Robert Farrington is the founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com and host of The College Investor podcast. Founded in 2009 while Robert was still in grad school, TheCollegeInvestor.com now reaches 3.5 million monthly readers. The College Investor was built with the intention to share common-sense student loans and investing strategies and continues to do so today. Robert sits down with Chris Snyder to share some insight on how Millennials can start making strategic personal finance decisions to invest in their futures.
Today’s show is sponsored by banks.com – the world's most comprehensive and trusted branding and discovery platform for banks and banking related products & services. Banks.com is aligning consumer core values with trusted financial institutions bringing attention and awareness to leading financial brands.
"The one thing you have when you're young that you don't have as you get older is time." - Robert Farrington
"Google's best interest is to deliver you the best content. And so on the flip side, as a publisher, my best interest is to also deliver you the best content about whatever that topic is." - Robert Farrington
[00:00:44] Hello,everyone, Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, president at JuhllAgency, and founder of Financial Services Platform Banks.com. On this show, wetake a no B.S. approach to business success and failure, told through thestories of the top entrepreneurs and executives who have lived them. Join ustoday as we get the unfiltered backstories behind successful Internet brands.Today, sponsor is Banks.com, the world's most comprehensive and trustedbranding and discovery platform for banks and banking related products andservices. Banks.com is aligning consumer core values with trusted financialinstitutions, bringing attention and awareness to leading financial brands. Youcan learn more at Banks.com forward slash partners, or you can send an email toinfo at Banks.com. OK, everyone. Without further ado, today's guest is Robert Farrington.He is the founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com and host of the College InvestorPodcast. Robert founded TheCollegeInvestor.com in 2009 while he was still ingrad school. The college investor now reaches three and a half million monthlyreaders. The college investor was built with the intention to share commonsense student loan and investing strategies. And it continues to do so. Today,Robert is here today to share with us some insight on how millennials can startmaking strategic personal finance decisions to invest in their futures. Thanksa lot for being here, Robert.
[00:02:19] Hey, thanksfor having me. That's great.
[00:02:21] Absolutely.I'm really excited to talk to you about this because I've personally been inpersonal personal finance since 2005 with some some pretty big sights. I thinkyou've been doing this since 2008 or 2009. So this is not your first rodeo. Sothis should be a really good session today. If anyone is thinking aboutpersonal finance sites or if you're, you know, a millennial or if you're aninvestor or if you're an entrepreneur and you want to learn a little bit moreabout this stuff, I can't think of two better people to listen to today. So,Robert, before we get into that, tell us a little bit about your upbringing,where you grew up and how you got to where you are today.
[00:03:01] Yeah. So, Imean, I grew up in San Diego and, you know, I had a pretty normal childhood, Iguess. But, you know, I would describe myself as a constant side hustler. So Iwas the kid in middle school.
[00:03:15] I remember Isaid my earliest memories of earning money was going to Costco with my mom.Right. And buying that King-Size 12 24 package King-Size candy bars. And thenI'd take them in my backpack and I would resell on Braken lunch in middleschool. And that would earn my money. Right. So that I could go ran video gamesat Blockbuster is all I've got. I got a date myself a little bit here lastyear. Right. And then that's what I did in middle school.
[00:03:43] And that wouldearn my spending money so I could go play video games because I like I'vealways had this passion. I love computers and I love video game stuff. I loveearning money and making money. I've always been entrepreneurial and it allkind of came together. Right. So then in high school, I was selling stuff oneBay. My eBay account was like 2001 was the starting date. Oh, yeah. You knowwhat I sold on eBay? I was selling my old videogame stuff. I outgrew it and Istarted selling all that kind.
[00:04:12] So your totalcost of ownership on a 35 or 40 or 50 dollar video game was probably like 20bucks. Right? 50 bucks, right.
[00:04:20] Exactly. Butyou know what? Like, it was it was either earned money or gifted money. So,like, my total cost of ownership was probably positive. Net positive. Yeah,probably positive. Right. So, yeah. But I always just enjoyed it. I love thehustle. I love selling stuff. And I was kind of nerdy. Right. I was intocomputers and whatnot. And so, you know, then I went to college. I thought Iwanted to go into computer science. Right? Yes. That's kind of how I was growingup. But I got into the basement my freshman year. And, you know, that's wherethey send all the freshmen. You had to go code in the basement on these old,like, Unix computers. And it was horrible. Hated my life. I thought, like, thisis the worst thing. I thought, like, I screwed everything up. Like, what am Idoing? Like, I actually really enjoyed the science and the logic and like, howit all worked. But I hated coding. Yeah. And so I switched pass. I became apolitical science major because I thought that would be the easiest way tofinish college.
[00:05:15] Hey, you knowwhat? Two peas in a pod. I was the same deal. I never wanted to be a coder,though, but I was like, hey, I can write a ten page paper in an hour. Less nothave to do any math or any of that stuff. Just buzz through history in writingpapers because it's pretty subjective as long as you have a point of view.
[00:05:34] Right. Youjust do. That's it. So I learned I can write really well and really quickly.And so that came to a head. I think, like all these kind of experiences cametogether in why I started the college best. You're right. I enjoyed technology.I was reading other personal finance blogs. I was taking my extra money and Iwas investing it. And I think I'm going to share these thoughts and I couldwrite. I really enjoy writing. I can knock out an article in minutes. It didn'ttake very long. And so that's kind of all came to fruition. And I started thecollege investor as a platform to share. I don't know why. Looking back on whyanyone would want to read a, you know. Twenty two year old, twenty four yearold kids thoughts on stock market investing. But, hey, I was gonna do it forthe share my thoughts on investing in personal finance. And so, yeah, that'show it got started. And that's kind of how it came to be.
[00:06:25] Hey, man,that's how Warren Buffett got started. He was he was he was startingbusinesses. I think he was selling bottle caps. I don't know. I was watchingsome documentary on Warren Buffett. He's been inviting friends over his housefor, you know, 70 years to talk about investing in finance. So I think, youknow, prior when he was 22 or even 30, he was probably as good as he is today.So. So you're a good writer. You're a great writer. You're passionate aboutinvesting. You know, I see. You know. Finance investments, you have your MBAfrom the Ratti School of Management. So clearly your entrepreneurial. So what?So how did it. Did you just sit down one day? How did you get first of all, howdid you get the domain? Because the college investor seems like such a nobrainer. How did you get that domain? Was it available or did you have to beg?
