How to Build a Profitable Fitness Website with No Cash Up Front
Want to turn all of that expensive fitness knowledge into cash? Or maybe you just want to make some side income to supplement your core business. Whatever the reason, here are a few keys to starting a profitable fitness website using no up-front investment of cash.
For many entrepreneurs, building a successful online business is the dream. Starting a business with little to no investment that can eventually make you rich is an amazing concept. The problem is that building successful websites is tough, and I’m not just talking about the technical side.
My Most Profitable Fitness Website
I’ve built quite a few websites, but in terms of income nothing beat MyMadMethods.com. That business combined electronic products, affiliate advertising, conventional advertising, and retail products into one sweet money-making machine. Then to top it off, I sold the website and company to Onnit Labs.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it didn’t always make me money. In fact, it was a huge resource-drain for years before becoming profitable. Like any and all businesses, developing a profitable offering requires time, research, and effort. Even so, there were some things that could have made the process easier and faster.
Here is the basic timeline of developing MyMadMethods.com from start to finish.
Months 1 to 5: Content Creation
The website was really created to do one thing: drive traffic to MBodyStrength.com, an e-commerce website that sold fitness equipment. MyMadMethods.com was nothing more than a very elaborate marketing tool primarily created to sell kettlebells.
For the first 6 months we did nothing but shoot hundreds of exercise and workout videos and then manually input every single one into the website. The process was a pain in the butt, but it gave us hundreds of web pages to promote right off the bat, and that adds legitimacy to a website in the eyes of viewers and search engines.
Months 6 to 8: Magazine Creation
This step was a little backwards, but it worked (sort of). After 6 months of working on the website we decided that pursuing outside writers to aid in content creation would be a good idea. So, we reached out to our fitness network and asked for content. We didn’t just want to ask for blog posts though (everyone does that), so we decided to make a magazine to provide more legitimacy. Not just an e-magazine either; we wanted to tell the writers that there stuff would be in print.
I created the entire magazine using nothing but PHOTOSHOP. To anyone in publishing, you could understand how freaking insane that is. I didn’t discover Indesign until I had laboriously created four complete issues.
Anyways, we enticed new writers (the first issue featured Mike Mahler, Steve Maxwell, and some other names you might recognize) and started the magazine. This was a whole new beast in terms of photography, design, and online sales, but it worked. We became instantly legitimate.
Does this mean you should go start a magazine? Probably not, but I’ll write an article about that later.
Month 9: Partnership Break-up
Around month 9 of the process my business partner and I broke apart the business. I took the magazine and MyMadMethods.com, he kept the gym and the e-commerce side of the business (I’d later start up the e-commerce side again).
Month 10 to 12: Plow Forward
Now alone, I had to keep figuring out ways to grow the magazine while maintaining constant content production. I had no facility to shoot anymore, so I started visiting local gyms and trainers. In this time period I hooked up with Joey Alvarado to create the Combat Kettlebell Systems DVD.
Month 13: Re-Launched e-Commerce & Released CKS DVD
I needed to supplement ad and subscription revenue from the magazine, so I relaunched the e-commerce part of the website and started selling t-shirts, back issues of the magazine, and Joey Alvarado’s Combat Kettlebell Systems DVD. I shot, edited, and designed the graphics for the DVD.
Month 14 to 31: Blur of Content Production, Travel, Product Development, & Customer Service
More of the same in terms of content production, but also developed a new version of the MyMadMethods.com website to add capabilities. Also shot and released Joey Alvarado’s Shadow-Jitsu DVD, John Wolf’s Evolution Kettlebell Groundworks (EKG) DVD, and Anthony Eisenhower’s B9 Stunt System DVD.
Month 32: Launched Fitness Is Function (FIF) Brand
I decided to create my own fitness system based on my personal training methodologies. I was going to shoot a full year of daily workouts, but stopped after 30 days. I realized that the process was just as intensive as creating a DVD, so I decided to do that instead. I wouldn’t actually do that for a year though.
Month 34: Launched MadFitnessEquipment.com Brand
In order to emphasize the fact that we were selling a variety of fitness equipment, I created the MadFitnessEquipment.com website. The goal was to create some focus on the equipment side and an easier way to process transactions.
Months 35 to 43: Mad e-Commerce Work
Worked to create and distribute new products. This culminated in created our own kettlebell line and importing in Month 40. During this time I also launched the Fitness Is Function Kettlebell DVD (finally) and reorganized my business so that I could pitch it to the people at Shark Tank (they didn’t invest). It did help me get the business much more defined and organized and gave me a more clear direction.
