaches not only receive commission on the sales they themselves generate, but also on the sales of those they recruit. Other companies that use this structure include Avon, Mary Kay, Usana, and Stella & Dot. Once you become enrolled as a coach, you buy a sample pack of products, which you then sell to others or use yourself. Between the enrollment fee and sample product fee, the start-up costs to be a coach add up to hundreds of dollars. Beachbody also charges a $15.95 monthly fee ($190 for the year) for access to their nutrition/coaching guides and a website. You’ll also have to fork over a large sum of money if you want to attend any of their conferences.
How do coaches maximize profit? As I stated, the most basic way to make a profit is to sell the products. However, you’ll make more commission if you recruit people under you (i.e. your ‘team’) to sell products, since you’ll be receiving a portion of their commissions as well. So, the more people you have selling for you, the more you’ll make. What this results in is a constant hunt for new coaches to ensure that you’re not on the bottom of the pyramid. This is why so many coaches have been contacting me to become a coach. I doubt they actually think I’m that inspiring or motivating. They just want me to sell Shakeology products for them.
What initially attracted me to the at-home coaching concept was that I would own my own business, coach others to help better their lives and simultaneously learn from them, and that I would have control over my finances. However, the deeper I dug into the reality of coaching, the more distorted those initial attractions (entrepreneurship, mentorship, and independence) appeared.
First of all, how does being a representative for Beachbody equate to owning your own business? I don’t understand the rationale behind that. Yes, you are selling the products on your own account, but you did not create the products yourself. You did not set up this business structure yourself. You are still tied to Beachbody– they write your check.
Also, you’re not coaching or mentoring anybody outside your team of salespeople. I initially thought coaching meant you would be helping people outside the network and actually bringing in clients who are seeking advice, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The ‘coaching’ part of the job is getting together with your team and sharing… ideas? I think? I honestly have no idea what coaches do when they have sessions together so I could be completely off. I also have no doubt that these coaches are positive, motivated, bright people, but I can’t quite grasp how recruiting people to sell for you is considered coaching. You’re getting money from their commission– not from teaching them how to improve their lives– so how is that coaching? The only way you are potentially teaching others to improve themselves is by having them use the (presumably effective and healthy) products you are selling them.
It’s also not as easy to make money through a MLM structure as it may seem. According to this analysis, most (54%) of Beachbody coaches never received a paycheck in 2012. As in, they made no money. Out of those who did earn a check, 71% of them had an average income of around $450. That’s not even enough to cover half a month’s rent. (Thank you, NYC.) Seems like more stress than financial freedom to me.
I guess the biggest issue I have with Beachbody (and other MLM companies) is how misleading and disingenuous the whole thing seems. I found it really difficult to found out what coaching really means– the way the coaches describe the job is always very cryptic and non specific (“you would share your story to inspire others, do online programs, set up group training”) and is laden with hyperbole (take your life to the next level, become financially free, double your income by motivating others). These are coaches who value positivity, overall health, and living authentically, so it’s a little upsetting that they’re not more straightforward about the costs, risk, or structure of the business.
I like to trust my gut when I’m unsure of something, and my gut has been uneasy about this from the start. There are still a lot of lingering question marks, and many aspects of MLM businesses don’t sit right with me. If you are a good salesperson and truly believe in the products you are selling, go for it. However, I cannot check off either of those things. I’ve never used Shakeology, I’ve never done an Insanity workout, and I am probably one of the the worst salespeople out there. Beachbody simply isn’t for me.
If you are a coach and think I’m completely off or misinformed, let me know! I’d love to hear about your experience.