Andrew: Hey there Freedom Fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. And you know how the fitness business just seems impossibly, impossibly competitive? Well, today I’ve got a story for you of a nerd, who despite all that competition, built a profitable business by blogging about fitness. Steve Kamb is the founder of Nerd Fitness, a site that helps the Average Joe and desk jockey get in shape.
I invited him here to talk about all the things that you, if you are considering blogging, are going to want to hear about, like how he got his traffic, how he got revenue, how he built up the community, and so on. And we’ll also find out about his background. And it’s all thanks to this man right here, Walker Corporate Law. Excuse me, that’s not the man, that’s his firm. Scott Edward Walker is his name. His firm is available at Walker Corporate Law.
This is actually just a prop right now. I don’t have any water or anything in it. I’ll fill it up. And while I do, Steve, why don’t we go directly to the money question. What kind of revenue could you pull in from a fitness blog?
Steve: Sure, well I’m proud to say that last year we closed just a few bucks shy of half a million dollars last year, and you know what’s funny, is it’s more money than I ever expected to make from this site, and yet there was still that little tiny part of me that was like “man, couldn’t get to 500,” and so it gives me something to shoot for this year I guess.
Andrew: I’m looking around. I don’t see women, pool, Lamborghinis, mansion, or anything. What have you bought for yourself with all this success?
Steve: Today, actually I just got back from getting a haircut. Specifically, for you Andrew, I wanted to make sure . . .
Andrew: Thank you.
Steve: . . . I looked good for this interview, and I bought some new socks. So I thought that was a pretty big splurge on my part. Beyond that, honestly, I’ve tried to maintain my life as really not very different now than it was two years ago before I was making a really great living. And I think it was just really important for me to stay grounded, and to make sure that money goes to important things, whether it’s donating more money to charity, or on more exciting travel experiences.
I’ve just come to learn over these past few years of travelling and adventuring that experiences trump possessions 99 times out of a hundred. So life is really no different. It’s just kind of a fun way to see hey this business it working really well, and it’s helping a lot of people get healthy.
Andrew: You know I’m looking at myself here, as we talk, in that little window that Skype gives me that shows me what I look like, and I’m thinking, this guy got a haircut. I’m still in a t-shirt. I thought that the t-shirt looks so much better in person. I’m going to put on a real shirt. If you’re going to dress up for me, I want to dress up for you.
Andrew: Let’s get nice, look good. Here we go. I always work in t-shirts.
Steve: Oh nice shirt.
Andrew: I can’t deal with long-sleeve shirts. But for interviews, I should put them on. I think it makes me look like a man, as opposed to a little boy. What do you think?
Steve: That’s how I am. I’m rocking a t-shirt too, so I’ve got that set.
Andrew: You know you’re kind of rocking it because you’re fit. I saw photos of you without a shirt on. I get it. Let me see if I understand your background. You’re not a nerd now.
Steve: Oh I’m always a nerd.
Andrew: You feel like you still are.
Andrew: What makes you a nerd? You seem like an okay guy, well put together.
Steve: Well, I think nerd is a term that, there are a million different kinds of nerds. Personally, I’ve built my own computer. I’m a huge book worm. I love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. I’m a huge gamer. I just have also chosen to try to improve my life from an appearance perspective and even worked on social skills and things like that. So, it’s funny. When I got my haircut today, the lady was like “you’re not a nerd.” I was like “oh, what do you want to talk about? Do you want to get into Star Wars trivia, or what do you want to do?”
Andrew: I see, okay.
Steve: So I am proud to say that I am a nerd.
Andrew: But you were in construction before this?
Steve: Yeah, actually my first job out of college, I was a salesman for a construction equipment company, so I had a company truck, and I had a hard hat, and I’d go around to job sites and try to sell forklifts and jackhammers and all sorts of equipment that I had very little experience in working with and selling. So that was a fun couple years of my life for sure.
Andrew: Is this the company that outfitted you with a GPS, outfitted your car with a GPS?
Steve: Well, yeah, that was the moment I knew I had to leave. So I had just been promoted to outside sales. And the reason I was promoted was because the guy that was in front of me walked in one day and quit and threw his keys at the boss. And there was nobody else for them to hire. So the boss then flipped the keys to me and said, “You’re now an official outside salesman, go get ’em.” I’m like “oh, okay.”
Then about a week later, the company let us know that they had installed GPS devices on every truck, every sales truck. And I remember getting a phone call from my boss at 7:05 in the morning, because he told me, he said, “I can still see your truck. It’s parked in front of your apartment. You’re supposed to leave by 7:00. Why are you still at home?”
Steve: And that’s when I was, like, “There is no way in hell I’m just going to do this for another 40 years of my life.” So, actually, what I did is, I was so miserable at this job, and this will speak more to my nerd qualities here, too. But I would drive to different job sites and then as I would get there, I would get rejected for the particular thing I was trying to sell to this company, that wanted nothing to do with me.
Steve: And I would sit in my car and try to recoup. And I would sit in my car for about 10 minutes at each job site, and read Harry Potter, because that was when the 7th book had just come out, and I was, like, “I have to get through this.” But I knew that my boss was tracking me. And I was, like, “This is miserable.” If I can get through my job in two hours and do better than everybody else, but I’m driving around for eight hours, hitting up different spots, then it wasn’t going to work.
So, that was definitely a wakeup call that sales and having Big Brother watch over my shoulder all day, every day was not . . .
Steve: . . . for me, for sure.
Andrew: You bought your domain, Nerd Fitness, and you sat on it for a year before you launched it. Why’d you wait so long?
Steve: I got my college degree in economics. I had always been a huge fan of health and fitness. I had been training in a gym since I was 16, trying to get strong and healthy. But it was always just kind of a hobby, a fun passion of mine. But not something I ever really seriously considered as a business.
So when I had the idea to start Nerd Fitness as a website, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make revenue with it. I wasn’t sure if people were going to respect and trust the message that I was presenting. I just assumed if I don’t have ten different certifications, who is going to listen to me as a personal trainer? Who’s going to read my website and think that I know what I’m talking about?
So I spent that next year, actually, I quit the sales job in San Diego, and had moved to Atlanta to take, actually, a much better job, for way less money. But I was happy. And while I was there, I started officially getting certified as a personal trainer, because that’s what I thought I needed. So I wanted more to give myself the confidence to start writing and things like that.
It wasn’t until I started, really, that honestly, people respected and trusted my authority. Specifically because I came from outside of the fitness realm, in that, I didn’t have those certifications. That I was more a regular . . .
Andrew: But didn’t you need your certifications?
Steve: . . . average . . .
Andrew: I mean, I looked at the early version of your site. You mention the certification. It gave you confidence, and it gave people who are reading your site confidence. Here, look, “Hi, I’m Steve Kamb, and I’m a AAAI Certified Personal Trainer living in Atlanta, Georgia. I currently work full-time at Sixthman.” So, the first thing you say is, “certification.”
Andrew: So you thought it was valuable at the time. Do you still think that it was valuable to start off with that?
Steve: I think, not specifically the certification, but more, I think, maybe the confidence it gave me to finally hit publish, and start. So, I think that certification, and it was a certification I earned in a weekend. And now, looking back, I know other people that have those certifications in commercial gyms, and they are not qualified to be teaching people. It’s really unfortunate, the state of the personal training industry.
But, honestly, I think it was very important for me to earn that certification and see something that told me, like, “Hey dude, you do know what you’re talking about. You have been studying and working on this stuff for six years. At least, you now have a piece of paper that you can point to, while you’re trying to get your name established, so that people can learn and respect you.”
