How do you make money as a bodybuilder or physique athlete? When it comes down to it, bodybuilding is not much different from other sports or contests, in that that only a fraction of the contestants can truly earn a living by participating in the sport or contest exclusively. Those who are not in the top tier of athleticism have to financially support themselves in other ways, which might include working a regular job. You may not know this, but all of my entrepreneurial success is a direct result of my early days as a competitive bodybuilder. Take a look!
In this article, I’m going to highlight a number of ideas you can use to generate income as a bodybuilder or physique athlete. One thing to note is that the info presented can also be applied to anyone with a personal or business brand. So even if you are a mixed martial arts athlete or a beautician, most of these strategies can still be applied.
The main focus will be on money-making ideas that do not require a significant amount of capital to get started. After all, this is the Leonard School of Business Innovation, where the focus is on entrepreneurs who don’t come from wealth, but have the potential to be great.
I would also like to say the strategies you will hear about today do not require a lot of time, which I understand is subjective. But what I will say is that whatever the time commitment, the financial reward will always be worth it. I will also include some ideas for those who may have a bit of extra capital to infuse into a business venture.
If you are starting from ground zero, here are some things you can do to generate income:
Join Affiliate Programs
The first thing I would consider is joining affiliate programs. I like this because it is an automated process for generating income. Simply add a special tracking link or advertisement on your website, and when your audience clicks on the link to make a purchase, you earn a commission. In fact, you don’t even need a website to benefit from affiliate links. You can embed an affiliate link into your email signature. Affiliate programs can be a good source of income for both those who are just starting out or already established.
When I first started on the internet, this was the way I generated most of my income. Check out this example below. This is one of my old websites. It was like Yelp for bodybuilding supplements. But you can see how I incorporated the affiliate links. In this case, the links are relevant to the page content.
If you’re just getting started with affiliate programs, one thing to avoid is trying to promote everything. Since bodybuilders have a personal brand, it’s best to promote things you actually use or would be willing to use. So, if you are using a certain training product or specific website to buy your supplements, then promote those exclusively.
For those who have a larger following, it is possible you can negotiate with various affiliate program managers to possibly get a higher commission rate than they would normally pay out. For example, if you’ve been featured in media publications, or you have greater than 30,000 followers, you might be able to negotiate a higher commission rate.
If you have a larger following, sometimes affiliate program managers will create exclusive promotion codes which can be entered by your customers. It can be a win for everyone involved. The customer gets a discount, you get a kickback, and the affiliate program host gets new customers.
Start a Blog
For this discussion, blogging and article writing are synonymous. With blogging, we are planting a seed for future discoverability. This is going to help increase your odds of being found in search engines for years to come. We don’t want to focus solely on making Youtube videos. The reason is because Google tends to give more weight to text-based content. In fact, search engines only know what your Youtube videos are about primarily because of the title and also the audio or voice from your video, which by the way is automatically transcribed into text, which can further be analyzed for relevance, and thus inclusion in search results. This is why you want to give, I would say, equal weight to blogging and videos. One thing I always do is make my articles slightly different than the words from the video. The Google bots might interpret two identical sources of information as duplicate content, which can sometimes result in a lower ranking.
Write a Book
Why not write a book? This was another one of my early income streams, and trust me, this can be fruitful if you can figure out a way to stand out. I made a significant amount of revenue with my self-published Abdominal Secrets Revealed. When I say write a book, you do not have to actually publish a printed book. You can create an ebook, initially, and then get it printed once revenue is commensurate with the cost of publishing a printed book.
The end goal should be to have both an ebook, as well as a printed version of the book. As you begin to gain a following, you will want to have something physically available for things like autographs. Ideally, you would always have something tangible, that is above $25 that you can sell [such as a book], and then autograph the book.
The contents of the book can be whatever you think would be of interest to your audience, regardless if it has already been done before.
