This is an interview with Ling of Fin Savvy Panda.
Ling graduated with a business degree and majored in finance. She worked in the financial banking and finance industry for 9 years before leaving her job to become a full-time blogger. Today, she is a personal finance content creator and loves to teach people how to save, budget and earn extra money at Finsavvy Panda. She also publishes content about blogging tips for beginners at Blog Savvy Panda.
Hey, Ling. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi, my name is Ling and I run my personal finance blog, Finsavvy Panda. On the blog, I write about tips on how to save and make extra money.
While growing up, my family and I always struggled financially on a minimum-wage income, living paycheck to paycheck, just to meet our most basic needs. I remember not being able to travel the world, eat out, go out with friends, or experience new and exciting things all because we simply couldn’t afford it. All we cared about was surviving on basic food and shelter.
It was this experience that made me want to find ways to earn more and save more so we could all live a better life and enjoy it. My dad also encouraged me to get a degree in business and finance because he thought that would bring all of us a better future. So, I listened to him and eventually got my first job in the finance industry upon graduation.
After several years of paying off my student loans, I realized that I never liked working in an office environment, or for any company, because it didn’t give me any freedom. It also just wasn’t the right fit for me. So, I started looking for business ideas and somehow starting a blog worked out for me.
On top of that, due to the questions I got about how I was able to make extra money with my first blog, I decided to expand on topics about blogging for beginners. Hence, I created a separate website at Blog Savvy Panda just for people who want to learn more about blogging.
When and why did you start FinsavvyPanda.com?
It was a result of my past upbringing along with my experience in the finance and banking industry that prompted me to start a blog about personal finance and money topics near the end of 2017. I also learned that you could blog part-time as a side hustle and earn extra cash or become a full-time blogger and earn a great income by doing what you enjoy.
Plus, blogging was something for me to look forward to because I didn’t like any of my previous jobs. This was therapeutic for me and an excellent way to cope with my stress and anxiety during that time.
How was your life like before you were financially free?
As mentioned earlier, living on a low income can be tough.
It was challenging because of the social pressure and people around you who can afford to spend. When you’re not earning the same income as your friends and relatives, you just don’t have the luxury to go out with them and they may not understand your situation the same way.
They would often ask, “can’t you just get your parents to pay for you?” or “why don’t you just use a credit card and pay back later?”
On top of that, my father, including my grandfather, would also constantly tell me every single day for over 20 years about how poor and unlucky they are. They told me to never be like them or I’d end up “poor and useless”. Literally, those were their exact words to me every single day, and it would hurt quite a bit.
When you’re in an environment like that, it can make you feel sad, anxious, and uncomfortable.
But instead of thinking you are “poor” or “unlucky”, or feeling hopeless all the time, you can always do something about your situation to make it better.
What made you decide to get serious about your finances?
So many things. But here’s a few to name.
- My family’s words about “how I’d become poor and useless” always haunted me.
- Not being able to TRULY afford a better life (e.g. being able to travel, go out with friends, experience new culture, etc.).
- The pesky student loans (including the interest payments) I had to pay back after graduating from u
All of these things hit me hard and made me get serious about my finances.
I also realized that just because you can buy something expensive with your paycheck it doesn’t mean that you can TRULY afford it. You’re just using all the money you have from your pay. For example, when I was a student, I spent most of the money I made at my part-time jobs and I didn’t have any real savings, emergency fund, or investments.
I just didn’t know any better at that time.
This prompted me to ask myself…
How can I pay off all of my student debt, help my family, be able to travel the world, and still save for our future without having to worry about money all the time?
I understood the financial struggle my parents went through as a child and up into my early 20s. I also always felt my parents’ pain when I saw that all their past friends and relatives who were better off didn’t want to be associated with my parents because of our low-income situation.
Everything I said here was painful for me to see, and that pain is what motivated me to take action and get serious about our finances.
How did you know if the digital nomad lifestyle was right for you?
I had no idea what this lifestyle would be like. Even after quitting my finance job, I had no idea what a “digital nomad” was and I still don’t really consider myself one today.
I just thought it would be cool to have flexible hours and not having to answer to a boss from work.
I wanted to be able to go out for lunch whenever I wanted to, travel the world without working out the arrangements with my company, and spend more time with my friends and family while being able to earn money by doing what I enjoy in life, which is now blogging. 😊
Your blog has grown over the years to thousands of visitors every day and is now one of the most successful personal finance blogs on the internet. How did the early days of FinsavvyPanda.com look like?
In the early days, finsavvypanda.com was 100% anonymous due to me being shy and sensitive.
It was just another website with personal stories about my personal finances as a girl who was just trying to become financially free. That included content about my journey to building, investing, and growing my wealth, which I ended up deleting a long time ago because I felt uncomfortable talking about my assets and equity once I released my name and who was behind the blog.