And it’s funny, now, if you go to my website, the first thing I put on there, it’s, like, the third or fourth paragraph, it says, “I am not an expert.” I don’t even talk about my certification anymore, because I didn’t feel like that was an important part to who I was, and the message and the value that I was going to bring to the audience.
Andrew Steve, someone’s listening to us, and says, “I’d like to start creating this career for myself. I’m blogging, I’m writing, and I’m holding back.” Would you advise them to publish anyway or to go and find some BS certification that will give them confidence and make people care about what they have to say?
Steve: That’s a great question. Honestly, I think it depends on the industry. I think, for me, personally with fitness, I felt like that certification gave me the confidence to start getting published. The truth of the matter is, in my first nine months of writing, not very many people were reading anyways.
So I think I probably could have given myself a much faster start, instead of taking that entire year to freak out, if I had taken that year to maybe even start writing and chronicling my journey with, “Hey, I’ve been reading and studying this stuff for six, ten years,” at that point. “I’m also going to get a certification. This is the path that I’m on.” And then, once getting that certification, continuing further.
So I think that the biggest thing that holds people back is they’re terrified that people are going to read . . . The worst, I mean the best thing that could happen to them is that they publish and somebody is actually going to read it. You know? When you first start nobody is really reading anyways.
I think it’s important to kind of get those first couple of months under your belt, out of the way, and, and as I think Jonathon Field says, talks about, building a crappy guitar. Like, you got to kind of build a couple of crappy guitars at first, when nobody’s reading to, or when nobody’s watching whatever, until you get to that point where you start to feel more confident about it.
Andrew: Okay, I think I’m getting it. So yes, getting a crappy certification is one option. Especially if you can do it in a weekend. So, so much the better. But, maybe even just start and allow yourself to build towards it or towards. . .just let people watch a journey of a novice and that in itself is valuable
Steve: Sure and honesty. I mean I think so many people these days are gurus of everything and they, they attain this personal trainer, or they attain some, like you said, some BS certification and then they think they’re God’s gift to, to the audience you know? I went about it from a different direction in more, just like, hey guys I’m here to help. I love helping people.
This is the method that I feel like I can best contribute to you. I’m still learning. I will always be learning, but I, I’m, I’ve no doubt in my mind that, you know, I will work tirelessly to try to try to help you on your path and I think that that honesty and transparency is, is really valuable as well.
Andrew: Okay. So you finally launched. Clearly it’s a WordPress site. I went on to that WordPress site and looked on the very bottom. Let’s me see where my notes are, and saw Vigilance theme by Jester. So you just used a free theme.
Steve: Yeah, I used a free theme for, wow; I think it was over, about, I think just over two years to be honest with you. I didn’t, I mean I am not a coder. I am not a designer. As I said, I’m, for me being a nerd; it is not in the backend coding part of it or graphic design. It’s, I just used a free, a free template and trusted in the fact that my content was going to be the differentiator between the business, and between myself and, and the millions of other fitness sites out there.
Andrew: And it looks like it. It looks a straight up blog. Doesn’t even try to pretend to be something that it’s not like a magazine or anything. Doesn’t even, frankly, try to pretend to look pretty. Did you feel . . .
Steve: [??] [laughs]
Andrew: . . .no, did you feel any hesitation about launching with this, with this thing that wasn’t, beautiful?
Steve: No, honestly I think for me the launch was more important than waiting until everything was perfect. As you see now the site is way different than it was when I started. I’ve gone through three or four transformations of the site since then. The second of which was actually done be a guy who did it for free because he e-mailed me and said, “Steve your site is so archaic that, I love what you are doing. I love the content but it needs an update so I’m going to fix it and make it pretty for you, for free.”
So but that wasn’t until two years after I had started. I think the just getting started and that’s everybody’s hesitation. They need, oh, I need to have social media set up properly and I need to know if I’m going to be tweeting four times a week or what times articles going to be published. It’s like, don’t worry about that small stuff. Just like with fitness don’t fret about like, teeny tiny changes here and there.
The important thing is getting started because you learn so much along the way and then you just adapt and evolve as things progress. And you learn who’s reading your site, what’s important to them and how, the best way you can help them and thus, the best way you can help yourself go the dis . . .
Andrew: [??] Let’s take it slowly because I want to understand how you did that. It was very deliberate for you . . .
Steve: [??] Sure.
Andrew: . . . to figure out who you were writing for. But in the beginning, did you decide you were going to write on a regular basis, five days a week, every single week?
Steve: To start, I did and I did that because I, I read other popular fitness websites and they had content published five days a week. So I thought to myself and I, I had no clue what I was doing really when I started. It’s like, I’m just, okay they write five times a week so I’m going to write five times a week and at this point I was still working my full time job. So I would work all day long, come home every night, write an article, hit publish the next morning, generally pretty bleary-eyed because I wasn’t sleeping very much.
Andrew: How did you know what to write about?
Steve: At first I wrote about the things I thought I was supposed to write about.
Andrew: For example?
Steve: Then as, slowly, people trickled into the website and they would leave comments. Say like, Oh I really appreciated this article or something. I would e-mail them directly, that one person and say, what are you struggling with and how did you find NerdFitness? You know, and they say like, Oh I found it through a friend or I found it through whatever and I’m really struggling with, with weight loss or I really need a workout plan to follow or something.
So as people would tell me what they are struggling with I would then just create content around those things. There’s only about half a dozen people reading at first so it wasn’t tough to keep those people happy.
Andrew: I, I see here the very first post is NerdFitness Begins. Terrific, you’re explaining what you’re, what you’re trying to do. Second is Food, Best and Worst. I’m a picky eater, it sucks. In my quest to become healthier I’ve tried analyzing what I need to eat and what I don’t need to eat in order to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat.
And you go on from there. That gives us a sense of what that was. Then, you go into Sweating to the Oldies, where you write about that Richard Simmons CD, no, actually, just exercise, in general. And you use Sweating to the Oldies as a hook.
How did you know to write about those? When you say, “I’ve wrote about what I’m supposed to write,” I think I need a little more understanding, because . . .
Andrew: . . . it is so daunting to look at a blank page and say, “I’m going to fill this up with something that the rest of the world is going to want to read.”
Steve: Sure. Well, with Nerd Fitness being a site specifically dedicated to nerds, and myself being a nerd, I honestly thought to myself, “What are things that I’m excited to learn about or things that I want to learn more about?” What are the things that I want to learn more about? Things that I’m struggling with personally?
So it’s, like, “Okay. Well, let’s really dig into this. Something I’ve never done before. Let’s really dig into how a nutrition label on the back of a box, what does everything on that mean?” So then, I would do research on that subject, and then write about it. But just writing about that stuff, in general, is pretty boring. So I thought, “How am I going to make this article interesting and exciting for me to write, let alone, have somebody actually enjoy reading it?”
So I just started sticking my personality and injecting a little bit of that, here and there, into it. Whether it’s Richard Simmons or mixing. And I think, I wrote an article about The Legend of Zelda, to begin with. I mixed in articles about Super Mario. Just things that I thought to myself that, “This sounds like something exciting to me. And something that I’m actually going to enjoy writing.”
And I noticed, half of my articles were things, like, “I should probably write about this.” And the other half were things, like, “This is something that is really interesting to me.” And the ones that were really interesting to me, not surprisingly, became the articles that were really quality. And those are the ones that brought in the readers. And the other ones that were boring, my lack of interest showed through in those articles. And those didn’t get as much traction, either.
