Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! Thanks for inviting me here today!
My name is Ling Thich and I started my finance blog, Finsavvy Panda near the end of 2017. During that time, I felt empty and unfulfilled with my life and job as an Analyst at a bank. Although it was a comfortable and stable job, there was a calling within me to do something different.
Whether you’re using Google searches, Pinterest, or Instagram for traffic - it is SO important to diversify whatever you can in your business. Similar to investing in stocks and bonds, I diversify my income stream by not putting all my eggs into one basket.
That something different was exploring different side hustles and business ideas. After trying many things, I eventually started my blog to see where it would take me.
On the blog, I mainly talk about how to budget, save money, and earn extra money. I also give blogging tips and share my story of how I left my job at the bank to become a full-time blogger.
I earn a full-time income through display advertising, affiliate marketing (AKA recommending products to readers), and selling my digital products, which include the following:
- The Power Up Budget Binder – to help my readers track, organize, save, and budget their money effectively.
- The Treasure Map to Blogging Success in 30 Days – a very comprehensive and detailed step-by-step guide to help total beginners start a profitable blog from scratch so they can start monetizing.
- Pin Savvy Pinterest Templates plus e-book bundle – to help beginners and business owners create catchy Pin images quickly and efficiently so they can start promoting their brands on Pinterest.
I also offer my Free 7-Day Start A Profitable Blog Course for total beginners who have no experience and want to start their blogs from scratch.
After learning a lot about the blogging world and seeing the limitless opportunities in the online space, I started a second blog about general lifestyle to learn about different niches outside the personal finance and business space. Like my first blog, it generates income through display ads and affiliate marketing, which I talk more about later.
With both my blogs, I earn anywhere between $13,000 to $25,000 per month in net profit depending on the season, traffic, and how much or little time I choose to work on them.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Because I didn’t want to work for anyone, I poured a lot of time and effort searching for the best stock investments, side hustles, and passive income ideas so I could increase my earnings and help my family without having to rely on them climbing the corporate ladder.
My husband and I got into buying rental properties, which is great for extra income and long-term investing, but it wasn’t enough to quit our jobs.
Plus, real estate in our area was soaring like crazy (and surprisingly, it still is as we speak), so investing in more properties required more capital and leveraging, which ultimately increased the risks too.
I’ve also tried fun side hustle ideas like refurbishing furniture, making home décor items and flipping things. It was fun and I was able to make extra money with these hobbies, however, it was too active (not passive) and linear for me to pursue in the long run.
Here’s a before V.S. after image on one side table I flipped for fun before I started my first blog (I remember debating between starting a DIY home décor blog or a personal finance one):
During this same time, I was also looking into opening Japanese stationery, home goods, and kitchenware store, similar to Daiso, but the suppliers asked for an initial investment of $1,000,000, which to me, was unrealistic and INSANE!
And finally, while I was still on the hunt, I came across many stories about how people were earning a full-time income with their blogs.
What I thought was crazier is how CHEAP the initial investment of starting a profitable blog was compared to many other businesses ideas!
I also soon learned that starting a blog and using Pinterest to make money online was possible!
My husband (boyfriend at that time) was very skeptical about blogs, Pinterest, and any social media, so he didn’t expect anything. He honestly didn’t expect me to earn a single penny online, but he still supported me on this idea and told me to start my blog for fun.
And so, I started my blog on a whim not knowing what I was going to do next. Deep down, I was convinced, and my gut feeling told me that making money online with a blog was indeed possible.
With absolutely no experience in the online world, I was lost and confused, but to my surprise, I learned a lot about this industry in my last 4 years of blogging! I even published my previous blog income reports on my website for readers to follow my blogging journey.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I didn’t have a product or anything to sell when I started my blog. It took me over 2 years before I had the courage to create my first digital product
At first, I just didn’t know what to expect, so I started my blog as a fun side hustle. I thought to myself, “If it’s able to earn some extra income, then great. If not, oh well, at least I tried it. Nothing to lose since the investment is so low.”
