Adapt is the name of the game for coaches
Exercise instructor Law goes from 1 client in her first online session to 100, while others find work as food delivery riders or ambassadors
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, freelance group exercise instructor Jeslyn Law conducted Zumba, dance fitness and other exercise classes for around 750 students a week.
But, once circuit breaker measures came into effect on April 7 to curb the spread of the virus, the 45-year-old was left with virtually no clients and a lingering uncertainty about how she could continue to make a living from a career that spanned 12 years.
As the bulk of her clientele did not pay for her sessions - they were paid for by community centres or shopping malls who organised the workouts - she initially struggled to build up a client base.
But, while many other professionals in the sports and fitness industry have had to take on other jobs to make ends meet, Law has managed to move her business online.
Starting from scratch, she now has over 100 clients who pay between $4.50 and $10 per online session via electronic transfer methods such as PayNow. The fees depend on the type and length of class.
She said that while it is tough - with Sport Singapore and various online channels offering free exercise classes- it is possible to get a piece of the fitness pie with good research, marketing and customer service.
Law told The New Paper: "For the first month, I was struggling. My first class had only one student, no one wanted to pay for classes...
"So I did around 100 surveys on Facebook and group chats to find out what type of classes people wanted, what timings they wanted and how much they were willing to pay.
"I also did a lot of marketing on social media and by word of mouth and had some free trial classes. I had to explain why it was different from just watching exercise videos on YouTube, how I could correct their movements and techniques during Zoom classes.
"Service is very important. Even during a free lesson, you have to make sure people are doing the right technique and movement. Now, sometimes I extend my classes by half an hour if there are things they need to work on."
However, of the seven sports and fitness professionals TNP spoke to, only Law has managed to make ends meet without taking on alternative employment.
Most have received a one-off payment of $500 via the Temporary Relief Fund and have applied or are applying for the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, which offers a $9,000 payout over nine months.
Those who coach co-curricular activities at schools can also opt for an advance payment of 40 per cent of their annual contract, capped at $3,000.
Despite the Government aid, six of the seven individuals have seen their income drop after taking on new jobs, with the pay cuts ranging from 30-80 per cent.
Freelance football coach Dawood Anuar, freelance swimming coach Tan Jia Nian and swim school-tuition centre owner Jerry Toh have become food delivery riders.
Dawood, who coaches Nanyang Primary School, National Football League side South Avenue SC and at the Darren Stewart and ActiveSG academies, has been a Grab delivery rider since April 1.
The 36-year-old works at least six days a week for eight hours a day, clocking 18-25km daily on his newly purchased bicycle.
Despite this, he earns just half of what he used to as a football coach - a profession he profoundly misses.
Said Dawood: "What I earn for a two-hour coaching session will take me 10 hours to earn with Grab, eight hours if I'm lucky... It's no joke. I respect delivery riders who do this as a full-time job...
LOVE MY JOB
"I can earn the same amount as I earned coaching, but I would have to work maybe 14- 15 hour days...
"From a coaching point of view, I really miss it. I love my job... but all of a sudden everything is suspended. It's very demoralising."
Like Dawood, The Water Family Enrichment Centre owner Toh is also a Grab delivery rider.
The 35-year-old has seen his income drop by 80 per cent, despite working seven days a week, for 10-12 hours a day. But at the same time, his horizons have widened.
Said Toh: "Being a Grab rider is really tough. You see a lot of things in life that as a coach and business owner you don't face."
He explained that unlike coaching where he mostly gives directions, as a delivery rider, he is mostly taking instructions and having to placate frustrated food vendors and customers.
Unlike Dawood and Toh, Tan still earns some income from his main employer Odysseus Aquatics, doing ad hoc jobs and teaching Zoom classes focused on swimming techniques.
But he still has to take on a supplementary job at Foodpanda for the bulk of his income.
He feels his current schedule, where he works seven days a week for six to seven hours a day, is more physically draining than being a swim coach.
Said Tan: "It's definitely more physical... Yes, we do spend a lot of time soaking in the water as swim coaches, but it's not as strenuous.
"But if you are riding or cycling to deliver food, it's a lot of physical work under the hot sun... Then there is also a lot of waiting time in between the rushing."
Freelance swimming coach Chan Guan Ki, meanwhile, finds his job as a safe distancing ambassador more "manageable".
The 26-year-old works 32 hours a week, over five days.
Previous media reports have suggested that the role - which involves ensuring businesses and individuals comply with safe-distancing measures - offers a monthly salary of up to $2,500.
Said Chan: "I'd say it's been manageable... I'm thankful for what I have and that I can still earn a living...
"Most of the time, it's the elderly who tend to be more stubborn, but as long as we approach them in a nice manner... they will usually listen."
Also on the frontline is freelance athletics coach Sky Khoo, who previously worked a safe distancing ambassador but is now a venue ambassador.
Despite his monthly income of $1,200-$1,500 being a 60 per cent drop from when he was coaching, Khoo finds his new job "rewarding".
The 36-year-old dons personal protective equipment for eight-hour shifts, four times a week at Clementi Sports Hall, where he looks after foreign workers who are in essential services and do not have Covid-19 symptoms.
"For me, the job is rewarding," said Khoo, who coaches athletics at Nanhua Primary School, School of Science and Technology, Singapore and Sky Athletics Club.
Of everyone TNP spoke to, only The Aquatics Swim School owner Jerad Cha said it was possible to earn as much in his new job as he did before.
But the 29-year-old is more fortunate than his peers as he has a previous career to fall back on. The former lighting technical director at Lucasfilm now edits wedding and corporate videos. He also creates 2D graphics.
Said Cha: "As a freelance digital artist, we work on a project basis. Some weeks, I can do better but (on) other weeks, I may not have any projects and will do very badly...
"But I definitely feel more fortunate than most other coaches because of my digital background."