Case Study: No more excuses. Turning a creative hobby into $12,000
May 19th, 2011 - 25 Comments
Artists and creative people love to whine about not being able to earn more money. “But Ramit,” they say, “your tips don’t apply to me. I’m an ARTIST, not some IT expert/business writer/consultant.” (All those are codewords for “sellout.”)
There’s even the myth of the starving artist — the idea that starving is GOOD for creativity.
All of these reasons are nonsense.
Most creative people could earn thousands more every month if they adopted classic approaches to marketing their products and themselves. Interestingly, if the word “marketing” elicits an instant recoil in you, you likely have an invisible script of “marketing=sellout” in you.
Today, a story about how Franky Chung, a web designer, doubled his rates and earned $12,000.
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Desperate to accept any amount of money
Franky had been working on small-scale web design projects since high school, but he just thought of it as a hobby. He built websites for friends and family, and steadily improved his skill level. Eventually, he decided he was good enough to try working on some real paid projects, but he had no idea what to do next.
He knew that he had a skill that was in demand, but the next step of actually getting paid for it was vague and frustrating. Was he just supposed to start a blog, make a portfolio, and wait for people to contact him? Should he just rely on friends passing his name around?
When he finally did get put in contact with clients, he was so desperate that he would accept anything they asked for. He was so nervous that he would never bring up his rate, so his clients would always be the ones to set it.
Turning a hobby into a career
Franky had followed I Will Teach You To Be Rich for a few years, and he decided to sign up for my Earn1K course on earning money to see if it could help him turn his hobby into serious income..
He had considered web design to be just a hobby, not a way to make any real money. But it turned out that his conceptions were “absolutely wrong, like the exact opposite.” His biggest problem had been not knowing how to approach clients, and Earn1K “directly addressed that with very actionable steps and immediate results.”
Looking back months after completing the course, he easily names a whole list of techniques that he uses all the time: sample scripts to use in pitch emails, how to blow a client away with high-quality work, using the Briefcase Technique to dominate interviews, and the absolute best way to find customers on Craigslist (that’s how he found his first big client).
But there are other case studies that focus on each of those techniques. Here, I want to talk about the tactic that really set him apart and changed his life.
How Franky made it a no-brainer for clients to choose him over the competition
No matter how good a portfolio you have, clients can never be sure how well you’ll do on their project just by looking at your past work.
Franky realized that he could put those fears to rest by giving them a chance to work with him with absolutely no risk. At the end of every pitch email, he began including an offer for a free sample. This wasn’t just a vague, halfhearted offer, but a proposal for a real piece of work that was specific to them and their project. For example, if they were looking for someone to redesign their homepage, he would offer to do the header or the navigation bar for free.
These free trials would be as much as a full day of work for him, but they would be incredibly useful for both sides:
Franky got to know the client better and find out immediately if they were a lot of trouble, had crazy expectations, or just weren’t worth his time.
The client got the chance to see exactly what Franky could do. It let tech-savvy clients get a taste of his coding style and make sure that his skillset was what they needed. And it let non-tech-savvy customers see if their personalities were compatible and whether or not he was reliable.
This make it much easier for clients to choose Franky over other freelancers with whom they had zero experience. Plus, it also saved Franky a lot of trouble in one specific case where he realized right away that a client would be far more trouble than he was worth (he didn’t understand technology and had ridiculous expectations).
At first, Franky would explain to clients that — since he was inexperienced — he would love to offer them some free work to prove himself. Later, he thought of it more as a courtesy thing: let’s do a short free trial — for both our sakes — to make sure that we’re a good fit for each other.
Doubling his rate and moving to Tokyo
In the 3 months after completing Earn1K, Franky doubled his hourly rate and made $12,000. After starting out with no idea how to attract clients, he was shocked at how quickly he was able to line up months of high-quality paid work.
There are several basic and sophisticated variables to consider when doing free work. Who’s worth doing free work for? When should you never do free work? How do you go from free to highly paid? Franky used the Earn1k material on pricing to execute his free-to-fee strategy.
His life has completely changed since then: He quit his management consulting job and now does web development full-time. “I didn’t know I would love it so much! It’s especially amazing to get to work at home on my own time instead of going into the office every day.”
Finally, after just a few months of freelancing full-time, an amazing opportunity fell in his lap: a startup wanted him to move to Tokyo to work on their website. And it’s all thanks to his new strategy: “There’s no way I would have been able to get this offer if I hadn’t been developing my skills in this new field.”
First, he had used his new techniques to turn his hobby into a full-time career. Then, without the burden of his day job, he was able to push his skills to where they needed to be for his new job in Japan.
Looking to the future, Franky feels the complete opposite of the desperation from last year. “I don’t know where I’ll be in a year from now, but it’s very reassuring to know that I can take my new skills anywhere with me.”
If you’re curious to hear the story from Frankie’s own mouth, here he is on video (starts at 2:10):
Curious what Frankie learned?
To download free material on how to turn your hobby into side income — including word-for-word scripts and other material never released on this blog — download them here.
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