Podcast 115: How Khalid Farhan Went From Freelancer Working for $1 Per Article to Full-time Online Business Owner
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Today, I’ve got a great guest on the show. It’s Khalid Farhan from PassiveJournal.com, that’s his blog over there and he also offers SEO services.
What’s interesting about Khalid is his journey from being a student in Bangladesh and working for just $1 per article as a freelancer on Upwork and other freelance services, to going to owning his own business.
He’s built out a number of niche websites (as he shared on a guest post here), a couple of which he has sold in 2016, one for $12,000 and another for $26,000. We’ll also talk about the current income he makes from his niche websites that he still owns as well. He’s doing very well building out and ranking websites and then selling a lot of those and then he also does quite well with his SEO services that we’ll touch on just a little bit as well.
The majority of this interview will focus on how Khalid is building out his niche websites. We even reveal one of those niche websites that he sold recently so you can look at that as a template if you’d like to. Then we dive into some really cool link building strategies, a couple of very interesting ones that I have not tackled myself. These are new ideas to me that I actually do think could work pretty well. It’s a unique approach. Listen for that.
But overall, I hope that you enjoy the interview.
Read the Full Transcript[expand title=”Click Here to Expand the Full Podcast Transcript”]
Spencer:Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. . Today, I’ve got a great guest on the show. It’s Khalid Farhan from passivejournal.com, that’s his blog over there and he also offers SEO services.
What’s interesting about Khalid is his journey from being a student in Bangladesh and working for just $1 per article as a freelancer on Upwork and other freelance services to going to owning his own business. He’s built out a number of niche websites, a couple of which he has sold in 2016, one for $12,000 and another for $26,000. We’ll also talk about the current income he makes from his niche websites that he still owns as well. He’s doing very well building out and ranking websites and then selling a lot of those and then he also does quite well with his SEO services that we’ll touch on just a little bit as well.
The majority of this interview will focus on how Khalid is building out his niche websites. We even reveal one of those niche websites that he sold recently so you can look at that as a template if you’d like to. Then we dive into some really cool link building strategies, a couple of very interesting ones that I have not tackled myself. These are new ideas to me that I actually do think could work pretty well. It’s a unique approach. Listen for that. But overall, I hope that you enjoy the interview.
Alright, Khalid, welcome to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. How are you doing today?
Khalid:I’m doing well. Hello, Spencer. Hello everyone who’s listening. It actually feels great to be in your podcast. Achievement unlocked, for sure.
Spencer:Absolutely, as we were just chatting a minute ago, I’m excited to have listeners actually come on and be guests on the podcast. This is something a little bit new that I’m trying, I’m excited for this especially because we’ve been able to find a few successful entrepreneurs such as yourself and now I want to bring you on and give you a chance to tell your stories.
With that, why don’t you go ahead and give us a brief explanation of your background and how you got started online and maybe what your first business venture was.
Khalid:Yeah, sure. Thank you. I’m Khalid from the beautiful country Bangladesh, located in Southeast Asia, in case you don’t know. I just completed my undergrad last December. Working full time now from my home on passive income projects. Basically, I started as a freelancer back in 2011. I was in my 11th standard, I guess. The education system is a bit different here. You work your way up to college and then there’s university. It’s complex.
I started as a writer in market places like Freelancer and Upwork which was ODesk back then. I used to write 500 words for $1 back then. I was 16, 17 years old maybe. I wasn’t allowed to have my own bank accounts or pioneer cards, PayPal is not allowed in Bangladesh. I used my mom’s name in all those market places, I used her bank details to get paid. It was fun.
I didn’t actually start freelancing to make money. The idea of being able to earn your own living was fascinating and that’s actually what got me started. I didn’t actually need money back then. I was a kid and didn’t have to spend a lot, I guess.
I actually wrote articles for a long time. The internet marketers didn’t need long articles back then so it was more like 500 words or maybe 1000 words. Then, I moved into writing non-fiction ebooks for clients who were probably publishing those on Amazon and then very quickly I got into SEO.
