My Story – Inspired by the American Dream
I didn’t get my start in the flash drive and branding business. Let me take a moment to explain. I was born in Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan to the parents of a government worker (my dad) and a stay home mother.
Following primary school, I focused on the sciences discipline and pre-engineering studies in high school, While attending high school, I prepared for college entrance.
Neither of my parents was familiar with the college entrance process, so quite honestly I had no one to guide me correctly. As a result, I ended up losing a year before completing my admission tests for entrance into engineering college. But I did not let that year go to waste. During that time, instead of hanging out with friends and wasting time watching movies, I went to a software startup and started learning graphic design using Photoshop.
“Google It” Says my Socratic Boss
Whenever I asked my boss a question about how to do this or that, he’d always reply, “I don’t know. Learn yourself. You have the Internet”. At some point I finally got it. I realized he was right. He wanted me to become an independent person so I could learn to solve problems on my own.
So, Umer Qureshi poured himself into learning from any book and Internet website that I could. After gaining a strong grasp of Adobe Photoshop I was able to create logos and banners and remove background colors from photos of people and products.
Then my boss turned me on to freelancing portal sites. This taught me how to get projects and earn some money. I made my first profile on www.Vworker.com, which was one the popular freelancing sites at that time. I added my skills and starting bidding on graphics projects.
Umer Qureshi Getting First Paycheck
I still recall that first payment. Umer Qureshi earned a mere $5.00 but I was really excited. It was for a logo design project. I did about 17-20 revisions on that darn logo for my client until he was fully satisfied. For my effort, I received a 5.0/5.0 rating and really good feedback for my profile.
In the meantime, I (Umer Qureshi) was starting to learn how to design websites. With the help of www.w3schools.com, I learned HTML and CSS languages to start. These are software languages used for designing custom websites. At that time, most websites were made in HTML. Designing in this manner was a tedious and cumbersome process and kept average people from being able to do their design their own websites. Next, I passed the certification test on Vworker for graphic designing (Adobe Photoshop) and web designing (HTML, CSS), making my profile stronger.
By now I was getting a steady stream of projects and was making some good money. But I wanted to have additional skills so that I could get bigger projects. I then started learning about WordPress CMS (Content Management System). I discovered that this amazing opensource CMS platform could create static, dynamic and ecommerce sites along with extended features using plugins. I started making websites using WordPress and got bigger projects — up to $5,000! Here is an example of one of those websites I designed in the early days: www.eatingyourwaytohealth.com.
After a year, I applied for the Mechanical Engineering entrance. Four years later, Umer Qureshi completed my engineering degree. I was able to pay for my university tuition in the last semester through my freelancing work. While completing my college studies I worked in parallel, learning more and more about the Web and different business projects.
During those four years of college, Umer Qureshi developed professional profiles on many freelancing portals. But I found Elance (www.elance.com) to be the best. It recently merged with Odesk (www.odesk.com) making a new freelancing platform called UpWork.
Below is my Upwork profile: http://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~015754ab7bba701755/
Figure showing Umer’s Upwork profile
Once I gained proficiency in web design, I turned my attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the key to getting people to visit your website or mobile app. Over time, I became quite good at SEO and completed dozens of client projects.
Below is a sample of customer feedback I got that kept me motivated along the way:
Figure showing client feedback
I applied my SEO knowledge to CustomBulkUSB.com and increased our website traffic which increased our sales. So today I am a co-founder with ownership in the company and shared control over its strategic direction.
If I Can, So Can You
I still keep myself updated with every new technology and learn every day from internet. If I can learn then so can you. I started with nothing. I am honored and humbled to have been taken under the wing of my old boss and university professors who challenged me to grow. Finally, I am thankful for my parents and close friends who encouraged and supported me along the way.
Think differently. Learn from the internet. Polish your skills. And groom yourself and become successful.
In today’s world, startups and small businesses like us cannot beat bigger players using traditional methods. Rather we must be agile, innovative and crafty. Over the coming weeks and months we will be releasing a series of How To’s for entrepreneurs, small business owners and new tech startups to help them adapt to the changing world and thrive in the New Era of Branding.
Contact Umer Qureshi