Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes
We all dream of making a living from doing what we love – fitness entrepreneur Siobhan O’Hagan has made her dream a reality. I caught up with the well-known online personality to discuss how she started her business, how she grew her online social presence to 63,500 Instagram followers (at last count) and why you should never give up. Check out how she did it and her advice for how you can too.
I'd love to hear a little bit about how you got started setting up OH Fitness?
The name actually came to me when I was trying to set up a new Spotify account. Siobhan O'Hagan was taken so I went with Siobhan OH. I had wanted to start blogging about fitness so then OH Fitness came to me and I thought that could be a thing! At that stage I had no idea that it would turn into a business - I just wanted to make a blog. I had also decided that I wanted to be a PT (personal trainer) and had no idea where to start but I knew I was going to be posting some fitness stuff. So I set up a separate Instagram account and went with @ohfitness_ie which might have been a bit presumptuous of me since I didn't have the domain or anything!
Instagram kind of started me off. I just wanted to share my fitness journey and initially didn't imagine it was going to become so big. I knew I had to do my own advertising so I worked really hard. I worked so hard training and posting to show my own transformation and my Instagram started growing. I set it up in November 2014 and by January 2015 I had 600 followers; by January 2016 I had 30,000 followers. It really was just for fun and then I saw the opportunity. My goal was never to make lots of money - it was just to be happy and to me that meant freedom. Because I was using Instagram, I was able to reduce a lot of costs and get some sponsorship which reduced the expenses for the equipment I needed.
Now I have a really good balance of work and life but at the start I did everything myself. My background is in finance and computers so I did everything myself in terms of setting up systems and having my clients book in through an app. I set up the online coaching, website, everything. I could have hired someone to do it but that's how it happened.
Wow that's really impressive that you took care of all that yourself! That's a really big benefit to being somewhat technical - you can save some costs. So since all that side of things was covered, what was the biggest challenge in setting up your business?
Because I never really intended on making it into a business most things came quite naturally. The scariest part was probably when I left my full time job to take a contract role so that I had time to do my PT course. That was the biggest risk I took but even at that it wasn't too bad because it was a job that I had before. I just felt a bit like I was taking one step back in the hopes of taking two steps forward. By the time I finished the course, I just walked out of that job with no savings or anything. I was basically unemployed. Luckily from the Instagram account and training so hard, I was able to make sure I had a lot of business ready to go. It was still very scary starting off because I didn't fully trust in my own abilities but once I got into the swing of things I actually found things very easy. I've been very lucky in that I haven't run into any big hiccups along the way.
So there was no point when you thought "I’ve made a big mistake?”
Maybe last December when clients started backing off a bit for Christmas. I obviously needed money for Christmas and I just thought "oh God what have I done?" But then January rolled around and I was out the door busy again and I realised it was normal. This year I thought it would be so much quieter but I'm getting so many inquiries!
There's a saying: "Don't turn your hobby into your job or you won't have a hobby any more” - I take it that this is something you disagree with?
I don't know to be honest - there's so many people out there that become PTs because they love going to the gym and they end up like I did at the start. I worked way too much. I was in the gym for 6am until lunch time, get a couple of hours sleep and then back in for the evening. I just wasn't enjoying it and I remember thinking this isn't what I wanted at all so I took a step back. I had more money than I knew what to do with but no time to spend it so I decided to cut down on my hours altogether. Now I do a couple of hours of personal training - no more than 2 or 3 people a day for 2 or 3 days a week - and that means that I really enjoy it. I don't have to worry about going in for big long shifts and it means I can go in and actually enjoy myself. In order to do that I had to build up my online coaching presence and other sources of income.
Speaking of your online presence when I mentioned to anyone that I'd be speaking with you they all talked about your snapchat account. It seems like Snapchat has been instrumental to you for launching your brand and it's a medium that a lot of companies use for marketing now. Was it always your plan to use this to grow your business or did it just kind of happen?
Well I've actually used snapchat for years. I went to a seminar by Gary Vee (Vaynerchuck) recently and he maintains that snapchat is the way to sell, companies need to ahead of the game and use snapchat. So that day I took off talking away on snapchat and it was a bit cringe recording my life all the time but people respond well to it. People aren't looking at ads anywhere but they're really watching on snapchat. They're watching snapchat more than they're watching telly. It's so easy to interact with them and people buy from people they actually know so that's why I just share my whole life. Sometimes it can be a bit much and you want to be anonymous but it's just something that I have to deal with.
It's interesting that you mentioned Gary Vee because I actually attended one of his talks recently. One of the things that he talks about is that you need to be focused on not what's popular now - but rather what's going to be popular in the future.
Yeah I was just about to say that I wouldn't really advise people to start building up a following on Snapchat because I think it's too saturated. I follow hundreds of people and don't watch half the stories. Not that I know what's going to be the next big thing but I try to jump on things like that if I can. The likes of Instagram stories are something I've been trying out before it gets too big and everyone else is using it.
I see you started Vlogging too, is that something you're testing out?
Yeah the old Youtube game! I like it when I have time but it can be really difficult sometimes keeping it current. By the time I get to edit and upload the video I feel like it's already a bit outdated compared to Snapchat. So I try to use it more to discuss a topic rather than what I'm up to day to day. But then I look at some really successful people on Youtube and maybe I've missed the boat on that.
So what do you think in 2017 is going to be the thing that helps your business grow?
I have a couple of things in the pipeline. I've started working with someone on the online coaching side of the business. Previously I've done everything myself so I'm going to partner up with someone and look at advancing my online coaching a lot more. I'm also going to use the blog to do some collaborations and build up more followers. I want to stay authentic because people don't want to see ads at the end of the day so I'm trying to find the balance there.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to go out and start their own business like you did?
I think you need to have a really good plan. I saw what I wanted to be and it was so disjointed from where I was and I just broke it down. If I wanted to do a PT course I needed to take a job with less hours and obviously a pay cut. Sometimes it's all about taking risks but at the same time you have to be smart about it. Plan as much as you can, take the risk, think positive. The worst that can happen is you'll have to start again on something new. The biggest fear is everyone else's opinion and society really. Just don't worry what everyone else thinks and that's the key to being successful.
You can check out Siobhan's Instagram page at @ohfitness_ie or add her on Snapchat: @siobhsies. Be sure to subscribe below so you don't miss out on our next interview.