Meanwhile, I think I started my first blog targeting Google Ads in 2013 or late ‘12. It was not a big hit. The income was pretty poor. I don’t think I made any money, maybe $1 or $2 but I worked a lot on those blogs. It was sad. I was more interested into quick liquid money, I again moved back to freelancing. This transition continued for around 2-3 years. I tried different things, created a few more blogs but the bulk of my income was actually from freelancing. I worked as a virtual manager for a company for around six months. I did a lot of stuff back then.
Then in 2015 actually, I started getting into niche sites. I think I first heard about Amazon Affiliate Marketing from Niche Pursuits, but I’m not sure. I think it can be Smart Passive Income too from Pat Flynn’s. But from then it was all about building a passive income stream for me.
I worked from my first Horse Niche back in 2015. Actually, I wrote about this in your blog, I think in last year August. It was again a failure then I started my next site which actually I sold for around $12,000. That was the moment. Then I kept on building website and selling them and yeah.
Spencer:That’s awesome. Maybe some people can relate. I know some people certainly started out as a freelancer and then maybe learned about the business from there but it sound like it’s been quite a journey going from freelancer on and off and then eventually going into okay, how can I actually build a business, build some websites and as you mentioned, you’ve now sold a couple. We’ll dive into that here in a second. But maybe you can give people an idea of your business right now. What does it look like today? What type of sites are you building? What activities are you doing and what’s bringing in the money right now?
Khalid:Okay. There are two major income streams for me right now. I have my own personal niche sites which are separated from my business, I mean my formal business which is passivejournal.com. passivejournal.com is pretty much everything for me right now. I started Passive Journal last year in June so it’s very new. That’s around 7 months from now, I think. The blog was initially started to talk about my journey and then I quickly started offering some services. The bulk of my income now comes from Passive Journal and my personal niche sites. I only have three now, the third one is very new.
I keep on building and selling my personal niche sites as well, apart Passive Journal. Passive Journal has its own journey. Apart from these two major income streams, I also occasionally go back to my freelancing clients. Actually, I often get bored with the Passive Income streams, niche sites. Actually, I do weird stuff in market places even now. Last month, I did a freelancing project on Upwork. Not many people know about this because I just do it for fun. It’s cheap money. It’s not about money, it’s just fun. I built up a five site PBN for a client.
Spencer:Yup. Listeners are very familiar with PBNs and how that works. I’m not a big fan of PBNs but lots of people are still doing that. That’s no problem at all.
I’d like to give people a little bit of a sense of how well your business is doing overall. Of course, you don’t have to share all of your income but whatever you’re comfortable sharing. Can you give people an idea of what type of success that you’re having?
Khalid:Sure, sure. As I mentioned just now that there are three different income streams for me right now. The freelancing option is pretty much fun, I hardly make around $1000 to $2000 maybe. The more serious ones are my niche sites and Passive Journal. My personal niche sites bring around $3000 to $5000 a month, from month to month, December was big and January was pretty low. I also sell my personal niche sites as I mentioned. For example, I sold websites for $12,000 and $26,000 and also some small ones in 2016. Apart from that, Passive Journal is what makes the most amount of money, we make a big amount, I mean it’s certainly bigger than my personal niche site incomes.
Khalid:In Passive Journal, we deal with niche sites building, SEO and local business SEOs. That’s about it. These are the income streams for me right now.
Spencer:That’s perfect. I think that gives people a good picture of what you’re doing. Like you said, you’re certainly having success with your niche sites and I love that you’ve been able to sell a couple of those and I think we’re going to talk about one here just a little bit. Let’s jump into that now that people know how well your business is doing as far as both niche sites and of course you have a great business with passivejournal.com as well. I want to dive into really how you go there with the niche sites though. Can you give us an idea of what your process is for building a successful website and maybe we can use one of the sites that you sold as an example.
