In just a few short years Steve has created one of the most unique communities on the internet, helping thousands of nerds and desk jockeys live better lives. Due to the success and popularity of the site, he was invited to speak at Google Headquarters in San Francisco and Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Later this month he will be speaking at Facebook.
Steve started back in January 2009, so he’s been writing articles for Nerd Fitness for 3 years now and it’s been his full time job since June of 2010. Working anywhere from 5-100 hours a week, his work is dependant on whether he’s working as usual, or off on some adventure, where his work would typically be minimal. When in writing mode though, he spends the majority of his time either writing or sleeping.
He’s made enough in the past year to fly close to 100,000 miles around the world, visit some pretty incredible locations, and had dozens of adventures. He still plans on taking multiple trips to various countries and hopes to hire his first full time employee within the next few months.
Quick Fire Questions
Book Your Currently Reading? Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh
Best Business Purchase? Macbook Air – I’ve been traveling the world since early 2011, so running the business from a high powered but ulra portable laptop has seriously changed how I can do business on the road.
Favourite Business Resource? vBulletin message board software…the community of NF is the part of the site of which I’m most proud.
Biggest Inspiration? Richard Branson – “Screw it, let’s do it” and my dad, “you gotta have fun”.
Favourite Business Website? Viperchill.com
How I Started
Right out of college, I was working a corporate job that really left me unfulfilled. On a particularly miserable day, I wandered into a book store on my lunch break and right there, front and center, was the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris (which I’m sure everybody here has read). I read it in one sitting and decided I wanted to create my own business that would allow me to live life on my own terms.
So, I decided to start a business that catered to a very small niche that didn’t exist yet – nerds that wanted to get in shape. Two days later, NerdFitness.com was born. I spent the next year educating myself further on fitness and health, helping out friends, and eventually getting a personal trainer certification before finally launching the site as a blog in January of 2009.
The Best Things I Did For My Business
The biggest change came about a year after I had launched the site. I realized that in order for the blog/company/business to truly take off, I had to expand the conversation beyond just me and the reader. So, I added message boards and put a HUGE emphasis on building the Nerd Fitness Rebellion (the name of our community). This transformation, from just a guy and a blog into an incredibly supportive community of thousands, is what allowed Nerd Fitness to truly explode and become the brand it is today!
What Makes Me The Most Money
Far and away, it’s the three ebooks I’ve written for my site – probably 90% of my income is generated through these ebooks. If you can make them work for your business, digital products are the perfect launching point for a small company. There’s no inventory, no overhead costs (other than a small fee for the hosting/downloading platform and credit card transaction fees), and the income generated is purely passive. It’s great to hop off a long flight and see that I sold a handful of books, or take a two day camping trip and return to find out that business continued as usual while I was gone.
How I Work
Right now, I’m mostly a one-man operation with contractors that help with various things (web design, volunteer moderators on my message boards, project management assistance), though I’m hopefully bringing on my first full time employee very soon. I work very strange hours. I find it very hard to pay attention during the day, so my best work comes from 11pm-3 or 4AM. Fortunately, as my own boss I get to set those hours, so I do basic maintenance work during the day (answering social media inquiries, emails, etc.) and write my articles at night.
The Day I Realized “I MADE IT”
When I quit my day job, I hadn’t made a single dollar yet with Nerd Fitness. At that point, I had built up an audience of around 2,000 subscribers but had never asked them for any money, so I wasn’t sure if they’d be interested in paying me with anything other than their attention. About a month later, I put out my first ebook and managed to sell four times as many as I had expected. I celebrated with an ice-cold beer, stupid dancing around my apartment, and the biggest smile on my face.
I sold enough ebooks off and on to survive over the next few months after that, until one of my articles was syndicated on Gizmodo in December 2010 (and went on to become the #2 how-to article of 2010). Traffic, subscriptions, and ebook sales really skyrocketed overnight. This was the moment when I knew I could stop worrying about covering my expenses for the next month and instead could put my focus on company growth.
I Would Have Been Successful Sooner If…
Two things I could have done:
Build my email list. I had just used the email susbcription feature of feedburner for the first 18 months of Nerd Fitness because I was too cheap to pay for a email subscription service. Sigh. I wish I had paid the $15 per month from day one to build my email list. I think my subscriber numbers would have jumped more quickly, I could have provided better service and a higher level of customer interaction.
Write that first ebook sooner. I definitely had an audience that was looking for guidance, but I didn’t trust myself to build my own product until I finally took the leap and quit my day job. Had I wrote the ebook six months earlier, I could have been making money while still working my day job (which I actually really liked). Instead, I quit without an income stream or a backup plan which lead to many sleepless nights full of doubt and anxiety. Things worked out in the end, but those first few months could have been wayyyyy less stressful.
What You Should Be Focusing On
Give your customers what they want, and make them happy. I honestly don’t spend any time on traffic generation, buzz words, SEO, or anything of that nature. I don’t write articles based on pageviews, I don’t title my articles to trick people into opening them, or any of that “internet marketing wisdom.” I actually haven’t bought a single product or service for internet marketing, and I haven’t spent a dollar on advertising either.
Instead, I put my focus on being as helpful and personable as possible to my audience and the rest almost takes care of itself – sure, the site has probably grown more slowly than if I had done all of that stuff above, but I’m more than okay with that. Its awe-inspiring to see how excited people are to be part of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, the return rate on my digital products is somewhere around 1% (despite how easy it is to scam the system), and I get to focus on the things that make me happy (and allow me to sleep with a clear conscience). I know I am building a community and brand that will exist for decades to come, so building my reputation and goodwill with my readers is the thing I value above all else.
Why I’m Successful and Why You May Not Be
I think the biggest mistake people make in the online fitness industry is that they’re not unique. There are millions of fitness blogs out there, so writing the same stuff that other people write is a surefire way to go unnoticed. I actually wrote 5 articles a week for the first 9 months of my blog, and it resulted in 90 subscribers! 90! Why? Because I wrote what I thought other people wanted to read or what worked for other sites, rather than what I wanted to read.
After 9 months, I decided to make a change, and injected WAY more personality (and thus nerdiness) into Nerd Fitness, and almost overnight it took off. Had I not made this change, I’m not quite sure where I’d be today.
So, if you’re trying to stand out in a crowded field (online income generation, finance, fitness), find a way to BE UNIQUE! I’m certainly not a fitness expert, and I’m not the best fitness blogger out there, but you can sure as hell believe that I run the best fitness blog out there…dedicated to nerds. Eventually you can cover more general topics, but in order to have an audience you need to find a way to get noticed in the first place.
IncomeDiary would like to thank Steve for taking the time to do this interview, and as fans of his site, we think that you should be too.