This is a follow up story for Visa List. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I’m Hari, a serial micro startup maker with multiple thriving ventures under my belt. Visa List has been my most successful project to date, streamlining the visa application process for travelers worldwide. It's been almost a year since I shared my Visa List journey. This last year has been the best year so far!
Visa List is dedicated to demystifying visas for every country, providing comprehensive information on tourist and digital nomad visas, such as requirements, documentation, application processes, travel restrictions, insider tips, and more. Our ultimate goal is to become the go-to resource for all visa types worldwide.
With travel back in full swing, Visa List has seen remarkable growth, boasting an average monthly revenue of $22,000 and 500K Monthly Active Users.
The platform's growth rate exceeds 300%, and we've proudly assisted over 8 million users in navigating the complexities of visa requirements. This past year has truly been a rewarding and unforgettable experience!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
The year 2022 has been a game changer for Visa List where monthly revenue has more than doubled during this period. The pandemic had a rough patch but things have taken up speed. I have redesigned the entire website to make it slicker.
The monthly users have come back from 150K per month back to almost 500K per month. Google has released many updates to the search algorithm, because of which Visa List took a big hit in terms of traffic.
I pivoted during the pandemic and recovered some of the traffic. Then again google updated the algorithm, which took another hit. This continued for 4 cycles.
Before building anything, validate the idea first. It will save you a ton of time.
Every time this happened, I ended up revisiting the SEO strategy for the entire website and made all the changes. SEO is like a black box, you never know what works and what doesn’t. Visa List has been lucky in that aspect, with the effort being able to recover most of the traffic.
Another aspect that has been seeing 200% growth has been the subscription revenue. The changes that I made have been the biggest factor in this growth.
Most of our content is free but if you want to apply filters or search in the destinations list, some exemptions visa, etc, then you would have to subscribe.
We made new partnerships for affiliates across Visa List’s user needs and started making minor changes in terms of UI, placements, colors, etc. This has created the biggest impact.
Usually, when you make big changes, it can lead to big improvements but lately, I have realized that you don’t need to make big changes all the time. Even minor but important changes can lead to a big impact. I have been applying this in my other micro startups with similar results.
I’ve found that planning and diversification are key to success. Since I initially focused on providing Tourist Visa information, I realized that expanding into other visa types, such as Digital Nomad Visas, would add significant value to my audience.
I begin by thoroughly researching the new visa types, such as Digital Nomad Visas, to gather accurate and up-to-date information. I also keep an eye on emerging trends and visa changes to stay ahead of the curve. I collect the information into a database and use that to create content pages.
I closely monitor content performance using various analytics tools to understand which visas resonate best with my users. This data-driven approach enables me to optimize my content strategy and focus on what truly matters to my users.
I haven’t used a lot of initial channels like Reddit, and Twitter to promote Digital Nomad Visas information but I’m planning to explore them again soon.
So far SEO has been my biggest channel for growth. I have never used paid marketing for Visa List, all of this has been nothing but organic and word of mouth. There are a few unexplored channels like email marketing which I haven’t done before. I have a list of users who might be interested in news related to travel.
I’m quite happy with all these efforts that I put into the Visa List in 2022 and this got me a major milestone, $200K/year revenue! I have decided to celebrate this by taking a vacation.
Travelling opens a lot of opportunities and puts so many things in perspective. It takes you out of your comfort zone and familiar environment and unleashes your creative side.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
My biggest challenge has been motivation. I have never realized that when you generate enough revenue in a quick time, you can easily become lazy. The lazy you are the less motivated you become, kind of settling into a comfy zone.
I hate this space I’m in. I have tried to find the root cause of why I was not motivated but couldn’t find anything substantial. After much deliberation, to combat this I made a long-term plan, where I have more or less laid out what I can do in the next two years.
The important thing about this plan is that the main aspect is not generating revenue but building something that will be useful for travelers. I hope I’m right and I will be able to achieve at least 50% of what I have planned, which in itself will be huge.
Another challenge I have been thinking about solving for Visa List is staying relevant with new competitors coming up a lot these days.
One aspect that I would want to see on Visa List is the end-to-end journey happening on Visa List itself. Right now it’s disconnected where users leave Visa List to different partners in different stages of their journey. I want to integrate as many as possible giving users a smooth and seamless experience in the least amount of time.