Andrew: This one here, with the heavy kid holding the Popsicle, crutching. Is that you?
Steve: No, [laughs] that’s not me.
Andrew: Okay. I was looking here for any post that got comments, to just get a sense of how people responded. Dude, there’s nothing.
Steve: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: No one was commenting.
Steve: In nine months, five articles a week, I had 90 e-mail subscribers. [laughs] 90.
Steve: After publishing, what? It was, like, 100 articles or something, I had 90 e-mails. And that was 90 e-mail and RSS. I didn’t even have an e- mail list, yet. I was just using Google FeedBurner or something. So, it was nine months of struggle, for sure.
Andrew: I shouldn’t say, actually, “No one commented.” This one, of the kid striking a pose, got you four comments.
Andrew: One is, “I can has Popsicle.” The other is, “He just ate Mario.” “Where can I get that flaming rocket hamburger tee?” I guess that’s a shirt that the girl in the background’s wearing. Didn’t you get discouraged? Didn’t you say, “Hey, you know what? I put out a minimum viable product here. Just a simple blog. No one looking at it. Product failed. Let’s go back to GPSing my car.”
Andrew: “What else do I have?” But didn’t you feel that way?
Steve: Yeah. I think at some point, I did. But honestly, I knew I had something. I just knew I hadn’t found the way that I was going to impact people properly, yet. So these moments were the moments that I had to go through to work out my message, and workout the way that I was going to present the content through Nerd Fitness.
And if I go back and read a lot of those early articles, I cringe almost, the content I was putting out. But I knew I had to go through that struggle. But to be honest with you, I was hooked from that very first e- mail I received from a complete stranger that said, “Hey man, I just stumbled across Nerd Fitness. I love your article about Legend of Zelda. I’m going to subscribe. And I’m in the process of losing 40 pounds. And I’ve been following it for a week, and I’m already down my first two. Just want to say thanks.”
As soon as I got one of those nice e-mails from somebody that I’d never met before, and that wasn’t from my mom or my grandma, who were my first two fans, I was hooked. I was, like . . .
Andrew: I know what you mean. I remember when the first compliments came in, I would read them to Olivia, and say, “Olivia, check this out. Look at what this person . . .” To me, it was the greatest thing ever, that someone . . .
Steve: The best.
Andrew: . . . loved it.
Steve: It’s still the fact that anybody reads anything I write is still amazing to me. So . . .
Andrew: I will actually still take screenshots and e-mail it to Olivia, “Check this out.”
Steve: I have a folder in my Gmail that says, I think it’s just called, “Motivation.” And just anytime anybody says something nice, I have to keep that folder around. Because as Nerd Fitness is growing, obviously, there are people that don’t agree with what I’m saying and are not so nice about it. So I have to kind of keep an eye on those things to remind me, like, “You are doing a good thing for a lot of really good people.” And to not forget that. So, yeah, that first e-mail, I was hooked. And I was, like, “If I can find one person, then I can find five. If I can find five, then I can find ten.”
Andrew: I feel that way too, when I get started.
Andrew: And most people will not feel that way, and then they’ll stop. They’ll say, “I can’t even find ten.” If they can find five, they say I can’t find ten, and if they can find ten, they say I can’t find one hundred, it’s time to move on. Alright. So, I see your motivation. I see what keeps you going. But frankly, you can’t take complimentary emails to the grocery store. You can’t feed yourself on that. We have to figure out, then, how you went to the next level. Finding traffic came from writing outside of your site. Am I right?
Steve: Yeah, that’s a fair assessment, for sure. I had been a huge fan of Brett McKay from theartofmanliness.com., for over …
Andrew: I love that guy, yes.
Steve: He’s the best. He’s, like, the world’s most interesting man with the great mustache. He’s just one of those dudes that you interact with and you just, like, I want to be your best friend. He’s kind of like Rob Swanson from Parks and Recreation. Just like a man’s man. Just like a really good dude.
Andrew: I’ve got to tell you, I do love him, but frankly, I don’t care. What I care about is, here’s a part that I love, that makes me really care. If I have to do brunch, I will go and look for recipes online for how to do it. All of it is above me, and beyond me. And I can’t do it. But if I go directly to his site, or do a Google search, site: artofmanliness.com., and brunch recipe, then I got something that I can actually use.
Then I feel like I can kiss that guy with his mustache right on the lips. So, I can hang out with him and other people all day, but really, when it comes down to it, I’m the kind of person who’s, like, what is in it for me? How do I improve my life? And he does. So, you see him doing well, and you do what?
Steve: I see him doing well. I saw the community that he was building. He just seemed like this really honest ethical, he just seemed like a good guy, and it was, like, this is the guy that I would love to send an email to, and just say, hey I really appreciate what you’re doing. So really out of the blue, I just emailed, I think it was Art of Manliness, some basic contact form, and I was just, like, hey Brett, my name’s Steve. I just want to let you know, I am a huge fan of your website.
Both my grandparents fought in World War II, and what you’ve been writing has been really inspirational for me. And he emailed back to say I really appreciate it. Thanks, man, and what do you work on, and blah, blah, blah. So we started bouncing emails back and forth for a couple of months, to be honest with you. And then it finally got to the point where, one of the times he emailed me and said, Steve, by the way, I saw your email address was steve@nerdfitness.
I clicked through your website because I thought that the name is unique. He’s like, I really love what you’re doing. And this was after I had shifted my writing focus from five crappy articles a week to two really long in depth articles.
Andrew: That was actually a big thing for you. Instead of short, why was long better?
Steve: I decided that my short articles were not, I felt like, there’s, like, this critical mass where, if this is the line, anything above this line in popularity gets shared by a bunch of people. My little articles were just, kind of, like little tiny waves, whereas if I could write two really big articles that could last and be around for years, and be full of content, and full of nerdy references, and full of personality.
I might discourage the people that love to skim articles and just quickly move onto the next one, but never actually follow through with it and filter them out, and instead, encourage people that are interested in a subject to really dig in deep and learn everything they need to know about it, and give them the confidence to actually follow through with it.
So Nerd Fitness articles went from less than 500 words to anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 words. And I was publishing every Monday and Thursday due to, I think, Chris Gilbow’s publishing schedule was Monday, Thursday, and he was another guy I respected, so I was, like, if he’s doing Monday, Thursday, then maybe I should too.
Andrew: I see. And you know what? That answers another question for me about why longer articles do better, why they’re preferred by people who I respect. You’re right. I think that the smaller articles maybe get more attention because they’re quicker reads, but someone who’s not investing much time in reading it, is not going to stick around.
They’re not going to bookmark it. You and I started this conversation before we even hit record. I said that I went to search for your name in my Evernote, and what I came up with was this article that I saved twice, where you described how you got enough frequent flyer miles from credit cards to fly all over the world for, like, $400, or something. Right?
Andrew: And because it was such a long article, I savored it. I saved it and I got it still in my Evernote. If it was a shorter article, more people might have read it, but they wouldn’t have saved it. OK. So I get that. Now you’re going back to him, and is he suggesting to you that you write on his site, or are you suggesting to him? He is.
Steve: He’s suggesting to me. He said, Steve, I just finally clicked through to your site, and at this point, it had probably been a month or so in my new style of writing twice a week, and as soon as I was writing twice a week, the interaction between the audience and the support, and the people that were sharing it, skyrocketed. So I was like, clearly, I’m finding something here. And then Brett said, Steve, I finally clicked through to your website. I read your past couple of posts. This is awesome, man.
