I Quit 60% of My Job

I’m still a W-2 employee, but working only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I work on my own, developing video courses and practice exams for Power BI and Tableau.

How did I end up here? After finishing a master’s at the Institute of Advanced Analytics, I went to work full-time for Cigna. My side-hustle began at the same time – in the evenings after our baby went to bed, I recorded the videos for what would become my first Tableau course published on Udemy. I started at Cigna in July 2014, and launched my first course in December of the same year. The production quality wasn’t great – I used a Blue Yeti mic, but the videos were blurry and you could sometimes hear crickets because I made the mistake of recording with an open window.

But the course sold immediately, so I had the incentive to rerecord the same material with better quality. And I expanded to selling practice tests on my website, LearningTableau.com, and doing a second Tableau course. The website was initially just the default WordPress template, but I paid a friend to create a custom theme. The change corresponded to a doubling of the website’s monthly revenue.

Working full-time and having a young and growing family, most of my available side-hustle time went to answering questions, making corrections, and trying to keep up with Tableau’s software releases. Besides, while I enjoy helping students, answering the same sort of questions over and over gets repetitive. So I messaged my email list subscribers asking for help. I corresponded with eight or so people and hired them in as teaching assistants. Most of them didn’t end up answering many questions, but I’ve had one person helping for almost a year now. It’s made a huge difference in allowing me to focus on refreshing stale course content and creating new material.

But even after hiring a support person, I wasn’t making progress on building new courses or tests. Part of this, honestly, was not being sure about what new course to start on. What if I couldn’t replicate my past successes? If there’s a popular topic on Udemy you’re going to compete with excellent and established courses. Looking at Udemy’s marketplace insights for Python, I see the top course is doing over $100,000 a month, but the median course earns only $25 a month. Talk about overcoming limiting beliefs all you want, but remember that most courses fail.

2020 was a terrific year for online business and technical education – COVID-19 left many jobless, and the jobless headed to Udemy, Udacity, and Coursera. The (temporary) boost in revenue gave me the boost in confidence to think it was time to take my side-hustle full-time. I actually told my manager I was resigning, but he proposed that I stay on part-time and I went for it. My side hustle was successful, but not Kirill Eremenko or Jose Portilla successful! So, I’m at two days a week W-2, and three days a week 1099. I’d almost certainly have a great sense of urgency if I’d taken the plunge by going 100% independent, but on the days when I’m working on my business I put in a good 8 hours of undistracted work. And because I’m not desperate to increase my revenue, I’ve invested time in developing skills.

At least for Americans, fear of losing commercial health insurance keeps a lot of people from working for themselves. Since I’m Catholic and my family is in good health, I planned to switch to Solidarity Health Share. Surprise! Turns out that a provision in the ACA requires my employer to continue to provide health insurance to continue covering me as a full-time person for the remainder of the calendar year. So, I’m paying around $300 per month for the employer health plan rather than $540 for Solidarity. Of course, the two aren’t easily comparable because Solidarity’s “unshared amount” is lower than my Cigna deductible, but Solidarity has limited coverage for pre-existing conditions and prescription drugs are covered for only the first 90 days after diagnosis. This probably shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but if your benefits work the same as mine, it might be better to make the switch from full to part-time early in the calendar year so you can keep your commercial health insurance as long as possible.

I’ve been on the new schedule for about two and half months. Accomplishments so far:

  • Gone from almost no experience with Power-BI to passing the DA-100 exam
  • Written a lot of Power BI questions which will eventually be included in a Power BI course
  • Making progress on a practice-exam-only Tableau Certified Associate course. This one is a 50/50 partnership with a former Tableau student. My thought here is experienced Tableau users don’t need or want a course with 30 hours of video explaining every last feature… they just need to do a lot of practice problems before they take the exam.
  • Practiced my Python skills by completing a couple of small Upwork projects.
  • I’ve been in a better mood! At least, as measured by how often I yell at my kids.

Net revenue? Zero! $173.60 due to the Upwork gig. I spent more than that preparing for and taking the Power BI exam! However, I’m more than halfway done with the material for the Tableau Certification Exam course. I’d like to launch by the end of July, and finish the Power BI course by the end of August.

By the end of September, I will have been on my 40% Cigna 60% Hustle schedule for six months. At that point, I’d like to see at least $1000 in monthly revenue from the new courses to justify continuing this schedule. Let’s see where I’m at!

7 thoughts on “I Quit 60% of My Job”

  1. Thanks for the update. I was feeling a bit lost. Reading about you pushes me to get my shit together. Also just letting you know, I am looking forward for your power bi course.

    And you helped me in getting certified in Tableau.

  2. Lukas,
    great story!! I suggest continue on your freelancing course. That peace of mind you mentioned is worth all the money one could earn in a full-time job with all the head-aches…

    I would love to hear about how you setup this website etc. Maybe maybe do a upwork gig on Finxter.com.

    Best wishes on your future…

    Girish.

  3. Thank you Lukas for sharing the story, it is inspiring. I was greatly benefited from your exam materials on Tableau. Hope to see more great work from you!

  4. Hey Lukas,
    We donated to Christian Health Ministries during furlough / quarantine, being ineligible with two spouses working for Marketplace subsidies. Glad you’re doing well.

  5. Thumbs up – let me make a bold prediction: you’re going to be very successful in your two chosen fields: Upwork and Tableau course creation. Keep it up – this is the exponential world and going from $100 to $200 per month is a BIG deal — as you keep doubling your revenue, you’ll never look back.

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