Case Study: How Brian stopped thinking about making money on the side and actually earned $1,300

Ramit Sethi

It’s always funny when I ask people what they want me to write about, and they’ll say something like “How about how to earn more money?” or “Something about getting started investing!”

First, I contemplate homicide. Then suicide. Then I delete their email and go to my happy place.

I call this the Manifest Destiny problem:

Have you noticed how lots of people always want more and more information, but rarely implement what they already have?

A couple years ago, I started realizing how lots of personal-finance readers were constantly asking for more and more information — more blog posts, more book reviews, more financial magazines — but would often just READ, not take action.

To put it bluntly, I have lots of friends who read blog post after blog post, but have STILL not automated their money, started investing, or even put together an aggressive plan to pay off debt.

I’ve tried to convince these people to leave my site as quickly as possible. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t need the biggest email list or the highest number of customers. I want the right people.

So today, we get to follow the story of someone who was one of the consumers — reading book after book, but doing nothing — yet he changed his behavior to get great results.

One of the ways he did this was to eliminate worthless distractions. For example, when it comes to earning more, social media is almost always a distraction. (This comes as a big surprise to many people, who read about Twitter/Facebook every day and think it “must” be useful…right?).

The problem is, if you take every one of the things you “should” do, you get overwhelmed with choice. It’s more fun to brainstorm, read 5,000 blogs, come up with a list of ideas, than to focus on a simple goal: 3 paying customers.

We all know someone like this. They have a ton of ideas for how to do something, but never act on them. They read a lot of blogs and books. They think “I can’t start yet…I need to do (ONE MORE THING) before I get started.”

And 10 years go by, and the day never comes.

But there are systematic ways to change from being a “thinker” to a “do-er.”

Here’s how one of my students, Brian, did it.

“I’ve read so many business books that I thought I knew how to start a business.”

Brian loved his job as a pastor for a campus ministry, but it only paid $1,000 a month.

“Plus, I’m getting older but college students always stay the same age,” Brian said. “I was ready to start transitioning to other work.”

He’d thought about earning more money before. Since his ministry job only took up 20-25 hours a week, he had lots of time left over. (Much of which he filled with books on business and personal finance.)

“I’ve read so many business books that I thought I knew how to start a business. But really, I just had a bunch of scattered ideas floating around in my head. I realized that reading books wasn’t enough. I needed a system to actually take action. I needed someone to push me along.”

He stopped thinking about earning more money and started doing it.

“I knew from your book that your stuff is super practical with lots of action steps and scripts. All legit. I had no barriers about your Earn1K course.”

When Brian signed up, he set two goals for himself:

  1. “Make $1,000 and prove that people will actually give me money to do stuff for them.”
  2. “I want to tell my friends that I made money on the side. They haven’t done that.”

“Brian, I want to start paying you now.”

Brian’s first breakthrough came from marketing guru Mike Williams’ Master Class, a 100-minute step-by-step breakdown on how to deeply get into your customer’s head and getting them to work with you. He calls it “Customer Clairvoyance.”

“I learned that I have to do it for them. People are lazy, and that’s okay. I just have to set it up for them. I have to make the follow-up call. I have to schedule the meetings. I have to make it as easy as possible so they can just say ‘sounds good’ or ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This was something I knew was true, but I just didn’t know how to do it. The Master Class showed me how.”

The class also taught Brian how to really understand his customers. “If you listen to people enough, they’ll tell you what they want to buy from you. And then you can give it to them. Once I got that, I had an epiphany. ‘Oh, this is how I sell to people!’”

Here’s how he implemented it.

“I was out at dinner with a friend. He introduced me to the owner and said I was interested in marketing. I told the owner, ‘Hey, I’ll do you email list for you for three months, and then we can talk about transitioning to paid work. I’ll show you how to sign-up people. I create a newsletter and set up autoresponders for you. I’ll handle everything. Every week, I’ll send you an update.’ He just kept saying ‘That’s great, that’s great.’ I got the job.”

That lasted two months…

“After a couple months, I went in with some campaign ideas, and he said, ‘Brian, I want to start paying you now.’ I couldn’t believe it! This was so cool. He paid me $60. That was the first money I’d ever made as a freelancer.”

“Quick wins are uber-important.”

“$60 isn’t a lot of money,” Brian said, “but it was a quick win that made me think I could actually make money on the side. It helped validate my idea and encouraged me to keep going.”

Since then, Brian’s branched out his services. “I still manage the restaurant’s monthly email newsletter, but I also helped the owner design the menu for his new restaurant.”

Brian isn’t even a designer, but based on his hustle and success with the email marketing, the owner came to Brian first. “I said ‘I’m not a designer, but I can find someone who can help.’ My friend and I did it, and that project pushed me over $1,000.”

In only a few months, Brian had achieved both of his goals. His days of sitting around and thinking about earning money on the side were over. He was in business.