Create a Course
Next, we are going to explore the possibility of creating a course; an online course. The word "course" now has a different meaning than when I started in 1998. In the old days, a course consisted of a series of 5 to 10 three-ring binders with progressive lessons in each. Now, here is why I really like the course idea: compared to publishing a book, a course was considerably less work to create and you could charge a higher price for it. That still holds true today. Typical price range for a printed book: $20 – $40. Online courses will probably start at $149.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and the internet is exponentially faster, so we can now do things like video courses. The key thing with a video course is that it doesn’t have to be long. People don’t have that kind of time these days. So, in your course, the focus should be on getting the consumer from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time possible. You would do a series of modules, and then break them up into smaller videos that are roughly 15 min or less (under 10 minutes is even better). Then ideally, a user would complete the entire course in a total time of about 10 to 25 hours… and that’s if they were watching the content non-stop.
If you find that your course needs to be longer than this, figure out a way to reduce the volume of content. If you run into trouble reducing the content, then create additional courses. These can be sold separately, sold as upgrades, or sold as bundles. You can also give away extra content as a bonus. By the way, you make the most money by offering more than one course. In a perfect world, we should have about three price points. Reason? For people that can’t afford your flagship course, you need something affordable for them; like maybe an intro course that costs between $40 and $80. For people that can afford the middle and upper tier courses, you should consider offering a VIP package where they get all the courses plus other perks like a virtual meet and greet.
The ideal scenario would be to offer both a book and a series of courses because people have different preferences. Some people like books, just as some people want to hold, read, and smell the newspaper. Another advantage of a book is you can pack it with more content than the course would offer.
Host An Online Event
With this strategy, you are going to host an online event and charge a fee for viewership or participation. There are a few ways to do this. The first is you can have a gradual lead up to your fee-based online event: So there will be periodic announcements and reminders that on a specific date, your event will take place. Try to get registrations in advance. You can say something like, "If you pre-pay before this date, the fee is this. Then after that deadline, the fee is that."
The real-world example of how this strategy would be applied is you create some type of video: let’s say a documentary, and you are charging for access to see the premier. At the end of the documentary, you can field questions from the viewers. For all attendees, you can email and thank them for attending the event. Within that email, you can also present another offer. For those that wanted to attend but couldn’t make it, you can also send them a separate email stating, “Sorry you couldn’t make it. Here’s what you missed,” and “Oh, by the way, we have this other thing that you can register for in advance.” That other thing can be an encore presentation available at a discount, but minus all the added bonuses from the live event, such as the ability to interact with you. It can also be for a future event.
The second strategy is to do a live event for free, then try to sell something during or at the end of the event. In this scenario, you are going to do the same lead up, but the offer is for something free. Let’s use a Q&A session where people can ask you anything, or maybe a virtual training session where you teach your audience how to do something. Or maybe you’re going to reveal a top 10 list. At the end of the event, you would try to offer something for sale (e.g. book or course).
The third strategy is to do a live event for free, but with the main goal of growing your audience. So you set up the live event, but solely for the purpose of capturing emails; because once we have those emails, we can interact with those users in the future. Learn more about how to grow an audience in my free 90-Day Online Launch Guide.
Another cool thing is there is no limit to how many events you can run. You can do them monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or whatever interval you determine. But the best strategy really depends on what type of online event you plan to host.
Also, the events can be as elaborate as you want them to be. You can bring in someone to host your event: a master of ceremonies. They can dramatically introduce you with music playing in the background. They can also filter questions from the virtual audience to be later answered by you during the live event. All of this is possible.
I’m not sure if you noticed yet, but in all the given examples, an email is being sent to the customer at some point. It is possible that anything you intend to sell can be done entirely through email or after they attend the event. You don’t have to display pricing on your website. Instead, you can sell on the backend via email. After they attend an event, they would receive an email, and within that email, you would include a link to a sales page where a purchase can be made.
Start a Podcast
Starting a podcast is definitely something that has a longer time commitment before you get to the point of monetization. However, the reason I like the idea of a podcast is because it can be used to grow an audience. Let’s talk about the science behind why podcasting works. People tune in to listen to things they find interesting. The most popular podcasts tend to feature a host conducting an interview with a guest. This is the key to increasing the level of interest in your podcast. The guest is always going to tell their own audience where and when they will be featured on another platform. This is the secret formula for growing an audience quickly.
