After having success with a few niche websites, Ionut launched a blog in the finance space. In this article, he shares the story of building & growing FinMasters.
Hi Ionut! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
I’m 34 years old and I was born in Romania.
My background is in software engineering, and since very early in my career, I’ve always been interested in creating recurring revenue streams. I started doing so by using all my freelancing income to learn how to create content and do SEO, and develop niche websites.
Nowadays, I’m working on FinMasters, a website created to educate people about finances, with an unbiased approach, no matter the trends or advertising deals.
I am currently one of the major investors in the project and I’m working on speeding up the project's growth.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started my first content-focused website more than 12 years ago and got some good results with CodeinWP and Themeisle. This led me to think about how I could use the same approach for other niches in other industries.
On top of that, at the beginning of 2020, I had some time off work. During that time, I purchased a couple of investment books and started to learn more about finance and investments. That’s when I came up with the thought of starting a finance-related project.
At the same time, 2020-2021 was a crazy period for investment advice. I saw many smart people promoting suspicious projects in the crypto and IPO space. This led me to thinking about the idea of differentiating from the rest by providing high-quality information.
The second thing that helped me solidify the concept was that, while looking for a lead WordPress Developer for another project, someone who applied had experience running content websites and was excited about the idea of starting a finance-related project.
How did you build FinMasters?
Our project manager, Milica, was in charge of pretty much everything. Having a development and design background, she was able to re-use and adapt some themes, find a good expired domain, and recruit a team of writers.
The project started in November 2020, and the initial goal was that in 3 months, we’d have around 20 articles published, a functioning website, and a small team of freelancers.
This ended up costing us around $50,000. Here is also a background of the project costs:
There was no launch involved; we just mentioned the project in some articles on our other sites.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Launching a content website in an industry where there already are a couple of very solid websites and major news websites covering the space proved to be super difficult. I wrote more in-depth about it here.
We’ve tried a lot of different ideas to grow the site:
- We created some super advanced content pieces like this one, and spent around $40k promoting it in various places, looking to build some reputation.
- We recruited the most well-known freelancers that we could find in the space for a couple of pieces of content.
- To get backlinks, we did HARO roundups, listed the website in various directories and gallery websites, sponsored other projects, and created link-bait content.
- We acquired 5 websites in the space, that we redirected to our website, in an effort to accelerate the process of ranking in Google.
With these efforts, the revenue grew a bit over time, reaching around $6,000 per month nowadays. However, since we kept pushing for faster growth, the costs grew even more.
What are your goals for the future?
One of my goals is to publish meaningful research at some point in the future. Content that is unique and useful.
Another thing is that I would love to integrate more software components into the project, as a way to enhance our human analysis.
In terms of revenue, we’re hoping that in a year's time, our revenue will cover the content and team costs, excluding admin or advertising. We’re not yet thinking about profit; we’ll probably focus more on that once we really need it or we lack ideas for growth.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?
The biggest challenge so far was the lack of results as quickly as we had hoped. Luckily, we had the means to wait, double down and continue working, but if we couldn’t have done that, it would have been a major setback.
If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?
I don’t think there is anything major that I do differently, considering the same macro environment.
We could have focused more seriously on the project at the beginning, but we didn’t really have the data about how difficult it would be. We took a safe approach that allowed us to learn.
What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
Resources are good for inspiration, but the most important thing is to simply get started and build something. Try to get free users to read your content or use your tools and collect their feedback. Then, adapt your product based on feedback and work to get 1 person to pay for your tool.
The only thing that I knew when I started, and it proved helpful, is “bankroll management,” which I’ve learned from sports betting/poker, which teaches you how important it is to not lose your capital.
The idea is that you are taking risks, but none of them should make you start from 0 or, even worse, get in debt in a bad way.
But even this, in the beginning, if the starting costs are not too high and you have a skill that you can easily get hired for, then it may not be as big of a challenge. You can always lose money and refinance from some other freelance projects (which is what I did).
Where can we go to learn more?
As I’ve mentioned, I wrote further about the blogging journey here, and I also wrote more thoughts about my personal journey here. You can find me on Twitter at @hackinglife7.