Joe Wicks Main Image ()Joe Wicks Main Image () © Copyright

How Joe Wicks got everywhere

We used to call him No Ordinary Joe in our magazine. And we were right. Now, with millions of social media followers, one of the fastest-selling books in history and a few quid in his back pocket, he’s one of the most sought-after men in the world.

Here at FS we have a little bit of a soft spot for Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach. He was our man for more than 20 issues, after all, and in that time, we like to think we played some small role in his success. He is a part of our identity as a magazine. But enough about us.

Joe, now 30, has established himself as one of the biggest names in the fitness business. From his 15-second guerrillastyle Instagram videos through to his cookbook, Joe is challenging the way our nation thinks about food.

Today, Joe has amassed a huge, almost cult-like following of foodies and get-fitters spreading his message: don’t diet – live. His message that eating lots and eating fat can actually get you fit is totally at odds with the bland advice that has been on offer for the past 30 years. Social media has been the great equaliser in this process; Joe is getting his message through to an audience organically, unfiltered, uncompromised and, most importantly, free of charge.

The numbers speak for themselves: Joe has more than 964,000 followers on Instagram, 990,000 on Facebook and 140,000 on Twitter, giving a combined total of well over 2m individual followers. His Lean in 15 hashtag has been Insta’d 280,000 times (mostly ’gramers taking snaps of their interpretations of his #Leanin15 recipes), while someone tweets the same hashtag approximately once every three minutes. And these figures are rising daily.

His outreach isn’t restricted to a UK audience either; tweets, Instas and Facebook posts have come from as far as New Zealand, Indonesia and Brazil, and interest in his cookbook internationally means the rights to it have been purchased in the US and China. In short, Joe Wicks, a lad with a big idea from a sleepy suburb in south-west London, has truly become a global phenomenon.

 

Joe Wicks the body coach portrait ()

 

Unlike the current generation of digital superstars, who are crafting carefully cultivated images behind their retina displays, Joe is crossing the divide from the virtual world into the real one, with real solutions that could potentially solve this country’s obesity epidemic. 

His 90-day “Shift, Shape and Sustain” plan (#90daySSSplan) has become a market leader in affordable nutrition and exercise plans – it has sold more than 100,000 copies in little over two years – while his Lean In 15 cookbook is a rip-roaring success. It’s dominated the Amazon book chart for nearly three months solid, and has sold more than 520,000 copies in total. To put that in perspective, his book is in the top 11 of fastest-selling books of all time, behind Harry Potter, 50 Shades Of Grey and Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, purely by word of mouth. Chew on that for a minute.

Now, the move into TV is coming, which is set to send him into the rarified stratosphere of celebrity. Joe may play down his new-found fame, but in truth, he is leading the vanguard for the new-age digital celebrity. And just like any celebrity, the money follows, and with that the challenge of keeping it real.

So what does it take to reach such giddy heights in an atmosphere where few have figured out the best way to survive? Well, Joe says, you can do it too. The rules on making it aren’t exactly set in stone, but Wicksy has a few ideas. Let him tell you his 11 ways to up your game…

1) Put in the man hours

I suppose people might look at me now and think I’m a bit of an overnight success, but it’s taken so many years for me to get here. From the early days when I first started on social media, when you’ve got no one listening to you, you have to believe in what you’re doing and keep going.

Even when I was a personal trainer, I committed so much time to my clients and I was always so dedicated to them. I wouldn’t pick the hours that would suit me – I would be doing the 6am starts, the evening boot camps and then the PT sessions after them. You have to commit to it fully, too; once I commit, I want to be the best at what I’m doing and I’ll work hard to make that happen.

For me, I put in hundreds of hours on social media. It’s not even the videos I post; I’m permanently glued to my phone. Even now I am. It’s six or seven hours a day just scrolling through comments, making sure I can get back to people. It’s maintaining that level of attention and making sure it’s authentic. My followers have allowed me to do all the things I’m doing now, so I’ve always got to appreciate them and give them something back.

2) Surround yourself with like-minded people

You’ve got to surround yourself with positive people who work hard. The more you hang around with these people who work hard, and work hard with you, the more things are going to happen for you.

I see someone like my little brother hanging around people who aren’t setting themselves standards or setting themselves goals, and I know he’ll stay at that level. The moment he surrounds himself with people who go to university and who are working hard, he’ll likely become a better person.

I’m one of these people who loves seeing other successful people. I don’t get jealous, I just think, “What are they doing and how can I model myself on them?” I love seeing people succeed. Other people don’t seem to like that. I’ll go to seminars, I’ll read books, I’ll listen to TED talks – anything that inspires me to go and do better.

