How I Started A Profitable Business Helping Millions Of People Learn Excel

$10,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
TrumpExcel.com
from Noida, UP
started May 2013
$10,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
18.7K
alexa rank
3.01K
followers
analytics
payments
blog
accounting
sales
design
stock images
seo
education
other

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

I am Sumit Bansal from India and I have a website (TrumpExcel.com) where I teach people how to use Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets efficiently. On this site, I create written tutorials and videos and also sell online courses.

As of now, I am selling four Excel courses and have 700+ enrolled students. Apart from selling these courses, I also make money through display ads as well as through some affiliate tools and courses.

I started this site in 2013 and it gets more than 1 million pageviews every month. As of last month, my average monthly revenue was ~$10,000.

how-i-started-a-profitable-business-helping-millions-of-people-learn-excel

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

I was working with a tech company in 2013 and my day-to-day work included crunching a lot of data in spreadsheets and creating reports and dashboards from it. I was learning a lot about spreadsheets through other Excel blogs and Youtube videos.

It was a huge learning curve for me and I made a lot of mistakes. I invested hours everyday learning. I didn’t make any money for 16 months, but I consistently pushed out content and videos. I was getting traffic and was also collecting email subscribers

One day, my co-worker mentioned a book called The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, which is about the stories of people who were making money through their expertise. It also included two stories of people who were making money through their Excel blog and freelance practice. I immediately ordered the book and read it.

It was then I thought of starting a blog about Excel spreadsheets, and if possible, make some money on the side. Since I had no idea about blogging and all the technical aspects involved in it, I created a free Blogspot account and started writing tutorials. After about 10 tutorials, I decided to shift it to a self-hosted website.

It was a huge learning curve for me and I made a lot of mistakes (some even led to downtime of my site for days). I invested hours every day learning about blogging, WordPress, and everything else that comes with it. I didn’t make any money for 16 months, but I consistently pushed out content and videos. I was getting traffic and was also collecting email subscribers. At that time, I was getting ~15K pageviews a month and had collected 2K+ email subscribers

After about 18 months, I decided to create and launch my own Excel course. I asked my email subscribers what they wanted me to cover and started creating the videos. I launched it in Nov 2014 and it did alright. It wasn’t a huge hit but it did sell enough to give me the confidence that this can be a business (or at least a side-hustle).

So, I decided to create another course. I had been able to grow and monetize my blog by working on whatever free time I had after job, but to take it to the next level of growth, I needed to put in more hours into it, which was not possible while I was still employed. I quit my full-time job in 2015, just before launching the new course. At that time, I was making half of what I was making in my full-time job. I didn’t have any savings. Since I was already making money, it gave me some cushion to work with.

It was then I starting working full-time on this website.

Also, I just came to know a few days ago that my blog would be covered in the next book by Chris Guillebeau - 100 Side Hustles (available for pre-order)

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Creating my first course was quite challenging. Since I was already creating YouTube videos, recording the course lessons was not a big deal. I did a lot of research about what other people were selling and also surveyed my email subscribers.

The challenge was the part when I had to launch the course. I had no idea how to write a sales copy and what tools to use to collect payment and deliver courses. And keep in mind that I am talking about 2014, when there were far less options.

I tried a lot of payment processors and decided to go with Paypal. Since I am based out of India, a lot of popular options were not available to me. For delivering courses, I compared many membership plugins and zeroed in on Wishlist member (I no longer use it).

Since I didn’t know how to creating landing pages (and there were no good page-builder available at that time), I just created a simple page with text and sent an email to my subscribers (~2000+ at that time).

how-i-started-a-profitable-business-helping-millions-of-people-learn-excel

Within an hour of sending the email, I made 5 sales, which was enough for me to believe that I had a budding business at hand.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Since I had absolutely no idea about how to get a domain name, how to get hosting and install WordPress, I did the only thing that I could - I copied what other sites in my niche were doing.

I got my domain and shared hosting from GoDaddy and started learning about blogging and WordPress. In the initial few months, I spent less time blogging and more time learning about CSS and website designing. Since I was on a shoestring budget, I couldn’t afford to hire someone, so I was doing everything myself.

Another mistake I made was to not learn about SEO in the initial days. I was lucky that my content worked and I started getting traffic, but I could have done better had I known SEO better.

Although I was not making any money, I still had recurring costs of my email service provider and some other tools/plugins I was using.