I really think you’re doing a great thing and I really love it. Let me know when you want to write a guest post for me. And that’s kind of like that moment for me. It’s like ok, if this guy who’s running a super successful website and is an incredible writer and has built a fantastic community says that I am doing something right then I like my chances. Okay, now I need to write a great article for him in order not to let him down so actually I spent I think two months maybe working on my guest post for him.
I bounce back and forth to a couple of different people and really reworked and made sure it was great I think it was called seven reasons you need to rediscover your love for exercise or something like that and I remember when it got published my subscriber count jump from 700 to 1600 in two days
Steve: It really resonated really well with his audience and whole bunch of them came over to Nerd Fitness.
Andrew: Let me put a pin in that for a moment.
Andrew: Because that’s important but also just getting to guest blog is important and I noticed for myself when I couldn’t get interviewees to care about coming on Mixergy and doing an interview here. I remember going to Pete Cashmore at Mashable saying can I take some of my interviews and rework them into blog posts on your site. He said yes, it gave me both attention and credibility and also allowed me to land better guests and traffic.
We have done several courses here at Mixergy, let me put a quick plugin for Mixergy premium.com, where we talked about how to do guest blogging but you took a less proactive approach and I thought you waited a long time. You let him suggest it, then you took a couple of months to write it. In Retrospect could you have gone to him and said hey I love your site and I been doing these long posts, can I post one of these five suggestions on your site. Are you interested? And then gotten the okay at that point.
Steve: You know I probably could have. Again, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I was still working the full time gig and I was starting to gain more confidence in my writing ability and how Nerd Fitness was working. So to be honest with you, I could have for whatever reason I took the longer approach. Fortunately, he asked, I think it would have eventually gotten to the point that I said, hey I got this great idea for an article and I’m sure he would have said absolutely no problem.
I’m still trying to continue to hone my craft through Nerd Fitness and focusing on those things In retrospect I could have probably reach out to him or written for a couple other sites and leverage those guest posts. Maybe to then to get to him. I didn’t want it to look like you’re just leveraging things to get to better things and other things. I was just like hey dude I love what you’re doing and when he said I want you to write for me that was like the greatest thing that happened to me at that point.
Andrew: And Steve I’m not judging you by it by any means and saying why didn’t you go faster.
Steve: Oh, sure.
Andrew: I’m trying to learn from your experience and say to the audience you can go faster than Steve did. If he’s taking this long you should learn from it and do it faster, especially if that’s what you’re telling us Steve. Alright, now back to subscriber. I had a conversation with John Cochran [sp] from my audience and a good friend of mine who showed me behind the scenes how he takes a guest post, he’s also written for the art of manliness and converts it into both traffic and subscribers to his site.
He really thinks this stuff through and made me realize that when I just send articles to Pete i wasn’t leveraging it enough because I wasn’t aware you did something that allowed you to get subscribers from this opportunity. What did you do that allowed you to get both subscribers and others? I want to learn this.
Steve: Sure, I think the thing that really work in my favor but i did not realize it at the time is I made sure I wrote for a site that was kind of in the same space as Nerd Fitness but definitely not overlapping. I think far too many people make the mistake of like I wrote a fitness site and I need more fitness readers so I’m going to go guest post for another fitness site.
Then you have to convince those readers over there to stop reading that fitness website and start reading yours instead when they are already there. Instead I went to an audience that some of them probably are interested in fitness, not all of them. I spoke to them in a language that they resonated with and when they came over to Nerd Fitness and I was still emailing every single person that left a comment or emailed me back and said I’m still thankful you are here.
How did you find the site? And more often than not at that point I came from [??. I’m like that’s amazing, how can I help you and what else are you struggling with and so i really tried to push that engagement as much as possible as soon as those people started coming over from Art of Manliness to make sure that they felt wanted and loved and that I was going to take care of them.
Andrew: I see that. Also I wasn’t ignoring you. I was looking to see where did I find that article that you wrote and It wasn’t on a fitness site, it was on Gizmodo.
Steve: Oh the travel one?
Andrew: How I traveled around the world for 418 dollars. So not directly about fitness, not directly on a fitness website and still it caught my attention and it brought me into the fitness community and that’s what you are talking about.
Steve: Yep, and you were one of thousands from that Gizmodo article which was really freaking cool and very unexpected. So that was a fun day for sure.
Andrew: So let me go and now click over on your name and see if I can figure out how you capitalized on it. Oh shot me an email. How many emails did you get from that?
Steve: Five hundred.
[chuckle] [inaudible] [cross talk]
Andrew: Five hundred, Oh I thought more. [cross talk]How do you responds to 500 emails.
Steve: One at a time.
Andrew: You just go in and respond Okay, now let’s see [inaudible] it’s not going to add you to your subscriber base. Steve Kamb is the Nerd and Chief of Nerd Fitness dot com and that’s hyper linked. Oh you can sign up for the Nerd Fitness newsletter here and follow him on twitter. So that’s another thing that we can learn from you. It’s not just if your guest blogging have it credited to you with a link to your site but have it credited to you with the link to your site and a membership…a link to the newsletter.
Steve: Get them anyway you can get them, and then when you got them take care of them.
Andrew: Speaking of if you got them take care of them. I am not laughing when I say you only have four posts…four comments. I’m there and I recognized the struggle of it. What I want to highlight for the audience and what I thought was an especially interesting about you is, when someone commented in the early days, instead of saying, “Ah only one”. What did you do?
Steve: I don’t know I was so excited. I literally emailed them directly. It wasn’t like they emailed me and I emailed them back, they left a random comment on the web site. I was just like…and it wasn’t a, “Hey” generic like, “thanks for leaving a comment”. The reason I did that honestly is becomes I’ve been a fan of Chris Hardwick who now runs Nerdist dot com and he host the Walking…Talking Dead. He is really that kind of famous guy that I had been a fan of forever.
I left a comment on his website right when I was starting NerdFitness and he emailed me back directly and I thought that was the coolest freaking thing in the entire world. I will never forget that. I will be a Chris Hardwick fan. That dude can do no wrong in my eyes simply because he took the time to email me. Obviously now he’s so much bigger then…I doubt he’s still doing that for his people but I just thought that was awesome. [cross walk]
Andrew: A personal email from you went to everyone who commented just like you learned from him.
Andrew: Okay so now we understand. We understand your approach with people and I can see how you are creating a bond with them. So maybe you didn’t have that many people but they were becoming loyal because you were connecting with them. You were learning what they wanted as you said earlier because you’d interact with them they would give you a sense of what to blog about. I see where you got your traffic blog now on other sites and you’re still doing it till this day. Now where good, you’re still working 18 months in you decided to quit your job because your making how many thousands of dollars at that point?
Steve: Zero [laughs]
Andrew: Why did you quit before you were making money?
Steve: For a couple of reasons. One the specifically the day job was starting to get way more stressful. The job was really freaking cool. They put me in charge of…I helped work for a company that produced floating music festivals. So we would go down to the Caribbean and put 30 band’s on a boat and turn into a floating music festivals for five days. I was in charge of two event’s coming up about 6 months after I had quit.
I knew NerdFitness was trending in the right….was starting to trend into the right direction and the day job was starting to get incredibly hectic. Honestly I had to much respect for the day job and I felt like if I didn’t quit at that point then ever day after that was going to put them into the worse position when I finally did leave. But I knew NerdFitness at that point like, my passion I had it switched to the job to NerdFitness.
I thought like the timing was right. I had a decent amount of money saved up. I had this idea and I had enough people in the NerdFitness community that said Steve just give us fitness plans to buy and we will buy them and…
Andrew: They specifically said give us fitness plans?