Month 44 to 48: Onnit Advertising Deal
I managed to work out an exclusive advertising deal with Onnit Labs after a few discussions with CEO Aubrey Marcus. I also flew out to Onnit in Austin, Texas several times to do fitness equipment consulting. The deal included the transfer of our kettlebell manufacturer to Onnit so that they could start to produce the basic Onnit Kettlebell line.
During this time we also shot, edited, and released the Fitness Is Function Bodyweight and Sandbag DVDs and Donica Storino’s Bell Babe Kettlebell DVD. We also held the first ever Unconventional Training Challenge held at Aaron Guyett’s Innovative Results Gym in Costa Mesa, CA. The tests were discussed by several trainers I knew including Mark Smith and Aaron Guyett before being set in stone. That event was attended by several writers for the magazine including Anthony Eisenhower, Doug Fioranelli, and Jon Celis. I used that event as the basis for the Onnit Academy Rites of Passage.
Month 49: Company Sold
After about 60 days or so of discussion, the terms of the deal were set. I packed up my growing family and we moved to Austin, Texas. Onnit didn’t just purchase the My Mad Methods Magazine and website, they bought everything I created, including the Fitness Is Function brand and a variety of other assets.
5 Keys to Making a Profitable Fitness Website
So, what does 49 months of business development culminating in a business sale teach you? Lots! Here are 5 keys to making a profitable website that might save you at least a little bit of that time.
#1: A Business Plan Will Save You Tons of Time & Pain
It’s tempting to just “get to work” but ideally you’ll have some semblance of a business plan. While it’s not necessary to have a fully formed concept a business plan will save you time and pain in the long run. Sitting down and putting some thought into your offering and the future beyond surviving the first year could be pivotal.
For example, you may realize that there is no business to be had (gasp!). If you think out your business and present it to a few people, you may find that it’s not really a unique, impressive, or potentially profitable concept.
Better yet, run your idea by a successful person. Don’t make the newbie mistake of thinking that everyone will steal your brilliant idea. You’ll soon learn that the amount of effort that goes into a successful business is beyond stealing.
#2: Patience is a Must
This is not going to be easy and there is really no substitute for time (except for experience, but I’m assuming this is your first time). You will be making loads of changes to your operations, branding, strategy, products, marketing, and pretty much everything else (unless you went hardcore with step #1 of course).
If you have some experience or another way to estimate how long your objectives will take, double them. There will be drawbacks and unforeseen events that you simply can’t predict. Be patient and understand that developing your concept will take longer than you want it to.
The goal is never “to get rich quick.” It’s to “get rich EVER.”
#3: You Will Make Mistakes
This goes along with patience, but it needs some special attention. You will make mistakes in almost every aspect of your business in some way, shape, or form. It’s not the end of the world. Accept that it’s part of the business development process and move forward.
As perfect as you may try to make your logo, website, pitch, etc., you will probably be changing it multiple times over the first few years of the business. There is no way you can foresee what the business will need or what the market will demand. Remember that the only real mistakes are the ones you don’t fix.
#4: Remember That You’re Doing This to Make Money
If you’re being realistic and patient, there is a possibility that you might forget the number one reason why you started the thing in the first place: TO MAKE MONEY. No matter how altruistic your overall goals may be, you can’t stay in business without making money. If this is a business and not a hobby, judging your performance against your revenue is always necessary.
Even if you’re reporting to no one, try to make a habit of judging your income versus expenses. That awesome deal you’re offering to attract your first batch of customers may be losing you tons of money after you add up the cost of goods and related expenses (things like merchant fees and shipping can bite you in the butt). Losses aren’t bad unless they aren’t being refined into a profitable offering.
#5: Ask for Help
You can only learn so much from reading. No matter how good the author is, there is no way he or she will ever be able to predict the unique situation that is your business offering. Reach out to successful people and ask for advice! Most of them will be happy to give you some tips or answer quick questions. DON’T OVERDO IT THOUGH. If you’re not paying for the advice, don’t pester the crap out of your friend or colleague.
If you really expect your contact to give you no-holds-bar advice, offer to pay them a consulting fee. Even if they turn it down, you’ll both know that you value the person’s time.
Bonus Tip! The “Cheat Code” for Quicker Results
Is there a way to avoid the 50 months of business development that it took me to build a profitable and sellable business? Of course! It’s called: COLD HARD CASH. Yup, you can leap over a bunch of the hurdles of business development by throwing money at the situation. Will the business still be successful? Maybe not, but you’ll find out a whole lot sooner.
[SHAMELESS PLUG] With that all that said, I humbly offer you a cheat that I wish I had when I started my business. The Get Up & Go Fitness Website Package. It’s specifically designed to avoid the painful lessons I had to learn when I started my business while giving you a jump start on the things that made my business successful. Click Here to learn more.
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