Self-described “finance ninja” Andrew Kraemer founded Wallet Squirrel in 2015 and was soon joined by his best friend Adam Olson. The site has grown to a go-to spot for personal finance advice and information presented in an approachable and lighthearted way. It has a particular focus on how to create multiple sources of income to build personal wealth.
We talked with Kraemer, who shared a little about the Wallet Squirrel story and what it takes to succeed in content creation today.
What was the impetus behind starting Wallet Squirrel?
For me personally, when I learned the 9-to-5 career isn’t the only way to make money, I became like a kid hunting for Easter eggs. I consumed everything about passive income, from stock photography to high-interest checking accounts, to grow my money. Everything I experimented with and lessons learned were recorded online which became WalletSquirrel.com, one of the top personal finance blogs.
When you’re in college or soon after, not only are you oblivious to the basics of taxes and 401(k)s, but many of us are unaware there is a whole world of additional ways to make money besides the traditional 9-to-5 job.
You had some websites before Wallet Squirrel. What were those about and what were the lessons you learned?
I had a couple of terrible websites that are hilarious to look back on. One website sold Halloween costumes (obviously only successful one time during the year); another was about building sonic screwdrivers (only popular among BBC’s “Doctor Who” fans). Another was recommending gift ideas (fairly successful). The lesson learned, only start a website that you’re passionate about. That’s why these fizzled out and Wallet Squirrel has grown so much. I personally connect and find joy in learning new things about finance every day!
Building a content website can be challenging, but it can have rewards too. How can a site stand out?
If you want to build a website, congrats! It’s still one of the best ways to earn money because there are so many ways to monetize your own site, and you control the user experience. What will make your site stand out from the 1.74 billion other websites on the internet will be your brand identity, website design, and content you create. Good quality articles take six to nine hours to construct from research, writing, search engine optimization (SEO) and generating matching graphics. People love graphics! You won’t see an immediate impact from adding graphics, but usually over two months, Google will love sending people your way.
Consider Netflix. So far in 2020, they have spent $17 billion on new content. That’s original programming people crave and something none of their streaming/traditional TV networks have. Those shows will live on the streaming platform for the next 30 years continually generating income for Netflix. It’s the same for the quality content written on your own website, it’ll pay dividends for years!
What is your number-one piece of advice for students and young people to start on the right foot with their personal finances?
Immediately start tracking all of your finances in one place. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Mint or Personal Capital -both finance tracking apps – or your own spreadsheet. Having a single place to daily see your money coming/going is life changing.
And then immediately see how small budget choices result in big savings. Watching your credit card debt helps visualize how most payments are only covering the interest. Maintain a 30,000-foot view of your finances so you’re prepared if you ever lose your job or have a life-altering emergency.
When you track all your money on a daily basis, you’ll naturally understand the value of every cent. This will lead to smarter choices, building up an emergency fund and being more confident in your finances!
Do you have any partnerships with other websites? What kind of advertising do you do on your website? What’s the best-case scenario for Wallet Squirrel?
It’s always exciting to peek behind the curtain! Wallet Squirrel is a personal finance blog, which I like to refer to friends as a financial media company.
We’ve been set up as an LLC for the past five years with major partnerships on AOL Money and, most recently, a syndication network that allows MSN Money and Inc. magazine to feature our articles.
While we have never paid for advertising, we regularly pay for marketing tools such as SEMrush, Buffer, Tailwind and Mailchimp to help us with our search engine optimization and social media/email marketing. All these efforts generate a sizeable income primarily through affiliate links (we receive a commission each time someone purchases a product from links on our website) and a few small ads. Together it generates a nice passive income to pay off all those student loans!
Thinking big: I’m personally drawn and enthralled to all the clever ways people make money. I love reading about it, researching them and testing. I see Wallet Squirrel as the new home for proven, tested ways to earn extra cash referenced by major news networks and a resource for people wanting to break the monotony of 9-to-5. I expect us to rent out a studio for more videos, bringing on a graphic designer for regular infographics and developing more partnerships because, at the end of the day, the goal is still to help as many people as possible improve their own finances!