Sometimes, having one or more co-hosts can make things interesting by adding different dynamics. While the format of your podcast is important, what’s even more important is that you use podcasting as a way to direct listeners back to your website where something is being promoted.
Coaching or Consulting
What if I told you that with a coaching or consulting revenue model, you can make a lot of money by doing less work and charging higher fees? With coaching, you are making yourself available either to a small group or a single client. As a rising athlete, your time is limited. You are in demand. And people see some type of value in what you are doing. Why not monetize your time, knowledge, and resources by offering coaching to high value or VIP clients? Here’s how it works: You are going to charge a premium price because they are getting direct access to you.
Preferred clients are the ones who can pay, say, $3,600 or more for VIP access. There is a small group of customers who can actually afford the Ferrari. There is a small group of people who want the first-class seats on an airline. Celebs always pay for the best attorneys when they need to get out of legal trouble. For the premium coaching service, you are not going to target ordinary customers. If they say, “Man, I can get a top-rated personal trainer for $200/hr,” we can easily rule them out as a preferred customer. The ordinary customers will ask for refunds and complain about trivial things.
So how do we filter out unwanted prospects? We can use a questionnaire to screen for high-profile clients, where cost is never an issue and value is of most importance. Once the client signs up for the service, you are going to focus solely on getting them results as quickly as possible. Most of the VIP customers simply want to pay for the best services, purely because they can. You are creating a service or price point exclusively for this unique group.
Start a Media Company
As a bodybuilder or physique athlete, you will likely find yourself attending several contests as a spectator. Why not turn that passion into a potential business? You can start small. Simply attend the shows, make observations, write down what you saw, then blog about it. Actually, you technically no longer have to write down anything. I keep forgetting this is the 21st Century. Now you can open up a doc on your phone. Turn on the voice feature and talk out your thoughts, and they will be automatically transcribed into text.
To give yourself an edge, you can announce to your audience that the results for specific contests will be posted live on your website or elsewhere (maybe your Twitter page). This is an easy way to get tons of viewers to your platform. People want to know whenever they are featured in a publication. They also want to share that type of content within their network.
What about live streaming the event? In time, you might be able to obtain press credentials for these contests. But the key here is as you begin to grow, you can do things like sell advertising or post affiliate links on your platform to generate income. We’re turning a hobby into a business.
Next, you can figure out a way to get people to pay for something every month. This idea works best for someone with a larger following. However, it can work with smaller crowds as well; and the word “smaller” is arbitrary but let’s assume an audience or customer base of 100 or less.
The customer's credit card is on file and they are paying for a product or service, month after month. What can you offer to create this level of value for your customers? One in which they where they are willing to pay monthly? There are a few options: Let’s say you have been making “how-to” videos for the past year. You’ve amassed quite an archive and now we have this extensive library of video content that can be monetized. You can charge a monthly fee for access to those videos.
What about missed live events? In this case, you hosted exclusive online events and people want to see those replays because they were unable to attend. You can charge a monthly fee for unlimited access to the content. In addition, you might explore the implementation of an online community where like-minded individuals can connect with each other. Simply create a member community as an incentive for others to join, in addition to being able to access your exclusive content. When people are able to interact with others, member retention rates go up. Another plus is the online membership strategy will give you predictable income each month.
Your experience as a bodybuilder or physique athlete is always an asset. But you can further build upon your athletic expertise through personal training. When I first started out, I got certified through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), because in 1999, they were the only reputable certifying organization to offer online certification. At the time, a written portion of the final exam was done through snail mail and graded by a human. But this allowed me to have a basic understanding of the health sciences, and not solely bodybuilding expertise.
Once you obtain the proper credentials, you can partner with either a private studio or a larger gym. Caution: With regard to personal training at an establishment that you don’t own, there are a few downsides. It can be difficult for talented individuals to perform their jobs due to frequent interruptions. People want to associate with you when you have popularity.
Secondly, if you don’t own the facility, you will never get paid what you’re worth. As a rising talent, I would look at personal training as an opportunity to learn the trade. So you are there to not only learn how to help others reach their goals, but also to study closely how the money is made. Then look to graduate to the next level, which is to start your own facility, which might initially be out of a garage.
