How A Database Consultant Became A Commercial Model

Published: February 8th, 2019
Dan Khadem
Access Database S...
from Denver, Colorado, USA
started January 2012
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
best tools
Airtable,, Weebly
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
3 Tips
Discover what tools Dan recommends to grow your business!
social media
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Note: This business is no longer running. It was started in 2012 and ended in 2023. Reason for closure: Shut down.

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My everyone. My name is Dan Khadem. I’m from Denver, Colorado and have a wife and 2 kids. I might have the most interesting or unique story because I have two very opposite things going on in my life. For my first business, I started a database consulting service for small and medium-sized organizations. This is using my technical skills and is very much using the Type A side of my personality. On the other end of the spectrum I do commercial acting and modeling. This is essentially for advertising in the form of print ads and commercials.

I’ll start with my database consulting business since that’s what I started with and what I’ve been doing longer. I essentially help organizations manage and declutter their data. My full-time day job is a database programmer in medical research so I’ve taken this skillset and applied it towards helping small and medium-sized businesses and organizations tackle a data problem that is holding their business back.

Typically it’s an organization that is struggling with managing their data and need some help moving from disorganized spreadsheets to a clean and efficient database program. Other times it’s a business that needs a custom program to automate or support a task like managing their human resources, their clients or some sort of maintenance schedule that they need to run their business.

I use Microsoft Access as my database platform because it’s very affordable to buy, it’s very practical for small and medium organizations and it does not need ongoing technical support to maintain on a server like most database programs in the market.

It’s easier to get started with a side gig than you think. You just have to start. Think about what skills and talents you already have and how you can use those to help people.

More recently, in the last two years, I’ve jumped into the acting and modeling industry. It’s my side gig to my side gig!

The acting and modeling has been a nice break from the technical work that I do all day and it gets me out from behind the desk and computer. I do commercial work which is mostly advertising in the form of print ads and commercials.

Acting has been a lot of fun and lets me earn money doing something completely different from anything I’ve done before. I’m pretty new to the industry so I’m unable to command high dollars for the gigs I apply for. I typically get 1-2 gigs per month and they average about $400 for a half day of work. Once I have a more established portfolio, I should be able to command higher pay rates.

The rest of my side income comes from the database consulting service. Unfortunately, time is my limiting factor otherwise I’d grown the consulting business to larger than what it currently is.

I never thought I’d be wearing makeup in this life.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The database consulting was a natural progression from my day job. People were asking me for help on projects outside of my workday so the work fell into my lap. It was then that I realized I could turn this skill into something for real on the side.

Look at your business idea as a brick wall that needs to be built brick by brick. Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of things that are involved in starting a business or side hustle. Instead just focus on the one brick in front of you. Go slow and steady. Be sure to add a new brick to that wall every single day.

At the time I started doing the side work I was in massive debt from school. I was already paying for my lifestyle through my regular job so I knew any income I earned on the side could go to directly paying off my student loans. It worked. I paid off my loans a few years ago and now have the flexibility to use my side income for other things.

The acting and modeling also seemed to have fallen in my lap. For my 40th birthday I set a goal to get into really great physical shape and made myself accountable to that goal by pre-booking a photographer for a fitness photoshoot. I kept to my goal, got a lot of great pictures with the photographer and posted a few on Facebook to share with my friends and family.


One of the pictures from my fitness photoshoot.

I had an actor friend who had previously nudged me a couple times about doing some modeling and I blew him off. As an older male who isn’t tall, I didn’t think it was for me. He took one of those pictures I posted from my photoshoot and sent them to someone he knows in the industry. This person later contacted me and offered me my first gig. It was as a traveling businessman for Vail Resorts. They needed to update their conference center marketing materials. I had so much fun with that first modeling gig that I decided to pursue it to see what would happen. Here I am, almost two years later, still having fun making some decent money on the side.

That’s me looking all businessy at a conference.

Describe the process of launching your side businesses.

Software development is a process of listening to the customer’s story and what pain point they are having, what they’ve tried doing so far and what ideas they have for a solution. I make sure to listen entirely to everything they have to tell me before starting to make some suggestions or give ideas on what might fix their problems.

I will investigate the current methods and processes used by the organization. At this point often the client will be showing me multiple Excel files along with paper documents and some basic level of organization. I then propose something that mimics the existing process but also provides all the benefits that come along with having everything managed and run in a database program. This helps the client by having a new program and process that has a familiar method that they’ve been used to.

I’ll build a prototype to show to the client and together we make some tweaks before I build them the final product. Once the final product is built, we will do one more round of tweaks and finally, will help them get started with using the new database to fix the problem they originally hired me for.

For both the database consulting business and the acting and modeling side gig, I waited before I jumped into designing a website, getting business cards and all the other miscellaneous things that people typically do on the outset when starting a business. What was important for me was to make sure they were real and viable before I spent the money and time on these tasks.

