Ashish Thakkar’s Journey to Web Design

This is the latest interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!

Ashish graduated from Mumbai University hating computers, but found his calling in a web design course that has allowed him to work remotely since 2002.

Thanks for being here, Ashish!

Table of Contents

Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?

About me: Entrepreneur, Freelancer, Founder, Digital nomad, Tennis coach, AND Footballer.

My name is Ashish H Thakkar, and I am the founder of JimmyThakkar.com, a company specializing in website design, website maintenance, graphics design, SEO & Digital marketing. I am also the founder of Jimmy’s Value World, a software firm specializing in selling desktop and resell rights applications. Last year we received SEO Specialists of the Year 2020 award from corporate vision.

I am a graduate of Mumbai University, and I finished my Bachelors in 2000. I hated computers, and even though I did well in other subjects during my younger days, I never performed well in the computers subject. After graduation, I completed diploma courses in website design, Java programming and have been in the information technology field since then. I went in that direction because I never wanted to get into our family business of manufacturing and selling tarpaulin products.

I have been a digital nomad since 2002.

Ashish on the beach

What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision, for it wasn’t like I woke up one fine day and decided to start working as a digital nomad. I started working as a website designer and changed a few jobs before I realized working for someone else in one place wasn’t for me. I quit my website designing job and started working independently from the year 2002. I had this whole concept like the rest of my family members and the world in general that you need an office and you need to have a 9-5 job to have a career and earn money. When the dollars started pouring in from the very first year of my software selling business, everything changed.

An important thing I realized very early in my life was that only earning and making money will not give me happiness. A combination of work + fun is very important for your well-being and mental status.

Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.

I sold off some of my old computer monitors, computer book, my college books in order to get my business started to purchase domains and hosting for my business under the name of Jimmy’s Value World. This is mentioned in the company’s timeline as well: https://www.jimmysvalueworld.com/about/

The first product I created was an email extractor software coded entirely in JAVA. It was not very easy to sell this as most desktop users were only comfortable running native apps on Windows (.exe). Then I started working on the native version of the app, and it took me a week to create the software using Visual Basic (which I had learned from my fellow web designer, who was also a software developer). Few days after I released the software, it started selling like hotcakes, which is when I understood the real power and importance of software). What followed were series of other software applications like website builder, popup killers, and popup makers for websites. A lot of companies inquired about the source code of the applications as they too wanted to sell similar software. This lead to JVW venturing into resell rights software business.

What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?

Some of my favorite places are:

Vadodara – It is very peaceful here, and the people are very friendly and content with their lives in general. If you are a foodie, then you should try out the thalis here.

Goa – You can have a good work + fun life balance over here. If you love beaches, then you’re never going to leave Goa.

Ashish's photo of a beach

Bangkok – This city never sleeps. You get a lot of work opportunities, and you can experience a lot of history and culture when you travel to Bangkok. It has almost a similar kind of vibe as Mumbai.

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?

Anyone can do it, but it is not for everyone. There comes automatic casualness to your work when you are working as a digital nomad. You cannot let this happen if you want your clients to take you seriously. You need to be focused on work no matter where you are; you have to follow the deadlines and deliver on time. You have to follow and obey the customs of the location you are working from. Make sure you are not breaking any policies or laws of the land.

My main worry when traveling earlier would be how I would be able to manage my work, considering my files are mostly on my home desktop, and I can’t carry my home PC everywhere. In this day and age, when everything is in the cloud, you never have to worry about files and media as you can get them anywhere and anytime with the click of a button.

What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?

One time when traveling to Coral Island, I missed my last ferry back to Pattaya. Nobody had informed me that the last ferry back to Pattaya would be at 18:30 hrs. When I went there at about 18:45, I was told that I had missed my last ferry and the only option would be to hire a speed boat. The cost was 100 times higher than what I had paid for while coming to Coral island. Worried, I waited for some time to see what other alternatives were there and found out there were few other people who were stuck in the same manner I was. Luckily we made a deal with a lady who helped us get back to Pattaya on a ship that was carrying goods. The man in charge inside let me be the pilot of the ship for some time. It was an interesting experience.

ashish on the beach with a bottle of water

Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?

Earlier I used to get most of my project from freelance websites, but as my business grew and I learned more about digital marketing, I realised how beneficial it could be for my business. If you do smart digital marketing, then half of your work of getting clients is done because you will no longer be running behind people to get work. Rather you will have potential customers chasing you. The best way to retain customers is through transparency and not overcharging them for subsequent products or services.

What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?

I have seen both ups and downs over the years, but I am in a very comfortable part of life right now. The world is pushing more and more towards online, which is helping digital nomads and experts in the field of information technology grow further. The website design business is at an all-time high.

The great thing about running a software business is that you just have to create software and do the marketing for it, and then the money keeps rolling in. As far as my website design business is concerned, it really helps when you get most of your inquiries through search engines without doing paid ads (because you are ranked on the number one page for the keyword you are targeting).

I plan to move towards AI and 3D printing in the near future. I have never had any long-term plans.

For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?

My advice: Never stop learning!

I learnt a lot of marketing through Mark Joyner(not directly but via his teachings and e-books), but if you are in the field of digital marketing today, the people you need to look up to are Brian Dean & Neil Patel.

A good mentor can also help you along the way. 

There are times where you will have to work hard, and there are times where you will have to work smart. Choose your work wisely because 20% of your work is going to bring in 80% of your income; concentrate more on that 20%, choose your clients carefully as 20% of the clients will bring you 80% of your income and the rest 80% of the clients are going to give you nightmares (20% of your nightmares or higher).

What digital tools do you use for your work/business?

Ahrefs

Zoom

Google analytics

Visual studio

Ubersuggest

Google drive

LinkedIn app

What small change has made a big difference in your life?

Helping others. 

As a consultant, I make money by giving people advice. This would mostly be related to SEO or digital marketing. Giving free advice or helping people in need without charging them would really not make sense then, right?

Wrong!

Call it Karma or what you want – helping people has always given me positive outcomes both mentally and financially.

Helping could be in any manner, be it mentoring or small donations or physically helping out someone who needs your help.

ashish steering a boat wheel

If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?

Take more risks

Your family and friends are the most important thing in the world

Don’t take everything too seriously

Love is the most beautiful thing in the world (but don’t ignore other important people and things when you’re in love)

What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?

Some of the things without which I cannot travel are:

My iPad

My laptop

My sneakers

My international credit card

What is your philosophy on being happy and/or finding meaning/purpose in life? And any recommended resources for people navigating this journey?

My philosophy in life is live and let live, always be honest, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life instead of running towards a materialistic life. Try to be the best version of yourself rather than comparing yourself with others. Work smart and work with focus; 2 hrs of work with dedication can bring more results than 8 hrs of work while chatting with others, gossiping, or checking on social media every hour.

What’s your favorite book and why?

My favorite book is Business the Bill Gates way. 

Why is it my favorite: The book shares secrets of the world’s richest business leader. If you are in the software business, then I highly recommend this book.

Tell us about a deep passion of yours! What has your journey been like, and what advice/resources would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about this topic?

I am passionate about football. I play and watch football on a regular basis. Everyone should have at least one sport they are passionate about. Forca Barca!!!

How can people learn more about you and your work?

You can connect with me on:

Website: https://www.jimmythakkar.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/webdesignermumbai/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashishthakkar

Pinterest: https://in.pinterest.com/jimmythakkar/

Lauren Allain
Lauren is a freelance journalist from Seattle. She travels the globe in search of the best grocery stores, bouldering gyms, and snorkeling locations. Her mission at Freedom Is Everything is to help others make the transition into location-independent lifestyles.