Having sweated our stuff off with Svava Sigbertsdottir, founder of The Viking Method, we were keen to hear her advice for setting up a business as a personal trainer, developing fitness videos, and muscling for attention in the crowd.
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what made you decide to call your business the ‘Viking Method’?
My name is Svava and I am a personal trainer and a nutritionist. In 2013 I founded the Viking Method, which is a very specific functional training and well-being method. I called it the ‘Viking Method’, first of all, because I am from Iceland. Also because of what the Vikings represent, which is the same as my method entails: strength, power, confidence and mental resilience. We train for us, not for other peoples’ approval.
When building a personal training company/brand, what are the key things budding fitness enthusiasts should be looking to do, and what are the greatest challenges you would say they face?
The key thing is finding what makes you and what you do unique. What is it about you that is different? What can you offer that others can’t? When you start your brand, this is the main key thing. After you have found that and set up your brand, then the most difficult thing is to get it known; that is the true challenge and the most time-consuming work. You will have to be prepared to give all your time to your brand. This is not something you can do half-heartedly – not if you want true results. You will have to step up and go further than others are willing to go; and make the sacrifices that others are not prepared to make. That is how you make a successful brand.
You have received a lot of media attention and can often be found giving advice and tutorials to fitness publications. How did you go about building a media profile, what hurdles did you have to overcome while doing this and how have you optimised this publicity and attention?
After I set up my brand, I started contacting all the magazines and newspapers, asking them to do a feature on it. I spent so much time finding the e-mail of the right person in each publication. The first response, in my case, was that in order for them to write about my method, I needed to have a well-known person doing it.
The key thing is finding what makes you and what you do unique. What is it about you that is different? What can you offer that others can’t?
Then I spent a lot of time contacting agents and PAs about getting their clients to try out my method. If you are setting up your own brand from scratch, this is often the time where you give up. But if you stay with it, if you do not take “no” for an answer, if you keep on going, you will get a “yes”. I then started training Nicole Scherzinger, and I spoke to the press again and started to get coverage. Also, you have to be willing to give up your time for the media. I have trained many of them for a feature; and keeping up a good relationship is absolutely crucial.
In addition to this, you then have to have avenues for the public, who read about your method, to pursue. If you are only offering personal training, the roof is not high as you only have certain hours in the day. Therefore, watch you have supply to cater to the demand. That is often forgotten about. I have built up an online training website with videos and interactive features that anyone in the world can sign up to. And yes, social media is great as well to optimise on. Do it well, interact with people, and be consistent in your brand. Keep it professional, and do not put endless photos of you and your friends.
What do you think makes an effective or engaging fitness/training video?
You. You are the most important thing. Of course you also need to have good exercises and be doing things that people can do at home, so no machines, no funny equipments and the exercises you do can’t take loads of space. When that groundwork is covered, it is all about you; how you engage with the people that are doing it with you. The things you say, how well you are demonstrating the exercises and doing them, how you motivate them… The worst thing I see is an exercise video where the trainer is telling the people to work hard and that they should be dead if they are doing it properly, but at the same time you cannot see even a single drop of sweat on the trainer. Do it with your audience. Show them how you should feel if you are giving everything by giving everything yourself.
In a world full of personal trainers, fitness lovers and professional athletes, what are your top tips for standing out from the crowd?
Nobody is you and that is your power. Like I said earlier, take the time to find out how you can use that. I did that with mine. I put together the special way I train people, and I do the nutrition with the mentality of where I am from. Find your thing and wrap it in a great product. Your company statement, what you are about and what you do differently has to be very clear; then set up a website. The website is your calling card. After that, it is all about the amount of work you put into it! Go for it. Although it is hard work, seeing something that you created grow and became successful is truly worth it all.