Steve: [inaudible] I read an article called how to build your own workout routine. I got a dozen emails from people saying, “Dude just tell me what to do and I will do it”. So after getting I mean dozens from that one article and just everyday as people was like, “Well, I want to do this, this, and this”, and I said, “Okay, look I’ll work on an ebook.”
I started working on the eBook and I had been working on it for months at that point and I just wasn’t getting any closer to completion and then like I said the day job was got to a point where I was like look if I don’t leave now I’m not going to be able to leave for a year and then my time is going to get too screwed up. I feel confident enough in the strength of this community that I can make this thing work.
Hopefully, it’s this e-book. If it’s not, then I’ll pick up a job as a bar back, or I’ll pick up a job mowing lawns. I don’t care.
Andrew: Ready to be all in.
Steve: Ready to be all in. I knew it was trending in the right direction. I knew the numbers were growing. I knew the audience was really passionate, really excited about the concept of NerdFitness. And I was like, I put it out there. I read an article called “The first day of the rest of my life” or something. It’s like, “Heads up, guys. Today is the last day at my real job. NerdFitness is now my full-time gig” which is funny because I’m not actually making money from it.
But one month from now I’m going to put out my first e-book. I would love it if you would check it out. It’ll come with a money back guarantee for the rest of your life. Also I just want to help you get healthy. If you don’t check it out, that’s fine. I’ll find another job to make this site work, but I don’t want to do ads. I want to keep this between us. I want to make this about us, and I want to help you.
Andrew: So you were prodding the audience and putting some leverage on yourself, like having them hold you accountable.
Steve: Yeah. Because if I failed… That’s funny because I was actually sitting at a bar with my dad, and I said, “Dad, I have to quit.” He said, “Alright. Do you have any money saved up?” “Like a little.” He goes, “Do you have a backup plan?” “No.” He goes, “Are you making any money with it yet?” “No.” He goes, “Alright. You’ll figure it out. Good luck, man.” He didn’t give me that support. I didn’t have a Plan B. I had no option but for Plan A to work.
Andrew: Alright. Let me do a quick plug here and actually, Steve, to be honest I don’t think that anyone who’s listening to us who says I want to follow in Steve’s shoes and duplicate him. And I’m just learning here how to get started in the early stages and I want to learn how to get my audience or get my profit. I don’t know that they need to call Scott Edward Walker. Frankly, it would be great for me if they did because he’d loved me and still want to sponsor more. But I still have to have integrity and be honest, and I don’t think so.
So you’re a blogger. Do you think that in this stage in our story you needed a startup lawyer?
Steve: Oh absolutely not.
Steve: There are so many things that I put off. So people said you need a lawyer. You need to hire a graphic designer. I need to hire this person for all these things, and it’s like, that is the final five percent. The other 95% is writing content, identifying an audience, taking care of those people that are finally discovering who you are and what you’re offering. And that is so much more important and such a better use of your time, energy, and resources other than all the other small, tiny things that you think are important.
Andrew: Alright. There it is. Frankly, if you’re at those stages, Scott is not the right guy for you. You don’t need – I’m not going to tell anyone what they need or they don’t. I will say that I’m not going to advise you to go get a lawyer at this stage if that’s where you are. But if you’re a tech entrepreneur with a company that’s going to be funded or an entrepreneur that’s further along or one who has some visions beyond lifestyle and you’re on the path to doing it, then check out Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law.
And the reason I recommend him is his prices are reasonable. I actually had an entrepreneur over, Steve, who got funding recently and I asked him about his lawyer. And he told me, “I don’t even know what I’m paying him.” So I said, “Do you have a [??]?” He goes, “Not really. I know it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars.” I said, “Why didn’t you give him shares? That’s a lot of money. He goes, “Because I’m not ready to part with equity. Frankly, it’s not my money.”
Andrew: And if you’re at that stage, then Scott’s not the right guy for you. But if you’re an entrepreneur with more of a need to be careful with your money and a vision for growth and you’re on that path, I can’t recommend another person who will take good care of you like Scott. Scott is in the tech community. He’s frankly right here just a few blocks away from me in San Francisco. He works with companies that are growing, and his prices are very reasonable, especially if you’re just getting started.
If you’re curious, if that’s where you are, just email him actually, Scott@WalkerCorporateLaw.com.
Alright. So, I just banged my glass here. So now we’re at a place where you have to bring in money which is good because that’s what I want to talk about next. How long did it take you to finish writing that book?
Steve: After [??] and freaking myself out and spending every waking moment, I guess, it took me about another month after I quit. So I used that money, like I said, I announced on the site I’m quitting, I’m putting an e-book out in a month. And I spent that final month finishing writing the content, filming all the exercise videos, getting site information together, etc. It took me just about a month after I quit the day job.
Andrew: I see. All in all, how long did it take you to write the book?
Steve: I would say it was probably about two months of work. That second month had come over the previous three months or so. So what I did ultimately, I was still not confident and terrified of asking for people’s money. So when I put it out, I was like I’m going to put this out for four days. And then I’m going to work with everybody who buys it. And make it better.
And then we’ll finally put it out officially a month after that, or two months later. So, I was like if I can sell 40 of these things and make things and make like a thousand bucks or fifteen hundred bucks, or whatever it was, like I would be over the moon ecstatic. And we ended up selling 150 or 200 of them in that first week.
I remember, I think I even broke down crying like I can’t believe, and I had a bunch of people that bought it who said “Steve, I don’t even need this man. it’s just there’s no other way for me actually to support what you’re doing other than buying this. So I’m going to give it to somebody else who can use it.”
Andrew: What was in the book? Was it a list of training instructions? What was in there?
Steve: Yeah, I put, I think it was like six months of exercise programming. So there was level one and then you’d go through the workout program for like two months. And then you’d move on to level two in another two months. Level three, level four, specific diet information, the entire Nerd Fitness philosophy. And it was all kind of condensed into a collection of PDFs and YouTube videos and things like that.
Andrew: You already had the Nerd Fitness philosophy. What was it? It took me a long time to have the Mixergy philosophy.
Steve: Sure. Actually, there’s a post on Nerd Fitness called The Rules of the Rebellion. And the rebellion is the name of the Nerd Fitness community. And it’s like the 11 things that we kind of stand by and lean on.
Andrew: I think that you can link on it right on the very bottom of every page right about the rebellion?
Steve: Yeah. Ultimately, it’s understanding that your diet is 80 to 90 percent of your success or failure. Eat real food. Exercise in a way that you actually enjoy. Yeah, so make sure you find things that make you happy. And then beyond that, strength training makes everything else better. So those are kind of the big things. Make sure you take care of your diet. Make sure you have fun. And the find a way to get some strength training in here and there.
Andrew: Okay. The book starts to do well. What platform did you use to sell the book?
Steve: We used eJunkie.
Steve: eJunkie is like 15 bucks a month, 5 bucks a month, whatever it was.
Andrew: And you don’t need a credit card processing system. They will plug into your PayPal. Is that how they work?
Steve: Yep. We did only PayPal. I had a friend of mine who was, actually one of my college roommates was a graphic designer. And I was like, “Hey man can you take this word document and try to make it look pretty.” And he was like, “Yeah, I’ll see what I can do.” So I leveraged any relationship I could to keep the cost down because I didn’t have a lot of money. I had probably maybe two months of runway.
Andrew: But that’s all it was, PDFs of what was a word document.
Steve: PDFs and [??] he charted it. I think he used In Design and made it look pretty good. It was, yeah, just a very basic PDF and nothing special for sure.
