- Inspiring Startups
Fin vs Fin - How to create a product review site that generates $50K/Month in less than 2 years
Alex Goldberg and Healy Jones are the co-founders of Fin vs Fin, a modern product review site for direct-to-consumer brands in the wellness space that went from zero to generating a revenue of $50K/ month and growing in less than 2 years of it's creation. And, the best thing is that they are still running it as a side hustle ...
Alex Goldberg studied economics at UC Berkeley and has spent the first decade of his career scaling early-stage tech startups. He loves running experiments and helping innovative brands blossom into household names. A perennial side-hustler, Alex occasionally relaxes with a game of golf, cooking a new recipe, or listening to a podcast on a completely random topic.
Healy Jones is a former investment banker and recovering venture capitalist.
He spent the last 10 years at fast growing tech companies, holds an MBA from Wharton, and currently runs a thriving financial planning and analysis (FP&A)
consultancy in addition to running Fin vs Fin. He is the proud father of two wonderful children and one feisty cat.
In this interview, we chat with Alex Goldberg on how he started Fin vs Fin with Healy Jones, how he's always been a side hustler (even though not always a successful one) and how he still runs Fin vs Fin as a side hustle. Alex also shares his tips on different ways aspiring entrepreneurs can start their online business.
What's special about Fin vs Fin?
Fin vs Fin is a modern product review site for direct-to-consumer brands. We help consumers discover and compare leading wellness brands, and likewise work with brands to win high-intent organic traffic that positions them well among shoppers. Most of our revenue comes from affiliate relationships with brands who pay for the traffic or sales we send them.
Why did you start Fin vs Fin?
It's always been a dream to own my own business. Both of my parents did, and for as long as I can remember, I've always had a side hustle. (Yes, I have a long list of failed projects to prove it) But back in 2013 or so, I started joking with colleagues about passive income streams. "Wouldn't it be cool to earn money while you sleep?"
I tried my hand at a few fledgling content sites but always lacked the focus, or perhaps just never got traction quickly enough, to keep going and really get them off the ground.
Fast forward a few years (and many side hustles later), my former boss (current partner) asked if we should start a side project together. I dragged my feet for a few months, and then decided to get to work, mostly just a way to stay in touch since we both enjoyed working together.
How did you start it? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur?
Prior to starting Fin vs Fin, I'd previously worked in entrepreneurial environments (3 early-stage silicon valley startups) as an employee, as well as tried my hand at starting many fledgling side hustles. I was also running my own freelance marketing consulting business at the time, and thus entrepreneurship wasn't a completely foreign concept.
Since Finvsfin.com is just a content business, starting was as easy as launching a wordpress site and starting to write content. Since my partner and I met at a fintech startup, we knew there were SEO opportunities. So we started to publish content about 401k providers and investment apps with a goal of winning organic traffic and later partnering with fintechs directly on a cost per lead basis.
How did you validate your idea?
When we saw a ton of VC dollars start flowing into D2C wellness brands, we decided to pivot our strategy and focus on content for those brands instead. Our first BIG success was an article comparing Hims vs Keeps vs Roman and our eyes widened. It took a few months to get our first affiliate commission, but it was surreal to see money flow into our account, seemily by magic.
We joke that it was the most exciting $10 we've ever made. It took a few more months to establish partnerships that made revenue more meaningful, but by first getting traffic, then seeing it translate into sales / commission, we had a proof of concept.
How did you finance your project?
The initial cost to start the site was minimal -- maybe a few hundred dollars per year for a domain, hosting, and other software. We paid this out of pocket and wrote the content ourselves to start. Once the site started to generate predictable income, we incorporated as an LLC (which costs a few thousand per year), started paying freelance writers, and invested back into growing the business.
How did you market and promote your business when you were launching? What was the most effective strategy?
We didn't have to market our business, per se, but our entire business is marketing. Content is our product and people find it through organic search. So we invest heavily in SEO (ranking highly in search engines), and have started to diversify traffic by building a social media and email following.
