Case Study: How my international student, Prime, used the Tuner Strategy to begin earning more

Ramit Sethi

There’s a lot of psychology behind the name of my course, “Earn1K on the Side.”

During our research of 100,000+ people, we discovered some fascinating insights. In a nutshell:

  • Earn “1K” — why do I call it that? Even though many of my successful students earn tens of thousands of dollars on the side, virtually no one believes they can do that at first. It simply seems unattainable.  So 1K is a cognitive shortcut to something achievable.
  • “On the side” because most people believe that “earning more” means they have to quit their jobs and start the next Google (which is, of course, nonsense). Important to delineate that.

For most of us, earning $1,000/month would make a massive material difference to our lives. And then, some (not all) of my students use my Tuner Strategy to “tune” that number to $2,000, $6,000, even $10,000 a month. But if you present those numbers too early, people simply shut down because those amounts are too large to process. They simply don’t resonate, and people say things like, “I’m not the kind of person that could earn $10K/month.”

These psychological insights are crucial.

That’s why when it comes to earning money, based on hundreds of thousands of data points, I relentlessly mock social media and passive income (here’s a good story about someone who tried to build a product and failed) and focus on a simple goal: getting your first three clients and earning $1,000.

Your first client might be your uncle. Your second might be a fluke. But when you hit #3, then you’ve proven you can do it. The Tuner Strategy takes the pressure off of your initial efforts because you don’t have to hit a home run on your first try. It gives you the freedom to start small and work your way up.

Today, a story about one of my international Earn1K students, Prime, who used this strategy to land her first client and start making money on the side.

“All I need is a business I can bring anywhere.”

By day, Prime worked as a copy editor for the local bureau of an international news agency in Manila, Philippines. At night, she’d dream about working for herself and travelling the world. She just didn’t know how to combine them.

With her experience as a business reporter, Prime could have returned to an earlier correspondence job in Singapore or taken a higher paying writing job in China. “The thing is,” Prime said, “I don’t want another job in the news wires where I end up working long hours in the office and just travel either on holidays or on my twenty days of paid leave each year. All I need is a business I can bring anywhere.”

Prime had read about location independent entrepreneurs and knew, right away, that was what she wanted to do.

“I was raised to believe that financial security doesn’t come from climbing the corporate ladder, but from having your own business,” Prime said. “I had this nagging desire to have something of my own. But being a reporter, I was clueless as to how to make a business out of it.”

Learning to trust her gut

Prime had read my blog for a long time. And she was excited about my Earn1K course — but hesitated because of the price. “I didn’t sign up, but I knew even back then that it was probably a quality product.”

Prime’s hesitation lasted a whole year (!!), but finally, she couldn’t stop thinking about being location-independent. She signed up for the course and listed off 3 core goals:

  • Become a location-independent entrepreneur
  • Get at least 4 clients (2 for herself and 2 for her business partner)
  • Earn at least $1,500 to $2,000 a month so she could quit her day job

I loved it when she said, “I wish I didn’t stay on the fence for a year. If I had trusted my gut and enrolled in Earn1K as soon as it was offered, my business would have been bigger by now.”

She went on:
“I was excited to learn I can make a business out of blogging without having to resort to ads and massive traffic. Or that I can make a business out of writing without having to become a publicist. That there’s other options for me as writer aside from freelancing for publications. I tried that before and had to quit because the pay sucks.”

But where should she begin?

From first client…to regular clients

“The lesson that really hit me was about the need to go deeply into my customer’s head, to research more about my client’s needs and fears before I pitch,” said Prime.

Using a 37-minute video and worksheet from Earn1K, Prime created her Ideal Client Profile — a Filipino entrepreneur who needed copywriting help to reach a global market via strong online content. That included website copy, blogging and article marketing. The clients were hands-on and money-conscious, but also eager to grow.

Building off her experience as a business reporter, Prime surveyed the Filipino entrepreneurs in her network and discovered the need was there. With her love of writing, she knew this business was a perfect fit.

(Note: I get tons of questions about whether my material works internationally. This should answer that question…)

Now, to land that first client!

“I reviewed my contact list and looked for small and medium scale entrepreneurs who were looking for writers for their businesses, who trusted me and who believed in my writing skills. I zeroed in on one who hired me in the past but had to let me go because she couldn’t afford to pay me on a full-time basis. She was planning to expand overseas and liked me, but didn’t think she could afford someone with my credentials and journalism experience.”

Prime knew if she could get her foot in the door and prove her value, she could use the Tuner Strategy to raise her rates and land more work.

Prime offered to complete one writing project at a reduced rate of $30 and included a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee. The client was so happy with Prime’s work that she offered Prime a regular writing project — five blog posts a week.

The tuning begins!

