Case study: He deleted Twitter and made $90,200

Ramit Sethi

I recently wrote a post on Yahoo telling people to stop wasting time with business cards and social media. Predictably, they hated me.

I believe it’s important to spend our limited time and attention on the things that work, rather than trying a little bit of everything. When people say, “Yeah! I’ll try it! It couldn’t hurt,” they don’t realize that trying everything actually could hurt — because by trying everything and focusing on nothing, we become increasingly discouraged when nothing works.

As a result, you get a bunch of people who try a little of everything, then burn out when nothing works, complaining that “the game is rigged” and “it’s about who you know, not what you know.” In fact, if “what you know” involves reading exactly 0 books, courses, or sites on marketing or psychology, you don’t know much.

It doesn’t help that the advice from so-called “experts” about growing a business or earning more usually looks something like this:

  • Start a blog and write at least 5 posts a week! Blog it!
  • Get on Twitter! Join the social conversation!
  • Go to networking events! Build relationships!
  • And of course, print those business cards! Wouldn’t want people to forget you!

This advice is terrible on two levels. First, it doesn’t work. Second, it makes you feel like you’re being productive — but in reality, you’re only “playing” business.

Here’s how it happens…

Naive Nancy wants to become a personal organizer. Instead of developing a system to qualify leads and pitch prospects — which sounds complicated — she starts a blog about organizing — which sounds fun. Then she creates a Facebook page, starts tweeting organization tips and goes to networking events.

The result?

After wasting tens if not hundreds of hours, she has exactly 0 paying clients.

One of my Earn1K students, a graphic designer, didn’t want to end up like this. Instead, he deleted his Facebook and Twitter accounts, niched down, and built a system that earned him $5,000 in the first two weeks. Full results: He’s landed $90,200+ in work this year and quit his full time job.

Read on for the details on how he did it.

Making $42,000/year and feeling the financial pressure

Robert is a 23-year-old graphic designer living in Southern California. Since graduating from college, he’d worked in-house at a nursery, building their website and creating marketing materials. “I was earning $42,000, so it was okay, but I felt a lot of financial pressure.” He had been trying to freelance since high school, but nothing consistent.

“I was doing Craigslist. I was looking in my area and kind of doing it generally, how a normal person would.” [Note from Ramit: Notice the code words.]

Occasionally, one of Robert’s friends would have extra clients and give him the work. “I was posting snapshots of my work online on dribbble. I was on Twitter a lot, thinking people would be reading my tweets. Whenever I had updates about my work I’d post it on Facebook.”

The result?

An occasional client. “But they were really demanding and paid slowly. Never more than $1,000.”

While searching around for a new job, Robert stumbled on this site. “This digital agency had done some work for Ramit and there was a testimonial from him. I signed up for the free stuff, and got into the newsletter. I liked his writing and all that. Once Earn1K rolled around, I mulled it over a couple of days.”

“The content in Ramit’s newsletter was a big change from a lot of what I was getting from other blogs or whatever with generic advice. I decided to buy because of how specific Ramit got, and he was realistic about how much work you have to do.”

$5,000 in 2 weeks

Robert already knew how he wanted to earn money on the side — building websites — but he needed a system to qualify leads and convert them into paying clients.

“With Earn1K, you want to dive right in, but the first couple lessons give you a base.” Step one was niching down his service. He decided to become a web designer for pediatric dentists — a niche specific enough to build a great system around.

When he reached the module on generating leads, Robert realized he needed to quit wasting time on “general” activities and focus on things that actually brought paying clients in the door. “I deleted Twitter and focused on reaching prospects in my niche. I got a list of industry contacts from a family member, and with Google I can lookup practices in my area for their contact information. I do the RSS Craigslist thing, too.”

Knowing exactly who to reach out to and putting in the work made a big difference in Robert’s results. “I have a pitch that I prepared with Ramit’s Briefcase Technique. Within two weeks of starting Earn1K I had landed two clients, one for $1,500 and the second for $3,500.”

Now that he has a working system — just like he learned from Earn1K — Robert can turn it on when he wants to earn more money.

“I got another client for $2,000 – and here’s the big one: I used the Briefcase Technique to negotiate a full-time contract with a freelance design agency. I’m earning $40 per hour, 40 hours a week — double my old wage.”

Having increased his income 115% — from $42,000 to $90,200 — Robert isn’t worried about money anymore.

Think about the differences in earning $42K and $90K. It’s an entirely different way of living.

“Money’s just not as much of a concern. I’m saving for all the normal things like a wedding, down payment on a house, emergencies and making larger payments on my student loans which will end up saving me tons of money. I’ve also been able to work on a few personal projects, which could lead to higher exposure and income generation.”

(All this while Naive Nancy is still trying to choose the right photo for her Twitter profile.)

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  1. R.C. Thornton

    Excellent advice as always Ramit. Your focus on doing things that actually create *value* for the *customer* (and not just “anybody”) seems to be something lost and misunderstood by many. As someone who’s jumped through the hoops of starting a business, I too at first thought there was immense value in Twitter, business cards, etc…sort of like I thought just going to networking events and handing out my business card was actually going to produce valuable leads. Today, I’ve better defined my niche, and as such know where to find the people, customers and resources I need, without wasting time on superfluous and ineffective undertakings.

  2. Jacko

    HA! That is hilarious, excellent point though. Busy does not mean productive the smart man measures his success and steers into the direction that is working away from the ROCKS.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. M

    I agree with you on the approach. However, you’re on twitter. Given what you’ve said here, why do you use twitter? (honest, not sarcastic, question)

    • IronFly

      The advice that Twitter & co. are a waste of time is not universal. If you have a unique business which suits the conversational nature of social media, such as being one of the world’s leading personal finance experts, then it makes sense to try Twitter and see how beneficial it is, and later to adopt it if it proves a success.

