Case Study: How Chris found the confidence to turn down a $100,000 deal

Ramit Sethi

Could you turn down a $100,000 deal because it didn’t fit your long-term goals?

Many people’s biggest challenge is finding someone to pay them at all.

But not everyone.

For more advanced IWT students, they don’t simply want more customers — they want the right ones. The challenge is to say “no” to low-paying, low-value work, and instead focus on high-value work. That’s how you can earn more while working less — and doing what you love.

Today, Chris’s story about turning down $100,000.

What would you do in Chris’s situation?

“I want more…I want independence”

Chris almost had it all.

A wife and five kids. A nice house in a growing area of the country. A dependable, six figure job in field he loved — software engineering. He was only missing one thing…

“I have a good income, a stable situation, but I want more. I want independence,” Chris noted. “I want things it’s unreasonable for any employee to ask for, like taking a day off in the middle of the week.” Chris knew he could be perfectly happy living off his current salary if he could just find a way to do it on his own.

Self-employment wasn’t a new dream for Chris. A little over a decade ago, he had started his own consulting business. Doing quality work wasn’t a problem since Chris and his partners were experienced software engineers. But they weren’t salesmen, and without enough customers coming in the door, they closed the business down after a few years.

Chris went back to being an employee, but he never lost the dream of working for himself.

“I learned that soft skills are as important as hard skills”

Chris found this blog and immediately liked what he read.

“When you come out with a title like I Will Teach You To Be Rich, it’s risky. It sounds like a scam, but it’s so direct. There’s no beating around the bush,” Chris said. “Certain people might be turned off by that, but I appreciate directness. It’s exactly what I needed.”

When the opportunity to enroll in Earn1K arose, Chris signed up. Instead of finding “more of the same” recommendations to keep clients happy, he devoured a 24-minute video on tactics for resolving the five most common customer complaints. Instead of randomly throwing things against the wall to “see what sticks,” he built a sales funnel that systematically generated leads. Chris knew that the material would help him find customers, and not make the same mistakes he did in his previous business.

He also learned that earning more isn’t just about developing more technical skills. Early in his career as a programmer, Chris found that simply learning a new programming language was enough to advance his career. But there were only so many programming languages he could learn, and none of them would help him start his own business.

Chris realized from Earn1K that his soft skills were just as important as his hard skills. It didn’t matter how good he was at C++ if he couldn’t pick up the phone and call a potential client. To keep growing his career, he needed to learn about marketing and sales funnels. About getting into his clients’ heads and filling their needs.

“As an engineer, the concept of a sales funnel was a revelation to me. I had done direct contact in the past, but that meant I talked to three people and if no one was interested, well, I guess it won’t work. Learning the process and about conversation rates was huge.”

First step: Earn $1,000 on the side

Even though he already made six figures in his day job, Chris’ first Earn1K goal was just bringing in $1,000 on the side. “If I can succeed at this, I can set another goal. I can keep building it up until I can start working for myself full-time.” He never lost sight of that independence he was working toward.

Chris followed the course closely. He watched each video twice, read each PDF twice. He completed all of the homework assignments. “I absolutely sucked the marrow out of that course. I was going to get my money’s worth.”

By the time he had finished the course, he had already earned his first $1,000 on the side.

Chris started by networking with people he already knew. Some friends, some business contacts. It was through these initial conversations that Chris landed his first two clients, one of which he’s still working with today.

“I landed my third client by using Ramit’s suggestions for searching Craigslist. In fact, I was able to subcontract someone to do that work for me while I helped other clients and continued looking for more work.”

$100,000? No thanks.

One of Chris’ first strategies was to contact design firms and offer his technical services as a compliment to their artistic services. He didn’t have to widen his sales funnel very far before he struck gold. A design company was looking for someone exactly like him for a six month project. Chris knew this could be his chance to work for himself again.

To prepare for the meeting, Chris reviewed the Earn1K material on negotiation. He knew the best way to go into a negotiation was knowing you didn’t need the deal. “If you go in and need to close the deal, it’s like walking up to a girl and being desperate. You’re dead in the water.”

Chris hadn’t reached those lessons yet back when he was conducting negotiations with his first clients. “I was lucky I didn’t kill my first two deals. I broke lots of negotiating rules. I introduced my rates apologetically. Luckily, they really needed me. I was the only guy the client could find. He actually comforted me about my rates.”

Chris knew he had to do better this time. He needed to go in like he didn’t need the deal. After thinking about it, he realized it really was true. He already made six figures. He lived in a great area. His kids weren’t starving, and he wasn’t struggling to put a roof over his head. His life was already full of blessings. When it came time for negotiations, Chris was ready.

