Over the last couple months I have interviewed a growing number of top bloggers and writers to get their input on personal finance (e.g., the founders of Budgets Are Sexy, The Broke And Beautiful Life, Frugal Rules, Debt Roundup, and Modest Money). Today, I’m excited to share with you another terrific interview with one of the top personal finance writers on the Internet.
Robert Farrington is the owner and creator of The College Investor. The site ranks near the top 50,000 websites in the world! He has a Master in Business Administration and has been writing about personal finance since 2009. Robert specializes in giving top-notch advice to young adults, who are beginning their financial journey. Here’s my interview with him. Thanks again, Robert!
1. What inspired you to begin The College Investor?
I started The College Investor as I was wrapping up college for a few of reasons:
- I was bored
- I was passionate about investing and personal finance
- I was tired of hearing the crazy things that other people were doing and wanted to help people get off on the best financial footing possible out of school
When I began, I really had no idea what I was doing, and it was a pretty pathetic site. I thought, “Hey, I could just post my random thoughts and people would read it.” Well, nobody did. Good thing I was passionate — it took about 2 years before I started gaining any real traction.
2. How did people react when you first started blogging? How long have you been blogging?
I started The College Investor, which was my first blog, in 2009 – so that makes it over 4 years old. When I first started, the only person that knew about it was my then girlfriend (now wife). She was supportive, but like me, didn’t think it would become anything close to what we have today.
I started it as a hobby, and she viewed it as a hobby. It’s not to say that she didn’t get annoyed with me sometimes when I was up late writing or doing some technical stuff. But the fun thing now is that she has amazing ideas, and some of the most popular articles on The College Investor were hers. Now she’s pretty invested in it.
3. What was your web and tech experience before starting the site?
Before starting The College Investor, I actually had another site – San Diego Estate Sales. During college I side-hustled and did estate sales for others. I built a pretty simple website that worked as a lead magnet for me, even though I had no idea it was called that.
When it came to design and coding, I had no experience and I was pretty bad at it. I used a free theme and really basic hosting. You can see from my 4th Anniversary post for the iterations that the site has been through. Now, I have a professional designer that helps with that stuff, and various technical partners for the tech expertise.
4. What advice would you give to those looking to start their own site?
When I launched The College Investor, I had no real plan, defined goals, or structure. With my other sites, I put together strategic launch plans to kick it off with a bang. For The College Investor, it took over a year before I had 1,000 visitors in one month. Then, take my latest project at Beat the Nine to Five, and I had 1,000 visitors on launch day.
If you’re looking to start a website, you need a launch plan. Keep it simple, but consider a big launch post, have content on your site, try to get a mailing list before you launch, and get other bloggers involved. This will make your journey a lot more fun because you know people are reading your stuff from Day 1.
5. How do you make money from your site? Where does most of your revenue come from?
I make money from my site in a variety of ways. The biggest way is advertising – either direct advertising, CPM ads, and affiliate advertising. I’ve also branched out and started offering an eCourse to get started investing – my Investing 101 Course. Most of my revenue is advertising, but I’m working on growing my course revenues this year.
6. What do you think you’ve learned from your readers and fans?
I’ve learned a ton from my readers over the years. This year, I started surveying my audience to find out what they want more of. I asked 3 open-ended questions and got over 50 responses. It was a huge eye opener for me to learn what my audience struggles with and how I can help.
7. How can someone in lower incomes overcome financial hurdles and prosper?
I’m a big believer that everyone can side hustle and improve their financial status. I’ve been side hustling since high school and it’s been a great source of income for me. You are the only determining factor of your destiny – if you work hard and put in the effort, you’ll get the financial reward, as well.
8. Who are your financial role models?
I really like Ramit Sethi’s style when it comes to accountability, honesty, and what to focus on. I follow his school of thought about earning more, and not sweating the small stuff. I also enjoy Pat Flynn from a transparency perspective. It’s so great to share in his successes and struggles.
9. What personal finance sites do you read?
I don’t read as many sites as I used to, but I still get to Financial Samurai, Budgets are Sexy, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and more each week. I also check out Rockstar Finance to see the best of the PF interwebs.
I’m actually into listening more to podcasts than reading. I regularly listen to Smart Passive Income, Entrepreneur on Fire, Side Hustle Series, Good Financial Cents, The New Business Podcast, This Is Your Life, and Online Marketing Made Easy.
10. What else would you care to share with the readers of Frugaling?
Blogging today is one of the most important aspects of media. People don’t just want the news anymore. They want perspective, and that’s where everyone has a story and perspective to share. There are hundreds of personal finance blogs, but that’s okay because my style is different than your style – and people relate not just to the facts, but to how they are presented.
It is important, however, to remember that this is a business or a hobby. Treat it as whichever you want, but realize the income is also directly related to how you treat it.
If you’re getting started, make sure you network with others, ask questions, and build relationships – just like you would with any other hobby or business. Working online doesn’t have to be lonely!
Want to read more interviews like this one? Read the entire interview series here!
J. Money says
Hey man, thanks for the love! Big fan of your site as well, Robert 🙂 Hope you and the fam had a most wonderful Easter. And you too, of course, Sam 🙂
Sam Lustgarten says
Glad to hear from you again! Thanks for the comment.
Addison @ Cashville Skyline says
Keep up the great work Robert and Sam! I love reading these interviews.
Robert – It’s definitely super inspiring for a newer blogger to read your story. I’m learning more and more every day. Congratulations on the successful launch of your newest site!
Sam Lustgarten says
Happy you enjoyed it and are learning from these interviews. It’s a pleasure conducting them. 🙂
Grayson @ Debt Roundup says
Robert is awesome. He has a great website, but he is very helpful if you reach out to him. He has done well and will continue to do well!
Marie @ 724 Credit says
Thanks for sharing your story Robert. I just started reading personal finance blogs and I really learned a lot from you guys, from saving, building emergency fund, investing and also how you shared your stories.
Jen @Sprout Wealth says
Farrington’s story is very inspiring. I thought those who are gifted in writing just typed away at their keyboards and that’s it, a successful blog right away. It could also take a while which I didn’t know.