Khalid:Yeah. I will actually be sharing one of my [00:07:49] today as I told you earlier. I sold this website back in 2016, I forgot the month, it was early, I think it was March or April. I sold this site for $12,000 and the selling process was interesting too. I initially listed this site on Flipper because this was one of my initial sale site, I didn’t know how Empire transfers money to other country, so Flipper was the easier option. I didn’t sell on Flippa but I got a few clients who were interested and they contacted me privately next and that’s how I ended up selling this website to a Canadian company. The website is called dronereview.com, you guys can have a look. I think the rankings have fallen since I sold the site but it still makes a good amount I guess. This was one of my big sells. The site might not be perfect but I’m super proud of the site. That was the big money moment for me.
Spencer:dronereview.com. I’ve got it pulled up here. About how much was it making per month when you sold the site?
Khalid:When I sold the site, it was I think making around $1200 to $1600 maybe per month.
Khalid:This was a White Hat Project. I actually do both White and Black Hat, not as white as you. This was actually one of the White Hat Projects that I did and I actually ended up knowing that if you build your links in the straight White Hat Methods, you get better multiples. When you build sites using PBN, I actually myself build sites PBNs even now and the multiple varies from $18 to $25 but when you’re building White Hat links, it gets up to 30%.
Spencer:Right. And that makes absolute sense because there is a little bit more risk involved when there is a PBN that is used to build a site. It’s good that places like Empire, Flippers, they always disclose that so people that are going to buy a website, they know whether or not there is a PBN hopefully involved. So that makes absolute sense. Give us an idea of the process for building dronereview.com as far as just start with keyword research. Take us to the journey there.
Khalid:Alright. Maybe it’s not rocket science to bill and rank websites. All you need is the ability and determination of working hard, that’s basically it and everything else comes in place when you are ready to work hard or when you are determined to work hard. My process is very similar to the projects that you ran except the fact that I often used Black Hat techniques too. It’s 50-50, I sell 50% of my sites maybe in the White Hat but it also depends on the competition of the projects. It is exactly the same like your projects, it starts with keyword research. For dronereview.com, I used Long Tail Pro, now I use another keyword research tool which is also a Cloud Keyword Research tool, it’s called keywordrevealer.com. Are you familiar with that?
Spencer:I have heard of it. I haven’t really used it much.
Khalid:It’s pretty simple. Though I don’t build the specific niche sites as of now, I have gone into the alternative model but Keyword Revealer is good. Either Long Tail Pro or Keyword Revealer, then when you are done with the keyword research process, I start building the content. After I’m done with around 10,000-15,000 words, then I actually go and build and design the site. I’m not a great designer of WordPress websites. I have a theory, maybe the theory is wrong and maybe the theory is manipulated because I am not a good designer. I think that if you have a website on Google’s first page, even if the design is bad, people will actually go ahead and look at your site if the information on the site is good enough. The design for it is actually an add on. As long as you’re satisfying Google with page speed, site speed and those sort of stuff, I think you’re fine even with simple designs.
Spencer:I agree. I’m looking at the site, I don’t know if it’s changed since you sold it.
Khalid:The design is pretty much the same.
Spencer:It looks like just a simple WordPress theme, and it is. It’s very clean, nothing super exciting but it is something that people came to. I think the key is not to scare people away, right? That it’s so ugly that they go away. This is simple and clean and that’s just fine.
Khalid:I see people invest so much time and money on designing their website’s themes, flash and pictures come from left and right. It’s weird.
Spencer:You do 10,000-15,000 words. About how many articles is that? Are you doing a thousand words per article?
Khalid:For the Niche Model, for the dronereview.com type models, I do a big article. That’s the traditional model that has been going on for a long time now that there is a big static article on the homepage and then you have articles in your other menus and categories. I try to at least go up to 1500 words now, previously it was around 700-1000 word with some big ones. But now, for my recent alternative sites I have change the plan.
Now, I have two types of articles in almost all of my websites. One is the informative category, one is what I call the money articles. The money articles are big. They are around 3000 to 5000 words, they carry a lot of information that are money keyword and they have the charts and tables. And then I have the informative articles which are around 700 to 1200 maybe at max that are that Long Tail keywords and mostly informative one.
Spencer:I think that’s a pretty good model that I do think is very similar, right? I’m writing longer articles because they tend to rank better in Google. I’m looking at the drone site and you’re definitely doing the sort of classic comparison charts with the different Amazon products so that people can click over and go buy those products.
