Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Financials of a Pro Triathlete Year 3
When you mention to people that you are a "professional athlete", the first thing that pops into their mind. (see above) The question that frequently follows up with the initial thought, "Do you actually make money doing that?"(Yes, people I have never met will ask , quite a personal question right?)
If you missed Year 1 & Year 2 of my triathlon Financials and want a little backstory on why I am putting this out there publicly, you can check that out HERE (YEAR 1) & HERE (YEAR 2). In short, there are very few Pros that are transparent about the financial aspect of our sport. I feel that there are quite a few people that have ambitions of going from the Age Group ranks into the Pro Ranks or even moving over from another sport into triathlon, and figure this could be useful for them and give them an idea of what it takes and what the progression (last 2 years) / regression (this year, in some ways) could possibly look like.
Credit is still due to Cody Beals as he was the first to write about this. You can read his most recent one here, which also back links to his previous years. Some of this will look familiar to what you may have seen in his blog, and some of it is my own take on the numbers.
I felt that '15 & '16 I had pretty successful years in the grand scheme of things. I was coming into '17 hoping to build upon the previous two years, which in many ways I feel I did and in others I felt like I lost a bit of ground.
Goals / Reality-
Like the previous two years, the goal was still to see a revenue stream from triathlon, but not solely rely on triathlon as the main source of income. In '17 I focused on growing the coaching business and stepped back from the other "part time work", for the most part. I still worked for one of my sponsors for a few months of the year, but that company ended up going under, and so did my sponsorship and employment with them.
The coaching business saw a lot of growth, in terms of my personal side of things and the business as a whole. We have steadily added coaches to our coaching roster, and we have overall taken on more athletes. Without coaching and the coaching business, I would definitely need another "job" to help bring in a "steady" income. The one difficult thing about coaching, is you can see a swing income from month to month, due to losing or gaining athletes. I have a goal number of athletes that I feel I can manage, but sometimes I am slightly under or slightly over that number, and on occasion you can lose an athlete at a moments notice for various reasons. So as nice as coaching is, and as many perks as it has, it also has some drawbacks from time to time.
Overall from the "job" side of things, things are going really well and happy with how that has continued to grow the past two years.
So let's dive into the expenses and revenue of 2017!
Coaching / Part Time Work:
Like last year, I am including “Part Time Work” in here as well, I think it is important to understand that a majority of us hold part time jobs on top of training and racing.
As I mentioned above, the majority of the part time work was coaching this year, $23,605 and the rest was from a small amount of work I did for a previous sponsor.
Sponsorship: Cash, Commission, and Bonuses
Down from last year, but still a pretty solid chunk of the revenue comes from some very generous supporters. Of the sponsor money I have, only $1,000 of it is from "within" the sport, the rest is from local companies and people that share in the passion of triathlon and want to see me succeed in this sport.
Bonuses?!?!?! Well, what bonuses?? Hard to collect bonus money when you don't find yourself on a podium, as my bonus structure is all based on Top 3 finishes. So needless to say, took a bit of hit in this area this year.
Commission: Like I had mentioned last year it is something I am trying to move away from. However, I have some strong existing commission deals setup and it is a nice avenue of additional cash. I am no longer taking commission-only deals, all deals have to have cash and/or bonus structure tied to them. Don’t worry, I will still ensure that there are some discount codes available on certain sponsor products that I have. (Same as last year)
One of the areas that took the biggest hits this year, just under $5k less than last year. My race selection was not the greatest this year, from a racing standpoint, but from a business standpoint I selected some races that will lighten the load on expenses for 2018. At the end of the day I think it was a wise decision to build some long term relationships. This is one area that I obviously look to build upon in 2018 and beyond. The past 2 years I usually had 1-2 "bigger" paydays, but this year I didn't earn one of those, so that hurt on the overall income side of things.
Same as last year, but even lower. Didn't receive/purchase as much equipment in 2017, which meant less stuff to sale. Not necessarily a bad thing, all of the sales were random items, nothing major. 2018 will look much different on this front with some big sponsor changes and a lot of "old" gear to sell off.
Quite a bit more help in this area this year. Only had to pay for 2 nights of a hotel room, all the rest were covered, and I had two homestays. So overall a big win on this front, and some nice travel support throughout the year which really cut back on the expense side of things as well.
Transport / Bike Fees:
Compared to 2016 I was able to cut back again on travel, even while traveling quite a bit. Totaling $7.3k for transport, and $407 for bike fees (saving $700 from 2016), this was a nice decrease. I look to decrease this even more in 2018 with a few deals that I have sorted out with race organizers.
Equipment / Nutrition:
Luckily this area was pretty minimal this season, compared to years past. As mentioned above, due to some new partnerships for 2018 this area will see a big increase in spending in 2018, but should cancel out with the selling of old equipment.
Hopefully for 2018 this area will remain low. Only had to pay for two nights of a hotel in 2017, and that was due to extending the trip by one day to get a cheaper flight, and an overnight layover. One thing I am really grateful for is how we are taken care of over in Asia, and I have yet to pay for a room over there.
Pretty straight forward. Most Pro Athletes pay a flat rate for coaching and then a % of winnings on top of that. That is the setup that I have with my coach (Scott DeFilippis) and it works well.
Minimal expenses here this year on a personal side. Last year I splurged on a new laptop, this year it was basically TrainingPeaks fees and that was it.
Race Entry / Membership:
WTC/IRONMAN has a pro membership that cost $972.70, however this allows you to do as many races as you want as a professional and as it may sound expensive, it ends up being a lot cheaper than what I had to pay as an amateur. Challenge Family did not charge for their races, so that was nice. The "memberships" includes the local Tri Team in the UK I pay to swim with, along with a few other places that I swam at throughout the year.
2017 was the year in the saying of "two steps forward, one step back", yeah the step back was 2017. Showing a profit of $25k , is something that I am ok with, could obviously be better. I was still able to max out the Roth IRA (one of the goals every year), travel the world and wake up every day (well most days) doing what I love. It may not be the most “luxurious” lifestyle, and as a few critiqued last year, “You could be making more money at a real job!” In my opinion, money is not everything, and money surely does not equal happiness. So continuing on this journey is the plan for now.
For 2018, I have cut way back on investing time in looking for new partners/sponsors. It is a big time suck, with very little return right now. I have a solid foundation of sponsor/partners that have been with me for a while now, along with a few new ones. I have instead focused on strengthening the partnerships/sponsorships that I have, and really focusing on cutting expenses down, which has been the trend the past 3 years now.
By the Numbers:
3 Paychecks, totaling $1,852 after taxes
$231– average prize money per race
$730 – highest prize money at Challenge Aruba
$573 spent on hotels (lucky enough to have a few homestays + free rewards nights)
$7.3k + 140,000 award miles on airfare
112,000 miles flown, 37 flight legs, 249 hours of "travel time" from first take off to last flight land of each trip.
How Do I Track All of This? (Same as last year)
I figured there may be some interest on how I manage all of this "data". Below is how I currently do it, if you have any suggestions open to hearing how to make my life easier!
- Expense/Revenue Tracker- I just use Excel to track everything, pretty simple and straight forward.
- Paper Receipts- Previously I was just keeping them in an envelope and transcribing them into the "master" excel tracker. I use Foreceipt, pretty nifty app which links into your Google Drive and can transfers the receipts via photo/image & creates nice reports.
- Online Purchases- I use the "Snipping Tool" to screenshot the receipt and just save them in a folder by year and they are titled by date and company.
- Flight Data- I have previously used, and will continue to use Mile Calc. For 2017 I have also started using AppInTheAir which has some nice features for historical flight data, plus current and upcoming flight info.
- Taxes- Our tax situation is a bit complicated with us living overseas, having a foreign bank account, and multiple income sources. Due to all of that we use TaxesForExpats.