Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
My name is Sumit Bansal. After getting my MBA in finance, I started working with marketing and consulting firms. For 7+ years, I worked in marketing in various roles.
In 2013, I started TrumpExcel.com to share what I'd been learning about Excel spreadsheets every day. And in January 2015, I left my job to work full-time on my Excel website.
TrumpExcel has grown consistently over the years and currently gets ~300k pageviews a month. I monetize it by using display ads and selling my online courses. I also occasionally promote other affiliate courses.
Currently, I generate about $4,500 per month in revenue.
What motivated you to get started with Trump Excel?
I started TrumpExcel.com as a side hustle. I was working as a data analyst, and my daily work involved using Excel spreadsheets for about 4-5 hours. As I learned new techniques to get the work done faster with spreadsheets, I decided to start this website and share my expertise with other people in the form of tutorials and videos.
I'd already seen many successful websites on Excel, and I knew that it could be a profitable niche. As I started creating more material, my traffic started growing.
In July 2014 (about 14 months after starting the site), I was recognized by Microsoft as the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Excel. This award was given based on my commitment to share my Excel knowledge and help people learn the program.
This was a huge boost for my confidence.
What went into building the initial product?
My email subscribers were the first to suggest that I create a product.
I was consistently creating tutorials and videos and sharing them with my mailing list and on social media. While it took time to get traffic to TrumpExcel.com (as SEO takes times), my videos were an instant hit.
YouTube's algorithm for showing related videos worked in my favor. My videos were getting a lot of pageviews organically. People were subscribing to my channel and leaving comments. This gave me the confidence to think about creating an online video course.
I already had the Excel skills needed to create the course, and I was able to create a 14+ hour video course in about a month. But since I was working a full-time job, I could only work on it on weekends.
Once the course was done, I had to set it up on a membership page on my site. With no technical background and minimal knowledge about WordPress, this proved to be quite a challenge. I had to spend many days testing out new tools and payment gateways before finally settling on the right set of tools.
Given that I was based out of India, there were only a few payment gateways I could use. Some of the popular payment gateways, like Stripe, are still not available in India. PayPal was an option, but it prohibited me from taking payments from people based in India. Finally, after a lot of research and testing, I went for FastSpring as my payment processor.
How have you attracted users and grown Trump Excel?
Currently, I get ~300k pageviews a month. 80% of this traffic comes from the search engines, and rest comes from my email links, social media, and referrals.
When I started, I was only getting traffic from social media. But slowly as I created more content and got noticed, I started getting backlinks and search engine traffic. My traffic growth has been consistent.
At the same time, I made sure I was collecting email addresses and had a good social media presence. As of now, I have 25k+ email subscribers, 23k+ Facebook page likes, 15k+ YouTube subscribers, and 1.8k+ Twitter followers.
Most of my efforts are spent in creating tutorials and videos. I am not an SEO expert, so I don't spend much time on actively building links.
What worked for me was the practice of creating a video for every tutorial I wrote. This helped people experience my teaching style and also helped in getting more course sales. Explaining hard concepts in laymen's terms comes easy to me, and that has turned out to be my greatest strength.
As of now, I have three online courses and I do periodic launches where I open these courses for 5-7 days only. In my latest launch, I was able to generate ~$9,000.
Now I get 60-70 email subscribers every day. I segment these based on the pages they are coming from and the links they are clicking on. This allows me to send them relevant tutorials.
My advice to budding online entrepreneurs is to capture email addresses and maintain a list from the very first day (especially in the digital information products world). People on your email list are highly engaged and more likely to convert.
What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
As of now, TrumpExcel.com makes money in three ways:
Display Ads: Here I use Goole Adsense. Since I get a good number of pageviews, this adds up to be a substantial amount that I make on ads on a monthly basis. Apart from my site, I also use ads on my YouTube channel. As I add more videos there, I see an increase in YouTube ad earnings as well.
Course Sales: This is where I make most of my money. Every two months, I do a mini product launch. Currently, I have three courses in the price range of $127-297.
Affiliate Sales: Sometimes, I would also recommend affiliate products of other Excel experts I know. I don't do this often, as it sometimes clashes with my own product launches.
During the course launches that I have done over the years, I have tested multiple price points. When I launched my first product, I priced it at $99. It did alright. Then, when I priced it at $67, it didn't do well at all. Later, I increased the price to $127, and I've found it to be the best performing price.
I also keep adding new content to my course that keeps providing more value to my existing students and makes the site more valuable for new leads/prospects.
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the next 12 months are to:
- Create good quality tutorials consistently (at least once a week).
- Create 1-2 new online courses.
- Increase monthly pageviews to 500k+ level.
- Diversify income sources by creating a new authority site
While I don't need to do anything differently to reach these goals, one of the major roadblocks I see is creating content consistently. Since this is a very niche topic, I haven't been able to find writers who can create content for me.
Regarding diversifying my income, I am also in the process of creating another authority site. It's already live at Productivity Spot.
I will model this site on my existing site, but I am creating it with a different business model. I aim to monetize it with Google Adsense and affiliates only.
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 I faced was getting myself acquainted with the technology and tools. I had to learn how to edit CSS code, how to manage WordPress and hosting, how to write sales pages, how to create and record videos, etc.
But since this is all done now, I can start a new site with less effort and time.
There are two mistakes that I have made that I need to learn from:
- Investing in tools that I didn't really need. I am a complete tool-o-holic, and I invest in every new shiny tool that catches my attention. This led to a huge monthly subscription cost. I have now cut my tools down to the bare minimum.
- I didn't outsource early enough. I would try and design all the social media images and tackle all the technical issues myself. If I started again today, I would try and outsource as much of it as possible.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I am a work-at-home entrepreneur, and it takes a huge amount of motivation and discipline to get things done.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I find the Fizzle guys to be really helpful. They not only talk about running an online business, but also the challenges and mindset.
I also find reading fiction to be extremely helpful. It helps me in disconnecting from the real world. I am also a huge fan of Netflix and Amazon Prime video.
One of the lifestyle changes that's had a positive impact on my health and my work is the use of a standing desk. Apart from getting rid of any back pain, it's also helped me get more work done.
What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
My advice would be to avoid copying other people. Instead, try and find your own style of working. Identify what works for you and do it better than anyone else.
Also, a lot of new entrepreneurs get blindsided by how much money some other blogger is making or how much funding a new startup has got. While it's good to know, don't let that impact your decisions.
Another thing that I highly recommend is to "reach out". Reach out for help as early as possible. Don't try to be the one who can solve it all. Ask for help, and keep moving forward.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can also reach to me on Twitter: @trumpexcel.
I love talking about creating authority sites and sharing what I've learned in my journey so far. If interested, just give me a shoutout.
You can also ask me anything in the comments section below.
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