[00:07:19] So, I mean, Iregret rewind the clock ten, eleven years ago and now it's been a while. Allright. Like, things weren't as competitive back then, especially for theselonger domains. And that's really what it was like. I was reading a bunch ofpersonal finance sites. I wanted to share my ideas. And I guarantee you, I cameacross. I actually I know I came across that epitome of like, you should starta blog, blog post.
[00:07:40] But like, Ithink every Internet marketer kind of jokes about it. So, Metta, that like, I'mgoing to have you start a blog and make money off of you, DGI to make money offa blog. I read one of those and I was like, I should totally start a blog. Thismakes total sense. And so I just literally follow the steps in the article. Igo buy a domain, go get free, get hosting, you know, but WordPress on your siteand you rock and roll. You can start a blog. And that's what I did.
[00:08:07] Did you codeit yourself? Because you mean you talked about being a coder, being in acomputer has been in the games. Did you do all this yourself?
[00:08:14] Well, I mean,that's the cool thing with WordPress. Very plug and play. Right. Like, I mean,I got a free theme.
[00:08:19] I think I wentto five or to get my first logo paid like five bucks. And there you go and oroff to the races. And then I mean, I, I don't know if you go to the WaybackMachine and go back to like two, I, I mean, it looked ugly as can be. Iremember it was it was a brown site. It was nasty. Looking like it worked.Right.
[00:08:39] That'sawesome. You know, another thing I want to point out for our guest is you saidyour your born and raised in San Diego. You went to school there. You're stillin San Diego. You might be one of the only people I've ever met my life thatnever left California or is not is from somewhere else. No one from no one isfrom here except for you. You're the only person from California.
[00:09:00] Well, you knowwhat? Like, I love it here. I like why I've traveled around. I've seen otherplaces. I sometimes I regret being here because it's expensive. But on the flipside, like, it's amazing. I love it. Family's here. You know, I feel blessed tobe here.
[00:09:14] Yeah. It's Imean, look, I've traveled all over the place, too, and I can't imagine. Yeah.The you know, the the popular media can probably portray the state ofCalifornia however they want. But at the end of the day, it is what you make ittiresome. It is expensive to be here. But you've got you know, I would argue,you know, one of the highest concentrations of talent, especially inbusinesses, Internet businesses, technology businesses, one of the highestconcentrations of talent, the best food, the best weather, the best mix ofculture. I don't I really don't know of anywhere else. You get the bestweather, the ocean, the best ocean, better than the Atlantic. Not cold like NewYork City. Oh, my. I'm from upstate New York, so I can say these things.
[00:09:59] Yeah, it'sgreat. It is what you make out of it. Right. Exactly. You know, and I. Yeah. SoI love it down here.
[00:10:06] Excellent. Solet's talk about the college investor in terms of what are you really focusedon because there there's a millennial thing in there and then there's also someother personal finance items in there. And like, I don't want to get into thespecifics of what exactly is your mission, but what are you really trying todo? How are you trying to help people now?
[00:10:29] I mean,audiences. I think that's it. I mean, it is our mission. Right. So, like Ioriginally started this idea with the idea of helping people build wealth earlyby earning more money and investing. And that's still kind of at the core ofour mission. But like I've learned from my own experience in life and then fromhelping people in talking to people, that there's a lot of hardships and bumpsalong the way. I think the biggest, especially for millennials and evenxenophobes and others, is student loan debt. Right. It's a big credit card debtnow. Yeah, exactly. It's a huge hurdle to overcome. So between my ownexperiences and what we help people on, I'm really a big believer in helpingpeople conquer. There's new loan debt as early as possible so that we can startbuilding wealth and investing as early as possible, because that's how you'llset yourself up for financial success.
[00:11:18] And we talkedabout the tools, the tactics, the resources, everything else under the sun tokind of achieve those objectives.
[00:11:26] So studentloan debt, maybe your you know, maybe your primary focus after student loandebt, college loans. Any advice around that? What is the next big category on,you know, on your site?
[00:11:38] Yeah. It'sinvesting and building. Well. I mean, even with student loans, though, it'slike we've got to tackle a lot of stuff that we have the student loans, we gotthe personal finance basics like getting organized with your money. I'm a hugebeliever in the an earning more money. Right. It goes back to my story. Andlike what I did. So, like, I love hustling and the gig economy and stuff. Andthen once we're conquering your debt and making progress, how do we startinvesting and building wealth? Because that's the goal. Like no one's here tosave for you. You got to save yourself. And you say for yourself as well.
[00:12:09] Yeah, Iremember it. I don't even know how this happened, whether I was forced orwhether I was asked or whether it was a freshman foundations class. There was athink a personal finance class in college. By the way, I'll date myself. Thiswas the mid 90s. And they talked about I'll never forget this, the time valueof money. And so the two pieces of advice that you just gave and obviously yoursite goes a lot deeper. Look, figure out how to to mitigate your debts.Obviously, I think that going to college is a good investment. I think we needto do it prudently as a society. College entrance rates and tuitions are up,you know, probably hundreds of percentage points. So it's difficult to getuncovered from that. But the second part to managing mitigating your risk thereis also you have to figure out a way to start putting money aside now. So whenyou get to be our age, you have a few hundred thousand dollars in the market.And then when the markets go up by one or two or three percent, you're makingthree thousand dollars a day doing that sort of thing. Right. But how does. Soa couple questions. You know, when you and I grew up, where did you, like, workat Blockbuster or go to Blockbuster? We had a go to Target. We had to go to theconstruction site. We had to go to the restaurant. We had to punch a get apunch in. And then we had to stand there. We had to we had to be told what todo. And then we served people. Then we got paid eight bucks an hour. And thenwe left. Right. We had to be there three or four days a week. What are yourviews on the gig economy and maybe how much that is enabled not only collegestudents, but younger people to be able to maybe spend their time a little bitmore wisely, spend a couple hours doing a Newborough or lift or a door dash ora GrubHub? Or can you talk about the gig economy as you see it? A little bit?
