I love reading HeroPress essays in my free time. It’s a source of inspiration. Sometimes you come to know about people who faced similar challenges like yours. Sometimes you come to know of people who have failed and worked hard to succeed. It’s always interesting to read these essays and learn from how things can change in life.
One fine day, I felt intrigued and decided to apply for sharing my story.
I am Puneet Sahalot, just another “WordPress Enthusiast” living in the beautiful City of Lakes – Udaipur and a state known for its rich culture – Rajasthan.
Early Days – Introduction to Programming
I started coding at an age of 10 and built my first “Hello World!” program in C. I found programing more interesting than anything else and I started learning C++, moved on to HTML/CSS later on. By the time, I passed out of school, I had built a complex SI unit converter with over 5000 lines of code, a prototype for railway ticket booking system, some simple management programs all in C++.
Following the trend, I was supposed to become an Engineer. I passed out with good scores and was able to get admission in an established engineering college in my city. Once again, following the trend, I opted for becoming an Electronics Engineer. Despite my keen interest for programming, I ended up being an Electronics Engineer.
College Days – Meeting WordPress
While graduating, I started to explore the world of blogging and wrote several tutorials about graphic design and web development. This was when I came to know of WordPress. I started customizing WordPress themes and plugins. I built two small styling plugins and also tried hands at some WordPress frameworks including Theme Hybrid, Thesis, and Genesis. By this time, I was still studying and had no idea what I will be doing after completing the graduation.
Landing the first freelance Gig
While browsing some forums I came across a request for some CSS tweaks to a WordPress website. I took the risk and got the deal! That was when I made my first $50. After this I continued to look for more work and got connected with a couple of good clients. These clients sent me a lot of referrals and I was pretty happy with my work. I was learning new things every day, earning and covering up my personal expenses, college fee, and putting some funds towards savings.
Freelancing & Family
I live in a small city and most people do not understand much about being a freelance professional. They have an impression that freelancers work through bidding systems and freelance websites. I was lucky enough that I never had to work through such freelancing sites and was able to establish good relations with my clients. I always received support from my family and that was a big motivation to work hard.
Thinking about the Future
When I started freelancing, I decided that I would be focusing on delivering quality work and won’t be working for $5/hour. I started with $15/hour and I kept revising my prices. By the end of graduation, I was working at $30-$35/hour. Now, was the time when I had to make a choice between WordPress and a job. I was so much obsessed with freelancing and WP that I decided to not to go for a job. It wasn’t easy because I had no idea whether I would keep getting projects on a regular basis or not. I had no idea whether the future is with WordPress or not. But, the love for WP didn’t end and I continued to work with it.
Establishing my agency
After graduation, I worked for another 2 years as a freelancer and finally decided to start my own agency. From day one, my focus was not to be “just another” web development agency. The goal was to find good people to work with and deliver unmatched quality. It took me a year to find the second team member and another year to find 2 more. By the end of two years we became a team of 5.
Experiencing the first failure
When I started my agency, my dream was to build a premium theme shop. I have been really passionate about building WordPress themes. So, I decided to manage the cash flow by working on client projects and let the team (we were a team of 3 initially) work on themes. We built a couple of themes, put them online and started blogging to drive in traffic. Offered some free versions as well. Overall, it was a no profit, no loss business. But it wasn’t successful either. I learned a lot about what we lacked, how it could have been improved but we changed the direction and got back to working on client projects. The site is still active and generates some sales. Now that I have a designer on team, it’s still on my wishlist to relaunch the theme shop someday. ;)
Changing the team’s future
I started alone but now, WordPress is a part of our lives. I have been lucky enough to find the best of the best people to work with. Last year, two of my team members visited WordCamp Pune and it was a fun experience for them. We don’t only use WordPress to build websites, we live it every day!
Not bragging, but it was a happy moment for us, when we slowly started switching to Macs (after all that’s what most of the designers and developers love to flaunt about ;-)).
The most amazing thing about WordPress has been its community. I got a chance to speak at WordCamp Jabalpur in 2011 and it was the first time, when I got involved with WordPress community in India. I met with more developers, bloggers and it was a fun experience. I made friends for life.
That was just a beginning, after that I attended and spoke at more WordCamps in India. To date I have been to 5 WordCamps and my team has been to 1.
Giving back to the WP Community
Two years back, I started a local meetup group which didn’t get picked up then but now we organize regular meetups. Recently, our meet group received recognition from WordPress.org and it was moment for joy. Now, with my team, it’s much more fun to organize meetups and we get to meet more WP enthusiasts from our city. Soon, we would have more people organizing meetups in the city. And we plan to bring in a mini WordCamp too :)
Following Matt’s “Five for the Future”, we contribute to WordPress in our own way. One of my team members – Monika Rao, is an active theme reviewer. She was completely new to WordPress when she joined us, but over the period she has learnt a lot of new things. Now, she spends a considerable amount of her time reviewing themes. At the moment, she’s experimenting with WooCommerce Connect.
Looking back at the past is always fun! Looking at the present, makes me feel proud. Words always fail to describe how life has changed with WordPress. I am proud to say that it has not only impacted only my life, but it’s my team’s, my client’s and lives of many people around me. From being an Engineering Graduate to being a freelancer and now an agency owner, it’s been a roller coaster ride.