How long did it take you to start getting the first results and see you could create a viable business?
We started publishing content in January 2019, and got our first trickle of organic traffic in February. We made our first dollar in March. We didn't generate >$1,000/month until June -- 6 months after launch. A year later we hit $50k/month, and fortunately continue to grow today.
You started and currently still run your business as a side hustle. How do you organize to work on your side project while working at the same time?
It takes a lot of discipline, especially in the early days before you have traction, to juggle a day job and side hustle. Having a partner for ongoing motivation was really important. Once you have a bit of traffic or income though, investing more time gets more exciting.
I typically work 9am - 5pm at my day job, take a two hour break to eat, exercise, and relax, and then hop back on my computer for 4-6 hours every evening to work on Fin vs Fin. I also carve out time on the weekends as well. Yes, it's exhausting, and truly the illusion of "passive" income is just that -- an illusion. But most of the time it doesn't feel like work because the growth and continuous learning is all so exciting.
Do you plan to go full time with your business?
Absolutely, although it's nice to be able to run it and maintain the stability + community you get when working for a company. For now, we see this setup as a luxury, and are enjoying it.
What are the main ways in which you are able to monetize your business?
We monetize through affiliate partnerships -- usually on a cost per lead or sale basis -- and occasionally through sponsored ad placements.
What are the most useful tools/platforms that you use for your business?
Affluent.io is an awesome platform to track affiliate revenue from dozens of different networks and hundreds of partners. We also rely on free web analytics tools like Google Analytics + Google search console, and few paid SEO tools like seosurfer.com and SErankings.com
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
Every minute I invest has a much higher ROI than I could ever achieve as an
employee -- even with a small equity stake. There's also a lot of pride associated with building something from scratch.
What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
Early on it was having enough confidence and motivation on a project for long enough to see success. Finding an awesome business partner helped a lot because if you're having fun building together, it takes the pressure off succeeding, and thus you work on problems for longer than you might have alone.
What are your business goals for this coming year?
We set out at the beginning of 2020 to double revenue and grow our online portfolio by at least 2 sites. While finvsfin.com continues to grow well beyond our initial expectations, we've also acquired both https://fitnessmasterly.com and https://pupfection.com. Not sure what 2021 will look like, but excited to start planning soon.
How can an aspiring entrepreneur start building a business now? What would be a good business type to start as a beginner?
There are lots of ways to make money online. Many (myself included) start out consulting -- i.e. performing a service outside of your day job for a high hourly rate -- and it can be lucrative. Gig sites like upwork and countless of more specialized versions make it easy to get clients.
Other ideas: content / community. If you can figure out a way to get web traffic -- it can be in any niche, doesn't really matter -- you can start to monetize through affiliate, display ads, and/or sponsored placements.
Lastly, you don't necessarily have to re-invent the wheel to be an entrepreneur because there are very liquid markets for existing businesses, from affiliate sites to amazon FBA businesses to SaaS and membership communities. Thus a very viable route is to acquire an existing online business and work to grow it.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Always prioritize work that unblocks others before work that no one is waiting for.
What's your favourite quote?
"I don't like that man. I must get to know him better." - Abraham Lincoln. For me there's at least two takeaways.
1) Always seek common ground with others, especially when you don't understand their perspective. If you're persistent enough, eventually you will and they'll be a friend.
2) Embrace obstacles and challenges rather than shy away. That's how you grow.
Any good book(s) to recommend to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. Published decades ago, this book still holds truly invaluable lessons for early stage entrepreneurs today. My favorite lesson in the book is about finding your beachhead -- i.e. the first market segment you go after needs to be people with the most acute pain and thus who are likely to see the most value in your offering.
Only once you've identified them and acquired a critical mass of customers does Moore recommend finding adjacent groups with similar pain. If you do this over and over, eventually you'll dominate the market.
Learn more about Fin vs Fin at www.finvsfin.com
Learn more about Fitness Masterly at www.fitnessmasterly.com
Learn more about Pupfection at www.pupfection.com
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