Instead, I published an informational post on how to become a millionaire when you have no money in your 20s and 30s.
In addition to my individual net worth reports back in the day, I also wrote content about budgeting and how I was able to make extra money with profitable hobbies outside of my 9-5 job.
I also remember writing a lot of different posts about how much I disliked all of my previous jobs and wanted to quit so badly, but I eventually unpublished them too because it was quite personal.
At the very beginning, I was just focused on writing content (I sort of treated it more like a personal diary with tips at that time), and it didn’t get a lot of visitors in the early days.
But as I learned more about the different ways to get traffic (e.g. Pinterest, Google, and various social media platforms), I implemented those strategies and that surprisingly increased my reach to 3,000 to 4,000 page views each day.
You have a business and finance degree and have worked in the financial sector for some time. How has your professional skillset helped you build a successful online business?
I have to say that it was my family’s financial struggle and my life experience that shaped me and my values about money today.
Without truly understanding that real pain or struggle in the past, I wouldn’t have been able to relate with my readers and write about personal finance or money-related topics on my blog the same way.
I’d have to say it was my education in finance and my work experience in the financial industry that made me realize saving and investing your money is important. I wouldn’t say that my previous jobs or profession in finance had any direct relation to me starting an online business.
It was actually the pain of how much I disliked my jobs, and how badly I wanted to help myself and my family finances that pushed and motivated me to find a way to work for myself. For me, personally, I knew that working for a company was never going to make me happy or live the financially free life I wanted.
When I was looking for business ideas, it just happened by chance that starting my blog was the perfect fit for my personality type – I’m shy, introverted, and sensitive, but at the same time, I love to inspire, help and motivate others.
How were you able to save your first $100K in your 20s?
What I discussed from your question #4 served as the main motivating factors for me to start saving.
I also want to say this.
When you live and experience financial struggles most of your life, and you can no longer tolerate the pain, you will do whatever you can in your control to change your financial situation.
My parents faced more struggles than I did and told me that when you are born and raised in a developing country to a poor family like them, it would be more challenging and even near impossible to get out because you live in poverty with no access to resources.
They also said that although you are born poor in a developed country, you are still considered lucky because you have enough resources to change your environment. I later realized that you actually have the control and power to improve the quality of your life here if you really wanted to.
These words gave me the inspiration and motivation to save and build wealth in my early to mid 20s as soon as I graduated and got a full-time job. I did not want to continue to live life the way my parents did, so I told myself that I had the resources and control to change it, and that’s when I started saving, investing and building wealth over time.
How much are you earning from your blog and in what ways?
I published all my previous blog income reports on Finsavvy Panda, which you can check out. One of my last income reports published is this one here with the important blog lessons I learned during the last few years of my blogging journey.
I earn through various monetization methods such as display ads, affiliate marketing, and selling digital products.
A 2020 survey by Orbit Media found that just 21% of respondents either didn’t know if their blog delivered value or found that their blog was delivering disappointing results. From your experience, why do you think most blogs fail and how can one make sure theirs doesn’t?
I see that most blogs fail due to lack of motivation and consistency.
Learning and understanding how a blog makes money behind the scene is different from actually implementing those strategies and being patient enough to see the results kick in.
Keeping yourself motivated when you’re at rock bottom is the HARDEST part. Sometimes you may feel like giving up. But you have to remain strong and not let the downtimes distract you from focusing on your long-term goals.
I’ve worked with many of my clients in the last few years, and the problem is most people start a blog thinking that you’ll be able to just pump out any content and make money online overnight by putting on ads or affiliate links.
You need to really get rid of the “get rich quick” mindset and start treating your blog like a long-term asset. Dedicate time to build and nurture your blog if you want to see it pay dividends down the road.
Think about how much time you invest in your education in hopes to get a better job or even raising a child. You can’t neglect it and expect to see results. Your blog is your baby – you must spend time and invest in it.
On top of that, running a profitable blog also means you need to keep up to date with any current changes and you must be ready to adapt.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out with blogging, what would it be?
Think of your blog as a long-term asset and invest in the necessary tools and/or resources that will help your blog grow. Be ready to put in real effort and work. That is why it’s important to blog about a topic that you’re truly interested in, so you’ll have the motivation to keep going even during your low times.
What’s next for you and Finsavvy Panda?
I’ll be maintaining the Finsavvy Panda blog while working on and building other websites with my husband. He finally just quit his job last year to learn more about the online space! We believe that this will be a great way to diversify our income streams.
In the very long term, I want to start a Shopify store and sell printables because I enjoy creating planners and “cute” things for myself using Canva.