Excellent. If people have followed along with niche site project three, it’s a very similar process. You’ve got the comparison charts and affiliate links and making money from Amazon. Good job on that site.
Spencer:Anything else you want to talk about before we jump into maybe link building strategies?
Khalid:Let’s just jump into link building. I have an interesting one to share.
Spencer:Yeah, absolutely. Because you did a guest post on Niche Pursuits, I am familiar with some of the strategies that you have followed. Maybe you can give us an idea of what one of the top one or two link building strategies that you use right now?
Khalid:When I did the Niche Pursuits guest post, I talked about my scholarship SEO strategy but listeners can read that. Let me talk about another interesting one.
Currently, my most favorite one link building strategy is actually pretty weird one, it is a bit shady I think but listeners can decide what to do. I come from a freelancing background so writing is actually one of the most popular categories in every freelance marketplaces no matter which one we are talking about here. What I do is I actually search and find writer groups on Facebook and then there are some other forums who are actually working as a freelance writer right now. I search on different forums and Facebook groups and try to contact them.
When I find them, I just tell them that if you are working on this niche for example, try to put my website’s link in your next article naturally as a reference if you can. When the article goes live, I’ll be paying you this much. The writers are already getting paid from their clients, their clients are getting the links naturally and I’m getting a back link.
Spencer:That’s really interesting. What success rate do you have with that?
Khalid:As long as your website is good, as long as your website looks like an operating website and not like a penny shaved.com for example, the writers are happy to give your link as a resource, they don’t mind because they are getting extra money and the clients that the writers are working for don’t mind either because it is good to share links in your website of resources because that is natural.
Spencer:I like that.
Khalid:It’s a win-win.
Spencer:That’s a great idea. Can you give us any idea of how you’re finding these groups on Facebook? Do you just search for any particular type? Any keywords? Or anything that you use to find those?
Khalid:My strategy might not work for all of the listeners because what I do is mostly based on my country communities. We have a few Facebook groups mostly where the freelancers hang out and these are big Facebook groups with a lot of members but they all are from Bangladesh, they all are Bangladeshi writers, they are Bangladeshi designers and all that. I try to contact them but I think listeners can find their own country’s freelancers who are also working as writers. It shouldn’t be tough. It is pretty easy, actually.
Spencer:Like you said, it doesn’t have to be Facebook, it could be forums or it could be Twitter or any other place you can figure out where maybe writers are hanging out using creativity to do that and then reach out from there.
Khalid:In fact, if you’re a good writer, you can actually create a profile on Upwork and be done writing related tasks that falls under your Niche. You can write articles for the freelancing clients and then you can actually embed your link inside the article. I mean if you have the time.
Spencer:Now that’s interesting.
Khalid:You should try it.
Spencer:You got some great ideas. I like that a lot. Hopefully people caught up on that one. And again this is up to every individual to determine whether or not that is something that they would want to do and if they do that, for example it maybe would be a good idea if you were an Upwork writer and you decided hey I’m going to have somebody pay me to write this article and then I’m going to link to my own website in that article. I think you should probably disclose that to the person that you’re writing the article for, “Hey, I do have a vested interest in this website but I think it make sense in this articles anyways, is that okay?” Maybe that’s the more upfront way to do it.
Khalid:Unless it’s a direct competition, I mean, the client that you are working for is a direct competition of the niche site that you are getting backlinked to. It should not be a problem, but yes.
Spencer:Right, exactly. Can you give us an idea of how much you might offer to pay per link? Once you contact these writers, how much might you offer to insert your link into one of those articles?
Khalid:I don’t really look at the domain authority or page authority anymore. I’m just happy to get the backlinks. I pay from $5 to $15 and I have paid up to $20, I think. Not more than that.
Spencer:Okay. Really not very much. That’s a great strategy, I like it. Do you have any others that you’re willing to share or want to discuss?
