I have been doing a lot of writing and speaking about the side hustle these days, and I got a brainstorm to profile people who successfully transitioned from corporate employee to thriving entrepreneur by using this tactic while still employed.
I am naming this series The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series. I will run a profile every couple of weeks. Hope you like it!
First up in our group of awesome and inspiring side hustlers is Purna Chandra Rao Duggirala, better known as Chandoo. He is based in India.
What was your former day job?
Chandoo: I was a business analyst with a leading IT / Software company in the world. It was one of the largest companies in the world with 100,000+ employees. I had quite an exciting job really. I used to travel, meet great people, work on awesome projects. My last assignment was in Sweden & Denmark. I have helped a leading insurance company there setup their claim processing system.
What was your side hustle?
Chandoo: My side hustle was (now it is my only job) writing about productive & awesome ways to use Microsoft Excel in simple language. Initially I used to only write. After 2 years of blogging, I started monetizing my site through some ads. Later, during 2009, I launched a few products and in 2010 added an online training program to my offerings. Together, all these help me live a comfortable life while I pursue my passions of teaching, writing & connecting.
When did you start working on it?
Chandoo: During 2007, while I was in US, I started to write about topics I am passionate about (Microsoft Excel, Data Visualization, Data Analytics) on my personal blog – http://chandoo.org/wp/ During February 2008, one of my articles was picked up by Lifehacker (this one – http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/03/13/want-to-be-an-excel-conditional-formatting-rock-star-read-this/ ) and I received a flurry of visitors. This encouraged me to write more and connect with a wider audience of office goers, students and professionals looking for help on MS Excel in simple & plain language. I have kept on writing since then and blogged 350+ articles, how-tos and tutorials on Microsoft Excel.
Did you tell your employer you were working on a side project? Why or why not?
Chandoo: I informed a few of my bosses about my side hustle. Some of them knew it anyway as it was the first thing they would find when they Google me (or go to my LinkedIn profile). In fact, my last boss loved that I can do awesome stuff in Excel. We have used it several ways to impress our customers and speed up things in project I was working in.
That said, I did not inform any one in HR or something like that. Basically, ours is a very big company and I didn’t know what is the right approach or who is the right person to inform these kinds of things. But, when the income from site started to grow, I knew I had to quit. Otherwise, it would have compromised my ability to give full attention to my day job.
How did you know when it was time to quit your day job?
Chandoo: Two interesting things happened during September 2009 (exactly one year ago) that made me change my mind. As I said, I had quite an exciting job and I wasn’t planning to leave it for the next few years. Then on 24th September, 2009, I became a dad. Jo (my wife) gave birth to two beautiful twins (a boy and a girl). I stayed with Jo and kids for just 3 weeks after delivery before returning to my work in Denmark. I could not get spend more time with my family due to project commitments and this was hurting me bad.
Then, around the same time, I launched a new product on my site which became a hit. I was generating enough money every month to support our family without a job.
It was then I knew that I could quit my job and pursue my dreams full time. But I stayed with my job until March 2010 before coming back to India and quitting it eventually. We have moved to a small town since then and kept our expenses ridiculously low.
What scared you about that decision?
Chandoo: Mainly financial burdens. I had a mortgage and student loan. We cleared the student loan in 2008 by saving some money from my work assignment in US. Then, during 2009, I pre-paid the majority of our mortgage by using our savings. We still have 12 months of installments to pay (as of today), but we are sure we can get by with ease.
Second thing, although minor, was, “How do I explain to my family and others about what I am doing?” It is quite uncommon in my circles to see an web-based-business-owner. But Jo and I had been discussing the option of “going full-time on the blog” since 2009. So, when I decide to escape the cubicle nation, we had ready made answers for everyone in the family. We explained what I am going to do to my brother, our in-laws and some of the close relatives. For the rest of them, I just say “I am working from home…”. It was too much hassle answering all the poking questions on, “oh, isn’t make money on internet really fraud?”…
How did it turn out?
Chandoo: Very well. My business is profitable since day 1 and has been growing tremendously. We had the best month ever in August 2010 and September sure looks like it will be even better. I know you did not ask about financials, but here is a snapshot:
- I have recently crossed 1000 customer milestone
- Revenues generated in last 12 months: $70,000 +
- Income break-up: 65% from product sales | 35% from advertising & affiliate sales
What are you doing now?
Chandoo: I am still working on the same business. I have been receiving exciting offers to collaborate and work on new products with others. But as of now, I am focused on growing this business and making my customers awesome.
What advice would you give for others who are working on a side hustle now that you have a bit of distance?
Chandoo: Not that I have any earth shattering wisdom to share. But these are the things I would suggest to others in the similar path:
- Put your community, customers first. Always ask yourself, “how can I make my members awesome in something?”
- Keep your costs low. This means, you can run your start-up, side hustle for a looooong run before giving up.
- Don’t be afraid or ashamed to sell what you build.
- Have fun.
How can people find you, or hire you?
Visit my website http://chandoo.org/wp/ if you want to become awesome in Microsoft Excel.
EfCN readers can use the coupon code letsescape to get 20% discount when they buy any of the products listed in our shop – http://chandoo.org/wp/shop/
Also, if you want to follow my start-up journey, checkout Startup Desi – http://startupdesi.com/
Thank you Chandoo for your very open and inspiring interview! I know you will encourage a lot of cube dwellers to keep chugging away at their side hustles. I hope you get some new fans from my blog, and sell some useful products to take care of those twin cute babies.