Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
Hi, my name is Pardeep Goyal. I am a computer science graduate by education, and I worked for more than seven years in an IT software company. I left my boring job in 2014 to work full time on my ed-tech startup. The startup failed, but I decided not to go back to my IT job.
I learned storytelling and writing to explore opportunities with content marketing. Cash Overflow is an online portal where I share my money-saving hacks. People love my stories because I share actionable steps to save money on travel, shopping, taxes, and investments.
I started Cash Overflow in 2015, but didn't experiment with monetization until September 2016. In September alone, my website received 50,000 pageviews from 30,000 unique visitors, and I was able to generate $1,000 in revenue. Now my monthly traffic is up to 100,000 pageviews, and I'm making more than $3,000 per month.
Growth in December.
What motivated you to get started with Cash Overflow?
I started Cash Overflow as a side project. I love to talk about personal finance, so I started writing my own experiences with credit cards, banking, insurance, stock markets, and saving taxes.
I learned a lot about content marketing in 2015, so I needed a portal to experiment and learn. Cash Overflow was nothing more than a lab instrument.
I joined a startup as the content marketing head in 2016. I tried risky content marketing experiments on Cash Overflow first before suggesting them to the startup founders.
What went into building the initial product?
My startup failures taught me to delay product development as long as possible. We built ERP (enterprise resource planning software) for schools at my first startup, only to find out later that nobody needed what we were offering.
Paid newsletters were my first products on Cash Overflow. A lot of people were asking me for tips on starting an online business, but fewer than 10% were serious about executing. I decided to cut the noise by filtering out people who were wasting my time.
It only took me a day to build a landing page and set up a payment system. Currently, I charge less than $10 as a one-time payment for the newsletters, which will be valid until the end of 2017. Starting the following month, I will charge monthly.
Today I collect emails from paid subscribers and compile them as a new group at the end of the month. I send different newsletters to each monthly group so that they can learn online business building from scratch.
These newsletters are 10 times more interactive than any online course. I send them in the following format:
- What's happening with newsletter subscribers
- An interesting and insightful story about content marketing
- Books/resources/courses they should use to solve particular issues
- My personal story, what I did last week, what I am planning
- Suggestions for the content of the next newsletter
I encourage them to ask me questions, implement my advice, and then come up with better questions. It takes me about an hour per day to respond to emails.
How have you attracted users and grown Cash Overflow?
More than 80% of my website traffic comes from Google search. The rest comes from my guest posts.
Growing Cash Overflow was difficult in the beginning. I was only able to generate 10,000 monthly pageviews in the first year, however some of my articles have gone viral in the past 6 months. That's how the traffic has jumped to 100,000 views per month. SEO has also contributed.
After the launch of my paid newsletters, I sent out a notification to my email subscribers. I started with a very low price — 50 cents — and I was expecting 10-15 subscribers on the first day. However, in the first two days more than 150 of them converted to the paid subscription.
I kept on increasing the prices until I got to the rate of 2-3 daily signups. At present, 20-25 new people are subscribing to the newsletters every week.
I wasn't sure how many people would join the paid newsletters, given that everyone else is distributing newsletters for free. One thing I was sure about, however, was that only action takers would sign up for them.
Because of the initial low price, a lot of people signed up who were not aligned with my goals. I asked everyone to fill in a Google form to understand why they joined the newsletters and what they were expecting from me.
I made this mandatory for everyone — a criterion for keeping their newsletter membership.
I refunded the money to 41 people who refused or forgot to fill in the form. I want to stick with the purpose of the newsletters (to help action takers) rather than just make money.
You will get your refund.
What's your business model?
Honestly, I am still figuring out a business model that is scalable and that works without my active participation.
At present, I am making money through:
- Paid newsletters
- Affiliate marketing (banking, tech, and shopping)
- Partnerships with financial companies
- Display ads
I see great potential in paid newsletters and online courses. I don't want to make informational courses and e-books that people buy but can't ever implement. As a marketing expert, I'd be able to sell these products, but I would fail to impact people's lives in a positive manner.
Direct interactions with people give me an opportunity to learn as well as teach. As a parent, I know that my child learns best when he asks questions out of his own curiosity. I want to spark the curiosity of my subscribers so that they can ask better questions regarding starting up online businesses.
What are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to accomplish them?
I shared a review of my past year and my future goals in this article.
My initial goal was to help 1,000 people by the end of 2017 with starting their online businesses, be they e-stores, SaaS companies, web or mobile apps, or just niche blogs.
I intended to help these 1,000 people actively — holding their hands and taking them from ideas to money-making businesses. Procrastination, resistance, and non-commitment kill more dreams than anything else. I try to focus on some of these core issues rather than solving problems with content marketing strategies alone.
There's more than enough free content available on the Internet. People just don't know how to implement it. If I'm able to hold people accountable for their actions, they'll find success in whatever they start.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
The biggest challenge is finding self-driven, passionate people to work on my team. I hired two people in the last six months, but I've let them go. I do not want to hire my team based on skill set alone. For me, culture-fit is more important.
Last year, I tried to scale up fast, but I focused on too many things. I've realized that I have to slow down and focus on the things that really matter to me.
If I had to start over again, I'd begin by building a community of passionate people around a niche topic. In my case, it would be finance or marketing.
I would find 1,000 people who could join my community, select 100 of them to manage the community, and personally work with 10 of them (preferably onboarding them to my team) who could run everything in my absence.
What were your biggest advantages?
I was lucky to receive the support and mentorship of Sameer Guglani, who is the founder of The Morpheus, a startup incubation and accelerator group based out of India. They are considered the Y Combinator of India, with successful companies like HackerRank, Practo, CommonFloor, and Akosha in their portfolio. They've since stopped working with new startups in order to focus on building conscious communities around education, food, and life.
I was lucky to taste failure early in my startup career. That gave me the sanity to work on things that are valuable for customers. I was also lucky to have friends who helped me in my entrepreneurship journey.
I never thought I'd able to build my professional life in marketing, because I came from a technical background without any education in writing or marketing.
I follow more than 100 blogs around finance and marketing, and last year I read 24 books, the two most impactful of which were Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, and Slipstream Time Hacking, by Ben Hardy (it's free).
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
Don't follow the footsteps of funded companies if you want to build a bootstrapped business.
Focus on less and do better. As Seth Godin says, "Become remarkable." You will be able to charge more once your work or service becomes remarkable.
Read books and blogs related to the work you are doing right now. The books which were relevant for me last year are no longer helpful for me today.
Where can we go to learn more?
I love having meaningful conversations around content marketing and organic business growth. Feel free to ask me any questions below.