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15 years ago, Montreal-based Phil Hynes wanted to make a change in his life; he was in his early twenties and wasn’t fulfilled by his current career path.

“I had low confidence and self-esteem, so I decided to do something about it,” Hynes shares with Thinkific. “The one thing I knew I had control over was how I felt about myself. That’s when I started to exercise.”

Sticking to a consistent exercise regime had previously been a struggle for Hynes. “I would exercise for a few days and feel great about myself, and then stop for two or three months,” he continues. “But when I began exercising consistently, I felt better about myself.”


Feeling inspired with his newfound motivation, he took a personal training course at a local YMCA. Newly certified, he landed a job at a local gym and began working one-on-one with clients. Two years later, he opened his own gym. “I wanted to do more,” he says. “If I’m not satisfied in a situation, I’m the type of person who will leap to the next thing without being able to see the next ten steps.”

He ran his gym for four years until he was ready for his next step in business: moving online to access a bigger audience. When covid hit, his lease on the gym was about to end, creating an opportunity to shift into online course creation. In June 2020, he launched his first Thinkific course. Since, he developed a niche and grew his online business—and revenue; he has over 3,000 learners and generates $100,000 annually. Plus, he now has more that 750K Instagram followers, 606K TikTok Followers, 6,000 YouTube subscribers, and 14K followers on his Facebook page.

Hynes sat down with us to share his journey and help other online course creators find success in their own niche. Here’s his story:

Skip ahead:

  1. Finding his niche

Like many online course creators, Hynes says he started his online business without knowing what he was doing; he was simply committed to figuring it out on the way.

His first online course was a workout course for a general population. At this point, he was still figuring out his niche. It was when he began narrowing down who he was targeting that his brand took off. 

To find his niche, he experimented with posting different content on social media. “That’s how I found the one thing that really works for my audience: simple, straightforward workouts,” he shares. 

He began targeting all of his content on social media and in his courses towards beginners. “These are people that haven’t exercised, don’t know how to get started, or are confused on what exercises to do,” Hynes explains. “There is a lot of information out there; it can be difficult for people to start. My workouts offer something realistic that beginners can do consistently.”

Hynes wasn’t surprised that this beginner audience found him; when asked why he enjoys working with this population, Hynes says it always felt like his calling.

“Even when I would train people at the gym, a lot of the people that gravitated towards me were people that were just getting started,” he says. “They liked my approach to fitness, which was different from the regular bootcamp-style, super-demanding workouts.”

“I feel good being able to help people overcome similar things as me, like building their confidence and self-esteem and accomplishing their personal goals.”

His students are mostly women between the ages of 4- and 65. Eighty percent are located in the US, with 15 percent located in Canada. The rest are spread across the world. 

  1. Developing two, key programs

Once honing in on his niche, Hynes created two, key programs—which are both provided through a membership format on Thinkific. 

One is an introductory, beginner workout membership, which is priced at $6.99 USD per month. Students who join this program get a new workout video each week, and they can choose between bodyweight only or a combination of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises. The goal is to complete 3-4 workouts each week, as they have access to a library on top of the new, weekly workouts that he offers. 

The other is a 30-day workout challenge, which he is most focused on promoting right now. This program includes a kick-off call between Hynes and each new member to make sure the challenge is the right fit for the person. The call also helps each person understand how the challenge works. In this program, the workouts start slow, beginning at 10-15 minutes each. Slowly, they progress in length and difficulty. Once the student has gone through the 30-day challenge, they can choose to stay signed up to continue accessing the workouts. The price is $80 USD per month. 

Most of his workouts include a combination of strength training, cardio, mobility and stretching. “The workouts offer a gentle approach to exercise, and include movements that aren’t too strenuous or over-demanding,” he continues.”

He chose Thinkific as he was looking for a user-friendly platform that was easy to navigate—for both the creator and the learner. Plus, after seeing some creators that he looked up to hosting their online courses via Thinkific, it felt like the right choice. 

  1. Relying on his gut instinct

When it came to pricing, he says he relied on his gut instinct to choose the right number. In fact, his gut instinct is what he continually trusted throughout his business journey. “Even before launching my first course, I didn’t do any market research,” he laughs. “Before I opened my own gym, I also didn’t; I just knew that I loved helping people and knew I’d figure it out along the way. I always did what felt right.”

“If you really believe in your products or services that you offer, people will see the value in it,” affirms Hynes.

To accept payments, he integrates Stripe and Paypal with Thinkific.

  1. Encouraging accountability 

When asked what sets his training apart from other online trainers, he says it’s in the way in which he encourages accountability; he makes personal contact with each member each week—sometimes multiple times per week. “Accountability is a huge part of exercise,” he says. “I check in with each person to make sure they’re on the right track.”

