Feature Friday is our effort to spotlight people in the personal finance community who are doing great things and helping improve the lives of others. We want to help them spread their message and get their projects in front of more people. If you’d like to nominate someone for Feature Friday, contact us and let us know why they should be spotlighted. You can find more articles like this on the main Feature Friday page.
Full disclosure: Robert is a client of Conversion Owl, but we truly felt his message needed to be spread.
The Student Loan Debt Movement
I’ve known Robert as a friend online for a few years, but we hadn’t really met in person until FinCon, the financial blogger’s conference. What a great guy!
Robert is extremely knowledgeable, not only in personal finance but also with blogging and being successful online – he’s been doing it for almost 10 years!
Recently, Robert sent out a call to action to the FinCon community – help him reach the goal of getting $1 million in student loan debt paid off throughout the month of March. What a goal!
Here’s what Robert had to say about the movement and his journey online:
How did you get into online business and helping people with their finances?
I started The College Investor when I was wrapping up college. I had been reading personal finance blogs, and also financial news sites like Yahoo! Finance, and wanted to share my thoughts on money and investing.
When I first started, the blog really was just that – a place to share my random thoughts about money and investing.
However, over time, I started getting questions from readers, people interested in certain topics, and I started transforming my content from my own random thoughts to really writing for my readers. This was the “magic” formula that really helped it grow.
What is your brand all about – what kind of impact are you hoping to have?
I’m all about helping people get out of student loan debt so they can start investing and building wealth. I personally advocate the path of earning more money (via side hustling or other means) to achieve this goal.
It really follows my story as well. I personally graduated with $43,000 in student loan debt, and I paid it off in three years by side hustling. I worked full time during college, side hustled as well, and started my blog/business while working full time.
While budgeting and frugality are important (you shouldn’t be spending more than you earn) – the more powerful approach is earning extra income to attack your financial goals.'While budgeting and frugality are important (you shouldn’t be spending more than you earn) - the more powerful approach is earning extra income to attack your financial goals.'Click To Tweet
You’re working on the Student Loan Debt Movement – what’s the goal of this project?
The goal of this project is to educate, inspire, and encourage people to take action in paying off their student loan debt. We’re attempting to pay off $1,000,000 in student loan debt during the month of March.
Who are you trying to help with this movement?
Anyone with student loan debt!
Tell us why you find this project important.
The fact is, student loan debt is stressful and confusing. While there are a lot of options, that just makes things harder.
I wanted to pull together the best resources and educational tools for getting out of student loan debt, along with some motivation (i.e. giveaways and competition) to encourage people to act on paying off their loans.
What is your overall mission in business? Why do you do what you do and why did you get started?
Our mission is simple: to help millennials understand how to get out of student loan debt so they can start investing and building wealth.
I’ve dealt with the struggle of student loan debt and I’ve seen thousands of other people deal with it. I’ve seen the hardship of navigating student loan repayment plans, dealing with bureaucracy, and even battling depression and suicide due to these loans.
Beyond that, I know what’s possible. I think that too many people are wasting time everyday watching the Bachelorette or Real Housewives of Somewhere when they could be earning money and working towards their financial goals.
I want to show people the paths that exist, how they can be done, and share my story of going from student loan debt to financially independent in my early 30s.
What started as just a random blog to share my thoughts has really transformed into a great platform to share this message. We touch millions of people each month, and that’s pretty powerful.
Do you have any strange habits that have helped you in business?
On the business side, I’m motivated by earning income. It’s driven me since I was a child. I used to buy multi-pack candy bars at Costco and then take them to school and resell them individually. I’ve always had a drive to earn.
The first thing I do every day is add up the income from the prior day. I do this before email or any project in my business. What I’ve found it does is it motivates me to continue to push forward with my business. It’s a mini dose of inspiration each day.'The first thing I do every day is add up the income from the prior day. I do this before email or any project in my business. What I’ve found it does is it motivates me to continue to push forward with my business.'Click To Tweet
Robert’s Marketing Strategies
How are you promoting your brand online?
I promote my brand through my content. We’re a content driven platform that I like to think about like a virtual magazine.
It starts with great content. We try to have the best content on the topic we’re writing about. If possible, we include audio and video, images, and more.
Then, I leverage social media, email, and more to promote it to my existing audience.
If possible, I reach out to others that may have been mentioned or might find the information valuable, and I let them know about the article directly.
What have you found to be most impactful when getting the word out about what you’re doing?
The most impactful thing I’ve done to get the word out is networking with others in my space. This isn’t a short term game – but a long term relationship that’s built and pays dividends.
I comment and share other people’s content, and network at conferences, and when it comes time for me to need to ask them for something, they’re usually very happy to as we’ve built this relationship.
What was the biggest marketing mistake/failure you’ve made in the past?
The biggest marketing failure I’ve made (and still make sometimes) is push, push, push, and no engagement or ask. As a result, you train your audience not to always engage.
It’s still a struggle, but I try to mix up formats, questions, live video, and more to boost engagement. Then, with more engagement, when you do share something, it gets seen more.
Business Failures & Inspiration
In terms of business, what has been the biggest failure you’ve experienced? What did you take away from that?
The biggest business failure I had was I really didn’t know what I was doing for the first two years I ran my website. I made no money, and if it wasn’t a hobby, I probably would have quit.
What changed at the two year mark was surprisingly simple – I started connecting with other personal finance blogger, networking, and attended a conference.
By connecting, not only did I learn, but I made connections. They learned about me, and they started sharing my stuff. It really went a long way to growing my site.
So, thebiggest takeaway – network. And realize that you have no competitors, only community. When you take on a community mindset, it really helps you build powerful relationships.'So, the biggest takeaway - network. And realize that you have no competitors, only community. When you take on a community mindset, it really helps you build powerful relationships.'Click To Tweet
Do you have any business role models or people you look up to in business?
In my space it’s really hard to find good business role models. But I really like Chris Guillebeau and Gary Vaynerchuk for inspiration.
Chris created a fantastic website and business based around his lifestyle, which I value.
Gary Vaynerchuk always talks about doing the work, which I completely believe in.
What book has had the most impact on you in terms of business, sales, or marketing?
I really liked the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – it was the right book at the right time for me.
Also, for mindset (not just in business but in general), I like the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.
What is the number one lesson you’ve learned while running your business(es)?
The power of networking and community. It goes a long way in growing your business, growing your personal brand and reputation, and provides a support network that you can rely on if you need it.
What legacy do you want to leave? In other words, when you’re all done, what do you want to have accomplished at the end of it all?
Family. It’s all about family. Forget all this business stuff – I do what I do to provide for my family and live the life with them that I want.
I hustled and worked day and night from 15+ years (from high school into my 30s) – full time day job, side hustles, side business – so that I could provide and be financially independent.
Now, my kids are young. I can spend as much (or has little… haha) time as I want with them. That’s what I want. I want my wife and kids to love being a family together, doing things, having adventures, etc.'I hustled and worked day and night from 15+ years (from high school into my 30s) - full time day job, side hustles, side business - so that I could provide and be financially independent.'Click To Tweet
Robert was able to successfully get out of debt, save money and become financially independent, and now he’s giving back to the community with resources, knowledge and bringing together likeminded people on a similar path. I love it!
If you want to learn more about Robert, the student loan debt movement, and The College Investor, you can find him here: