by Matt Weik
The prize money from winning big IFBB pro shows around the nation is constantly growing—which is a great sign for the overall success and growth of the sport. However, if you aren’t one of the top pros, it is very difficult to make a living these days pursuing your dream of competing full-time. This leaves bodybuilders looking for supplemental income through another avenue. So what can they do and what are some currently doing?
Get a “normal” job
This isn’t a slap in the face to bodybuilders, it’s simply a reality. Many consider bodybuilding a sport. It would be similar to saying now that Michael Jordan is retired, he can go get a normal job if he was in need of money (which he isn’t). He has enough investments and business deals to never have to step foot on the court ever again.
Being a bodybuilder isn’t easy. Your time is spent divided into three parts: eating, sleeping, training. If you’re a competitor, you know exactly what I’m saying. If you’re a top competitor, there’s more than those three; such as running any businesses you might own (we’ll touch on this later), or mailing out autographed photo cards, etc.
It’s hard enough being a bodybuilder, but it’s even harder if you have to work a full-time job just to support your family and passion. Food expenses alone per week for the average bodybuilder is astronomical. Then add on gym memberships, tanning, massage therapy, “supplement” costs, etc. Not to mention other expense we all face such as mortgages/rent, utilities, taxes, and the like. It’s ok to need to work a normal 9-5 job if that’s what you have to do. You need to do whatever it takes to be able to live your dream of competing at the highest level. So if putting on khakis and a button down is what you need to do Monday through Friday, then that’s exactly what you need to do.
This is no easy feat to be honest. And many sponsorships pay very little money unless you are one of the most sought after athletes out there. You’re looking at maybe $5-25k a year if you are just starting out and aren’t a big name. Many of you might think $25k just for a sponsorship isn’t bad. But when you factor in the costs associated with bodybuilding, that money disappears very quickly. Many sponsored athletes don’t even get financial compensation, many of them get free supplements for a brand being able to use their image and name them one of their athletes. So if you have some room to negotiate, I would highly recommend you try and get both a financial piece of the pie as well as free supplements when working a deal.
On the flip side, if you’re highly sought after, you can make upwards of $200k or more a year if you’re one of the best in the world just from sponsorships. When you’re making that kind of dough for allowing brands to use your name and image, you know you’ve made it and there’s no way you’re sitting there reading this article.
What will be required of you if you get sponsored? Surely a brand isn’t going to offer you free supplements or money just to say “hey, I’m sponsored!” So be prepared when you sign on the dotted line of a contract that you will more than likely be responsible for guest appearances across the US, photoshoots that images from the shoot will be used for marketing materials, social media pushes that show images of you with the product or images of a product alone with you mentioning why you use it in the description. And lastly, they are going to expect you to get on stage and compete—and win or at least place in the top five or ten. If you break any one of those pieces I just mentioned, don’t be surprised to get a phone call or email asking what’s up. This can lead to a breach of contract and ultimately you being fired from the brand. Not a good look if you’re trying to break into the industry and make a name for yourself.
And PLEASE do not get a big head if you get sponsored. No brand wants to have a diva running around the nation acting like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread and annoying retailers when you’re making guest appearances. Keep a level head and remember, what you have today can all be taken away tomorrow. You’re not only representing yourself, but also the brand you are sponsored by. I’ve seen it first hand with athletes we sponsored when I was in the supplement industry. There have been many times I’ve butt heads with athletes because they act like idiots at booths during appearances and think the retailer or distributor needs to wait on them like a king. Not gonna happen. Keep your ego in check. Be polite and courteous (and smile) when at events and show the fans and supporters that you’re a great ambassador for the sport.
Start a supplement company
There are several IFBB pros who are using their name to sell their own brand of supplements these days. Guys like Phil Heath, Dorian Yates, Kevin Levrone, Rich Gaspari, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, and Kai Greene all have their own line of products. While some of them are hero brands, others fizzle out and never really make it off the ground. It’s not due to lack of trying. Some go bankrupt while others are making millions. As with any business, there’s risk involved. If the pro has the name, generally at first people are willing to try the product line and see what it’s all about. However, if the products aren’t quality and don’t give consumers the results they desire, they jump ship never to return to that brand ever again. Some consumers are so dead set into thinking that if they use a certain product line made by a pro, that it will surely help them get a physique like the pros. Keep dreaming. Not going to happen.
The upfront investment and overhead associated with starting a legit supplement company can be extremely high. For this reason, one needs to sit down and plan accordingly if they feel the brand will have enough traction to begin building the business. If not, it might be wise to simply use one of the other methods mentioned here to provide some extra income. This isn’t going to be a one man show though. That would be impossible. You’re going to need a marketing team, a sales force, accounts receivable and payable, a warehouse to store product, offices for your staff, attorneys, accountants, the list goes on and on.
Buy real estate
Buying real estate definitely has some risks involved, just like starting up your own business. There will be good investments, and then there will be really bad investments. Some days you just need to roll with the punches. If you didn’t want to take on this venture alone, you can bring on a team to help you choose your investment properties wisely. While this is an added cost, their insight is extremely valuable and can save you money in the long run.
It’s no secret that Jay Cutler owns several real estate investment properties in Las Vegas. For him, doing such has been a very lucrative venture. However, the investment world can go either way. You can make a lot of money buying up properties or you can have the properties fail miserably and you lose money in the deal. But overall, this is another way that bodybuilders (if they have the means to) can bring in more money.
Now if you are an up and comer, it’s highly unlikely that you will have the financial means to follow in Jay’s footsteps (or at least not at the current stage of your bodybuilding career), but if you have some money put away or some money that you don’t know where to invest, real estate might be an avenue for you to make more money. You could even sit down with a financial adviser and go over some options and see if investing in real estate is something you’d want to consider.