Hacking his way through life

TeacHack HomeInvasion hi_rezIf you’ve got a vision for how you want your future to look, meet your perfect role model: 24-year-old Dragoş Ștefănescu. He was determined to publish a course on Udemy, then more courses, and eventually get to the point where he could fully support himself on his Udemy earnings. He didn’t spend time thinking or talking about it. He made it happen.

Growing up in Romania, Dragoş was good at math and considered himself a logical, analytical type of person—someone who’d do well in banking. He enjoyed and excelled at programming in high school but was quite social and didn’t want to sit behind a laptop and code over the long haul. Eventually, he went to university in the UK, got a degree in business, and thought he’d landed his dream job after graduation as a management consultant in London. He was making a respectable salary for an analyst and was financially independent at age 22. What could be better, right?

Dragos ProfileIn truth, Dragoş felt trapped in London. He missed home and wanted the freedom to go back for visits. Moreover, when he observed his senior coworkers, they just didn’t seem happy in their careers. Dragoş had misgivings about investing five to seven years only to end up in a similar bind. His friends who were internet entrepreneurs, on the other hand, were doing much better. One of his university buddies, Jimmy Naraine, was already making his mark as a Udemy instructor. Dragoş knew he could be successful that way too. He quit the not-really-a-dream-job and moved back to Bucharest, figuring it was better to make the leap while he was young and could find another job in a year if he had to. Some of his colleagues thought he was crazy to give up the security and certainty of a big-name consultancy, but many others told him wistfully, “Oh man, I wish I’d done the same thing when I was your age…”

It all begins with a single course
While Dragoş didn’t have teaching experience, he had a deep support network to push him over the learning curve. He’d already been studying entrepreneurship and knew the importance of working with mentors with a few more years’ experience so he could learn from their mistakes. Jimmy’s Udemy earnings had started exploding around the same time Dragoş joined the management consultancy, so he was an especially valuable resource for sharing advice and building confidence.

Dragoş’ first course (“LinkedIn Blueprint”) didn’t earn much money and wasn’t his most polished production but he considered it a success regardless. It gave him the self-assurance to keep going and showed him what he needed to improve and streamline in order to get better with his next courses. He brought on a business partner/coach who currently helps him record videos and maintain his website. He’s also perfected his teaching style, which is pragmatic and skills-focused. “I tell people, ‘Follow these steps, 1-2-3.’ I want to make it as easy as possible,” he explains.

That approach is clearly resonating with Udemy’s marketplace. Today, more than 14,000 students are enrolled in Dragoş’ 15 Udemy courses on a variety of topics, from being more productive with tools like Excel and PowerPoint to personal branding and having a bigger impact on social media. In fact, he recently blogged about his journey from getting started on Udemy and reaching his highest one-month earnings.

Next, he plans to launch his TeacHack business as a publisher on Udemy and work with freelancers to develop more courses under that brand. Dragoş strongly believes the key to growing on Udemy is collaboration between course creators in order to leverage each other’s student base. (Follow TeacHack on Instagram and YouTube.)

Freedom to pursue bigger dreams
Dragos Hong KongFor Dragoş, the passive income from Udemy is more about enabling a lifestyle than just liking to make money or wanting to be wealthy. No longer trapped in London or anywhere else, he derives “so much satisfaction and happiness” simply from being free to manage his own time and work schedule. “I never look at how much money I made but what it can give me and what I’m able to do as a result,” Dragoş explains. And what he wants to do with this freedom is continue learning and building things.

“My best times have been when I’m surrounded by people who help me grow and share my ambitions,” Dragoş says. “Ultimately, I want to maximize my potential to grow and contribute to society internationally and in Romania. I’m really attached to this place and want to help people here.” He only regrets not starting to teach on Udemy sooner.

Recently, Dragoş was at a coworking space in Bucharest filming Udemy courses and was introduced to a young woman traveling around Europe and blogging about business ideas. Imagine the surprise when she looked at him and said, “I know you from Udemy!” She expressed her gratitude for what she’d learned in his courses. “Whenever a student reaches out to say my course was helpful—no financial reward can trump that. It rewards your soul.”