This advice is applicable for anyone destined for greatness. If you are a makeup artist, take a job as makeup artists, perfect your craft, learn the ropes, meaning the business side of things, then spread your wings.
So far, I have presented you with a number of potential sources of income that don’t require a significant time investment or financial commitment. As a reminder, the same techniques work for both amateur and professional athletes. The strategies also work for any skill or trade in which you have experience. You do not have to be an expert.
Next, I’m going to talk about some additional opportunities for those who are a bit more established and have greater financial resources at their disposal.
Sell Branded Products
One of the first things to think about is establishing a simple logo for your brand. Notice how I said, “simple.” Depending on your goals, you might decide to try monetizing things like T-shirts, leggings, wrist wraps, and other gear. You will want to focus on simplicity. Consider using a one-color logo. Less color is better as it will save you money on printing costs in the long run. Also, not everything you print on will have an option to do multiple colors. Over the years, you will see that several large companies have simplified their original logos. There is a reason for this. Your logo should be easily identifiable, preferably in all black or white. Think of the Gold’s Gym logo. And yes, the logo can be just your name.
But as you grow, you may want to consider mobile app development where a smaller icon might be used in place of maybe a traditional text logo. In this case, you might use a symbol or maybe your brand’s initials. With regard to how you can obtain your own uniquely branded products, you have a few options: The first is to partner with someone who already makes the products. The second is to source your own from overseas. Common items like T-shirts can be made locally.
Start a Gym
If you are a bit more established, you can start a gym. With the right credit profile, you can obtain enough equipment to furnish your gym, with no money down, by way of an equipment lease. There are different types of equipment leases. For example, once you have fulfilled your lease obligations, you can choose to own the equipment outright. Or you can trade in the old equipment for new equipment and begin a new lease agreement. In some arrangements, your first payment may not begin for several months, which frees up additional capital, which can be put toward other startup costs.
The cost to lease gym space will probably be your largest expense when starting out. To keep overhead costs under control, you will want to offer personal training in addition to regular memberships. This allows you to secure more income from both new and existing members. This method works in even the smallest of gyms, where other revenue-boosting strategies such as group fitness classes require significantly more square footage.
If you are a rising talent, there may be sponsorship opportunities. Sometimes the sponsors will approach you. Sometimes you have to approach potential sponsors. Sponsorship can mean different things. There is of course a monetary sponsorship. But this is usually only reserved for the one percent. What if you are not competing at the professional level yet, but are starting to get noticed? There are a few things we can explore:
There are product sponsorships, where you might be able to get free or discounted products in exchange for your promotion as an emerging athlete. There may be sponsorship opportunities where they pay for travel and/or other expenses related to competition. Around 1998, I was a member of the United States Air Force World Class Athlete Program, and they covered my travel expenses.
But the level of potential sponsorship really comes down to your value as a brand. You can make a case for sponsorship through social proof. If you have an audience which consists of 30,000 people, that will probably be worth something to a sponsor. If you have an audience of 100,000, that is worth even more.
Also, when seeking sponsorship, it is best to be clear about what you can bring to the table. As the owner of Workoutz.com, I would receive an estimated 40 or more sponsorship and donation inquiries per year. Of those seeking sponsorship, very few offered an explanation of what we would get in exchange for donations or sponsorships. The ones I preferred to sponsor were the ones who were detailed in 1) how the funds would be used 2) any promotion we would receive in exchange for our sponsorship.
If you are reaching out to a sponsor, try to put yourself in their shoes. The key is to make it a win-win for everyone involved. Let’s look at a real-world example: Suppose you have been taking a protein supplement for years. As your popularity grows, you would reach out to the manufacturer and explain how their protein has been instrumental to your success, and that you would like to explore the possibility of a sponsorship. You would tell them you have X number of followers on this platform, X number of followers on that platform, and this is what I would be willing to do to further promote your product. Then you would explain how you will make various recipes on video incorporating the protein, or maybe showing you making a shake after a workout, or simply featuring the container in the backdrop of your videos. You would then say, if applicable, that you did similar videos with other products received X number of views within a specific time period. So you’re leading with an explanation of how they win by partnering with you.