[00:14:02] Yeah, totally.Well, I mean, first off, the gig economy isn't designed to be full time work.It's supposed to be supplemental gig work, like it's literally gig, the gigeconomy. So I would say, like for me, like my story. And you kind of looted onit, right? Like, I graduated college. I worked full time at Target. I was astore as this store manager and making a store manager while I was building myside gigs. Wow. I was building the College Ivester while I was still sidehustling too, and I was selling stuff on eBay. I would go to garage sales andestate sales once I sold all my own stuff that I don't want to have anymore. Iran other stuff. So I went and found new stuff to sell and I bought it and Iresold it and I was making a profit doing it. And so the idea of earning extramoney is the most powerful thing that you can do for your personal finances.And my belief, because you can budget all you want. Right. Like, we can talkabout not going home, not buying your Netflix subscription and not buying thatlot air or whatever. Right. But there is a limit to how much you can cut out ofyour budget every single month. You still got to live somewhere. You still gotto get to work. You still got to feed yourself even if you live on. Beans andrice like it's still a cost. But there is literally no limit to how much youcan earn and greens. If we don't start at infinity, but you started it amountand then you can keep iterating and learning and getting better at stuff on theside and earning more money doing it. And that will enable you to unlockfinancial freedom. Got a student loan debt? It's how I paid off. I paid offforty three thousand dollars do loans and about two and a half years. Why? Idid that by working full time. Because I was I'm not trying to say like you'renot. I was only gig economy here. I was working full time. My starting salarywas like forty two thousand dollars. I lived in San Diego and I supplemented myincome with selling stuff on eBay. And I'll tell you what, like my income foreighty thousand dollars after taxes, that really gave me like zero buffer likethirty five grand a year probably. Exactly. Then I was Brand and Karg, likeliterally there wasn't anything there but I was able to. How so. To the tune ofabout two thousand bucks a month. And that two thousand combined with like alittle bit of extra that I could pull out. But we're talking like one hundreddollars. I'm not talking substantial, but the two thousand is what unlocked myfinancial future, right. Yeah. I will say, like there's so many things to doout there, you don't have to start a blog. You don't have to sell on eBay. Youknow, you have these gig economy jobs. You have Uber, Lyft door dash postmaids. But you can also like tutor. You could sell stuff. You there's justthere's limitless things to do. Right. And the one thing you have when you'reyoung that you don't have as you get older, it's time. Right. Like you're ableto you have the energy to do it. You likely don't have kids or a family or othercommitments. So it's like you have the ability to get up an hour or two beforeyou start work or, you know, spend a couple hours with afterwork before you gethome and make some money and do something that could literally better your lifefor, you know, you could do this for four years, five years, and you can 70years of, like, financial freedom. I it's just such an easy sell. But I don'tthink a lot of people look at it that way.
[00:17:15] Yeah, thatseems it seems like we need to start a lot earlier on the journey as relates toeducation and it needs to be ingrained. You know, it's funny, I just talked tothe CEO of Greenlight Financial. You may know those guys. They have a critic,not credit cards, but debit cards for kids. So instead of, you know, my kidsasking me for five bucks, every time we go somewhere, you know, we're going toget him these these debit cards for kids. But, you know, they're 10 and eightyears old. They're kind of getting back to your point. If you're if you don'thave these principles in your mind by the time you get to college. And thenwhen you leave college and you expect, okay, you know, maybe you're 40 thousanddollars in debt. I was very similar as your 40, 50 thousand dollars in debt.Then you leave college. Some of these kids are a hundred thousand dollars indebt. Maybe they have a poli sci degree like we did. Well, guess what, dude?You're a student. Your student debt payments are going to be like a thousanddollars a month probably, or it might even be more real. Wages have notimproved that much over the last, you know, let's call it, you know, 20 years,25 years. So if they have not taken some care in their families or society orthe educational system or schools, I don't know what it is, has not ingrainedin our children. Don't spend that extra five bucks on ice cream, right. Spendthat extra five bucks on, you know, a quarter share of, you know, Wayfair stockas it goes up 48 percent in the last two days or whatever it was. So I think,you know, I don't know what kind of advice you have or any other sites outthere that you might have or what you would say to maybe younger parents thatare also millennials that have maybe they found themselves in this situation.But what is what is your advice for people who are thinking about how to geteducated about this, educating their kids about this? I know the collegeinvestors a good resource. Are there any nonprofit resources out there as wellthat people turn to and look at?
[00:19:25] Well, yeah.Well, let's talk about there's two sides of the equation, and that's what makesthis battle kind of more complex on the when you start diving in, as you haveeveryone that has student loan debt today that are maybe struggling with it.And then you have the future. Right now, the kids that are coming up and howwe're going to pay for college and what does that look like? And you can't doit. You can't solve one without the other, really, because it's like you cansay we're going to forgive all the loans. But what if you're supposed to be afreshman this year in college? And how are you gonna pay for it? And then,like, is my college forgiven or, you know, like you can't see why you kind ofhave to deal with how do we pay for college first and then how do we supportpeople that I like to call it the archway of education that they are findingthat their education are. Why was negative or, you know, it definitely wasn'tpositive. So first off, we have to educate our kids on what is our Iwai andreturn on investment is what I'm talking about here, because college educationsand investment, just like it would be if you were, you know, buying anapartment complex or real estate or if you were investing in the stock market.Because let's be frank, in 2020, today you're not going to college foreducation as like a thing. Right. You could get educated online for free fromthe best, smartest. You know, people in the world like Cornell puts all theirlectures online and so does Harvard.
[00:20:38] It's like,what is M.I.T.? By the way. And they have done so for years.
[00:20:41] Exactly. Soit's like if you want to learn, like advanced physics, you can you can go learnit. Nothing stopping you. You're not going to college for that.
[00:20:50] You're goingto college because the goal is, is that my investment in this education isgoing to boost my future earnings skills because I'm going to be able to show apiece of paper at the end that social signals that I have done done a thing.
[00:21:03] Right.Accreditation, right. It's accreditation. It's a social signal. You're exactlyright.
[00:21:08] And that'swhat it is. So the question is, is, is the R.O. eye of that social signal goingto be positive or negative for what I want to do? And, you know, in a lot ofcases, college can still be a very positive ROIC for people. I'm not trying todismiss. College is like not worth any more. It totally is. I don't think it'sworth it for everyone by any means. I think it's worth it for a good 30, 40,maybe 50 percent of kids these days. I think vocational trade school, militaryentrepreneurship, you run. You name it. Like there's the other 50 percent ofkids will probably benefit from those paths. Right. But when it comes to ourIwai, you got to think about how much my spending and how much am I going toearn.