“I’m constantly looking at the progress of each individual, which is an amazing feature that Thinkific lets you do; you can see how many videos members have completed and what percentage of the videos they’ve watched.”

Hynes believes that accountability will be a key skill for course creators to hone in on in 2024 and beyond. “People don’t want to feel like they’re just a number,” he says. “They want that individual attention, and it goes a long way.”

He believes that the personal connection he builds with each person goes is one of the reasons why people stay in his programs. “I don’t mass-email anyone,” he says. “I personally email each person. This lets people realize that there is someone behind the business that actually cares.”

He also encourages accountability by posting on Thinkific Communities and Instagram Threads, where he hosts a community group chat. 

  1. Marketing consistently 

While Hynes uses multiple social media channels to reach his audience, his main focus is Instagram.

But Hynes didn’t develop such a large, loyal following overnight; his Instagram account, for instance, was started in 2012. It wasn’t until the platform introduced reels that his account blew up, thanks to a couple of videos that went viral. “It really just takes one video,” he says. “You have to post lots of them, but it only takes one that goes viral to get the exposure that you need.”

He says that back when he had his gym, he had about 7,000 Instagram followers. He’d written down his goal, which was to have 10,000 followers. Little did he know that just a few years later he’d be closer to a million. 

According to him, his goal has always been to be as consistent as possible with posting content—and this consistency has been the key to growing his audience and business as a whole. “Even in my own personal journey, it’s all about getting your reps in. You have to have repetition in what you do,” he shares.

  1. Developing effective lead magnets

In order to give potential customers a taste of his training style and online programs, he developed a couple of lead magnets.

One is an ebook with four, 15-minute beginner workouts where each exercise has an image with a description. The other is a free masterclass via Zoom, where he meets with a large group of people and shows them how to reach their health and wellness goals.

“The masterclass is meant to get people to understand the programs that I offer and that I’m here to help them,” explains Hynes.

Both lead magnets are integrated with Leadpages.

  1. Creating content for his ideal client

When creating social media and online course content, Hynes caters everything towards his niche. For example, he wanted to keep his workouts straightforward and realistic for people. “I’m not posting for me,” he says. “I’m posting for the person on the other end. I’m trying to bring as much value to that person, and give them something attainable to do.”

“You have to think about your ideal client or the person that you’re trying to attract—as well as what value you want to bring to them that will be helpful,” he advises. 

One of the mistakes he made when he first started posting on social media was creating content similar to other trainers. He would often share fancy variations of exercises, as that was the norm at the time. “The reason why my account stands out now is because I share realistic exercises that those with any kind of health limitation or injury will be able to try,” he adds.

When creating content, he suggests that creators try to deeply understand their ideal client and what they’re going through. “Think back to the things you wish you knew five, ten, 15 years ago and give that information away in your courses or content,” he says. 

  1. Increasing scalability

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, he has a few goals. One is to step away from the one-on-one coaching sessions he holds and focus solely on improving his existing online courses, which are his scalable products. “I’m only one person, so I don’t have unlimited time during the day,” he says. “However, I can have hundreds of people join a 30-day challenge.”

“Steering away from the one-on-one model will let me do something that’s more scalable,” he adds. “I love one-on-one work, but it’s time-consuming.”

While he currently has approximately 100 people sign up for the 30-day challenge each month, his goal is to up this number to 150-200. He also wants to begin collaborating with more brands in the form of brand partnerships, as this won’t only increase his revenue, it will also increase his reach and grow his audience.

  1. Learning from mistakes

When asked if there was anything he would have changed along his course creation journey, he says he would have started sooner. “You get better the more you do it,” he says. “The more you experiment with things, the faster you’re going to learn.”

Aside from that, he says he wished he hadn’t been afraid to invest in the smaller things like a good quality microphone and lighting. “When I look back on those first few courses I created in 2020, I can see the mistakes I was making,” he expresses. “But I was doing the best with what I had. I was just using my cell phone, I didn’t have a microphone, and my videos had terrible lighting.”

“I put it out there anyway,” he continues. “You learn from your mistakes.”

While investing in those things would have improved the quality of his content early on, he still thinks that equipment shouldn’t be a barrier to starting. “

“You don’t have to have perfect lighting and an expensive camera; you don’t have to invest a lot of money. Do your best with what you have and then grow and learn from there,” he explains.

“Just go for it and create your first course,” he says excitedly. “Do the best you can and don’t overthink it. Put it out there and improve as you go.”

Ready to take the leap? Make 2024 the year you step into the ring of online course creation. See for yourself how you can create your own version of success. Sign up for Thinkific today—free!