“Clients don’t care about your education. They care about results.”

Brian’s new goal is to get more clients. He’s approaching other restaurant owners and refining his offer, learning as he goes.

“You were totally right. Clients don’t care about your education. They care about results.”

Most importantly, Brian was able to make the shift from thinking about idea after idea…to getting concrete results. From here, he can use the Tuner Strategy to “tune” that revenue up as much as he wants.

Total earned using Earn1K: $1,300

Hourly rate: $40/hour – $50/hour

What you would be doing without Earn1K: “Honestly, reading a bunch of business books and not doing anything about it.”

What you would tell others considering joining the course: “If you’re going to take action for the things you learn, it’s worth it. If you’re not, don’t waste your time.”

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  2. Sarah

    Which campus ministry pays you?

    • Brian Sun

      Hey Sarah, if you want to talk about the campus ministry I work with, email me at : )

  3. Maria

    I’d love to see a 1-year follow up of your case studies Ramit, and see how these people who started by earning $1000 on the side evolved.

    Did they stop? Or, did they earn even more?

    • Ramit Sethi

      I have a whole bunch of students who email me to keep me informed. The tough part is getting them written up and systematized. I recently hired an intern to help with all the testimonials, so let me see what I can do. Thanks for the comment.

  4. MIchelle

    I enjoyed reading this article. Ramit, I like the way you think and I will be digging thru your blog to see what else I can find. I also struggle with people and their attitudes all the time. People who will not take their health , finances or life into their own hands. No one wants to take repsonsibility for themselves anymore. It seems we live in a society where people feel they are entilted anyway and that always breeds complacancy. However I myself struggle to gain complete control of my own life. I also read alot of books and all my favorite topics basically health and money related since I find those things to be most important to quality of life. I have worked hard on many aspects of my life. But life gets complicated sometimes and can sure beat you down. Possibly some people feel as though just reading about how to change somethign is enough and the thought of doing it makes them feel relieved. They never act because they never fully commit and we have a serious problem with discipline in this country. Just look at the obesity rate.

  5. Essential Services

    Excellent case study for the Earn $1,000 program, I for one am truly glad to see real results from students who take action to achieve their dreams. Thanks for sharing your insights with us Ramit.

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  7. Art

    The kid reminds me of me. Reading too much instead of taking action. Kudos to him for executing!

    • Brian Sun

      It really IS all about the execution.

  8. Hugues

    Excellent case study, clear and simple with achievable goals.
    I myself earned almost $6,000 in the past 2 months as a full-time freelance translator/copywriter using only the free material on this blog (I just started from scratch 2 month ago as well :)). I’m seriously thinking of taking the Earn 1K class now that I can actually apply all the techniques directly with my prospects and clients and see immediate results.
    Thanks Ramit.

  9. David

    I know this guy! Small world. Great job on the hustle, Brian. Keep it up. I know you’re going places.

  10. Susan

    Same with Maria. Would love to see follow-ups to how everyone is doing and how they’ve expanded their earning power. Great series!

    I do kind of wish you’d quit making references to homicide and/or suicide in so many posts. It’s creepy and financial woes are actually a factor in suicides. Just sayin’….

  11. Louis

    The important statement and huge take-away is to change from being a “thinker” to a “do-er”. I know I find myself over-thinking and over-analyzing to the point where I get discouraged and never even attempt to start. This article gave me a new perspective thank you Ramit and Brian!

  12. Franklin

    I find it odd that he’s a minister but quotes ‘Dazed and Confused’ about chasing underage girls.

    • Brian Sun

      Hey Franklin, nothing mentioned in my case study relates to “chasing underage girls.” If you get that impression, it’s because you misinterpreted something. I’ve never even seen ‘Dazed and Confused.’ If you have any clarifying questions, email me at Thanks.

  13. ANGELA

    What is “Franklin” even talking about? I don’t even see the quote in his statement even after reading it twice. He sounds really confused or something. Just saying…

  14. Galileo

    I’ve seen Dazed and Confused a few times. There is a scene where Matthew McConaughey’s character makes a statement about his love for high school girls because even though he’s getting older (recently out of high school), they always stay the same age. Franklin (mis)interpreted Brian’s quote about himself getting older and college students staying the same age to mean that Brian was referencing McConaughey’s quote as context for his reason to do something else to improve the quality of his life. It was just a misunderstanding and apparently a coincidence.

  15. Kiesha Joseph

    Wish I had read this article years ago. My mentor spent years trying to get me to start writing ebooks and online content. He knew I could do it. But, I just had “things” I needed to do first. Or, so I thought. Today, I have a different perspective. I am not afraid to try because I am not afraid to make mistakes. Instead of considering them failures, I learn from my mistakes. I have now become a pro at SEO content writing. I am also a popular ghostwriter of short story ebooks. Don’t let your fears slow you down. Start making changes to better your life now.