It’s not like I get attacked a lot, but whenever I do, it’s from other fitness professionals. At the end of the day, I don’t get involved in other people’s business, whether they’re selling bespoke plans that cost £500 or generic PDF plans at a much lower rate. We’re all trying to get people fit and healthy, right? Some people just do it differently, so I don’t engage with that negativity.

As you step into this celebrity thing, you’ve got to have people around you who you trust. My circle of friends are people like my brother and my close mates that I went to school with. They’ve supported me from the start – they’re not jumping on board last minute. It’s nice to be able to do stuff for them, too; take your pals on holiday, help your mum out financially… it’s just nice.

3) Believe in yourself

Have a real belief in what you’re doing. If someone tells you your idea is shit, it’s going to knock you back into your shell. Imagine if I stopped when my mates said to me “Ooh, Joe, that Lean in 15 idea is a bit sore!” or “You’re a bit busy, ain’t ya?” I’ll keep doing my thing. It paid off in the end, didn’t it?

You’ve got to focus on what you’re doing and if people say what you’re doing is shit, just think “I’m helping people get in shape on a mass level”. Some people can’t connect with people like that and I think it makes them jealous and bitter, so they come out and attack people. It’s not a good look is it? Why not market yourself positively rather than target people with negativity because it’s different to what you’re doing?

People have seen how hard I’ve worked; I posted thousands of tweets and videos before I contemplated creating the plan or monetising the business. I did it because I genuinely enjoyed it, and believed what I was doing was right.

 

The body coach Joe Wicks on the bed ()

 

4) Be brave, buck the trend 

Bucking the trend in my industry is important. For so long, people were telling us about low-calorie, low-fat, high-carb diets – we know it doesn’t work. I’ve had to be brave enough to do something different to that.

Doing something a bit different, for me, started with #LeanIn15, this concept of 15 second videos where you’re trying to get an important message across in a short space of time; here’s a really healthy meal, you can make this, it’s possible. That grew my business and my following. From there, people were turning to me and saying, “I’m on this low-calorie diet and it ain’t working, Joe”.

A lot of people are trying to do the same thing, but I’ve used social media effectively to help change people’s habits. It’s not just about telling them to eat fat and then train and that’s it. It’s an inspirational thing; you have to inspire people to go to the shops, you have to inspire people to prep their own meals. You need to influence people’s habits and that’s the most important thing. Do that and their results will be long-term.

5) Believe in your product

My content is all about giving something to people that’s useful. I always approach it and ask myself what is the value to this post? Who will it benefit? If I know it’s useful, then I won’t stop. That’s why I’ll keep doing my #LeanIn15s – it doesn’t exactly take much to do, either.

After I started #Leanin15 and had people coming to me looking for advice, I had the idea for the 90-day Shift, Shape and Sustain Plan (#90daySSSplan). It goes against everything they’ve been told; you’re eating more food, you’re eating healthy fats and loads of carbs, too. It’s an anti diet. You only have to do 20 minutes of H.I.I.T on top of that, so you’re not spending hours in the gym. It works because it’s flexible and sustainable; the food’s good, the training’s hard but intense, and it becomes really effective when you combine the two.

Once you get one transformation where someone’s really happy with the results, they’ll tell ten friends, then each one of them will tell ten friends and so on, and before you know it, 100,000 people have done it, all over the world. It’s now a proper global movement. It’s growing and growing and growing. For me it’s the future of fat loss and the diet industry. It will be on the NHS, I know it.

6) Be a social animal

First and foremost, social media is not a waste of time. I’ve heard plenty of PTs or busy fitness professionals say they simply do not have time for social media, but you have to make the time. I made the time because I always saw the value in it, and saw how important it could be for me. It can be the most powerful thing for building a business or a following. It opens up so many doors.

If you’re not on social media and you don’t take it seriously, or you don’t appreciate the value of one person listening to what you have to say, then you’re going to get left behind.

You’ve got to completely be yourself, too. If you go on there and be a saint, you’re just going to alienate people. The fact I do tell people I’ve had a drink and I am hungover on Snapchat, or eating a chocolate bar, makes people think, “Ahh, this guy is normal, he is legit, but he’s still healthy and lean.”

Don’t criticise people or be negative, either – have something to say that’s worth listening to instead. It’s a personality thing, too. What you see on social media from me is an amplification of what I’m passionate about. I don’t want to be preachy or anything like that, I want to say it how I would say it in real life.

 

Joe Wicks Kitchen Table ()

 

7) Do it for the right reasons

I think when you’re good at helping people, you don’t have to chase money as it will come to you. If you set out just to make money, I guarantee you won’t be happy – it will never be enough. I drive to work on a Monday morning buzzing to get into the office. I just love it. Even when I was coming back from holiday the other day, I felt exactly the same as I did the day I left the office to go on holiday. That’s important.

