In the spring of 2020, Sam Gach was still adjusting to his growing fame on social media. Known primarily for his yoga videos, Gach had grown his online following to 250,000 on Instagram and 200,000 on TikTok, and had left his job as a social media manager at Kellogg's just before the pandemic to become a full-time content creator. When asked about his quarter-million followers, he paused for a moment to consider.
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"That sounds like a lot when you say it that way," Gach said at the time. "I've never said it that way."
Almost six months later, some of that initial shyness has fallen away. Gach is still self-effacing but he's less tentative talking about his online followings: He's now at 300,000 on both Instagram and TikTok. He has also realized two big dreams: creating his own subscription-based fitness app and moving to New York. He arrived in the city at the beginning of September and officially launched the app, Stretch, on Wednesday.
"I don't feel like I've made it yet," Gach says. "I feel like I'm working on it still. But I have made it this year. I've been able to be just fine this year and make the most money I've ever made."
Those earnings are well into six figures, Gach says, nearly the entirety of which is strictly coming from brand partnerships. He dropped almost all of the supplementary income streams, like social media consulting, when he first quit his corporate gig at the beginning of 2020.
"I'm fully doing only the things that I want to be doing," Gach says. His continued success creating widely shared yoga videos for Instagram and TikTok has given him confidence he didn't have 18 months or even six months ago. A recent challenge video he posted has more than a million views on TikTok, and 17 million views and over a million likes on Instagram.
"I've had more experience under my belt on my own," Gach says. "I have the most confidence that I've ever had that I'm going to be successful."
The '3 big changes I needed to make in my life'
While Gach has only been influencing full time for the last 18 months, achieving sustained success online has been one of the long-term goals he set for himself in his mid-20s after graduating from the University of Michigan.
"I had kind of gotten into a bit of a rut, even though from the outside my life looked pretty good," Gach says. And after some introspection and some journaling, he "came up with three main things that I needed to do; three big changes I needed to make in my life that I needed to do for myself."
First, he wanted to move out of his parents' house and into his own place. Then he wanted to quit his job. Finally, he wanted to move from Michigan to a big city like New York.
The first goals he achieved shortly before the pandemic. Now, two years after moving out of his parents' house, he's landed in New York City's Upper West Side, just blocks from Central Park.
Making all these moves required money, and Gach made sure he was financially sound before jumping to his next step. He didn't have an exact savings figure he was targeting. He had, however, always been a saver and had been adding to his net wealth while living with his parents and working at Kellogg's. That included contributing to the company 401(k) plan while also investing in index funds and a Roth IRA. Since those accounts are strictly for retirement, he's careful to explain that he doesn't take any money from them.
As for traditional savings, "I think I had enough in the bank for like a year to live, but it wasn't like I was shooting for that necessarily. That was just the case when I left my job," Gach says. Those savings weren't enough to make him comfortable enough to move just yet. "I needed to be in a place where I was making money before I was going to move to some big city," he says.
'What made me feel comfortable was making money on my own'
Online, Gach's contortions look natural and effortless: He can do the splits while reading a book. None of it, however, is as easy as it seems. While he himself admits that he has a natural talent for yoga, he has put a lot of work into his practice to become that good.
The same can be said about achieving his goal to make his side hustle his main gig. "It was really scary for a while," Gach says. But as his videos continued being widely shared and product companies kept wanting him to represent their brand online, it became less terrifying.
"My savings level wasn't actually going down after quitting my job," Gach says. When it still hadn't fallen after the six-month mark passed in the second half of 2020, "that was enough for me to be like, 'OK, this is actually going OK.'"
When his income started going up, that's when he knew it was time to leave Michigan: "What made me feel comfortable was making money on my own."
Becoming a digital nomad to 'live in all' the cities that excited him
Gach will be in New York for the rest of the year, trying the city on for size. He's in a short-term rental that he plans to leave in the New Year so he can do similar stays in other major metro areas.
"I was interested in New York, Chicago, and L.A., and one day I was talking to a friend about the different cities," Gach says. "And he suggested, 'Why don't you go and live in all of them?'"
Gach joined an upscale gym that he also uses as an office space, and he tries to go to Central Park as often as he can. And he's making about three videos per week for each social media platform, he says.
"It's still new, but I think I'm starting to get into a routine," Gach says. A big chunk of his to-do list is the fitness app he launched this week, which gives subscribers personalized plans and courses for stretching and light exercise. He's been working with developers on it for months and has been heavily promoting it for the last few weeks.
It's one of the biggest leaps he's taken so far. "I've done all the work. I have this confidence in it, and I just know that it's going to be successful," Gach says.
He feels a long way from where he was just a few years ago: "I just have a completely new life."
The article "Fitness Influencer's 6-Figure Side Hustle Is Now His Job: I'm 'Doing Only the Things I Want'" originally published on Grow (CNBC + Acorns).
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