[00:21:47] And the coolthing is to in 2020 is you can Google the salary of everybody. If I want to gobe a computer science engineer, type it in. I could see your science engineerin California. And this is what my starting salary, median salary, high endsalary, you know, all these things like. So take that and then work backwards,you know. And so, like, if you want to be a teacher, phenomenal. We needteachers in this country. But you have to realize that you're starting pay isgoing to be forty thousand bucks and your max salary right before retirementwill be like 70 or 80. Like, that's the range. That's what you're going tomake. And that's what you get. So it doesn't make sense to spend two hundredthousand dollars at a fancy private school to achieve your dream. Becausewhat's going to happen is, is you're just going to see a lifetime of financialhardship. Where is you could maybe go to a community college and thentransferred to your state school. You get out in four years, maybe you spendten, fifteen thousand dollars, then making 40. You have a positive ROIC there.And I think you can do the work you want to do and that you would love and notbe burdened financially from the education you got. And so that's theconversation we need to have.
[00:22:59] And then weneed to figure out how we want to support people that have student loans thatmaybe didn't get out of the system in a positive way.
[00:23:07] No, I couldn'tagree. I couldn't agree more. That's great advice. So let's talk about a littlebit about the mechanics of the college investor. You have a team, you build aWeb site. Obviously, it was a it was a one man band for a couple years thereprobably. And then as you grow. How did you figure out how to make money?What's the business model here?
[00:23:29] Yeah, well,like, let's be honest, socially, it was a one man band for a lot of time. Imean, it's still kind of is I mean, it's a virtual team. You know, we all havefreelancers and stuff. But, you know, I didn't even make any money on the sitefor about a year and a half because I didn't know. I remember this is like ahobby. It's like I'm going to share my thoughts on investing and personalfinance. And that's what I did. And luckily, I enjoyed it. I would tell you that,like, if my goal was to make money, I would probably burn myself out and fail.Luckily, my goal was to just share my random thoughts like everything else waskind of.
[00:24:00] How manyarticles do you think you wrote before you realized, like, damn, I'd written alot of articles and I make no money. One hundred two.
[00:24:09] Oh, probably.Probably. So I took about a year and a half before I made anything. Right. AndI was writing about, you know, one or two articles a week in that time.
[00:24:18] So yeah,probably got a hundred articles at least, you know, and these were like shitarticles like, I'll be frank with you. I mean, like I mean, it's like Iremember some I went deleted and we we we dug a big purge if you use all thatstuff. But it would be like a a two paragraph article about like why you shouldbuy Microsoft and it be like. Because they're great. Literally nothing.
[00:24:42] Because theyhave a monopoly on the computer operating system. And until the federal governmentshuts them down, I think you should buy Microsoft. End of story.
[00:24:51] I mean, youknow, it was terrible stuff. But like I would tell you that the real firstinflection point was connecting with other people online. And so back then, itwas seen it was a forum. Right. So I found this forum of other people. Bloggingand online marketing, and a lot of them were doing personal finance, but somewere doing entrepreneurship, blogging and, you know, other things, and theywere just it was just it was amazing.
[00:25:16] Like they weretalking about things I was interested in. I think I stumbled on it by a Googlesearch, like I was trying to solve a problem. And I found this forum and likewas like blown away. They're talking about, like, how to promote your content,how to create great content.
[00:25:28] And then, ofcourse, how to monetize your content. And so I started participating andjoining in and asking questions. And then, you know, we do things like shareeach other's content and then people share my content. So two things happen asI learned and I learned, like, oh, my God, I could put, like, ad sense ads onmy site.
[00:25:45] I'm like, youknow, I know this for like a year and a half is like you can just drop somecode on your site and ads pop up and you can make money like that to me. Youcan make twenty five cents a month on ad sense. I remember I mean, I made liketwenty six dollars the first month that I ads on my site and I was like, oh myGod, oh my God, I've made it. Yeah, made it. I've turned his hobby intosomething that made twenty six bucks like heck. Yeah. It is literally a fullpizza and a pitcher of Bud Light. You know what. But when you're, when you'reyoung and like this is a hobby that's phenomenal. Right. Like I viewed it as Icreated money from air. Like I have this thing online that doesn't reallyexist, but it does exist and it makes me money. That's it. It's an asset, bythe way.
[00:26:32] I didn't viewit like that back then. But you're 100 percent correct. It is an asset. It'sjust like real property. But like, you know, when you're starting out, it'slike this is pretty cool. Right?
[00:26:41] So. So youspend a lot of time. So you spent the first part of your time as a passionproject, really just honing your craft, writing articles, and then you figuredout, well, people are really starting to talk about, you know, how we mightmake money in this business. So you got hip to that. And so the first iterationof the college investors business model was basically ad sense.
[00:27:03] Is thataccurate? Yeah. It's that ad sense. And then we started I started learningabout affiliates. So affiliate marketing, right. Where you promote someoneelse's product or service. And so the cool thing in the personal finance spaceis that there's a lot of services that could easily align, like we talk aboutbudgeting. Well, here's a budgeting tool. Or, you know, you want to talk about,you know what? Today, it's super sophisticated, but pretty much every financialproducts, service and tool, there's some kind of partnership or or way to drivethat. But when I starting out, it was pretty simple. I joined a coupleaffiliate advertising networks and I was like, oh, I like that product. Okay,I'll try to promote that. And I was still creating great content. But like,every now and then I'd be like, Oh, this is how I budget. I use this tool. And,you know, here's the link to and if you sign up, I get paid, you get access toit. That's cool. And that's how it slowly started building up over, you know,the next couple years. But we were I was learning more about how to creategreat content and how to great create content that, you know, could be turnedinto revenue sources, but also help people. Is it the other day here? I'm not tryingto, like, push people into, like a payday loan or some shady thing. Like, Ialso want it to be the right good service or tool that makes sense for whateverwe're talking about.
[00:28:17] Yeah, I liketo look at it. You know, it's just something that you would offer to yourmother, your father, your aunt, your uncle, your grandmother, your grandfather.Like, would you push them into a payday loan? That's not you know, I mean, theyhave their purpose that you serve the purpose. But I would say just you know,it feels like our job, both you and mine, is to make sure that we're makingsuggestions for products that we would use ourselves. Right.