Become An Event Promoter
If you have the time, money, and resources, you can try promoting your own contest. Event promotions can be tricky because it has a lot of moving parts. There is a lot involved. You have to find a venue. A high school auditorium is probably going to have the lowest cost. There may be liability insurance requirements. Who is going to do your ticketing? What about parking? What about a cleaning crew? What about booth space? Will food and drinks be served? What about security? Who is going to host/MC the event? What is your strategy for advertising or promoting the event? How many contestants will actually be seen at the main event? Will it just be the top five? Will there be an intermission? How many weight divisions? Who will present the contest awards? Who will manage sponsors and what are the different levels of sponsorship? Who will DJ? Who will set up the sound? Who will create the contest entry forms? Will you feature a high-profile guest? What are the contest rules? Who will manage social media and the contest website?
You can see the level of thought required to run a successful event. But the financial rewards may be worth the pain. Also, you might be able to higher an event planner to facilitate all aspects of your contest. If you decide to partner with one of the larger bodybuilding organizations, they will probably have ready-made templates for show promoters. If done right, just a contest or two can generate enough revenue to last an entire year… and that’s after expenses.
Paid Speaking Engagements
You should always look to leverage your athletic success in different ways. Do you have a unique story that inspires or motivates us to do something? Maybe you’ve had to overcome a significant hurdle to get to where you are? Is there a lesson that can be learned from your life experiences? Can you stand in front of a corporate audience or high school classroom and give a presentation about weight management and exercise? There may be opportunity to make money telling your story.
My suggestion is to start out by telling your story for free. Try to get honest feedback. Your story may not be unique enough. Your delivery and energy may need to be elevated. Make any necessary improvements. Perfect your presentation. Be prepared to show examples of your speaking ability. Make it easy to discover this content online. Try to get speaker recommendations. Then market your services or hire an agent to book paid speaking gigs. An agent gets paid on commission and will take a percentage of whatever they negotiate with the customer.
Bringing It All Together
You can combine a lot of these ideas to create multiple purchase options for your customers, and for you, multiple sources of income. If we go back and explore some of these ideas, you will see that many can be used concurrently. Earlier I discussed the recurring revenue model. Did I mention that you can sell access to your books, courses, and coaching services in a recurring revenue format?
Which other ideas can be merged to further boost revenue? How about blogging, selling a book, selling a course or multiple courses, hosting a virtual event in order to promote an offer, establishing a podcast in order to get listeners to sign up for something, selling coaching services, or establishing a paid membership site. And what if I told you that you can manage all of these services under one roof? What if I told you that you can automate the entire email process? From the time someone signs up for your online event, and the days leading up to the event, you can autonomously send email reminders. You can even automate the “thank you for attending” email. Or suppose at your live event that some of the attendee questions didn’t get answered, you can follow up with them and include offers in your email signature. For example, you would respond to the question and if it applies, maybe mention that you offer coaching services, which sends them to an initial screening questionnaire.
The service I use for this is called Kajabi. I would describe it as one of the premier software platforms for knowledge entrepreneurs. It handles everything I mentioned previously, plus customer payments. What about the scheduling for things like coaching? This is all possible within the framework of Kajabi. For podcasts, you do a single recording and you can spider the audio out to the major streaming platforms simultaneously: Spotify, Audible, Soundcloud, Apple, done.
There are some comparable services that exist, which offer software that is similar to Kajabi. I discuss these in the free 90-Day Online Launch Guide. Definitely check it out because I briefly go into some of the advantages of the most popular ones. In fact, one of them is an abbreviated service, compared to Kajabi, but requires no fee to get started. Instead, they take a percentage whenever you generate a sale. Not a bad idea if you want to test your course or book idea before joining the big leagues.
Lastly, if you ever have a business or entrepreneurship question, send it in via the “Ask Justin” form on the homepage. I will try to respond within 12 hours. If you found this information helpful, please share it with a friend.
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