The client laid out the terms. It was a six month project worth $100,000. The catch: it was full-time.

Chris thought about it. And declined the offer.

“I realized I was just trading one job for another. That’s not what I wanted,” Chris admitted. “It was hard to turn that down, but I’m convinced it was the right decision. Now I can stay focused on my real goal: earning money on the side so I can work for myself.”

Looking ahead

It’s not easy to turn down $100,000, but Chris realized that being rich and making more money weren’t the same thing. Being rich is about finding what you want.

If that’s making a living doing what you love, you can use Earn1K to learn how to build a career around your strengths, skills and interests.

If that’s enjoying more free time, you can use it to learn how to raise your rates so you can work less.

If that’s becoming independent, you can use it to learn how to build a system that allows you to work for yourself.

When it comes to being rich, it’s not simply about making more at all costs. It’s about mastering techniques and psychological insights that allow you be SELECTIVE about who you work with.

Chris did it. I hope I can show you how, too.

If you’re interested in previewing some of the material that Chris used to earn thousands, click here.

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  1. Nenad Ristic

    Great timing on this post, I find myself in a very similar position as Chris, I am also a software developer with a salary close to six figures (I live in South Africa, so I am not sure how to compare salaries).

    I really like the idea of contacting design companies, since I find that a lot of them are really bad at handling the programming side of things, and software developers are in very short supply around here.

    Is there any way that I could get in touch with Chris, since I would love to pick his brain? It seems like he is a bit further on the path that I want to take.

  2. Fred @

    What a great story! Knowing what type of life and business you want to build is huge. Once you really understand what you want out of life, you can make tough decisions to stay on track.

  3. Michelle

    Yay Chris! Congrats from a fellow Earn1k-er. Thanks for sharing your story (and Ramit for bringing it to us!) (I’ll have to go and watch those videos again!)

  4. Mike

    That was a tough call. I don’t know if I had the stomach to do this… $100,000 is a lot of money. But it was the right choice 🙂

  5. Al Pittampalli

    Good for Chris. Taking that job would have been giving into the resistance. It’s clear he wanted more independence, and the 100K would guarantee him nothing but the opposite.

  6. rente-doorlopendkrediet

    Hi guys,
    My name is Kai. I’m new to this blog. Found it on google.. Hope to learn alot! Looking forward to it!

  7. Chris B

    I hear ya, Chris. I’ve said “no” to six-figure offers because they don’t fit my lifestyle filters. Now I have a $125k contract on the table for part-time work.

    So NO to the good, so you can say “YES” to the great!

  8. Chris Horner

    Great job Chris from a fellow Earn1k alum.

  9. STRONGside

    Great post. My wife does wedding photography, and let me tell you that there is nothing worse than working with a bridezilla! She had to learn the hard way a few times that working with a bride who is difficult is never worth the money. Now, she has grown her business to a point where she can select her clients, and she ensures that she will have a positive experience with her clients. It is still not easy turning down excellent money to shoot a wedding, but being objective and discerning has greatly increased her happiness and thus her ability to do great creative work.

  10. Financial Independence

    Quite inspirational topic. But something does not really match up – if Chris started consulting business a decade ago being an experienced software engineer – how old was he?

    What has Chris been doing all this time? Assuming he is 20+ years at work.

    As far as 6months project -essentially there is a premium for not being permanent staff -looking for another job, no perks, no benefits.

    I I believe Chris did a right thing. He has already got a job, so no point of exchange – no benefits of a kind.

    In overall it is a trade – short cut to financial independence with a permanent job, while something on a side, or a completely uncharted waters. What would you do?

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  12. Annie Andre

    This is amazing. I think it takes a lot of clarity and courage to turn down a deal like that. If Chris had no job he might have taken the job though. It does help to have a little security to give yourself more options.. My hubby and i have been struggling with do we go back to work or do we go it on our own after being unemployed for a while. I hope to never go back to corporate America. But then again, i’m not desperate YET..

  13. Greg Miliates

    Great article! I can relate to Chris, since I started my consulting company 4 years ago, and I found that the hardest part was getting started, not knowing where to start, what specific tasks to do to create a company, get clients, etc.

    But I kept at it, and have been earning 6 figures solely from consulting for the last 3 years, increasing my income every year.

    Starting and running my own business has completely changed my worldview, and I doubt I’ll ever have a “real” job again. I have too much flexibility and income potential to get shackled to a job.

    I started my blog ( to help others start their own consulting businesses, and I talk about tips, tricks, tools, and techniques to start and run a successful consulting business on the cheap. I just released my first ebook (FREE), titled “Your $100 Professional Website”, and have othe nuts-n-bolts topics on my blog as well.