Having said that, the blog itself and the content were essentially my “product” in the beginning phase. I was learning how to write blog posts and setup up my blog. And nope, like most bloggers, I didn’t have experience in writing, setting up a blog, or anything like that.
Once I had at least 5-10 blog posts ready to go, I learned how to use Canva to create my Pin images so I could promote my website and articles on Pinterest. They look something like this:
I also offer my Pin Savvy Pinterest Canva Templates plus e-book bundle to help Pinterest business owners create and batch their pins with no design background or experience. This is what I now use to efficiently create 150 pins in 30 minutes, so the traffic for both of my blogs is now on autopilot.
Over the first 2 years, I learned and paid attention to my readers’ struggles and what they needed help with, and that’s when I diversified my income even further by creating my digital products.
I created a budget planner to help my budgeting audience learn how to organize, track and save money. I also created a blogging binder to help new bloggers find time from their busy schedules to work on their blogs.
Treat your blog like a business from day 1 if you’re serious about making money with it.
Including the Pin Savvy Canva Templates I mentioned earlier, I also created an ebook, The Treasure Map To Blogging Success in 30 Days, a profitable roadmap, along with a very detailed step-by-step guide on how to start and build their blogs. I wanted to help total beginners start a blog from scratch, so they don’t have to go through the same struggles, or make the same mistakes as me when I first started.
Having gone through my struggles, along with understanding my readers’ struggles (who share similar problems like me), helped me understand their pain and frustration. Over time, I learned how to tailor my content and create products that would add value to my readers’ lives.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Since starting a blog was so cheap, I didn’t thoroughly plan out a “launch” for the business. Initially, it was a test, and something new to learn. I was just having fun with the idea without putting too much thought into it.
This is how my website looked at the beginning when I was about 16 months in and earned over $6,000 per month without having any products.
I didn’t play around with the aesthetics, so it’s pretty much how the blog looked when I first launched it on day 1.
I was still an anonymous blogger at that time and used a free blog theme.
I’m FAR from being tech-savvy, so truth be told, my website was never “pretty” or “pro-looking”, and it’s still not despite upgrading it to a paid theme.
However, like any business, it’s always a work-in-progress. I learned to accept that I don’t have to look or be perfect to launch and run a profitable business.
In the beginning, I focused on learning the more important stuff to get my website up and running. That meant spending my time on content creation, learning how to get traffic, and understanding the various types of monetizing strategies and how they work (e.g. display ads, affiliates, product creation, offering services, etc.). But most importantly, I focused on solving people’s problems and forming a meaningful and lasting relationship with my readers.
Unless your blogging business is purely based on an ad model by running display ads, you’ll start to realize that getting explosive traffic doesn’t mean anything if the traffic isn’t quality, or if you’re not able to convert your readers and convince them to buy anything from you.
Once I got the hang of those things, I looked into learning how to streamline and automate my blogs so they could generate income more passively.
Now that I’m in my 4th year of blogging, it’s time for me to change the appearance of my blogs to make them look prettier. I’m still taking my time to figure this one out, but it’s better late than never, LOL!
So, as you can see, I didn’t follow a formal launching process since a lot involved “trial and error” and learning on the go.
The point is you can’t and won’t be able to learn everything before launching. No matter what stage you are in your business, you won’t be able to perfect it because there will always be something new and exciting to learn, so embrace every milestone no matter how big or small!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Getting to know my readers and understanding their struggle is one thing. But the more important part for me was building and maintaining that relationship with them genuinely. I treated them more like a friend by offering help rather than making a quick buck – this part takes time and effort. You need to have patience with people and it’s the long-term approach to attracting and retaining them.
Based on my personal experience, they trust you, like how they trust their friends, and they will come back to support you and buy things from you. Unexpectedly, I received e-mails from readers who told me that they mentioned me to their friends and acquaintances, so it’s like word-of-mouth advertising.
