Case Study: From $57,000 to $100,000 in 3 months

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When I first started designing my Find Your Dream Job class, I was praying that the average salary of IWT readers would be $80,000. Because I know if someone makes $80K, I could get them to 6 figures in one job search.

Unfortunately, the average was lower, and I can’t realistically promise to take someone earning $40K or $50K to $100,000 with one jump.

But there are exceptions — like the subject of today’s case study, Marc, one of my Dream Job students.

It always feels good when IWT readers use my material to go from $100,000 to $110,000, or $130,000 to $160,000, or even $39,000 to $41,000. But nothing makes me more excited than $30,000 to $50,000, or $50,000 to $100,000. It’s an entire step up in socioeconomic status, with access to all kinds of resources you would have previously never had.

That’s why I’m thrilled to tell you about Marc, a graphic designer who went from being grossly underpaid at a job he liked, to nearly double his old salary at a job he loves. After just three months of Dream Job, Marc increased his income from $57,000 to $100,000 (that’s a $43,000 increase, or 75.44%).

Here’s how he did it.

“I sent out my first resume the day Lehman Brothers crashed…”

Marc studied the visual arts in college. Now 29, he is engaged and has a fulfilling career as a graphic designer.

“After graduating I did some freelancing. I wanted to move to a bigger city, but I knew I needed to up my game a little bit and I thought grad school was a way to get into the very specific world I wanted to enter. After grad school I was ready to conquer the world, and then I sent out my first resume the day Lehman Brothers crashed. That was a nice little bit of reality that happened — everyone had hiring freezes on.”

Eventually one of Marc’s contract clients offered him a full time job. “When I was hired on they just did traditional print media. So over 3.5 years I built out that role to be more of the position I wanted. I took on video editing, flash, creating websites.”

But the job had it’s limitations. “It’s a nonprofit, and it came with a nonprofit salary.”

Marc started at $50,000, and by his third year was making $57,000. Not bad, but not enough. “I was still supplementing my income with freelance work.”

Interested in psychology, finances, and systemization, Marc found out about my book via an Amazon comment. “It was a review on this other finance book. The guy was like ‘this is just a compilation of all these other books. If you want to actually learn something read Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich.’” (Thank you anonymous Amazon troll.)

After following my site for about a year, Marc was ready to invest in his next step. “I remember writing to Ramit asking about his course. He just shot me back that Earn1K was not appropriate, and that I was definitely more of a Dream Job student. At that point Dream Job was still 2-3 months from starting.”

When the course was ready, Marc signed up. “At that point there was no hesitation, I basically trusted the guy. I was pretty happy with what was offered in the middle package, and it was very smartly priced. When I invest in anything I want to see returns on it, whether it is $1,000 for a good guitar, or $60,000 for grad school. So Dream Job seemed like a drop in the bucket for what I thought would come of it.”

How to negotiate a $43,000 bump

Marc knew that earning more money meant he had to find a new company to work with. “There was only so much the nonprofit could do for me. They were trying to come back from a $3 million deficit, so when the topic of raises came up they would just say ‘we will see what we can do.’”

He dug into the Dream Job materials, “the first part on overcoming your 5 hidden scripts opened my eyes to what I had been doing wrong”.

Marc narrowed down his job search, crafted his narrative, and used Dream Job’s advanced “Natural Networking” techniques to connect with people in his industry.

“I’d say the most important part was the negotiation videos. The course uses all different types of media, but it is the video that sets it above all the blog posts and books out there. Ramit’s enthusiasm. Being able to watch that on video, and see him interact with people, tear it down, constructively criticize them — I could see how I would answer certain questions and how they would be deflected. It’s the kind of thing that unless you take a professional negotiation course, you don’t see all that often.”

Marc connected with a recruiter, and they scheduled an interview. “I had never negotiated before, but after the Dream Job videos I felt like I could walk in and own the conversation.”

How the negotiation went…

“The recruiter kept asking me the salary from my last job, and I’d tell her I wasn’t comfortable disclosing it. She said to tell her because she was fighting for me, but I just repeated myself. I knew that was important. Then I told her the range I had researched, $90,000 to $110,000, and she put me right in the middle – $100,000.”

Do you see what Marc did there?

He knew that disclosing his old salary ($57,000) would be fatal to the negotiation. The recruiter would have seen even $60,000 was a bump up, negotiated hard, and earned a fat bonus check for herself. Instead, Marc used techniques from my negotiation videos to deflect the recruiter, and leveraged the market range to earn a huge increase in pay. Another $43,000 – from $57,000 to $100,000.

“It was fast. Like three months. And it felt awesome. I should have been making $85,000 for the year or two beforehand. I finally felt like I was being respected and valued for what I bring to the table.”

What a Rich Life means to Marc

What kind of impact can a higher salary have on your life?

Here’s what it meant to Marc:

“With my last salary, after fixed expenses were paid, I had $300 every two weeks. That was for eating, buying something, whatever – I had 300 bucks. Jumping from that… I’m still careful with my spending, but I don’t have to always check to make sure I’m not going to get an overdraft fee. And I’m getting married soon, I can help my partner and I get on our feet. I feel like I’m able to step up to the next level of adulthood. We are putting money away for savings, retirement, and things we want in general.”

His career prospects have improved too. “This job has enabled me to be choosy. The next stop I can pick another brand or company that I’m dying to work for — I don’t have to worry about the next bump up in salary, because I’ll be starting from a very good place. It’s the holy grail for a designer.”

“Plus, it’s nice to be able to pick up the check for everyone once in awhile.”

What would you do with another $1000 on EVERY paycheck?

Sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll give you my negotiation mini-course for free. You’ll learn some of the word for word scripts that helped Marc go from $57,000 to $100,000 in 3 months.

Sign up for my FREE negotiation mini-course and get some of my proven negotiation scripts

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12 Comments

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  1. I love the case study because its an excellent example of a negotiation big win. I like how he knew to frame the salary range as between 90 and 110k. It looks fair to give him the average or above.

  2. Hey Ramit,

    Great case study. Out of curiosity, what percentage of your students on Earn1k and Dream Job are designers?

    This may apply more to your potential Earn1k customers but how do you convince people, when they read one of your case studies of programmers and designers and people with “quirky skills” (your caricaturist) to get over the invisible script of “those people have natural ability I don’t have or are so far ahead of me skill wise that I couldn’t possibly replicate those results?”

    Have you come across people who take your courses who legitimately don’t have marketable skills? I believe there’s probably a large amount of people who have jobs that require them to do generalist tasks that would be difficult to turn into freelance businesses.

    Congrats to Marc by the way!

    -Dale

    • You don’t have to be an expert in your field; you just have to know more than your target clients.

  3. I read your book this past summer, and after my work generously gave me some fantastic opportunities, I worked up a business case from 40k to 65k in January this year. Considering I live in a somewhat rural part of the Midwest, even 40k was really good to start out at. It’s really humbling considering I graduated from undergrad in May 2012 and was just about to start applying for minimum wage jobs before my current employer called me up.

    Thanks, Ramit, for the tips in your book!

  4. Unfortunately in Italy people could actually check how much you are earning. What would you do if you have to disclose your current salary?

    • You tell me. What would you do?

    • I work for the state government. My salary is published online via both the Legislature’s website and the local paper. But I don’t have to give away the information if people don’t know or won’t do the legwork themselves. If I’m working with an organization that realizes my salary is published and, more importantly, will go look for it, I may suggest that while my salary is $X, adding the various tangible benefits make my total compensation $X + $30K. And that while I can bring a lot of benefits to their company in X, Y & Z ways, we need to work together to find a good total compensation number.

      I don’t know that that’s the best answer, because so far I haven’t taken a new position, but I’ve used what I’ve been learning from Ramit and from my interviews with other places to improve my current working situation. And being clear on what I want and what is important to me has made it a lot easier to determine from the interview, if not before, that the position is not a good fit.

  5. Nik,

    I would build the value up in your skills. When I took my first arena job, I hadn’t managed anything big. But I kept doing my homework and dropping specific ideas on how to optimize staffing levels.

    Went from a $9/hr intern to a $70,000/year general manager, in fact got a $100,000/year offer to run a bigger facility.

    totally doable!

  6. Nik,

    Same thing in Korea. Salary is fixed for most positions in major companies, but I’d say you can still work on your communication skills and convey your value – and try to get other benefits such as more paid holidays – or demonstrating you’re capable of taking more responsibilities so that the company has an excuse to promote you.

  7. I regret not joining your courses, After putting your automation into the works (im at about 70% getting everything done) I see a difference in how i treat my money. I also got an internship from a start up at my school (which i used one of your scripts to land :) ), we agreed that after 3 successful projects we will discuss further projects and pay. I can’t wait for earn1k to open up. I thought i couldn’t afford it but I see that I really can.

  8. Ramit,

    Goood post. Thanks to your advice I applied to a job that is a 13k raise (50k to 63k) with regular pay raises in 6 years to just shy of 80k. The job also has more benefits and full pension and as a woman full paid 12 months mat leave. I honestly didn’t think I would get the job but got it. I still have not decided whether to take the job or to negotiate a better salary at my current company but wanted to thank you Ramit because without reading your blog I never would have looked at other jobs!