[00:28:42] And that's andthat's how it started. Is a personal side. So it's like this is what I wasdoing and this is is there what I'm thinking about, like and this is theproducts, services, tools that I use and I love and I recommend. And, you know,I think that if you're a blogger or anyone online starting out, it's also theeasiest way to start out. Like just teach people what you do, because I alsothink people really like to see behind the curtain. Right. Like, I love it whensomeone likes to deep dove me into their system or their their train of thoughtor their tools and their, you know, whatever it is like. I love that. And ifthey use a tool and I like their system will boom. Like, I'm probably sold onit. Right.
[00:29:19] Yeah. Soyou're so so you evolved from ad sense, which could make your site look like acircus candidly, because you never know what you're going to get with thatstuff right up in there. They're a little bit right now, but at the end of theday, you figured out, oh, I could just go to Commission Junction or I could goto impact radius or record ten, and I could just scroll through the Mall ofFinancial Offers and grab some creative and just grab a link and put it on yoursite.
[00:29:45] Right. Oh,there you go. And now there isn't one there, but at least it's like you haveyou've suddenly created all these partners and, you know, and now you can atleast promote and maybe maybe earn something from them, you know?
[00:29:57] Yeah. So. Sowhat was the next evolution? Because I think I think people think that aren'tfamiliar with this because. That. Oh, I'm just going to go set up a blogtomorrow and write a bunch of articles and I'm going to get rich. Right. Sophase one, it feels like took you at least two or three years, maybe longer.
[00:30:16] And you wereliterally grabbing ad cents or grabbing links from C.J. and some of these othersources. And those sometimes those links don't don't pay very well either. No.God, such a such a scamming mess at some point, some of these networks whichwill remain nameless. But when was it that you said, wait a second. The onlyway we're gonna create real value here is to create relationships directly withthe advertisers. When did you when did you come to that realization?
[00:30:46] Well, thattook a long time and it kind of went both way. So, like, let's even rewind forthat. So we're seeing some initial success. But remember, I'm still workingfull time. And when you're in this game, it's like the game is create contentso that you have a shot at catching a reader so that you have a shot at maybeconverting them on some product service or promotion. Right. And so I did. Ineed these shots of these at bats. And so I would say around the same time aswhen I realized that, like, I was getting myself stretched too thin, I think mywife was super tired of me, like being on the computer 24/7. So I startedbringing in a couple of freelance writers to help me supplement my content.Right. Because I wanted to create more content, better content, because at theend of the day, that's what it is. Whether you're personally creating the contenton whatever platform it needs to be top notch. The best answer the question. Berobust. Cover it all. And I couldn't do that all by myself anymore. So that'smy start layering and some help. And as a result, better content, more content,gave more at bats, gave more traffic, gave more revenue, which then eventhrough these networks started catching people's eye. So like, of course, Ithink in everyone's space it's like, what's the 80-20 rule? Like, you know, thetop 20 percent make up 80 percent of your business. Well, those top 20 percent,like they were starting to see, like, wow, this random site is there togenerate something more significant, like let's reach out, let's talk to them.And then we started building more partnerships one on one with companiesbecause they saw value in us. We actually saw value in them and like theircontent and like, how could we work together better and maybe more, you know,more than just like the networks or whatever. Right.
[00:32:24] Yeah. Whatwhat would you say is a good spot from a visitor standpoint where you feel likethis is this is going to be scalable, is it? Fifty thousand visitors a month.Is it a million visitors a month? Because in this business, no one really caresabout you until you get a little bit of scale. And it's hard to get there. Whatis what is a good target for those looking?
[00:32:46] It all dependson the on the user intent, too. I think that's the hard part, because I've seensome massive companies out there that maybe a million visitors a month, butit's such a personal site and people come to the site to read like so. Andthose ramblings about life. Right. And there's no user intent there. Whereas,like, I actually had a side project a long time ago. This is probably sevenyears ago, long gone. But I had a site that was like super small. It got 30000thousand visitors a month, which I guess is a super small but relatively small.But twenty thousand of those went to a comparison page. And like literally waslike crushing it in terms of revenue. And so, like, it all depends on, youknow, what what your user intent is and where they're going. So I would say,like, I think once you get to 30 to 50000 visitors a month, though, you havepotential.
[00:33:35] The questionis, is can you harness that potential in a way that adds value to you, addvalue to the users and maybe adds value to some partners that you could workwith?
[00:33:44] Yeah. From astrategic planning standpoint, because if you just sit down and create a farmof writers and start cranking out content, back to your point, if you're notbeing strategic about that, you're actually going to fail. You and I both haveseen it like a million times is actually really hard. You talked about app.That's and if you use the analogy, you know, about a good batting average inthe Major League Baseball. I mean, if you're if you're Bat and three hundred,you're you're doing you're all star game. You're an All-Star, right. You'repretty damn well. So and by the way, Robert, that's after a person like youwho's been after this for like 12 years, you batting 300 is is literally allstar. Is that right around the range, like, you know, 10, 15, 20, 30 percent ofanything you do is going to make is going to make sense as an engagement for ayear.
[00:34:35] I mean, afteryou've been doing it for a while and have the experience been like when Istarted, I was like more.
[00:34:40] I don't know.What do we say? I took. It took me like I'd run out of articles. Well, I tookme. Well, it took me 150 to make something. And then we got a little betterevery step of the way. Right. So there is like one in 50.
[00:34:51] Then you'redown to like one and 20 and then like, you know, but it comes with practice,too, because at this point time, we've probably I've probably personallycreated over 2000 articles for our site. Wow. If you add in writers andeverything else are. Breadth of content is enormous. So it's like I've put inthat work and I know at least what it takes to get better.
[00:35:12] And even whenI try my best. There's nothing more frustrating to them. This is the best thingever that I've created. And then no one reads it and you're like, seriously?And it happens even if you create the best thing ever. It still might notconnect to resonate, you know, take off and do what you wanted to do it. Andthat happens. That's why you just gotta keep at the at bats. Because even inthe best case scenario, I really do think like three out of 10, you know, youjust know that's that's supernova three out of 10. It seems just really hard.And it's really hard. And that's like that's a best case scenario. Like that isif everything is working correctly, you still fail seven out of 10 attempts atcreating something on your site even after a decade of doing it. Yeah.