Building a brand and forming relationships with my readers didn’t happen overnight. It took time. Speaking about building a brand, it feels like I’m just at the beginning stages of building my name and brand, even after 4 years of blogging!
And let me share a quick story and one lesson I learned about attracting readers, customers, and clients:
I remember SO VIVIDLY when I first started Finsavvy Panda, it barely had any traffic because I didn’t implement the right strategies from the start. No traffic means no readers, no customers, and no income.
I remember feeling so sad and discouraged to the point where I almost didn’t want to move forward with my blog.
As a new blogger at that time, I read from a PAID blogging resource that I should invest a chunk of my time by commenting on other bloggers’ articles because I would get to build meaningful relationships, increase my brand, and drive a lot of traffic back to my site.
First of all, I’m very, and I mean VERY shy (like the shyest person ever if you knew me IRL), but I still broke out of my comfort zone and tried.
I was trying to build genuine relationships by connecting with other bloggers and dropping meaningful comments on their blogs. I’ve even gone out of my comfort zone and reached out to many of them via email, but less than 5% responded, and most of that 5% were brand new bloggers like me.
Ugh! I figured that was probably the WORST advice I read from a paid resource since the other parties weren’t interested in collaborating or getting to know me.
However, I am glad that I made this mistake! I realized that I just wasn’t the right audience for them.
That’s when I decided to focus my efforts on using Pinterest to promote my blog. Instead of me reaching out to people, potential readers, bloggers, and online business owners, I used Pinterest as a medium for people to discover and find me!
Pinterest Profile for Finsavvy Panda:
Monthly Pinterest Stats for Blog 1 – Personal Finance Blog:
Monthly Pinterest Stats for Blog 2 – Lifestyle Blog:
Starting my blog and using Pinterest to get my brand out there was the beginning of how I gained exposure and traffic to my blog. Once I learned how to get traffic, I focused on delivering valuable content and helping my readers solve a problem, which was related to personal finance – mostly saving money, budgeting, and making extra income.
As I got more traffic and e-mails from my readers, I learned more about them and what they needed help with.
Most of them were inspired by my personal finance story, of how I was raised in a low-income family, and they were interested in learning how I managed to save, budget, invest, and earn extra money. They wanted to learn it all, especially when it was about budgeting without having to cut out the fun. That’s when I listened to my audience and created a budget planner product to help them in this area.
In addition to budgeting, many of my readers were also very interested in increasing their income through side hustles or starting an online business like blogging. With that specific audience, they were inspired by my blogging journey and wanted to start a profitable blog too.
I wouldn’t have known any of this if I continued listening to the advice I paid for in that blogging resource.
The takeaway is that once people found me, and came to me for advice, I tried my best to help them like how I would help a friend. That way, they would trust me, remember me, and come back to support me.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Due to personal matters and private reasons, I took a break in 2021 and did not work on my blogs for the last 6 to 7 months. Unexpected things happen and life throws you a curveball, but now that it’s 2022, I’m starting to get back into it.
I have to say that I am VERY thankful and feel SO grateful that my blogs were still generating a healthy and entirely passive income, between $13,000 to $15,000 per month during the last half of 2021 when I wasn’t present. I was really surprised, and I’m very happy to know that I have two blogs to help me during that period!
After seeing great results and earning over an annual six-figure income with my first blog, Finsavvy Panda, I started my second blog in the lifestyle niche as an anonymous in the last quarter of 2019 (as mentioned earlier) to see if I could replicate the same traffic and monetization strategies using mainly Pinterest. The result is it works!
Last Month’s Traffic to my Lifestyle Blog:
I haven’t disclosed my second blog to anyone, but I may in the future once I have time to make it look prettier and more presentable. And in case you are wondering, yes, it earns a real income even though it’s not made to perfection.
