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If building and growing a successful blog as a side hustle seems impossible, you’ll appreciate this inspiring success story. Todd Kunsman worked on his personal finance blog, Invested Wallet, for three years on the side of a full-time job.
This three-year project netted Todd a six-figure sum between what he made while he owned the site and proceeds from the sale. Despite the intense competition from other finance blogs and websites, Todd was able to achieve success from strictly part-time work.
In this interview, Todd shares some behind-the-scenes details of his lucrative side hustle.
Key points and takeaways:
- Todd built and grew the site while working a full-time remote job.
- HARO link building was a key factor in Todd’s success, allowing him to get many links from high-authority sites.
- Todd wrote all of the content himself for the first two years before hiring freelance writers.
- After running the site for three years, Todd was ready to move on.
- Instead of listing the site with a broker or marketplace, Todd found the buyers through an industry-specific networking group.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Howdy! My name is Todd Kunsman, and I reside in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I have 13+ years of experience in marketing, specifically for SaaS companies and startups. In my spare time, I started a business around creating content websites that I build up and eventually sell.
When did you start Invested Wallet, and what was your motivation?
I started Invested Wallet in June 2018. I started it for a few reasons. I became a huge personal finance and investing nerd in the years prior. I taught myself most of what I know, read a lot of books, and made huge changes to my own financial situation.
From that, I wanted to create a platform and finance site that was more realistic to people at the time too. What I mean is, I didn’t go from $0 invested to a millionaire in five years.
While those stories can be inspiring, they don’t speak to the 99% still trying to find their way. And that was me. I made huge progress, but nowhere near that status. So I thought my story and writing about finance could fill in the gap in the financial blogging space.
Additionally, with a marketing background and a focus on content/SEO, I thought of it as a good way to test my skills and see if I could grow and make money from it. I had a music blog years before this, but it was before I had really any marketing skills or knowledge. This time, I wanted to treat this site as a business from day one.
What was the first year of the site like?
The personal finance and investing space is tough. Even though I may have a unique angle with my story, I’m still competing against the big names and those blogs pumping out tons of articles each week. I was publishing 1-2x per week since this was just a side project, so nowhere near the level of some of the other major sites.
However, I was still able to make a few grand my first year (If I recall, it was about $7k) and recoup the money I put into the site. I call that a win since most blogs won’t make money in their first year, especially with my publishing frequency.
After the first year, things started to compound and I began seeing nice gains in posts ranking well in Google and driving traffic.
Being in a very competitive niche, how did you build backlinks?
Glad you brought this up! So, knowing in advance that finance was going to be tough and I needed to prove to audiences + search engines that my content was trustworthy, I made it a goal to be featured or quoted in major publications from day one.
Not only would this build up the momentum of trust, but it could drive some significant traffic for me as well.
I started using HARO heavily, monitoring those needing quotes or stories around personal finance and investing. For any of the good ones, I’d immediately respond with answers following a template I tweaked to get results.
HARO is very competitive, so the name of the game is speed to respond to those inquiries and have a unique answer. This got me in many major publications like CNBC, Time, Fox Business, Business Insider, HuffPost, and more. And this helped me build the domain authority much faster. Now it helped my content start to rank in Google and get awesome traffic when I was linked.
Can you tell us about your content creation strategy?
The approach was a combination of topics that were relevant to my story/personal experiences and articles that could rank well in Google and drive affiliate sales.
For the first two years, I wrote everything myself and then eventually brought on two freelance writers to help knock out additional content. I would create the outline and keywords to include, then still edit a bit and add my voice. But it would save me a few hours of time each week.
My content strategy was pretty simple. I had a handful of categories that I wanted to cover on Invested Wallet, so I’d start at one category and publish a post, then move to the next category, etc.
As far as keyword research, it was usually a combination of using Google Auto Suggest and related topics, Search Console, Keyword Surfer, and SEMRush. I had a huge spreadsheet of topics and keywords to tackle and would keep adding any ideas that I could check on topic, difficulty, what competitors wrote about it, etc.
What were your keys to success with the site?
- Web traffic, specifically from Google (and time on site)
- Revenue from sponsorships, affiliates, display ads
- Brand awareness, people knowing about Invested Wallet
Why and when did you decide to sell the site?
After 3 years of running it, I was getting a bit burned out. There were some ups and downs with Google Algorithm shifts. I didn’t have the passion to keep writing as much as I was, and I felt there was an opportunity for someone to take it to the next level.
I knew I wouldn’t hold on to this forever, as my plan was to build it up for a while and then sell. Plus, my wife and I were ready to start a family and find a house, so the extra cash would help us with those goals.
How did you find a buyer for the site?
Fortunately, I was in some online communities for bloggers and those in the finance space. I considered listing on some of the known marketplace sites but wanted to avoid it if I could just with the broker fees. While those typically are fair and it’s part of the marketplace business model, I wanted to keep as much as possible.
So, I just put my note into those communities that I was looking to sell and the range I was ideally looking for to see who might be interested.
I had one deal almost complete for more than I asked, but it fell through. But then one of the blogging communities I was in, a few folks grouped together and gave me a fair offer. And we closed the deal from there.
If you could go through the process of selling it again, would you do anything differently?
For my first major site sale without a broker, I think it went pretty well. However, for future ones, if I were not approached first to sell, I probably would use a broker like Empire Flippers, Acquire.com, or something similar. While there are fees involved, I’d be able to get in front of more qualified buyers instead of trying to source my own.
What do you think you gained through your experience with Invested Wallet?
This was my first blog/content site where I treated it like a business from day one. I learned a lot about opening an LLC, doing bookkeeping with QuickBooks, taxes, growing additional marketing skills, and the process of selling an asset like this.
I’ve always learned something from my side hustles. It’s why I’m a big fan and encourage others to start one (it doesn’t have to be content sites, but find something they can do on the side).
What are you working on now?
Beyond working full-time in marketing, I started Remote Work Junkie in March 2022.
A few months after selling Invested Wallet. I took a break for a bit, but I knew my next site would be around remote work and careers. Something I’m also passionate about, as I’ve been working fully remote since 2017. And Remote Work Junkie was born!
The website features articles and tips all about remote work, finding remote jobs, managing remote teams, career advice, and has a job board for remote positions.
I’m also working on a potential marketing agency for founders and SaaS startups but with a slight twist on the traditional model. That’s in the website design phase, and I hope to have it out in the coming months.
Thank you Todd for taking the time to answer these questions and share about your experience.
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