For these things to happen, there are many prerequisites that I need to work on before I can achieve this, which is what I have been working on for the last 3 months.
With all these, I have realized that I’m not able to give time for business development, and this is something that I have been contemplating for some time, that I should hire a business development manager, who can help me in finding more partnerships. I have never been hired for Visa List before but I love doing things that I have never done.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
One key lesson I've learned is not to become complacent with SEO, as it has been Visa List's primary growth driver. When I let my focus on SEO slip, competitors were able to gain some of our traffic. I also realized I should have been more proactive in exploring AI applications for our product, instead of remaining skeptical about its potential.
While I attempted to process visas independently as an experiment, I quickly recognized the considerable work involved. Overcoming this challenge is something I'm looking forward to tackling.
On the other hand, concentrating on smaller details and optimizing conversion rates for affiliates and subscriptions proved to be highly beneficial. Providing relevant calls-to-action on each page and ensuring users can access information quickly has been essential for our success.
I've realized that if there's an important task I'm not particularly passionate about, it's best to delegate it to someone else. This year, I hope to hire the right people to handle such tasks and further strengthen our team.
On a personal note, after living in Sydney for five years, I'm excited to have obtained my Australian citizenship. I'm now an Aussie made in India!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
This year, I'm focusing on addressing users' visa needs within Visa List. I've identified a significant demand for work and student visas worldwide and plan to incorporate these into our offerings. The visa travel industry has seen little technological innovation in the past decade, and I'm eager to seize the opportunity to disrupt this sector.
In addition to expanding Visa List's content, I've created a subreddit for user support outside the platform. I'm also venturing into video content, despite the initial apprehension, as it will enable us to reach a broader audience.
Visa List's mission is straightforward: "Help travelers quickly and easily obtain visas for any country." In the short term, I aim to keep users' entire journey within the Visa List platform. Over the next five years, if all goes well, I would like to explore opportunities in the B2B visa agency market.
Currently, Visa List receives around 500K monthly page views. My goal is to increase this number to 1 million within the year, further solidifying our position as a go-to resource for visa information and services.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
Rediscovering the joys of traveling has had a profound impact on me. Venturing beyond my familiar surroundings allowed me to break free from the creative rut I had unknowingly fallen into. As I explored new places, I found myself brimming with innovative ideas and fresh perspectives that I hadn't considered before.
Traveling exposes you to diverse cultures, people, and experiences, which can help broaden your understanding of the world and foster empathy. This exposure can, in turn, inspire unique solutions to the challenges faced by your business or spark new entrepreneurial ideas altogether.
Moreover, being outside of your comfort zone forces you to adapt and grow, honing your problem-solving skills and enhancing your resilience. These experiences can provide invaluable lessons that you can apply to both your personal and professional life. The transformative power of travel has been the most significant and influential experience for me in the past year, reaffirming the importance of stepping outside one's comfort zone to unlock creativity and personal growth.
Visiting the islands of Raja Ampat, Indonesia, dubbed the last paradise on earth
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their businesses?
Over the years, I've observed countless passionate projects fall by the wayside due to an inability to iterate quickly and learn from setbacks. To avoid this, I encourage entrepreneurs to embrace rapid prototyping and launch a solution to their target problem within four weeks, using the most streamlined approach possible.
If you gain traction, continue to build and expand your offering. If not, objectively evaluate your progress and decide whether to pivot or move on. Validating your idea before investing significant time and resources is crucial. To gauge interest, pitch your concept to friends, family, and acquaintances, refining your presentation along the way. If at least 50% genuinely believe it's a fantastic idea, it's worth pursuing. Otherwise, consider exploring other ideas to maximize your time and efforts.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
There are a few areas in which I need a helping hand. I am looking to expand my team with two key positions:
- Email Content Writer: This is a paid, part-time role for someone who can stay up-to-date on the latest travel and visa news, and craft engaging email content for our 250K-strong Visa List user base.
- Business Development Manager: Another paid, part-time opportunity, this role requires someone capable of driving Visa List's business growth by identifying and securing partnership opportunities with potential clients in the travel and visa sectors.
If you're interested in either of these positions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.
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.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings