Case Study: How Brian turned a hobby into a business — and almost doubled his rates
November 17th, 2011 - 17 Comments
The most dependable way to earn more money is to provide more value to your customers. That’s obvious.
And the most dependable way to provide more value to your customers is to listen to them and take the time to really understand what they want and need…then give it to them. That’s also obvious.
So why do so few people actually take the time to do it?
It’s because researching your customers isn’t as sexy or fun as creating products or strategizing your pricing. It involves talking to REAL PEOPLE. It also involves admitting that you might be wrong about your customers and the best way to find out is to shut up and listen.
If you can’t get into your customers’ heads, chances are your products and strategies will fail. Why shoot yourself in the foot before you’re even up and running?
Today, a story about one of my students, Brian, who did it right.
He’s building his business slowly, minimizing his risk and taking the time to talk to his customers and other professionals in his industry along the way. His results speak for themselves…he’s almost doubled his rates.
Here’s how he did it.
Step 1: Proving the idea
Halfway through film school, Brian realized that while he loved filmmaking, he had no idea how to turn his hobby into a business. He learned a lot about the technical and artistic aspects of filmmaking, but not much about how to actually make money from those skills.
Brian didn’t want to drop out, so he decided to try Earn1K, my course on earning more on the side, he was curious.
By the third week of Earn1K, Brian had niched his business idea down to high-end wedding videos and set two goals:
- Book three weddings and have one of them be from a couple he didn’t know.
- Earn enough to pay for a camera (about $1,200).
He started telling everyone he knew about his new wedding video business. “At the beginning, I was pretty much giving the videos away. One was free. A couple were $450. By the end of the first season, clients were paying $1,000 for each video. I saw that I was giving people valuable material. They weren’t paying just to help me out. That meant a lot. They really wanted what I was offering.”
Brian minimized his risk by proving the validity of his idea before investing a lot of money in it. He shot his first three weddings with rented or borrowed cameras. He didn’t print business cards or put up a website.
“Why have business cards if no one wants to know who I am?” Brian reasoned. “Same with a website. No one was looking for me. I needed to get people’s attention first. Then I could think about that stuff.”
Brian booked six clients by the end of the first summer. Three of them were people he didn’t know. He bought his camera and started planning for the next year’s wedding season.
“This is what people pay money for!” he said. “I could learn a lot of the pieces of this from scattered blogs, but not from a single, trusted source. You know it’s grounded in data and real conversations with people. And Earn1K is all cohesive and ordered so that it’s actionable. It’s realistic and doable.”
Step 2: Understanding his customers
“Everything about video is considering your audience. Whether it’s corporate video or fundraising or weddings, it all hinges on understanding who is watching it and what it’s going to take to communicate with them well. And that comes from really understanding your ideal client profile.”
He used the 37-minute video and worksheet on defining your ideal client profile from Earn1K to focus on his ideal client.
“That’s the lesson that got me thinking about who my customers were and what they really wanted. I started talking with customers, talking with wedding photographers, researching other videographers. I did this when I started and between seasons. My product has definitely changed over the last year thanks to that lesson.”
Brian found his best customers were almost always 25 or older. Any younger and they’d be more focused on price than quality. They were usually young professionals who had been working for a couple years. “I’ve also noticed it’s usually the bride’s parents who are paying, so I’m now trying to learn more about them and where they are in their life. I’m focused on the couple, but I want to give them enough material to sell me to their parents.”
Wedding photographers have also been helpful in teaching Brian about his customers and market. “Not only do they know the business, but they’ve been great sources for referrals. Brides look for photographers early and video late in the process, so having that connection is huge.”
Brian’s also learned a lot about his ideal customers and the market from studying his competition. “A lot of the choices I saw videographers making seemed foolish. Like charging by the hour and listing all of the equipment. My clients don’t care how many microphones I’m using. They trust me to deliver a quality work of art, and they want me to be generous with my hours and equipment. Not constantly try to upsell them.”
How has knowing his ideal client profile helped Brian?
Getting into his customers’ heads has helped him deliver better videos and earn stronger referrals. While he’s only booked one more wedding than last year, his price per wedding has gone way up. Couples can purchase a short form video for around $1,250. A long-form for $2,250. Or get both for over $3,000. He’s also started adding same day editing so the wedding party can view their video during their reception. His clients love it.
As his reputation grows, he’s already booked two weddings for next season and is pursuing leads for several off-season weddings. Best of all, he loves what he does.
Working on happily ever after…
Brian isn’t a full-time wedding videographer yet. He still paints houses part-time to help pay the bills, but he isn’t worried about that.
“From all the wedding photographers I’ve talked to, it can take three to six years to go full-time. So I’m in good shape for how I’m growing.”
With two seasons under his belt, Brian has a better sense of how many weddings he’ll need to book each year to make the business sustainable. “Nobody else is a full-time wedding videographer in my area. There’s some people doing commercial and real estate video. But for now I’m sticking with weddings and doing it better than anyone else. My clients appreciate that, and it makes it simpler for me.”
Instead of diluting his niche, Brian is expanding his geographical market. Seattle is just an hour and a half away. If he can break in there, he knows he’ll be able to go full-time. All he needs to do is connect with a few wedding photographers and start reaching out to couples who meet his ideal client profile…
Total earned using Earn1K: $15,653
Houry rate: Before Earn1K = $15; After Earn1K = $25
What would you be doing without Earn1K: “I was going to try start this business with or without Earn1K, but without it I’d still be floundering for lack of confidence, clarity of who my customer is, and growing but ever so slowly.”
What would you tell others considering joining this course: “I read heaps of blogs but I craved structure and I needed an authoritative voice among the well wishers and the vague suggestions. Your dedication to data forced me to rethink my strategies from the ground up and I’m super grateful for that. Earn1K set me on course for success.”
Who is your ideal client?
I devote multiple modules in Earn1K to really defining your ideal client and defining what they want and need. But you don’t need all of that to start today. Sign-up for Insider’s List today and I’ll give you FREE access to a ton of money-making resources — including another case study about someone who also kickstarted their business with free work — as well as my Ideal Client Profile worksheet.
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