You know the intro that I gave you about how competitive fitness is and how tough it is to it didn’t come out of thin air. I talked to people in my audience a lot. And there was one person specifically who was in the fitness business and he was feeling like it’s just crushing because there’s so many competitors who have so much money and experience. And some of them are willing to go black hat, do whatever. How did you compete with all those people?
Steve: I competed by doing everything the exact opposite of what everybody else in the fitness industry was doing. I don’t use black hat tactics. I think so much in the fitness industry, it’s like, you build a website, you stick a bunch of ads on there for supplements. And you tell them they need to buy this thing or they’re not going to get healthy. And they prey on people’s insecurities. And they use fake before and afters or they are very dishonest with people.
And unfortunately a lot of that stuff sells. I didn’t feel like, those things literally made me sick. So, I thought when I was building Nerd Fitness, there was an opportunity for me to be different. And it would take me a lot longer to make a living and lot longer to start building proper traffic. But I could do it by being that breath of fresh air, by being honest, by telling people you don’t need a gym membership.
Andrew: How long did it take you go get to that, to live on? I know that when you first sold the book, you earned enough money that you could survive for two months. You had a two month runway suddenly. But how long did it take you to get month to month enough money to live on kind of like your salary?
Steve: I would say maybe, I finally started to feel confident about six months in, six months after quitting. And during those six months, I was still trying to pick up any odd job that I could here and there from previous work relationships.
Andrew: What is the oddest job that you did?
Steve: I spent two nights painting the sound stage floor for one of Drake’s music videos.
Andrew: I got it.
Steve: From midnight until five in the morning on back to back nights because they paid me like $200.00 bucks each night. I was like this is great. That buys me another week and a half or two weeks of living. I’ll take whatever I can get.
Andrew: Tell me if my research. I always like to tell people who are, who I trust and who don’t think this stuff is a secret. What my research is showing so that I can calibrate. What I’m seeing is that you’re organic search, key words, the ones that seem to send you traffic or things like Paleo diet, obviously Nerd Fitness does well for you. Paleo in general does well. How to measure body fat. How to calculate body fat. How to run.
Is this the kind of stuff, the kind of key words that is sending you traffic today?
Steve: Yeah, big time. I wrote an article back in 2010 called the Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet. I read a couple of books on it. I started to do it. It made sense to me but I knew it was a very overwhelming topic for a lot of people.
I was like, let’s just simplify it. Let’s make one of those monster posts that I love to write and let’s take this really complex, or seemingly complex topic and break it down in to very simple terms with fun pictures and fun analogies and fun metaphors and let’s put it out there. This article called the Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet did pretty well. It brought in a decent amount of traffic. A lot people started linking to it. Then about two years ago Google changed their search algorithm. I think it was the penguin update. For whatever reason Google loved Nerd Fitness traffic.
That article that I’d written two years prior suddenly jumped to number three. I think on, if you search for Paleo or Paleo diet…(??)…
Andrew: Not number three. Number one is thepaleodiet.com. Number two is Paleo diet the entry in Wikipedia and number three is you nerdfitness.com.
Steve: I don’t know anything about, I know very little about SEO. I don’t do any sort of try to gain the system and get people to link in to it. I just want to find the right stuff that people were struggling with to tell them about it.
So after seeing the success of this article, I then tried to leverage that by saying what are some other really important topics that a lot of people are struggling with, like what is body fat percentage? What’s a beginner workout that I can follow? Those topics have now started to search incredibly well. Started, we have started to rank incredibly well on Google.
Almost as a side effect of me just focusing on writing quality content.
Andrew: I see. There’s nothing really that you can teach us about how to do it other than you created flag ship articles about big topics people care about. Made them long, made them detailed and that’s where your traffic is coming from.
Steve: Yeah, that. It wasn’t only that but it was doing that consistently twice a week for five years I think is probably what…(??)…
Andrew: I see. You have a short cut to that? Here’s the other thing I noticed, Reddit sends you a lot of traffic. How do you get traffic from Reddit? I think I’m down to like zero percent. Zero point zero coming from Reddit.
Steve: I think Reddit it just naturally ties in to the nerd fitness audience. The audience at Nerd Fitness is a group of people, both men and women that spend all day at a desk job generally and are on their computers. They happen to also love online communities, Reddit being one of the most popular, engaging communities out there. As a result of that a lot of nerd fitness readers also happen to be Reddit users. I don’t post any of my stuff over there. Somebody else from nerd fitness happens to post those things on there.
Andrew: Someone else in the Nerd Fitness community or someone who works for you?
Steve: Oh no, someone from the community, yeah.
Andrew: From the community.
Steve: Nobody from…(??)…
Andrew: I think the way to see which posts are coming from Reddit is to do the reddit.com/domain/ in this case nerdfitness.com. That’s giving me a sense of the kind of articles that are written there about you. Like how to Live Like James Bond for a Weekend. That’s you, right?
Steve: Yeah that was me.
Andrew: Red Pill Diet plan, intermittent fasting sending you good amount of traffic in general.
Steve: That can be searched like second or third intermittent, maybe second…(??)…
Andrew: If you’re not doing it actively to get in there.
Steve: No to be honest with you, I just focus, I try not to worry too much about those systems because I think what’s popular today is not going to be popular tomorrow. I think Google searches today might not be the same tomorrow. So if I built my business around focusing on those things, I could be in serious trouble if anything changes. I just try to focus on helping the people that I have. If those things happen to like them too that great but it’s not a central focus for sure.
Andrew: Okay. So, we’ve got the ebook. But ebook is not getting you to half a million in sales, right?
Andrew: Courses are the next big mile stone for you for revenue, right?
Andrew: Okay. I’m intentionally, by the way excited about this and talking about your revenues not because I care only about revenues. I picked you to go really in depth into how to do this because I think you’re someone who people if they learn from aren’t going to be disgusted by what they do. I could bring people on here they could make so much more money than you, but I know that the audience; when it comes down to copying a lot of the methods are going to feel a little sleazy.
I want us to feel proud of our work, especially if it’s something you’ve written. I could really put some food out there that I’m not excited about because it has more fat in it, maybe you can, but I could. I don’t care about other stuff, the way I care about ideas. They represent you, they outlive you, so I like the way you put your ideas out there. So I’m not pushing because I care only about your revenue, I’m pushing because I care about your ideas and the person that you are. And so I want to learn about your revenue.
Andrew: The first course that you created was…
Steve: We had that first eBook was Rebel Fitness Guidance. To be honest with you, I had those three eBooks, the Rebel Fitness Guide, and it was about a year after that, I put out the Rebel Strength Guide, and then six months after that was the Rebel Running Guide. And those three eBooks were 95% of my revenue for over two years. Two and half years almost.
And it really wasn’t until this past fall, so October 2013 that I decided that it was time that these eBooks needed an update, and that there was a better way for us to impact people instead of just giving them an eBook and hoping they would read it. I thought we had a better chance to get more people to be successful in their weight loss journeys by creating an interactive course and having a community aspect to it. Because I think that is such a strong part of Nerd Fitness.
So we started working on this concept of Nerd Fitness Academy and I wanted to ultimately replace the eBooks with this new academy. So instead of confusing people with which eBook they need, make it very simple. Like if you’re brand new to Nerd Fitness, you’re going to buy Men’s Fitness 101 or Women’s Fitness 101. There is no decision to be made; it’s very simple.
