This is the first interview we’ve done with a fitness blogger, so I’m very happy to introduce Derek Doepker from Excuse Proof Fitness.
Beyond blogging, Derek has written a number of books in the health and fitness niche, including one that became a #1 bestseller in the weight loss category on Amazon (more on that in the interview).
Not only does Derek discuss some of the success he’s had with his books, but he also talks about how he got into the health and fitness niche and how to actually find success in such a competitive space.
I’ll let Derek explain the rest…
(As always, questions from The Daily Interview are in bold.)
Derek, I’m a big fan of your blog, Excuse Proof Fitness. Not only do you have a ton of compelling content about health and fitness, but I feel a very “Tim Ferriss”-like vibe from your writing, which I like.
Tell us about yourself and your journey – what led you to create this site, and what impact has Excuse Proof Fitness had on your life?
In high school, I was eating fast food every single night, was extremely skinny and in terrible shape. I remember reading about the role that free radicals had in damaging cells and the role antioxidants play in protecting the body, and something about that intrigued me.
I never really considered what was happening inside of me on a biological level from eating the junk food I was eating, and from there I started doing more and more research.
I made a strong commitment to not just take better care of my body, but to actually see how far I could take myself. I wanted to get in the best shape possible, so I spent the last 10 years researching every health and fitness publication I could get my hands on in my free time.
When I decided to start generating income outside of my job, the first thing I knew I had of value to offer people was the information I had gathered over the years. I started Excuse Proof Fitness in January 2012 with the idea that people’s biggest excuses like lack of time or money don’t have to be barriers to success. Especially in light of the fact that I was able to get in the best shape of my life as a broke and busy college student.
Even more than that, I wanted to share the things I had learned from studying personal development and psychology as I believe mindset is the biggest missing link to success.
There are so many resources out there telling people what to eat, not eat, and how to exercise. While that stuff has its place, I’m far less interested in telling people what to do as much as I am showing people they have the power within themselves to actually do it.
What has been your greatest success (or successes) so far in your business?
My greatest success was publishing my book “50 Fitness Tips You Wish You Knew“, which became a #1 bestseller in the weight loss category on Amazon. This, as far as I know, is practically unheard of for a self-published author in such a competitive niche.
The book was a compilation of all the best tips and tricks I had learned over the years with a special emphasis on the mindset it takes to be successful.
The health and fitness niche is SO competitive, and every ounce of success you can achieve is just that much more impressive. What have you done that you think has had the greatest impact on your site’s traffic growth? (Or are there multiple things that have worked really well for you?)
I’m always interested in traffic growth strategies for sites in super competitive niches, because they can usually be applied to other niches.
When I first got started, I was all about SEO and trying to rank my pages for unconventional keywords like “Ryan Lochte’s workout routine” during the Olympics. While I had some success, eventually this got time consuming and old, so I turned to Kindle books.
Right now my primary focus is on promoting my books which in turn link back and drive traffic to my website. Of course, building a list has always been a priority from day 1 and I can always send traffic to my blog from an email.
I think a big key with highly competitive niches is to find a good sub-niche.
While not my sole focus, a lot of what I talk about is motivation and mindset. I also focus on targeting busy people by emphasizing things like 5 minute recipes and so on.
By focusing on a specific group, it can help you carve out your own audience from a much bigger pool of people that are generally interested in fitness.
Even the most successful people stumble along the way. What do you consider to be your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
It’s funny because looking back, every failure was really something I needed to learn something that helped me down the road.
As cliche as it is, the failures were really learning experiences that I’m grateful for. A question I pose in my book Why You’re Stuck is “What if your problem isn’t a problem, but the exact experience you need to make
your next breakthrough?”
While I still get down when things don’t go the way I’d like, more often than not in the big picture it ends up working out that my failures were necessary experiences for something greater down the road.
If I had to choose something though, my biggest failure would be when I first got started and put together about 18 hours of MP3 training and a 350 page fitness guide. I then had a “name your own price” sales page that I shared with my friends and family. Barely anyone bought it despite all the “congratulations” I got, and it really hit home that I couldn’t even give away my information to the people closest to me that said they wanted to learn more.
That’s what sparked my interest in marketing.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at blogging. If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
The greatest asset in my business isn’t time or money, it’s the relationships I’ve developed. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources?
If you’re referring to fitness resources, then I was a big reader of t-nation.com for years and still check it occasionally. It’s hard to find a better source of diet, supplementation, and training tips for
There are also a variety of podcasts that I enjoy including the Be Well Buzz podcast and Dave Asprey’s bulletproof podcast.
As far as resources for bloggers or entrepreneurs, I’m all over the place with stuff and it would have to be more specific. I’m a big fan of Aweber for autoresponders, learning WordPress so you can run your own site, and I particularly like a widget called Sticky list Builder for opt-in forms on a website.
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog or attempting to start a business online, what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
Don’t expect overnight results (duh) and put most of your focus on finding others doing what you’re doing – including people that are more successful for a hand up and less successful so you can offer them help. I don’t see competition, I see companions.
JC Deen of jcdfitness.com was a big help to me when I got started. I was connected through a mutual friend and we’ve helped each other out with things here and there in that first year I was starting.
I also helped some other up and coming bloggers by writing guest posts on their blogs and answering questions.
As long as you know the basics of networking and know how to approach people with a “how can I help YOU?” attitude instead of “how can you help ME?,” then you’re off to a good start.
One rockstar tip is that I made personalized videos that I sent to bloggers telling them how I found them, what I liked about them, and offering anything I could. This made a huge impact.
And not everyone will respond to you, but sometimes all it takes is one key relationship to open many doors for you in your business.
How do you stay motivated when you faced setbacks and didn’t see success right away?
It’s a cliche thing in the personal development world to talk about finding your “why?” And for me, my “why” was a lot more than just making money and quitting my job. It was about how I was going to impact people.
The times I’ve been most motivated, especially when writing, is to imagine I didn’t have much time left on earth and had to get a message out that I want to share with the world. That forces you to prioritize things and find your real inspiration.
All my best work has been produced when I came from the mindset of offering a gift to the world before I go instead of just casually being like “what’s something I can talk about to make money?”
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks so much for participating in the interview, Derek!
What did you think of this interview? Have you had any success with Kindle books? Leave a comment below!
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