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How a gym membership kickstarted my design business

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As a designer running a small business from home, the part I love most about getting to the gym is the break it gives me from staring at that same computer screen for hours on end.

The chance to get out of the house and get active, even just for a little while.

A few years ago I came to the decision that I wanted to kickstart my fitness with something different. I knew that I needed something more than a generic membership to one of those big box gyms or the local YMCA.

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I needed something that would give me new techniques and keep me both interested and push me to work harder than I would if I was by myself.

So when a friend recommended a local strength and conditioning gym he had been going to, I thought I’d tag along and see what it was all about.

Little did I know, the decision made one night over a beer with a good friend was going to light a fire under my then small web design business.

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How the gym did more than strengthen my body

Fast forward two months later, and I’m hooked on the gym, attending 4-5 classes per week, making new friends and having a blast.

After a particular sweaty class one day, I got to talking with the owners of the gym and he mentioned that the gym was in need of a website to help them continue to grow their business.

I offered up my services, jumping at the opportunity to work with this gym.

After all, the owners are two of the most genuine, friendly people you would ever want to meet.

Word-of-mouth referrals began to come in

Once the new site was up and running, other gym members began to take notice, members that also happened to be small business owners.

A few had mentioned that they too were looking for some web design work and wondered who had designed the new site, to which the owners promptly passed along my name.

That’s when it all just clicked:

Word-of-mouth referrals mean so much more to a small business than any other marketing tactic when they’re coming from trusted friends.

Not only that, but word-of-mouth referrals can come from places you hadn’t even anticipated or thought of before.

I mean, here I was, working out at a gym that I was only at because of a referral in the first place, and now the everyday chats I was having at some of these classes were unexpectedly bringing referrals right back to me.

I was blown away.

Wrapping it up

The Moral of the Story: Word-of-mouth referrals in your community don’t always come from attending those big chamber of commerce networking events, or the fancy business luncheons.

Often times the best referrals are the ones that come out of your everyday activities, like going to the gym.

When your product or service gives people a reason to want to tell their friends, you’ll be surprised just how often your business name will get passed along.

Sometimes in the places you might least expect.

How have word-of-mouth referrals helped you? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mike Watterson

Mike runs Brixton Creative (www.brixtoncreative.com), a full service Design Studio & Pop Culture Art Shop based on the outskirts of Toronto, Canada. He has had the chance to design & develop websites for businesses all over the globe helping build their brand & increase their overall reach.  His custom art shop features original pop culture posters & prints that has had features on theChive, Buzzfeed and Fancy.

Leave a Comment



  1. Great Article! This is a very inspiring for us all freelancers and small business owners. When we work from home and we head out during the day it is alway good to network!

    • Thanks Ray! I definitely agree, it’s amazing the places that networking opportunities can come up. It’s great to think outside of the box, because you never know when the chance to offer your services may come up.

  2. Encouraging commentary, Mike at a great time for me. So many options for growth that some of us just don’t always see. Thanks!

  3. Hey just a quick thing I noticed-
    “Word-of-mouth referrals for began to come in” section heading reads a little awkwardly.
    Feel free to remove this comment after the edit 🙂


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