Businesses didn’t seem to care that I didn’t have a website or business card before hiring me for their database needs.

For acting and modeling, one expense that is inevitable at the beginning is the cost of headshots by a professional photographer. In this industry, your headshot is your business card and asking your buddy to take a few pictures of you with a cell phone isn’t going to cut it. The competition is too much to not having anything less than professionally done pictures. With that said, you can get what you need for about $300 or less, if you know a photographer personally, that will cut you a deal.

Besides the photography expense, there is little to no costs involved in either of these things. I already had a laptop and database software so I was ready on the outset for database consulting.

I did eventually build out websites for both of these businesses and get business cards. Having both are nice and do add a bit of legitimacy when marketing to new customers.

When I started the consulting business, it was pre-marriage and pre-kids so I had the luxury of time. I got lucky and quickly filled up my time with client work. People in business are always looking for a recommendation on where to go for a product or service and my first couple of clients were great in spreading my name through their networks. I was typically working with 2-3 clients at a time and the money I was making was contingent entirely on how many hours I could squeeze into my evenings and weekends to get their projects done. I quickly began earning about $2,000 per month doing this for the first couple of years.

The acting and modeling start was completely different. I was married with a toddler at home and a month later we were expecting our second child. Having a family takes a lot of time and attention so it was a bit of a balancing act trying to do everything. Most people take on lots of free work when they get started to build a portfolio but because of my time constraint I didn’t have the luxury to do that. With no experience the gigs were trickling in at about once every other month. Each gig was paying a couple hundred dollars for an hour to two hours of work or four to five hundred dollars for a full day’s work. Denver’s talent demand isn’t the size of other bigger markets like L.A. so the projects are smaller and less pay, especially when you are new to the industry.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

For the database consulting service, word of mouth has been a big help. It’s probably my primary driver of new business. I also have alerts set up on Craigslist in the computer gigs section. This has brought me a little bit of work as well. I don’t do any marketing because I’m time limited so I can’t take on any more clients than what seems to be coming in through the two methods that I just mentioned.

For acting and modeling, production companies post casting calls online. In every market, there will be some Facebook groups where these casting calls are posted. I’ve joined every group and have it in my calendar to check all the groups postings every week. I have also had past clients contact me again for new projects as well as pass my name on to other production companies who are looking for someone with my profile.

Like my database work, I also rely on Craigslist for some acting work as well. There is a talent section in there where I have set up alerts to notify me of new posts that fit my criteria. Another resource in this industry is

I created a profile on there and you can see posts for new jobs or people can contact you directly if they want to hire you.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

While the database work is currently much more lucrative, I do enjoy the acting and modeling work more right now.

Because of that, I’m looking to sign with an agent by the end of the first quarter of 2019. My hope is this will help me land higher paid acting gigs and branching out outside of the Denver market.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

It’s easier to get started with a side gig than you think. You just have to start. Think about what skills and talents you already have and how you can use those to help people.

Look at what the market is currently offering and think about how you can differentiate yourself from the rest.

Finally look at what you are doing for your day job and how it might be possible to pivot that into a side gig.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I’m a big fan of Microsoft Access. Database nerds will scoff at the program because it’s too basic or amateur for them but I don’t believe in using a sledgehammer to hammer in a nail. Microsoft Access perfectly fits the needs of small businesses and organizations.

For acting and modeling, there is a requirement of having to promote yourself if you want to land higher dollar projects. Besides having a personal website, people in the industry use Facebook and Instagram for self-promotion. I just started my Instagram profile dankhadem_actor this last October and have been using that and my personal website to market myself.


What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

This is an old one but The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss was so pioneering at the time and changed the way a lot of people thought about things including myself. I still recommend it for people who haven’t read it.

A podcast that I listen to daily is Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle School. His cut to the chase podcasts are about ten minutes long and expose you to a lot of different business ideas. It helps to listen to those ideas and think about how you can apply something similarly in your life or line of work.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Look at your business idea as a brick wall that needs to be built brick by brick. Don’t get overwhelmed by the number of things that are involved in starting a business or side hustle. Instead just focus on the one brick in front of you. Go slow and steady. Be sure to add a new brick to that wall every single day. Keep up with the small, incremental forward progress and you’ll have moved massively forward in just 6 months of time.

My second piece of advice is to not try and do everything yourself. Hire out as much as you can. Use services like Fiverr and Upwork to do things that would take you too long to do yourself.

Finally, expect obstacles and setbacks. If you know and expect these things will happen then you will be prepared mentally and it won’t be something that makes you give up on your goal.

Where can we go to learn more?

My database site is www.AccessDatabase.Support

My acting and modeling site is and follow me on Instagram @dankhadem_actor

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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