It’s going to give you every single thing you need to get started and remove any possible barrier to entry that you have. Whether it’s confusion or lack of confidence in a gym or whatever it may be; we’re going to take care of those things. I was a little scared about replacing 90% of my revenue with an unproven project, so in October, we did the Women’s Fitness 101. It was a like a four day beta launch, just like I had down with my first eBook. We’re saying we’re just selling this to women, it’s only available for four days, we are in beta mode with it, we’re going to work with the women and see how things go over the next three months.
And then on January 1st, officially push the academy out to everybody. I hoped it would have done well, but it did better than I expected. We ended up doing like $140,000-$150,000 worth of revenue in those four days alone. That was more than I had ever imagined to do in a week, let alone a year. So, that was a fun couple of days. we put the course out there; the women really appreciated it and gave us some valuable feedback.
And then on January 1st of this year, we had another kick-ass launch, launching both the Men’s Fitness 101 and Women’s Fitness 101, having taken down our eBooks back in December. Saying like eBooks are gone, this is the future. We now have our two courses; now our goal, ask the people in Nerd Fitness, what other things do you want to learn about. Whether it’s yoga or running or cooking properly, and then we could create new courses under this Nerd Fitness Academy umbrella.
Andrew: But once I’m in the Nerd Fitness Academy, if I sign up for the apprentice level I’m paying $59. Am I also getting all the other levels?
Steve: Once you get the apprentice, if you want to upgrade, we have two levels. Essentially, we have the course material and that’s apprentice, and then we have the class itself, which is the $99 version. And the $99 version has bonuses, interviews, the community, etc. I was looking at it more for somebody who needs more of their hand held, then the bigger one is a better option; whereas if they’re more of a self-starter, then they can buy the cheaper one and then do things on their own terms and keep themselves accountable.
Andrew: It’s not about tools, but I still want to understand the tools. What platform did you build your community on?
Steve: So we used a combination of Member Mouse and IP Board, and then we used Stirpe for payment processing, and then there is a plugin that goes back and forth between Member Mouse and IP Board . So when you log in to Member Mouse, you can see just the academy message board. Honestly, it has been clunky as hell and a real challenging thing to deal with. But it got us through our launch. And now that we’ve proven, “Hey, this is successful, and people are really interested in it. And it’s helping people. Now, we can get back in there and continuously do updates. And make the . . .
Andrew: What’s the clunky part of it?
Steve: Just the technology aspect of it. We have web developers that have helped with getting these two systems to talk to each other. And they don’t necessarily like each other. And not only that, but you see things like [??] Academy or whatever it might be, and seeing how successful they are. And it’s just been a little frustrating to have some technical issues that I think we can get out of the way, so that there are even less speed bumps on the road, for somebody that has . . .
Andrew: What did you cost you . . .
Steve: I’m sorry?
Andrew: What did it cost you to get the developers put it together?
Steve: Let’s see. Definitely less than, I want to say 6,000 bucks, maybe $8,000.
Andrew: And that includes the developers, the software? Does it also include the design?
Steve: Yes. So, actually, we used the design from our previous Nerd Fitness site. And I had a buddy of mine, we drew the Academy logos, and things like that. So we tried to get it up and running as cheaply as possible, while still providing as much functionality as . . .
Andrew: What’s your buddy’s name? He’s beautiful. I don’t know how beautiful he is, but his work is beautiful.
Steve: I’m sorry?
Andrew: What’s your buddy’s name? His work is beautiful.
Steve: Oh, well, the website design itself is done by Chase Reeves, he runs a website called Fizzle, with Corbett Barr.
Andrew: I know Chase.
Steve: Those guys. Oh, you know Chase, yeah.
Andrew: Chase is spectacular. That guy’s got an eye.
Steve: He’s good. Yeah. He and I actually sat down together, for a side by side in San Francisco for four days. I stayed at his house for four or five days. And we went through and he re-did the entire Nerd Fitness site. And it was kind of cool to sit next to him and . . .
Andrew: In four days?
Steve: [laughs] Yeah, four or five, he designed the entire thing in four or five days. And it was great, because I was sitting right next to him. So, he’d be, like, “What do you think? This or this?” I’m, like, “That.” He goes, “How about this, this and that?” “Great.” So, I would just sit there, do my work, and then, we’d go back. It was pretty cool.
Andrew: That guy is so damn top, talented. I’ve seen his other work. I like him, a lot.
Steve: Yeah. He’s good. [laughs]
Andrew: Okay. Where else? What goes into it? So, we know that there’s a community?
Andrew: We know that there are lessons. Do you dole out the lessons a little at a time or are they all in there?
Steve: Yeah. So, they’re all in there, but they’re all . . . we’re working on adding more functionality. Specifically, right now, we’re trying to add a homework component, so people can literally type in, at the end of each lesson, like, if we give them a mission, they can type it directly into the Academy, instead of having to keep it separately.
So there are lessons. There are videos that they can watch. There is an exercise component. And the entire thing is scalable, so that it will work on your phone. It’ll work on your iPad. It’ll work on your computer. Again, we wanted to remove any barrier that people might have, and that confusion might be, like, “Oh, what am I supposed to do in the gym?” Or “I can’t print out this thing. I can’t print out this PDF.” It’s, like, “Great. Well, just pull it up on your phone, and sign in. And you can see all of your workouts.” And . . .
Andrew: All right. Boy. What about in the community? How do you keep the conversation focused and not have it go in so many different directions, that you don’t even know how to help out in the future?
Steve: The community specifically for the Academy or just Nerd Fitness community, in general?
Andrew: The Academy.
Steve: Academy. I have a couple of people that, actually, were really prominent and supportive members of the actual Nerd Fitness community that also happened to be personal trainers or people that are in the fitness industry or have a strong passion for it. And I’ve hired them or working with them to help me in these communities, identify the direction that things need to go.
We actually just sent out a survey last week saying, “Hey guys, we’d love to hear how things are going with you in the Academy for these first six weeks. We have a lot of updates in store, but we want to know which ones are most important to you.”
So really putting it on them and saying, “Guys, this is yours. And I want to make this better. Tell us what we can do to make this better. And tell us the thing that you really enjoy, and things that are, maybe, frustrating to you. And we can focus on those things.”
To be honest with you, why Nerd Fitness, I think in the community, both in the Academy and in Nerd Fitness, in general, has been successful is because we’ve just been able to recruit the right kind of people with our writing and the messaging that we send. And telling people that are just looking for “Get Fit Quick,” things and supplemental advice, this is not the site for them or bringing in the right kind of people that are supportive and happy and working on getting healthier. And want to help others around them.
So I think by recruiting the right kind of people, they, in turn, recruit their friends, and their friends, and so on and so forth. So, we’re bringing the right kind of people together, and then, providing them with the tools and the platform to interact with each other, and help each other get better.
Andrew: Check this out. Let me put something in Skype Chat for you. This is one thing that I looked at in my research in preparing for you. And that’s what your website looked like so many years ago.
Andrew: The message board. I grabbed that.
Andrew: The message board says…
Andrew: ….coming soon.
Steve: With the [??]
Andrew: With the what?
Steve: Yeah. Oh man. That is so great. Actually I didn’t end up putting message boards on the site until about a year and a couple months after I started. It wasn’t until I had written that guest post and hired a man instead [??]. I had realized I need to give this community a way to interact with each other if this is going to become what it’s going to become. At that rate we were at the point where we had 25,000 people on our message boards and…
It’s crazy, but that was it. That’s a blast from the past. Wow.