[00:35:54] You know, likeyou do if you do one out of 20 or, you know, two out of 50 or whatever, you'rebasically going to be a starving artist.
[00:36:05] On the flipside, if that's something you enjoy. Like, yeah. Like, I also don't want totake away, like, you know, there's a lot of people that blog and create contentor do Instagram or YouTube because they're not looking to get right. Well, evenif they're looking, they just wanna cover their costs. And, you know, like yousaid, if I could buy a pizza and a beer, I'm happy. Right? Like, that's it. Andso, you know, like, yeah, we scale this and created something here that'sreally amazing. And I'm blessed for that. But, you know, even if you're atthirty thousand visitors a month and you got there and you have some peoplethat really care about your message, like there's potential to do somethingthere with it.
[00:36:40] Yeah. Yeah.And obviously the passion is the first part. And we started there. You know,the business, though, the business model part of this. And I think what we'retalking about and trying to describe and make, you know, make people clear onis that this stuff like this looks easy, but it's actually really hard. And youreally have to be passionate first about this this life in this job and howmany hours you're willing to put in. Again, going back to, you know, Robert,you were working full time, probably still hustling on eBay and writing twohours a week. And you had a wife like you like all of this was going on. Youwere putting in at least 12 hours a day, if not fifteen, just to do this. So ifyou are passionate, you would have quit a long time ago.
[00:37:24] Right. Soreally. But I think that's the only thing that you get. You're blessed by thatwhen you're young. It gets harder when you're older. Now, I have two kids and,you know, it's like it would be much more challenging to put in that effort.But when you're 20 to 24, like, I think it's it's phenomenal for people to dothat. And I'm not even saying you have to do it all the time. Like, I stilltook breaks and vacations and stuff. But the only thing you get when yourpassion, your hobby is that you make relationships, you make friends. So likeafter doing this for a decade, a lot of my closest friends, or at least, youknow, somewhat tangential to what I do, you know, like you you buildrelationships the like, it really becomes very enjoyable. Right.
[00:38:04] It's aflywheel. You get that flywheel turning, it's hard to get going. But once youget it going, it's really hard to slow down that momentum. Sorry. So would youclassify yourself as a as a as a all? I'll say this a content guru. Now youunderstand content.
[00:38:22] I understandsome content. Yes. I was him enough to be dangerous. I mean, that's it. I don'tknow all of it. And we're trying hard all the time. But yeah, I know enough tobe dangerous.
[00:38:31] But relativeto some of the other marketing disciplines and it you know, we'll throw outstuff like paid media. So could be, you know, Facebook paid media or Googlepaid media or display ads. Do you play in those realms as well or are you acontent guy?
[00:38:47] Well, we playin those rooms for sure. It all relates. I'm a big fan on social. We do video.We do audio. And we do a good chunk of paid media as well. But it all comesback to content. I always I don't I can't tell you who who said this. And I'msure you can Google the quote, but it's like all you get with that other stuffis if you create a turd, all you do is shine light on a turd.
[00:39:09] I love it.Like, you know, like you've got to start with that home base that they may notfind a lot of light on a lot of.
[00:39:15] Turgeman. Igot to tell you, because, you know, in the services business, everybody givesyou their turd's, right? Some of them are actually diamonds. And you have a youhave a good wrong with with those kinds of clients. But you make a great point.If this is your product and if you're not willing to spend a lot of time onthat product, but you're willing to go give Google or Facebook thousands ofdollars a day, if not tens of thousands of dollars, you know, hundreds ofthousands of dollars a month to shine their light on your turd without payingattention to it. You don't win, bro.
[00:39:47] Right. Andthat's how that's how I like to view it is like, can we create something thatwe're really proud of? And then everything else actually becomes a lot easierbecause like, I wouldn't have any issue calling someone. I mean, I do. I reallycreated something awesome here. And I would be cool if you take a look at itand share it like. Like it's actually really. It doesn't feel bad at allbecause you create something awesome. Like, if you got a weird feeling in yourstomach that you're hesitant to, like, put it out there, well, what's what'smissing? Like, is it not the best? Are you really just trying or are you justgrasping for something? But when you put the work in and you really createsomething awesome, it's a lot easier to share. It's a lot easier to spend moneyto promote it. It's a lot easier to do all the other things you need to do.
[00:40:28] Yeah. So let'stalk about maybe some some big challenges or maybe some big pivots. You know, Iknow a few guys, a couple of them have, you know, really valuable domains. Oneis a dot org and another one's a really well-known dot com. And I know both ofthese guys over the last maybe 10 or 15 years, Google's algo or Google'spolicies have completely wiped them out, like from a business standpoint. They'vehad to rebuild the company more than once. Have you had any challenges likethat or have you come out of this completely unscathed and maybe not.
[00:41:05] But we'regrateful for that.
[00:41:08] We deal withthat all the time. And so, like Google iterates. But I also always I onlinewith their mission. So first off, Google's mission, they're a business. They'rean advertising business. Their business is to deliver you the best results. Andif they fail at that, they can't deliver you ads because you will go to anotherplatform. And if you really get frustrated with like Google, like and if youfeel like they're advertising too much, you feel like their search isn'trelevant. You know, they know there's other options out there and people willeventually switch. So Google's best interest is to deliver you the bestcontent. And so on the flip side, as a publisher, my best interest is to alsodeliver you the best content about whatever that topic is. And so in thatregard, I feel like we're aligned. And but on the flip side, Google sometimestold me, like, no, you're really nice. You sucked at this. Or, you know, theproblem is, is my site so large? We're doing it so long? Is that, like, mycontent for the last six months might be what they view as like the best. Butlike trying to maintain an archive of a thousand other articles from seven to10 years ago. Oh, yeah. I also agree with Google. That probably isn't the bestbecause things have changed. Seven to 10 years in the personal finance space.So there's two sides of it. It's very challenging to maintain a whole Web sitethat is consistently top notch across everything. But on the flip side, I'mvery aligned with their vision.
[00:42:35] So I've gottenhit plenty of times. We've regained stuff plenty of times. I think it'simportant to keep you on your toes because it makes you, like, understand whatyour customer is dealing with, which you should always have at the front ofyour mind, no matter what. And it's easy to get complacent to like the world'sevolving. Things have changed. Like before this call we are talking about ticktock, tick tock. Didn't exist a year ago or two years ago. Right. Like, there'snew things. There's new stuff out there. And you got to be where your customeris. You know, it doesn't matter where you want to be if your customer is notthere. Right.