It was only after I got my Google Adsense approval that I saw a small trickle of money coming in (~$50 per month). Since I had already spent more than a year blogging, I decided to launch a course and see if it would work out.

Things started to look better after 2 years of blogging. The Google Adsense income was growing (slowly, but still growing) and a few course sales were coming in every now and then.

One great thing that happened in the first two years was that my blog got noticed by Microsoft and I was recognized as an Excel Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for my contributions in helping people learn Excel.

That made me one of the few people in the world who have this recognition (as of now there are about ~100 Excel MVPs in the world). This also gave me the confidence that I am on the right path (even when I was not making enough money).

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

Email list

The thing that worked for me was having an email list. I currently have an email list of 40K+ active subscribers and I send weekly Excel tutorials and videos.

It takes some time to build credibility with email subscribers. Once my subscribers see that I keep adding value through my tutorials, some of these buy my courses. The best part of this is that 70%+ of my students have purchased at least three of my four courses. This tells me that people are finding these useful and coming back for more.

As of now, most of my traffic comes from search engines. This also helps me make money from Google Adsense.

how-i-started-a-profitable-business-helping-millions-of-people-learn-excel

Blog posts

Since I write all my articles myself, I try to publish 1 article per week. The ideas for these blog posts mostly come from my email list (or through comments on my blog posts).

I also make sure I do proper keyword research to ensure people are searching for that topic. In some cases, I publish content which is not about keywords, but in most cases, I pick topics that have a decent amount of volume.

I also try and cover each topic comprehensively. Sometimes this can be done in a single blog post, and sometimes I write multiple blog posts to cover different parts of a topic.

YouTube

What has worked really well for me is having a YouTube channel. Currently, I have 40K+ subscribers on YouTube. Although YouTube doesn’t earn a lot of income directly, it allows my prospective students to check out my videos and experience how I teach.

how-i-started-a-profitable-business-helping-millions-of-people-learn-excel

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

Since I am in the info products business, the margins are great. My major costs involve hosting, email service provider and some other tools/plugins I use.

Currently, I make ~$10,000 per month, 60% of which comes from online course sales. The rest comes from display ads (and a small amount from some affiliate products).

Since I already have four courses, I am working on improving these instead of creating new ones. I am also investing a lot of my time in creating high-quality tutorials and videos. This year, my focus will on improving my YouTube reach and getting more subscribers.

Apart from my Excel site, I also have a couple of Amazon affiliate sites that I working on. These are fairly new (6-7 months old) and are just starting to make money. I plan to create a few of these affiliate sites and scale these in the future.

I am also actively working on another blog - Craft of Blogging. Here I share my blogging knowledge and the tools/services that I use.

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

One of the mistakes that I made initially was to try and do everything myself. Although it made me more proficient and allowed me to tackle all the technical stuff, in hindsight, I could have outsourced a few things and focussed on things that mattered more.

Another mistake I made was to not learn about SEO in the initial days. I was lucky that my content worked and I started getting traffic, but I could have done better had I known SEO better.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

DRIP for email automation. It’s extremely powerful and the level of automation you can achieve with it is insane. I have a lot of rules and workflows in the tool that allows me to segment my subscribers and serve them better.

TEACHABLE - I use this to host my courses as well as the payment processor to collect money. I like the fact that it’s very hands-off. Anyone can go and make the payment and they get instant access to my course, without me doing anything.

KINSTA - I have moved to Kinsta for hosting a few months ago and I absolutely love it. It’s a managed WordPress hosting and they take care of everything in the backend. They are surely more expensive than other hosting providers, but I find it worth it

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

Last year I read the book - Deep Work by Cal Newport. It has really helped me as I now use this technique on a daily basis. Since a lot of my time is spent on writing tutorials/articles, this helps me a lot.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and my favorite ones are Authority Hacker, The Smart Passive Income my Pat Flynn, Human Proof Design, Problogger, The Recipe for SEO Success show, and Business Wars by Wondery.

I also got a chance to be on a few Podcasts - Problogger, Human Proof Design, and Side Hustle School.

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

One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of new entrepreneurs making is not knowing their customer persona. A lot of people create products/services based on what they think the customer would want.

Always remember - you’re not your customer.

My suggestion would be to clearly understand your customer. If necessary, give your product for free and ask for their feedback. This can make a huge difference.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I am not looking for any full-time employees, but I am working with part-time graphic designer and writers. I am also looking for part-time writers for my affiliate sites.

Where can we go to learn more?

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

-  
Sumit Bansal,   Founder of TrumpExcel.com

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