When Bushra Azhar decided to start an online business in April 2014, she told no one.
“I didn’t want to tarnish my reputation as a consultant,” she explains. “Even my husband just knew I was starting a site, he didn’t know what it was. I didn’t even use my full name in the beginning, because I had a respectable Google presence.”
Azhar was working as a corporate consultant in Saudi Arabia, where she and her family moved from their home country of Pakistan after her husband took a job as a CFO five years ago.
“I was intrigued by this idea of making money online,” she says. “Consulting is trading dollars for hours — you get paid for what you work on. I‘d always wanted to try something different and if I want to travel to visit family or take a vacation or travel back home, with an online business I can take my work with me.”
At first, Azhar only knew she wanted to experiment with the format, but not what the business would actually do. She had nine ideas, which she tested in her first few entrepreneurial months, and settled on a persuasion strategy site, Persuasion Revolution, through which she helps other businesses use psychological principles to capture the attention and hearts of their customers.
After taking Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch course in the spring of 2014, Azhar built a website for her business, and in October, she launched her first product in her free time: a low-tech program on how to create persuasive landing pages that she priced at $49. She sold more than 300.
“It blew my mind how many people were excited and bought it,” she says. ‘That’s when I was like ‘Oh, ok! It’s possible for this to grow quickly.” She released another course the next month, and the next, and now, she says, she’s “on a roll.”
Azhar explains that she keeps the price of her courses constant at $49 because “I come from a country where people live on $3 a day — and they live good lives. I wanted to keep my program affordable for anyone. Someone who wants to start a business should be able to say, ‘I can afford $50,’ which is why it’s stuck in my head as an amount that I want to price my programs – so anyone can afford it, no excuses.”
So far, she’s sold 1,300 courses. Out of her email list of about 5,000 people, about 20% of them have chosen to pay for products.
She also has a membership program for which about 450 people pay $20 a month ($14 for the first month), which includes content like persuasion hacks, and scripts subscribers can use for their emails, websites, and for networking.
Along with the courses and the membership, Azhar also offers one-on-one website consulting, for which she ultimately uses similar rates to her corporate consulting work: $120-$150 an hour. So far, she’s coached 280 people in this capacity.
Altogether, her business earns about $12,000 in an average month … and it’s still her side job.
Azhar devotes two mornings, two afternoons, and one full day a week to her corporate clients, spending the rest of her workweek (and often the weekends) building her side business. “I tried this out to see how it goes, and it blew my mind with how quickly it grew,” she says. “I still am making a good income from my consulting career, but it took me years to get to the point of making a six-plus figure income. Online, it happened in months.”
She doesn’t outsource any of her tasks, and manages everything from writing her copy to balancing her books herself. “Now I need to make a choice,” she says. “Keeping both going at the same time is too much.”
What would she advise someone else who wants to build a lucrative side business? “Make sure you’ve built your business in something complimentary to your day job,” she says. “That way, it’s not a physical struggle to detach yourself from your day job and move into your side gig. You could work on a client email, and then in ten minutes you can work on your online gig. If it’s too different, it’s harder to shift gears.”
In the wake of her business’ growth, Azhar has put aside her initial fears about it damaging her professional reputation. “Now that I’ve done it, no one cares!” she says. “My corporate clients know I have an online business, but they don’t care as long as I get my work done. We’re inflated with this false sense of self-importance, thinking everyone is watching. I wish I had done it earlier.”