[00:43:10] So themajority of your problems as a business would be probably on the traffic side.Right. And it would be the control that the middle man, the middle personGoogle plays in distributing your content to the masses. So that's a big one.What about, you know, finding qualified writers, finding freelancers? You'dmentioned at the beginning of the show you have a distributed team. If you faceany trouble with simple stuff like project management, keep keeping people ontask. You know, any of that stuff to move the business forward. Because, Imean, look, we have small teams, right? We don't all come to an office everyday and sing Kumbaya, all like we have to get directed here.
[00:43:50] So, yeah, Ithink my struggle. I actually never had a content problem or an organizationalproblem. I'm a very organized person. I love tools like a song I like. Yeah.Ron Lock there. I'm a big believer in giving people a shot and then trying. Solike, I've also never had a problem with, like writers and and creatives persay, because it's like, look, I'll pay you. Let's try one that doesn't work.I'm not going to have you back by that deadline. That's just the way it goes.My biggest challenge has been as as we've scaled and as I've needed morespecialized technical skills, finding the right people, because there's lessand less people that you can call to find the right talent. So, like, when youstart your basic WordPress blog, there's a million resources for how to start ablog one to one. And then as you scale up a little bit, like there's still aone hundred thousand resources on how you do this. But when you get down tolike we're a very large site that, you know, has a very weird set of challengesand finding technical help sometimes that can meet our needs has been thechallenge, I would say, over the last couple of years.
[00:44:55] When you'retalking in front of the Web developers back in Web Helper's database managers,full stack analytics folks. Yep. You're out of that kind of right. Yeah.
[00:45:05] And it justbecomes especially it's like. And we're not a, you know, large media companyhere. I can't keep, you know, people that, you know, one hundred fifty fivethousand other salary on our team, like, you know, like we need. I need thatlevel of talent. But like as a freelancer for a one time project that I canmaybe call again the future. Right. And that becomes challenging.
[00:45:26] Yeah. No,there's affordable ways to do that. And I think getting back to the gig economycomments that you made before, some of these folks are available, they're alittle unwieldy. There's there's governance issues around, you know, fiber andtrying to manage your own kind of freelance team, especially if you're nottechnical. That's a real good way to get burned. And I'm sure you know thatthese people are expensive. And when they mess stuff up, it takes a lot of timeto unpack. But I also want to go to the other side of from the challengingstuff to some of the success you've had, because I think in the pregame wetalked about tick tock. And I was I was shocked, actually. You are what you dofocus on millennials, though. Maybe millennials are using tick tock more thanthe other platforms. But let's talk about some of the kind of rewarding orexciting successes and experiments you've run.
[00:46:18] Yeah, I mean,I just love playing in the hall like the sandbox. Right? Like, we know whatworks, but I like trying out what what the future holds. So I like to play alot of places where I don't think you'd find people like, yeah, we have apodcast. Yeah, we do video like on YouTube. But, you know, we I'm very bullishon Reddit. I'm very bullish on tech talk. And I think people like have thisweird thing that like, oh, that's for this. I'm like, no, everybody is on allof these platforms. Literally everybody like Tick-Tock has freaking Grandpa'smaking Tick-Tock videos like everybody is there of all walks of life on everysingle platform. And so I think that you should try to find out. Of course,some audiences are some sites and set are better suited to certain platforms.
[00:47:02] But like youneed to try and experiment and see what the future holds because like, youknow, Google is a thing like right now, as of 2020, most people find theircontent by typing something into a search box. But I would say that a lot ofpeople find their content on social media by typing in on a search box on theseplatforms. But, you know, not just say that next year like something new isgoing to come along. I don't know what it is. You've got to you've got to kindof be there because at the end of the day, like, you need to be where youraudience is and find them. And I think that's the hardest part of the gamealmost is like, can you find your audience to connect with them? I think if youhave the right stuff and you can you can put yourself in front of like youmight win, but like you got to find him finding homes like half the battle,right?
[00:47:52] Yeah. You haveto build, you know, back in the day. I don't know, maybe, you know, 10 yearsago you could put a banner ad up on Yahoo's home page and generate, you know,you know, millions of people to your Web site. Maybe they would stumble aroundand and it was just like this. So mass market approach. And that's changed somuch over the last, I would say, maybe three to five years in that it's goingto be more in a building, these micro audiences that you have to really impressand that have to really care. And maybe the clickthrough rates on some of youroffers won't be one percent. Maybe they should be 20 percent. And that getsback to your point earlier about, hey, what what kind of intent are you tryingto pull in here? And then how are you? How are you building your product toactually serve someone instead of just creating turds? Right.
[00:48:43] And that'sexactly what it is. And that's why I love platforms like Reddit and like thereis a sub Reddit for everything. Like literally everything. And, you know, thenumber one rule of Reddit. I don't know if you're on your register. No, I'mnot. You've got to get on Reddit. I'm going to get away. I'm hearing about thisa lot.
[00:49:00] And I'm goingto get on Reddit. I've real. Oh, my God. But I'm going to get on Reddit toread.
[00:49:06] It's great.It's the best place to curate what you want to read to. So this is the thing,though. This is why I love read. The number one rule of Reddit is you don'tself promote and this is why you don't get turd's on Reddit is because Redditis like they are die hard. They will like eat you alive, shame you.
[00:49:24] They willshame you. Hansell you. They'll ban you. They'll shadow Batuz. So like youdon't even know your band, but you're still like. But but here's the thing isas a result of that.
[00:49:37] It createssome of the best communities around certain small topics that you'll ever find,because they're informative, they're helpful. And as you as a marketer, you goin there and you're helpful. Well, it will pay you back in dividends becausethe same concept applies. Creditors don't trust anybody. Whether you're beinghelpful or not being helpful. Yeah. They're still going to try to figure outwho you are. And so when they figure out that you are this brand or, you know,resource, you'll get that love because they know that you're actually beinghelpful. You're not trying to self promote and you'll get links back. And thenonce, just like every other platform read, it's a huge search engine. Peoplesearch it. They find your answers. They know where your stuff is. It all worksin harmony to get you the end result you want. But you actually have todeliver. You can't just go on right and spam your stuff, like you have todeliver value in order to get rewarded. And that's why I like the platform.