I am also working with my husband on his websites so we can diversify our earnings. He’s focused on using Google as a traffic source, so we don’t have to rely only on my income, which primarily focuses on Pinterest. If my blogs decide to drop in traffic, we would have his blogs to cover up for it and vice versa.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Whether you’re using Google searches, Pinterest, or Instagram for traffic, and earning through display ads, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, e-mail marketing, or selling your products as a source of income, it is SO important to diversify whatever you can in your business.
Similar to investing in stocks and bonds, I diversify my income stream by not putting all my eggs into one basket.
In the last year, I’ve also learned how to scale my blogs. This helps me buy back time so I can do other things that are more important to me.
For me, my health and wellness, along with my family and friends, are very important. So, today I’ve winded down to focus on self-care along with spending time with my family and friends while maintaining my two blogs on the side. I do have plans to grow both my blogs, but just at a comfortable pace so I can relax and have fun with them.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Pinterest – This is my main traffic source to both my blogs
Canva – I use this to create my Pin images to promote my blog content on Pinterest.
Pin Savvy Templates – These are the Pinterest templates I rely on to batch make and make the process more efficient
Grammarly – This tool catches my grammar and spelling mistakes.
ConvertKit – I use this for e-mail marketing. This is how I keep in touch with all my subscribers, followers, and readers.
Microsoft Word and Google Docs – I create an original copy on MS Word first on my laptop, which I then copy and paste over onto Google Docs, so I have another copy saved online.
My Blogging Binder – I created my printable blogging binder called “The Blog Booster Binder” to help me keep organized, so I can be on track with any weekly and monthly blogging tasks/projects.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’ve read many influential books and blogging resources for step-by-step guides, but I think one thing that helped me grow the most was taking the MBTI personality test and learning more about myself. In other words, focusing on resources that teach you about self-development and self-awareness.
I’ve also taken different personality tests to help me develop as a person, which contributed A LOT to the growth of my business.
I strongly believe that being self-aware, understanding your personality type, and working on a self-development plan is very helpful when it comes to building your business and brand.
It can help you know and understand what you enjoy doing without making your business feel like it’s work. That’s when you start to think deeply, at a subconscious level, about your true interests, strengths, and weaknesses.
Diving into resources that help you understand who you are, and your true self will help you in not just how you do and run your business, but your overall life. In other words, it will guide you to finding a healthy balance between your business, work, family, and other things that are important to you.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You’ll always hear the pro bloggers and content creators in the online blogging world say to treat your blog like a business from day 1 if you’re serious about making money with it.
At this point, I understand why they say that, but this is something I didn’t do myself because the idea of blogging was very new to me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I never thought about creating a “business” with it at the beginning. And that’s okay if you want to start it for fun to see where and how far it takes you! But it will get to the point where you need to start treating it like a business.
My advice is to just start even if you don’t have the perfect plan. A lot of things require learning on the go in addition to some “trial and error”, so no one’s ever going to have the perfect business plan figured out at the beginning.
Since I often get asked many questions about starting a blog from scratch for beginners, I created a separate website called Blog Savvy Panda (think of it as an extension or subcategory of Finsavvy Panda) to help my readers get started without feeling overwhelmed or confused.
Another important lesson I learned in my blogging journey is that once you gain some traction, you must view your blog like it’s a long-term asset if you want to see it grow and sustain a full-time income.
I often see beginners with the mindset and expectation of making “quick and fast money”, so they don’t put in their 100% effort but want to see a quick and big return. They also expect experienced bloggers and online business owners to walk them through from A to Z and give them all the answers without building a genuine relationship with them or investing in any courses and resources.
To make your blog or online business successful, it’s important to invest in your business with both time and money. It also helps when you build authentic and meaningful relationships with others whether it’s with your peers, partners, readers, or clients.
Also, be a curious George, self-starter, and someone who is self-aware of their own mistakes, as well as being open to new ideas and different perspectives without being too fixed on your views.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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