Andrew: And what that page became eventually was 24,109 total members. Look at how far you’ve come. That’s why I did it. That’s why I sent you that screen shot. That’s how far you’ve come. Not even a message board back then, just a “coming soon.” Now this beautiful design, just an off the shelf design. So cool to see this.
I want to ask you personal advice on something I’m about to do before we wrap up, but first let me say this to the audience. How much of what we’ve talked about here…I think if you’re inspired by it, if you want to do it, we have a few courses within Mixergy Premium that will help you do this if it’s about how to start a membership site and how to keep it growing,
I’ve got Stu McLaren. He’s the creator of Wishlist Member, a membership site software that talks about how he did it. If it’s about guest blogging, we have a guest blogging course that I’m going to recommend to you. Actually, two different ones.
One is by Leo from Buffer who talks about how to create content that’s spreadable, how to create content and get it on other sites. He is fan frickin’ fantastic. You’ve probably seen Leo’s work all over the Internet, and now if you sign up for Mixergy Premium you’ll hear his philosophy.
You’re hear his approach and understand why you’re seeing posts by him on LifeHacker. Even the LifeHacker doesn’t seem to the outsider to be such a perfect fit for Buffer, but you’ll see that it is because it sends him certain kind of traffic. You’ll see his point of view and how he reacts on it.
There’s another one that I put out a long time ago that’s still one of my best with Annabelle Candy [sp]. Annabelle, you’re so good at guest posts. Can you please teach our audience and she did, and we walk you through it step by step format. And that’s the whole message here. That’s the whole process.
If there’s something you want, just go to MixergyPremium.com. I guarantee you’ll love it and if I don’t deliver, you can get 100% of your money back. And you know you can count on me because I’m not one of these shady guys on the Internet who is operating from I don’t know where,
I’m here talking to guys like Steve and talking to people like Brian Clark. I’m not going anywhere. Those people would never do interviews here if I take your money and run which is why all I want to do is keep delivering for you. So if you go sign up at MixergyPremium.com, you’ll see the very first question I ask is, “How do I deliver for you?” And then I’ll do it right there. Go sign up.
Alright. Here’s the advice that I’m looking for from you. I’m a little bit selfish here, but what I’ve learned by watching other people who have interviewed me is the more selfishly they ask questions the more useful the answers are. As opposed to pretending they’re asking a question for an audience when they ask it for themselves that’s useful.
I want to create a small community for a part of my audience. I’ve actually got the software in place last night. Bob Hyler [sp] wrote it. I’ve got everything ready. We’re going to start launching it in, hopefully, a few hours. Got any advice for me for how I can make it useful? How I can keep myself from going crazy? How I can get it from going out of control? I’m a little, as you can see, nervous about having a community.
Steve: Yeah. Honestly, I don’t blame you for being a little nervous. I think message boards and communities online can be like one step above YouTube comments as far as quality depending on the type of community it is. I was definitely nervous about those same things.
Fortunately, I think for you, you have a really quality group of people that are in your audience, and now you’re just giving that platform so that they can start interacting with each other.
When I first started I think some of those really important to me, I kind of look at it like a party, like almost a party analogy. So if you have 20 people that are trying to come to your party, but they all show up five minutes apart, don’t see anybody there and they all leave. The funny part is each person sees that nobody’s there and they take off, it’s not going to work.
However, if you get all 20 people to show up to your party at the same time or more importantly get five of your best friends to show up before the party even starts to make it a great party, then as people start to trickle in and see that it’s a great party. And each additional person makes that party even better.
Andrew: I see.
Andrew: That makes sense. First thing for me to think about is how do I get them all in there at the same time so that it feels like there’s activity there.
Steve: The best way I found to do that was actually I launched my message boards with a contest and it was simple, “Hey guys, I’m getting ready to travel in six weeks. Therefore, six weeks from now, or actually I think at the time it was four weeks, four weeks from now, I want to be in better shape than I’m in right now. These are my three goals I’m going to pick. I’m going to write about them on my message boards. I would love for your comments on how I’m doing. I would love for you to join me. And I want you to post your battle log – how things are going at the gym, what you’re working on, what you’re struggling with, etc.
And at the end of these four weeks, we’ll pick a winner from somebody that has leveled up their life the most, and give them a free t-shirt. And we were surprised how many people were so excited to be part of this, and how the contest gave them that accountability. So, almost immediately, even though at the time it was only maybe 50 to 70 people that were joining the community, they were really excited and fired up about it. That core group of people.
As more and more people stumbled across those message boards, they saw that the party was already happening and it was something they wanted to become a part of. And it kind of became that self-propelling prophecy like, oh I need to be here, this is awesome and because more people are joining it became better. Because nerds fitness was attracting the right kind of people, our message boards became like the thing probably about Nerd Fitness I’m most proud of is the community that has sprung up around Nerd Fitness.
One thing beyond that is to identify the people that are in your community that are being the most supportive or providing the most help and the most active and celebrate them. And give them the authority or some leeway to help shape it. Those are your rock stars. The people that are gonna help you out the most. Right now, we have 25 maybe 30 volunteer moderators and I let them drive our message boards. I say what do you guys need? How can we make this better?
What kind of contest do you want to run? Here you go. When I started it was just me posting until I saw that there were other people doing great jobs and I said you guys are now moderators. Thank you. You get a special title next to your name. And people are going to start to look to you for advice. One of my full time people that work with me at Nerd Fitness, is somebody that came from the message boards that became a moderator then a super moderator, then starting helping me with some things and she’s now a full time Nerd Fitness team member.
Andrew: This has been a great interview. I’m going to ask my audience to do a couple of things. First, you guys remember earlier on in the interview, Steve said that he contacted the great Brett McKay. And that he started talking to him. I’m going to suggest you do the same thing. Not necessarily to Brett, but if you love Brett, send him a note. To Steve, send him a note if you got anything of value from him.
Frankly, for Steve, for Brett, for anyone out there, got anything of value from them from the internet, don’t be a taker. Don’t start with a request. Send them a note that just says thank you. I’m telling you it will go a long way.
Steve: Those are the best. Makes you feel so freaking good.
Andrew: Short note. Say thank you. And let me give you another tip. Be specific about something. Not thank you for teaching me, but thank you for and then come up with one little specific thing. It doesn’t have to be the be all to end all it doesn’t have to be the most important thing that you did. One of the things that I learned when I used to volunteer for Dale Carnegie, one of the things I learned from that organization is when you want to give someone a compliment that they really appreciate, be specific about something.
So thank you for showing me how you got the first traffic. Thank you for whatever. Do it with Steve. Do it with anyone. I urge you to find a way to do it because good things come from that. That’s the first thing. The second thing I’m going to suggest is that, we didn’t even get into that number of people that are on Steve’s mailing list. What are they? Do you feel comfortable saying what the number is?
Steve: Yeah, it’s 168,000.
Andrew: 168,000. If you go to nerdfitness.com you’re frankly not going to register a blimp on his traffic number because he has a lot of traffic. But what you will do for yourself is you’re going to see at the very top one way why he gets over 160,000 people on his mailing list. It’s a top thing. You’ll see him with his shirt kind of pulled over undershirt underneath and I think that will give you an understanding of one other technique for getting subscribers if that’s what you’re into. And while you’re there look around. Obviously I think the site is beautiful and it’s well done. Steve, thank you so much for doing this. How do you feel it went for you?
Steve: Great, honestly. It was really cool. I love the questions you had. That was great. I had a lot of fun with it.
Andrew: Thank you. As you can see, we put hours and hours of research into these interviews because I want to make sure they deliver for you and for the audience.
Steve: Love it.
Andrew: Thank you. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye guys.