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Side Gig Thurdays: Robert Bragoli, Marathon Trainer

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Starting this week, and for as long as I can sustain it, I wanted to share some stories every Thursday from our readers of side gigs they started. Some of these stories are from people who wanted to earn a little extra cash. Some are from people who just wanted something fun to do (and get paid to do it!). I’m hoping that these inspirational stories will give you some ideas and the extra push to go after that side gig you’ve always started to start. Maybe some day it’ll go from a side gig to a full time business!

This week, we’re talking with Robert Bragoli. His side gig is as a long distance road race runner and he currently trains fifteen runners preparing for the upcoming New York City Marathon. Robert’s story is one of a man who caught the running bug and decided it could make for a fun side gig, and he was right! I hope you enjoy his story:

What is your day job?
I am an attorney at a bond rating agency in New York City.

What is your side gig?
I coach/train runners (varying experience levels) training for various long distance road races. Most notably, I am currently training 15 runners as they prepare for the NYC Marathon on November 4th.

How much does it make each month?
In terms of payment, I coach 12 of 15 runners through an organized Marathon Training Program for which I am paid $175 per week. The remaining 3 clients I have pay me $50 per week for private coaching. I usually recommend a 20 week program for training before the desired marathon/race. Private coaching includes a one hour in person training session per week (we usually will work on interval training/speed or do some tempo runs together) and I customize a weekly training plan for each runner broken down day by day leading up to their selected race.

Each runner has access to me 24/7 and can ask me any questions you have about running/training including stretching/hydration/nutrition, etc. So, doing the math I guess I am making about $1300 per month, but it is very cyclical as all of these clients will likely take a break after the NYC marathon. I will be lucky to have a few clients training for a Spring 2013 marathon, but I will continue to charge only $50 per week.

How did you start doing your side business?
In November 2009, I weighed about 200 lbs (I currently weigh about 142) and had just taken the NY and NJ bar exams. So, I need a stress reliever as well as some motivation to lose weight as I am not a big guy (5’9″). I signed up for the Vancouver Marathon to lose weight and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. While I lost roughly 58 lbs during my training, I also caught the running bug.

Since November 2009, I have not gone a week without running. I have run another marathon (at which I qualified for the Boston Marathon, which I am running in April 2013) and a handful of half marathons by training myself. Last year, I thought if I could train myself to lose 58 lbs and qualify for the Boston Marathon, I am sure I could train others as well. So, I started training other runners (pro bono) by following the guidelines that I followed in my running plan.

I read all the books I could on running coaching and training and took a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Coaching Certification course. Through word of mouth, I got in contact with a head coach for a NYC Marathon Training Program and became an assistant coach (paid gig referenced above) and have gotten a few private clients (3 mentioned above) through referral.

Do you have a plan to try to turn it into your full time gig?
I do not plan on turning this into a full time gig as I do not think it would be fun anymore. Most full time coaches have to hustle, charge more and often cannot be selective over the runners they train. Since I am coaching because I love to interact with other runners and love running itself, I charge $50 because it is my own assessment of the value of my time (as I have to give up this time that I could spend with my wife and newborn son). I justify this by spending my earnings on home improvements and funding my son’s 529 plan.

Note: Many coaches in the NYC area charge well above $100/125 for the same services.

What resources did you rely on in starting the business?
The RRCA Coaching Certification course was excellent in providing the necessary tools to start coaching as a business. They taught us about setting our rates at an appropriate level (a lesson I did not follow) and drafting a liability waiver (very important) among other things. They also gave us numerous reference sources. Additionally, being a runner, I rely on a network of fellow runners and coaches for information and suggestions on what has worked for them or their athletes.

I also continue to read as much as I can to continue growing my understanding of running. That said, my “business” still remains a “side gig” at best. I may place some ads in local running shops, Starbucks or Craigslist to try to obtain a few more clients, but I do not really have a sound business plan. I am hoping the referral method continues to bear fruit.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start something on the side?
Find something that you actually like doing because it will require time away from your family on weekends/evenings, so it had better be worth it. Also, find a supportive spouse who will allow you to do a side gig for very little money simply because you enjoy it.

Looking back, is there anything you might do differently?
If I was serious about making this a business, I would invest in a website and get more involved with formal running groups and running stores. I think that is where you get a ton of leads. However, I generally like to run by myself as it helps me unwind and think about issues and other things, so it is hard for me to fake being a very social person. The website would be useful as I think it gives a certain degree of credibility to the side gig. I could have testimonials, bio, etc. and that could lead to more running clients. My wife gave birth to my son on 7/31, so I have been hesitant about taking on more clients.

Thanks Robert!

I hope you enjoyed the interview – If you know someone who would make for a good profile/interview for Side Gig Thursdays, please let me know!

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4 Responses to “Side Gig Thurdays: Robert Bragoli, Marathon Trainer”

  1. I like this idea of tracking side-gigs. Keep it up!

  2. Allison says:

    Jim- I have a side gig, I work as an on call medical interpreter. You can interview any medical interpreter because it’s a side job for most of the people on the industry.

  3. celia says:

    I think it’s really interesting that you’ve focused specifically on marathon training. I’ll be cursing you out as I try to get from wedding to wedding in NYC on November 4th, but it’s only one day of inconvenience!

    Good luck!

  4. Leisa says:

    Congrats on the first side gig article Jim! Fantastic idea!


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