by Matt Weik
I get emails every week from people looking to get into the supplement industry or become a writer. Each one tells me their story of what they have been through, what they are working on, and how great it would be to finally “get the break they’ve been waiting for”. Here’s the unfortunate news, there is no “get the break you’ve been waiting for”. Those who “wait” miss out. Period. This piece is for all those individuals who want to make it into the industry, but aren’t sure what steps to take.
For me, it started in college where I was a kinesiology major at Penn State. I always enjoyed learning new things and sharing that new-found knowledge. Writing was an outlet for me and came natural. Some may call it a blessing while others call it weird. Either way, I was always the kid who would jump on an essay whenever possible to bypass the multiple choice and true/false exams. My journey began when I frequented the forums of a bodybuilding website. It was there that I answered questions month after month—helping people in their search for a healthier and stronger physique. One day I got an email from the owner of the website asking if I would write some content for the site. One thing led to another any before I knew it my work was plastered all over the internet. Emails were flooding my inbox from people who enjoyed my work and who gained something from one of my content pieces.
After a few months of writing for this website, I was contacted by Iron Man Magazine. They asked if they could run one of my articles in their print publication. May 2007 that came to fruition. From that moment on, my life was never the same. I caught the bug. I was hooked—bad. I wanted to be on thousands of websites and hundreds of magazines giving people the knowledge they need to make well informed decisions regarding their health and fitness and I wasn’t about to let anyone tear down my dream. I’m proud to stand here today and say I’ve accomplished just about every writing goal I have set for myself. There are still a few on my bucket list but since I began my writing career I’ve crossed off my fair share of “things to accomplish”.
My writing was getting around the industry as well as around the world and I was starting to build a name for myself. It was then that a large supplement company asked me to work with them on the forums and educate the members on their line of products—which I did as a forum representative. This was another door that I was able to get my foot into. Things started to take shape and mold into something amazing. I enjoyed working with the company so much that for months I begged them to bring me on full-time in some capacity. Eventually a regional sales manager position opened up and I was offered the job. I jumped on it and stayed with the company for the better part of 9 years—spending six years on the road as a regional sales manager, and the remainder running their Team Sports division myself. At the end of my career with this supplement company, I decided I wanted to pursue my own business. No more did I want to be a part of corporate America and report to people who quite frankly weren’t even qualified to be considered my boss. When you know nothing about the products you’re selling or even the industry that you are selling into, the surmounting frustration is one that keeps you awake at night. The timing was right and clearly there was no looking back.
So where does this story lead? It leads into a place where you can accomplish anything you want if you work hard enough for it. My story isn’t the only one of its kind. There are many. And there will be many more after I’m long gone. Now here’s your chance to find out how you too can create your own legacy.
What’s Step 1?
Gain knowledge. And never stop learning. Find something you are passionate about and become an expert on the subject. Learn as much as you can about that particular subject and once you think you know everything, keep digging deeper into the topic. The better your skillset on the subject, the more marketable you will be. Once you gain the knowledge and skillset, don’t boast about it like you’re the only person out there who possesses the same knowledge—you’re not, and there are tons of people out there smarter than you (that might sound harsh, but that just reality) that will put you in your place in an instant. Stay humble and work hard. Never be outworked. The instant you become complacent is when someone knocking at your door will swipe your dreams. Don’t let that happen. Don’t EVER let that happen. Stay hungry.
Where do you go from here if I want to be a writer?
Once you feel you are well-versed on a specific topic, go seek out some forums and start answering questions and showing off that new-found knowledge you gained. In helping others, it will help get your name out in the industry. People will start talking about “the guy who helped them on the forums” and people will seek you out. You’ll want people to come to you for advice—and give it. You’re never too big to help someone out. Remember, you were in their shoes not too long ago.
Your next step if you wish to be a writer is to reach out to some of your favorite websites. Now here’s a piece you’re not going to like… You’re going to have to “pay your dues” so to speak. It’s extremely hard to get a paying writing gig without a name in the industry. No one is going to want to pay for something from a writer who doesn’t have a following that can put thousands of eyeballs on the content piece. So start off by contributing free content to websites of your choice that engage the people you are hoping to help through your expertise. From there you will have created a nice portfolio of work that you can direct people to. It’s that portfolio that you can send to other sites or publications that you wish to get published in and potentially make some money writing for. Here’s another bubble-busters… If you think you’re going to get rich writing content for websites and publications, you’re going to find yourself very disappointed. There is a small percentage of authors/writers who can make it full-time and earn a good living. Now, that’s not to say that you couldn’t write for some incremental income. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what your hard work can amount to in a years’ time if you work hard and produce a good amount of content.
What if I wanted to break into the supplement industry?
If the supplement industry is your ultimate goal, then you need to figure out which supplement companies align with your ethics, morals, and interests. For example, if you take the barebones minimum when it comes to supplements such as a multivitamin and fish oil, then don’t reach out to a hardcore supplement company who sells testosterone boosters and post cycle therapy products if that doesn’t match who you are. You’re not truly going to be able to help them and after a while there’s a good chance that they figure out themselves that there isn’t much you can bring to the table to increase their sales. So choose wisely and don’t rush into making a decision until you are sure the company you are about to work with and represent is the right one for you.
When you reach out to the companies that you align with, make sure you tell them a little bit about yourself, what you’ve done in the industry (send them your portfolio), tell them why you wanted to reach out to them specifically, what you feel you could do for them, and ask them if there are any opportunities within the company for such a person. Then the ball is in their court to get back to you. Another word of wisdom is if you aren’t currently taking their products, don’t email them. If you don’t believe in their brand enough to purchase their products before you wanted to work with them, what makes you think you’ll jump into a position with the company with open arms if you weren’t loyal to begin with. For me personally, I truly believe that my use of the company’s products before I was hired by them really helped me get the job. I was already familiar with their whole product line and even knew some of the people who worked for the company through trade shows and bodybuilding shows. Full disclosure, it is EXTREMELY competitive in the supplement industry. To break into the supplement industry is not an easy task. Over the past several years everyone has wanted to dip their toes in the supplement industry waters. Several might make it in, while others will try religiously for years without any luck. Also, don’t feel that as soon as you get in, you’re truly in—you’re not. There’s always someone out to take your position, so don’t get lazy or complacent or you’ll go back to square one.
There is no easy path through life. Sometimes you need to take the path less traveled in order to make your dreams come true. Don’t get frustrated and don’t ever give up. Winner never quit and quitters never win. Get out there and get your hands dirty—spend the time and do some work. Prove to yourself and others that you deserve your spot in the industry. And do it the right way. There are a lot of sleezeballs in the supplement industry, and it doesn’t take long to find out who those people are. Stay clear of them whenever possible, they will never have your back and will not help you achieve your dreams. Your future is up to you and only you. Now go out and make something of your life.