I’ll continue to succeed because I love what I do. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. I look at my support heroes and think these guys are out rescuing people every morning, motivating them to start eating healthily and reassuring them they’re doing the right thing – that’s my motivation, reaching as many people as I can.

When you become successful, it becomes quite addictive. Hitting goals and hitting barriers motivates me. I’m thinking, “Yeah, I’ve helped a lot of people in the UK, I’ve smashed the UK, let’s go to America now and help more people.” It’s really not about the money.

8) Maintain your integrity

My value last year before I had 900,000 followers wasn’t very high. Now it is, I’ve got all sorts of brands approaching me wanting to work with me. You’ve got to be careful with this. You don’t want to take money for the sake of it and promote a product that you don’t believe in.

It is hard, though; I’ve been offered things for big money that I’ve turned down because I wouldn’t use it, nor would I think it would be any use to my followers – what would be the point? Things like breakfast bars or energy drinks; things I wouldn’t necessarily use myself. It tests your integrity because you think it’s easy money for a day’s work.

I’ve filmed stuff using bagels and Uncle Ben’s rice because I really use them all the time, and I do stuff with Björn Borg because I wear their underwear. I’ve used Lucy Bee coconut oil since I started out, so I have a relationship with them. If I started promoting frappuccinos from Starbucks, you guys would be saying “what the…? This guy is a sell out!” People cotton on to that, and it puts them off you.

Brands are spending millions of pounds a year trying to connect with their audience, but I’ve done it for free just by being myself. You’ve got to be authentic and not compromise your integrity.

 

Joe Wicks The Body Coach Portrait 2 ()

 

9) Push it to higher levels

If you see someone who’s ambitious, I think the more they achieve, the more they succeed – they never slow down. You’ve got to be like that, too. I’m happy like that, and I’m always thinking “keep working, keep it up with the free content, stay obsessed with it”

For every book that’s sold, I think one person is learning how to eat better. They’re not necessarily doing a diet, but they are cooking better, they’re maybe exercising a little more, eating less junk – that’s my motivation. Not everyone who buys the book will buy the plan and vice versa, but that doesn’t matter to me because they’re still learning something from either.

With my book, I could never have predicted how well it would do. My publisher said it’s phenomenal, especially if you consider I’ve had no TV to support it and it’s all been done on social media. My audience are so engaged that even if I don’t have 4m Instagram followers, it’s done better by 960,000-plus people who are super-engaged and super-active. So now my goal is taking it to the United States, Australia, China – the rights have been bought and it’s going to be translated into Chinese! If you can crack China, you’ve got access to one billion people. It’s mad!

10) Network like a boss

Networking with other professionals in my industry is so important. Once upon a time, I got in touch with Jamie Oliver’s people with an email saying I’d love to meet Jamie or do something with him, but they said I wasn’t quite right for him at that time.

I knew I was going to meet him one day, so I kept trying. I then got invited to talk at his festival – Feastival – and briefly met him there. I then got asked to do his DrinksTube with him, and then a #Leanin15. Doors open up the more relevant you become, and the more followers you get. Eyeballs are on you and people want to talk to you and socialise with you. It’s good to keep that up.

In the early days, though, I had people emailing me asking to do a guest Q&A on their blog or a talk at their school. Some people might think it might not be worth it, but I know the value of just one person listening – the value of one is better than none. I’ve taken my time to do these things and network that way. Even if that event doesn’t have a massive reach, it’s still worth doing. Never say no because that momentum is just going to keep building and building, then you can take the ride from there.

11) Remember who matters most

Me and Nikki [Wicks, Joe’s brother] are obsessed with giving my followers free content. We’re going to get this gym up and running, get this kitchen sorted and just make videos and give stuff away for free. That’s what it’s about. You have to give people ideas and give them something to come back to. When a second book comes out or something, people will get back on it and get buying.

To keep innovating, I’m going to put out more books and stuff I guess. I know #Leanin15 might eventually run its course and won’t be fun any more, but I’m sure I’ll think of something else, especially if my social media following declined because of it. Maybe “veggie #Leanin15” or “30-minute meals” could be around the corner, who knows? As long as it’s quick and easy, I think people will still want to use it.

When I did my book tour, people were travelling like two or three hours to see me, and people were taking days off to see me. I just wanted to spend more time with them after that. The interactions with my followers have always been positive; people tell me their story or experience with what I’m doing, and how it relates to them, and not that I’m annoying them!

It’s powerful, it’s nice to hear and it reinforces what I’m doing. The positivity comes full circle; I give it, someone’s happy for it and they give it back to me, and it makes me happy and pushes me on to work harder and do bigger things.

Head to www.thebodycoach.co.uk to find out more about @thebodycoach’s bespoke 90 Day Shift, Shape & Sustain Plan

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