Khalid:I think the basic strategy is the basic link building strategy, the ones that you have used on your projects, the ones that everyone knows about are good enough to rank niche sites if you are ready to work hard basically. It’s not tough and if you can be creative even with the basic ones that like, for example the backlink readers already know about this when you are trying to do a guest post, maybe don’t just tell people that you want to write a guest post. Maybe find a few flaws on their websites, talk about them and then offer a guest post. It’s all about trying to be unique.
Spencer:Right, absolutely. Anyway, you can stand out because certainly when you’re reaching out for guest posts, a lot of times these people have been contacts all the time. If you can do something a little bit different to stand out from all these requests, you might have a little bit higher success rate.
Khalid:Exactly. Another one is when I talk you talked about this one with Samara. The back link that you’re getting doesn’t have to be from the same niche or industry. Here’s an interesting example. For example let’s say we’re working on a website which is about dog travel, maybe some travelling bags or cages for dogs. It is not important to always contact with the websites, I mean contact the websites that also work on the similar industry, you can also contact websites that are on travel industry. For example there is a website about travelling, you can go ahead and tell them that you have a website related to dogs and you talk about dog travelling related products and you want to write an article about how to travel with your dog. You can post that on that travel website. They’re not a direct competitor so they don’t mind, they get a good article. It’s again a win-win.
Spencer:Yup. Absolutely. A great example. I think that there is a lot of opportunity outside of your regular Niche that people maybe aren’t looking at, certainly can reach out to other people. Look for those link building opportunities.
Excellent examples, I think we’ve given people a fairly brief blueprint here of how you went out or do go out and build websites. Do you have any other specific tips for building niche sites? It doesn’t have to be link building or keyword research. Just any other strategies in general that you’d like to share?
Khalid:I’d like to tell people who are listening that there is no point in planning for six or seven months before you start your first site. Fail a couple time if you want. I’ve seen people who have been planning for even two years for now and they’re not doing anything other than just planning, don’t just plan, do something about it, you might fail and that’s alright. You can fail, it is a business, you will fail sometime and you will win too. Planning is important but working is actually even more important and it is often tough to see the long term picture unless you start doing. The tips are all out there, there is no secret. If you just decide to work from today, you’ll make it.
Spencer:Absolutely. Great advice. I love it. I do want to talk just briefly about passivejournal.com because as you mentioned that is a big part of your business and certainly you got a blog there and you’ve got clients there. Why don’t you give us an idea of what type of services you offer at Passive Journal?
Khalid:We have two different departments for clients in Passive Journal right now. We have our own web client department and then last month we launched our local client department. We offer services like new site building, SEO, infographic, and for some premium clients you also have services like portfolio management where you basically manage a bunch sites for our clients.
For the local SEO, I don’t know many of your listeners are local SEO or they’re interested in local SEO, we target brick and mortar websites, we target actual businesses with physical locations and we offer them our SEO services, it’s pretty interesting because you get a monthly deal with these companies. For example, let’s say pool services in Austin, Texas, that’s the keyword and many companies will love to be ranked for that keyword in page one. There is not a lot of competition out there. For this pool industry there is, but there is not for a lot of industries. We were targeting local SEO, we were trying to do something in the local SEO industry and we’re very new. It just has been seven months now, the journey has been amazing and let’s see where it goes.
Spencer:Absolutely. Just to follow up on that, how do you find clients for local brick and mortar company like the Austin, Texas local company. How are you finding those clients?
Khalid:Step one is deciding which industry are you going to work in. Try to avoid pool service or dentist or law because these are very competitive among local SEO, I mean local Search Engine Optimizers and these companies. They always target these companies because these are big ones and for example medical, maybe some restaurants, they are big. You’ll have to find your niche share which is low competitive, so go ahead and find the industry that you think you will do well then you just go ahead and do a search.
Do a search for example, let’s say, pool service in Austin, Texas, you will see a bunch of ads, you will see the PPC ads in first page and second page even at the bottom and these are very popular keywords for advertisement and you just look at the ads and you’ll see the companies that are paying for the ads and they’ll find their actual organic search position.