[00:50:32] Dot it. Canyou? I mean, it seems, you know, this sounds like maybe a bit of a redundantquestion given what you just told me. But it's not like you're trying to getback links from Reddit.
[00:50:40] Right now,you're trying to get people just like that. You know, the world isn't aboutbacklights. The world is about someone that is a customer, dot com or someonethey can help. That's what it's about. And that's where I should always beabout like, you know, barreling smack links. I know Google cares about that.That's fine. But like, I think at the end of the day, too, is Google can'tdismiss the fact that you might add a lot of traffic go into an article. And Ithink some studies have proven this, that people have built Web sites with noback legs and then showered a bunch of traffic on it. And it ranks in Googlebecause Google knows all. And Google can't dismiss the fact that something heremight be worthwhile to share and not add an auditor.
[00:51:22] Yeah, exactly.What about Cura? Have you been on that platform actually among Cure? Quite abit. But maybe maybe I should check out read it to chorus.
[00:51:31] Great. I loveKaura. I mean, I started there years ago and I still try to answer a couple ofquestions every now and then. And once again, just be helpful and you will getrewards from that.
[00:51:41] Yeah, no, it'ssuper interesting. I think a lot of these these larger companies that aretrying to build brands, they may have lost their way a little bit just bytrying to pump out sheer volume of stuff. That's not that's not reallymeaningful or not helpful. And if you really want to create a good product, youhave to like have had the end mining game and like the consumers end goal inmind.
[00:52:01] So and that'swhat happens. I'll tell you, like, I'm a big believer in, like, karma. I dothink that, like, maybe there's no ROIC or value on this today, but, like, itwill always come and repay you somewhere in the future. And I found that overand over again, you know, by helping others or even just some things likeanswering reader questions on my side, add up things like that, like it alwayscomes back and it pays you dividends by just being helpful.
[00:52:27] Yeah, it'sfunny. The minute you said karma, we were talking about personal finance. Ithought about credit karma. I'm like, no pun, no pun intended. So let's talkabout. Last question here. If you had any advice, because you've been at this along time, you know, you've been hustling. You've been working two, three jobs.And obviously, you know, not recently because the site is is made you a baller.But what kind of advice would you give? You know, you can give millennialsadvice out there. A lot of our listeners are entrepreneurs and even executives.So maybe some of the people that listen to this podcast might not even knowsome of the things, some of the principles and ideas we're talking about. Sowhat kind of advice would you give them based on your on your career thus far?
[00:53:12] Yeah, I mean,the one thing I've learned is it's just consistency over time when. And so Iactually I talked to a lot of young people that want to start some kind ofonline marketing thing, whether it's starting a YouTube channel, networking,blogging is not as in vogue as it was, but like, let's start on Instagram.Let's start a YouTube channel. Let's start a tick tock.
[00:53:30] And it allcomes down to consistency over time. And I would tell you, if you want to startsomething, I want you to do it three days a week, every single week for oneyear. If you make it to a year, you have already beaten ninety nine percent ofyour competition. You are in the one percent. And I guarantee you at that pointin time, you're probably at least making a little money, if that's what yourgoal is. I guarantee you that you probably have seen some success becauseyou've now had a year of practice at your craft, whatever your craft is. Andyou probably built some relationships and you have a really good chance ofbeing successful. But I would tell you, most people fail. They can't do theconsistency over time part. Like, maybe they can start and they do like, youknow, a month or two, but then they fall off. They may they try to come back atit. But you've already lost that momentum and you have to put the work in orelse you'll never get better. You'll never build an audience. People won't beable to count on you because your audience is also counting on you. Like ifthey liked your video, if they liked your blog post. They don't want to readsomething again. And if you don't have to create the again, like. They're justgoing to lose interest. So you have to just be consistent over time.
[00:54:42] That's work.If you got to come in every single day or two or three times a week, likeRobert just said, you have to put your head down, not care, and just put in thework. Right. Well, it'll reward you. You know, I think it's funny. I'm glad yousaid that because I think we get this myopic view. You may look at someone likethe Cardassian or you. I don't know. I'm not into a lot of the the pop culturestuff. But it looks like from the outside that these people have showed up andnow they're billionaires are now they're millionaires or now they're they'redoing all this crazy, awesome stuff. But I guarantee you, if you went back andreally asked all those one percent, the one percent of the people that make itbecause they put it, they're consistently putting in their time, they wouldprobably tell a very similar story to what you had, which is no, dude, I'd shitfor three years, like didn't spend time with my family, put my head down, andfive years later I made like 60 grand, which still wasn't even enough money forme to quit my day job. Right. And now, 10 years later, I'm a magical successstory. Well, wait a second. That's if you asked all all the people that createdsuccessful companies, I would say, like 99 percent of them would tell you thatstory, right?
[00:55:59] Absolutely. Imean, even with these reality stars, man, like, that's work. I mean, you'rethey're following you around. But like, you know, they they thought I mean,it's all scripted, right. So it's like, you know, they were putting in allthese ideas ahead of time. They had to plan out their days. They a block outall this time because they couldn't do whatever else they actually wanted to dobecause they had to film the show so that they could end up. You know, it'slike you think there's no way that that person, just him around the go pro likeit is all planned, scripted rocka, you know, and that's their life. And thatmaybe you aspire to that. I don't. But like, it's the same with anything youhave to put in the work. You have to do it consistently and you have to do itfor a long period of time. I think a year is a good starting point, but if youdon't do it, you'll never you'll never get there. Years minimum. That's that'sa minute. It's the starting point. Yeah.
[00:56:48] Yeah. I mean,really, it's it's it's it's that seven to 10 year timeframe where you reallyhit your stride. Well, Robert, this has been great. Robert Fairrington, founderof College Investor Dot com, TheCollegeInvestor.com, and also the host of theCollege Investor podcast.
[00:57:07] He started thisbusiness in 2009, which I'll remind everyone, if you weren't aware of this, wewere in a major downturn in the markets, mortgage, you know, mortgage bubbleimploded. But TheCollegeInvestor.com now reaches three and a half millionmonthly readers and was built with the intention to share common sense studentloan and investing strategies. Robert continues to do this today at scale.Thank you so much for sharing your story and being on the show today, Robert.Thanks for having me. It's been fun. Absolutely. Absolutely. Take care.