First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Higgins: We are doing fine, thanks for asking. Luckily no cases in my close circle, and everybody is still healthy and happy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Calisthenics.
Chris Higgins: My background is in nutrition and personal training. I studied nutrition for my bachelor’s degree and then pursued an ACSM personal trainer certification.
After finishing my degree, I started giving classes in a local gym as well as private personal training consultations. Around 2015, I started to get interested in calisthenics, a form of exercising that required no gym gear, only your own body weight, and as a result, I started blogging about it on my website.
As the site took off, around 2017, I stopped giving personal training and gym classes and now focus 100% on the blog. We now have a team of about 8 writers and editors.
How does Calisthenics innovate?
Chris Higgins: We innovate by producing world-class video and text content without charging a cent. Working out used to involve paying a gym subscription or building your own gym at home, which often cost several thousands of dollars per year.
We’ve made working out practically free.
Not only that, but we’ve made it safer and more information-heavy, giving you the tools to become your own personal trainer.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chris Higgins: The coronavirus pandemic was actually very helpful to our business.
We were one of the few fortunate industries that saw a huge increase in revenues throughout the pandemic, particularly when the lockdowns were first announced.
The pandemic brought health to the attention of many people that would otherwise not workout or care too much about their bodies. It also motivated gym-goers to find an alternative to going to the gym- and calisthenics is just that.
We saw our revenues quintuple during the months of March and April, and even now, as the situation stabilizes, revenues have almost tripled from the same period last year.
Coping with this increase in traffic and revenue simply meant scaling our operations: hiring researchers, writers, and editors.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Higgins: Not really. The only choices I had to make were related to taking advantage of this “opportunity.” This involved writing out new SOPs, onboarding new freelancers, and increasing ad spend.
All in all, the process was quite smooth; perhaps the lesson learned was to be even more aggressive with scaling when an opportunity presents itself.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Chris Higgins: The stress and anxiety were, in a sense, a good thing as they were caused by the amount of extra work that the new customers brought.
I always tried to maintain a healthy work-life balance by allowing a few hours per week to my hobbies: working out, surfing, and fishing.
Throughout this turbulent period, I’ve been lucky enough to continue to do most of my hobbies, which has been a huge help in managing stress and anxiety.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Chris Higgins: My competitors are YouTubers, bloggers, and course providers in the calisthenics space.
It’s a relatively small market with a few players dominating the industry and new ones entering every day.
I plan to continue to stay in the game by providing industry-leading information, which I do by hiring doctors, personal trainers, and a research team to fact check and find relevant sources.
I also plan on making my content very easy to consume. By providing industry-leading design and user experience, we hope to keep our readers engaged and loyal to our platform.
Your final thoughts?
Chris Higgins: Scaling content businesses is not an easy task, though it is necessary for any blog to reach the 5, 6, or 7 figures a month mark. To maintain the quality of the content, it is necessary to:
- Hire fast, fire fast. Until you find the perfect candidates, at which point it’s a matter of keeping them motivated and compensating them fairly.
- Document everything you do. Record videos, write down SOPs and take notes on all the small steps and details you take when performing a business task. Encourage your team to do the same. This will help onboarding new team members and will help maintain quality as you scale.
- Give bonuses and give ownership to key team members. Set out the KPIs, allow them to set their own tasks, and be responsible for the growth of their channel.