      But not everyone is a world-leading personal finance expert.

      And in the same vein, most businesses don’t need social media, ebooks, business cards etc. they’re just jumping on the bandwagon with time wasting tactics that feel like real work.

      Worst example ever? A toilet manufacturer that launched an ebook on how to pick the perfect toilet. Shameful.

  4. Ornella @ Moneylicious

    Great advice, Ramit 🙂
    You pointed out an aspect of being busy that too many people think is productive: doing work that is easy. This is just busy work and has nothing to do with producing results. The IMPORTANT activites that need to be done are not because it requires a proactive approach. Sometimes, mistakenly, networking events are considered proactive activities, but what’s the point of going to a networking event if they are not in your niche. Don’t have niche? Then get down to it. Before you can even develop a system, you have to identify your target niche, rather than a broad niche. Broad niche would be “dentists.” Target is “pediatric dentists.” Known you can create the system to identify problem areas and create solutions. Instead of sounding like any other graphic desinger, he is a graphic designer for pediatric dentists–sounds like he has a specialty, just like they do.

  5. Christopher

    I can’t tell you how timely this article is. I’m working on getting a freelance science writing/techincal editing business going. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reading freelance writing blogs to learn more about the field. Over and over and *over* again, the advice is to “get on Twitter”, “get on Pinterest”, “maximize LinkedIn”, “connect your LinkedIn to your Facebook”, “did we mention Twitter?”….and I’m always left wondering: given all the time you all spend on every single social media site ever… do you actually find time to write?

    They all advise doing 100 different things…and so, in the end, we all end up doing zero.

    Seriously considering jumping into Earn1K the next time it comes around…

  6. Agota

    I love that you make people question social media craze.

    It’s so strange that so many people try to build social media following, which is a huge amount of work, without trying to understand why they’re doing it in the first place.

    P.S. Naive Nancy, lol.. 😀

  7. Deny D. Ritz | Building Wealth Tips

    Hi Ramit,

    Is it just me, or does Naive Nancy steal the show?

    I had to read this case study slowly because it made me wonder if I’m doing the wrong thing. Several weeks ago I watched a webinar by Rich Schefren where he talks about the difference between “opportunity seekers” and “strategic entrepreneurs” and why people actually hurt from chasing too many opportunities.

    Sounds like what you’re writing here is similar. I’ve been working on an online business project for more than 200 hours, but I haven’t generated any income yet. That said, this is my first time doing this, and I spent half that time creating content.

    The fact that Robert made $5K in two weeks is making me question myself. Do you think it’s because Robert is using skills he has already been developing and selling that he can achieve it in fast time? What if I’m building a business with a skill that I’ve just started developing and have never sold?


    • Robert Wililams

      Hey Deny,

      I think you touched on it with ‘chasing too many opportunities’ comment. I would say if you’ve spent 200 hours strictly trying to directly generate income, then; yes there may be some issues with your skill level.

      However, if you’ve spent 200 hours on things that could ‘potentially’ generate income (like twitter, facebook etc.), then I suggest focusing solely on generating income directly. Reaching out to clients directly, emailing prospects, looking for a qualified place to get more prospects, these things are what Ramit is great at and what he show’s you how to do directly.

      That said, it helped that I wasn’t having to learn a new skill in the middle of working a full time job, and trying to get my freelance on.

  8. Steve

    Great advice here Ramit, a really ‘fresh’ article compared to the many other self-professed gurus who assume that every business needs to be blogging and have a big social media presence. However, I do think that creating content for your company’s website is becoming more and more important to get high rankings on the search engines (especially with the recent Google algorithm updates). Naturally, a blog facilitates this. But the question is whether getting traffic is worth all those countless hours spent updating the blog that could otherwise be spent on more productive activities…Thanks for the share!

    • Ange

      Steve, you said :
      >>I do think that creating content for your company’s website is becoming more and more important to get high rankings on the search engines (especially with the recent Google algorithm updates).

      Why do so many businesses focus on “high rankings” when their customers live across the street – or are reachable directly by phone?
      Most of the time businesses are thinking that getting high rankings will hide their inability (or unwillingness) to collect feedback and learn who their target is.
      What about targeting and contacting them proactively with an offer that will be 10x worth the investment for them? Prepare a case study of your past achievements and that’s all.
      No website, no business card, no twitter, etc…

      More productive, better results, less customers paying more, better quality feedback…

      My point is that most (not all) businesses that are looking for high rankings base their strategy on false assumptions.

    • Stephen

      I used to think the same way, Steve. Although content is great to have, the most important thing to have is links directed to your site. How you get those links is up to you.

  9. david

    Hi Ramit, I just signed up for the info. I hope it is worth it!

    • Ross O'Lochlainn

      It is. The free stuff is awesome.

      However, his Earn1K course is solid and worth every penny.
      It covers it all from A-Z.

      I have recently just landed my third client – work worth about $5k

      Buying his course is hands down the best thing I could have done for myself. It already paid for itself with my first two clients and this recent one is the “green light”.

      Just learning how to offer a service and pitch is what has been the winner for me.

      I haven’t even taken the lead generation aspect seriously because I don’t know what I’d do if I got a few more clients, because there are only so many hours in the day, and I don’t know if I’d be earning enough/consistent money to quit the job full time.

  10. Jon

    Great profile Ramit… Always important to keep in mind the difference between being busy and being productive.

  11. Morten Hemmer

    I really like this article. Most people are fooling around on the social media, instead they should be engaging with their audience and start creating some value. We live in the informationage and it’s important to bring as much value as you can onto the table.

    Be creative when you are building a business on Social Media and remember to take action and try new things. AND stop doing things that doesn’t work and start trying new stuff instead that might work out.