You just mail them and tell them that look, you are paying this much for every click. Your organic rank is at the fifth page, for example. I can help you be at the first page and you will get this much impression possibly so why not give it a try? Sometimes they agree, sometimes you have to call. Cold emailing is our process because we live very far, we are in Bangladesh and they are probably in the US. Our option is only cold emailing but I’ve seen local SEOs who actually send gifts, who send little monkeys, little toys to these companies and with a letter that says if you’re interested in SEO, contact us, or something. It’s pretty interesting.
Spencer:Very cool. Any particular strategies that work well for ranking local SEO?
Khalid:The local SEO keywords, the keywords that local companies want to rank for, these are extremely low competitive keywords. At times, you just do the on pages SEO and you’ll automatically see them rank. The beauty of this method is that you are charging them monthly so if you can keep that ranking for their websites, you get a monthly payment, you don’t have to do anything about it. You just make them stay there, you’re not doing anything. They don’t have to know that and you’re getting your monthly checks.
Spencer:That sounds like a pretty good business. Probably a lot of growth opportunity there as well and local SEOs are very fast growing part of search as businesses finally, and they have for the last few years. They started to get more and more aware of online marketing and ranking in Google but that’s just going to continue to grow.
Khalid:Universities didn’t have digital marketing masters programs back then, now they do. In fact, I’m actually going for my masters probably in September in Ireland in digital marketing. It’s interesting, the opportunities are growing, hopefully we’ll be able to bear future.
Spencer:Absolutely. It’s an exciting time to be a digital marketer. There’s individuals such as yourself. Doesn’t matter where we live in the world, you really can grow a business online whether that’s building niche sites like you are or getting services for clients. Whatever that might be, there really is a lot of opportunities.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed having you on the podcast. Any final parting words of wisdom?
Khalid:I think I did talk enough. I just want to say thank you for having me on your podcast. I have been listening to your podcast since 2015, I think, and I have listened to your podcast multiple times. I didn’t have Passive Journal back then. Your podcast is a great source of motivation for me and I hope you continue doing that and don’t give a big break.
Spencer:Absolutely. Thank you for the motivation, I’ll try to do that. Thank you Khalid for being on the podcast and thanks everybody for listening.[/expand]
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My top recommendations
The first link building strategy he shared was so unique and interesting.
It’s the golden age when you pay $5-$20 for a potentially high quality link, I am worried that maybe after a year or two, this strategy will also be so competitive just like the other ones.
Anyways, I welcome the newborn link building strategy. Never heard of that before.
Thank you Khalid Farhan for sharing this and thank you Spencer for hosting this episode.
Hi! i love to share my feeling really SEO strategy is awesome. I surely implement this strategy as soon as possible
Thank you Spencer. It was great fun 🙂
Keep up the hard work Khalid 🙂
Thanks Khalid…it was great to have you on the podcast!
The link building strategy of khalid Farhan is absolutely brilliant. Very motivational podcast. Just keep the process on.Well done spencer.
Great ideas here for link building and SEO. Thanks for sharing Khalid. If you have writers communities etc. in Bangladesh that need work, then it would be a good idea to share with the rest of us. Same for the link building. I sense a business potential here.
That’s a very cool idea Daniel 🙂 I will think about this.
That’s awesome. Thank you Spencer for such great interview. Farhan, you are doing well and have great tips for link building. Hard work pays but condition is one shall do extra mile effort when he already have done his best. This is what I believe.
You have been a huge inspiration for me and I want to say thank you for that.
I love your bootstrap software business series but you have not released part 4 and 5 yet.
Eagerly awaiting. Thank you so much once again.
Thanks for the reminder Alfie! I’m glad you’ve gotten inspiration from my blog over the years.
Spencer, post like this is the reason why we strive hard to make this all work! #hustle
Hi congratulations on your success, your link building strategy is awesome 🙂
This is a very interesting It is a great article. You will surely like this also because it is a great stuff, yeah it’s give us lots of interest and pleasure. Their opportunities are so fantastic and working style so speedy.
Khalid is a con artist that scammed one of my clients with his so called ‘link outreach’, which turned out to be a fake private blog network, fake in the way that he spammed each domain with GSA. My client obviously disputed the payment at Paypal with my assistance so we’re pretty sure we’ll win it and my client gets his money back.