“She’s now a regular client, and pays around $450 dollars a month for five posts a week.” Each post is about 500 to 700 words, which is easy for Prime and her business partner since they learned how to write quickly as reporters.

Next, Prime moved on to finding a second client…

“I just sent a detailed proposal to a friend of mine who owns a travel company in Nepal. He’s looking for optimized content like my first client, but he’s also a bit afraid that I’m expensive.” (This is a recurring theme — and I teach my Earn1K students how to avoid competing on price, and actually deliver MORE value…for premium prices. But this can sometimes be difficult at first, so I also teach how to get your foot in the door using strategic pricing.)

Prime saw another chance to use the Tuner Strategy to build her business.

“I offered a complete content marketing solution — a package of blog posts, article marketing, twitter campaign and consultation. I know a copywriter who’s offering a similar package for $800 a month, but I told him that for this project, I would charge $300 because I’d like to do a travel project. We haven’t closed the deal yet, but based on our email exchanges, he’s very keen on it. Hopefully I’ll close my second sale later this week.”

“Don’t nickle and dime your dreams.”

As Prime and her partner work to land their second client, they’re already contacting others. “We have no plans of offering low rates forever. Given that we live in Manila, our rates are still within industry standards and slightly above our ‘resentment level.’ For now, we just want to attract clients, get referrals and learn more about content marketing.”

Well on her way to achieving her initial goals, Prime’s new goal is to elevate her business to becoming a high-end content marketing strategist for travel companies. On the side, she continues to build her own travel blog, The Gypsy Gals (

Prime talked about investing in herself: “You must not be afraid to invest in anything that will help you fulfill your dreams. As long as you know how to tell if a project or service is quality, then don’t nickle and dime your dreams. Your energy goes where you want to flow.”

Total earned using Earn1K: “About 1,000 dollars in the first quarter of my business  (June to August). The course paid for itself.”

Hourly rate: “I don’t charge an hourly rate. This is not the system here in the Philippines. I charge about $20 for each 400-600 word blog post.”

What you would be doing without Earn1K: “Without Earn1K I would have been doing what other journalists were doing: just climbing the corporate ladder or figuring out a way to be reassigned overseas so I can travel. But signing up with Earn1K has given me a better option. Why should I wait (and struggle so hard) for an overseas posting when I can just have a location-independent business which will give me more time to travel (and has the potential to give me higher revenues)? I was offered a promotion but I declined it as I prefer to build my business. I’m confident that it’s possible because I’m applying what I learned from Earn1K. “

What you would tell others considering joining the course: “If you plan to set up a business, you need to invest in YOURSELF. That knowledge that you’ll get from a comprehensive course like Earn1K will help you start, maintain and expand your business. I view Earn1K as my MBA and I never regretted the fact that instead of enrolling in a business school, I used my savings instead to pay for Earn1K.”

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  1. MD

    Sorry my comment is off-topic.

    Thanks for the link to my failed product post.

    Here’s a funny story.. I took Earn1k and yes I did increase freelance income to 1k. The post that you linked to is my first and main client. I decreased my freelancing load to work on other projects over time. Part of my work for The Financial Blogger website involves writing articles and I wanted to share why we need to stop being delusional about making big bucks through passive income.

    I was able to make money freelancing. I tried to productize and learned that we need to stop being delusional about passive income.

  2. Rickard

    Err, those are like seven books you’ve read? That’s nothing. And they’re all part of the metaphorical Tim Ferris Fanclub. I will agree that you were sold on a lie, but instead of whining about it try to think real hard about what you’ve learned.

    The problem with everybody wanting to get rich passively and live a mobile lifestyle is that they all focus on what they want to get for themselves instead of focusing on how they’re going to add value to other peoples lives.

  3. Agota

    I’m also working as a freelance writer while building a location independent business (blog), so this post was really inspiring! Good work, Prime! 🙂

    • Prime

      Thanks! Moving there, getting there one client at a time

  4. Agota

    Oh, and about the link to the failed product launch article..

    I’ll be honest: the way most people approach blogging makes me feel helpless, because they’re sold on the “get rich quick, then lie on the beach doing nothing” dream and this attitude is completely out of touch with the reality of professional blogging. I think that there are so many delusional people out there because all kinds of scammers cash out on people like that by selling online marketing crap conveniently leaving the reality of “you have to work your ass off for month or even years without any financial rewards to get your blog going” out of sales pages. Hard work isn’t sexy.

    However, this increasing trend of depressed bloggers and “it’s better to get a f*ucking job attitude” is out of touch with reality either: it’s another extreme. An assumption that it’s not realistic to make a living from blogging is simply not true: there are many people who do it and not all of them run internet marketing blogs (interestingly enough, most bloggers who actually make their living from blogging emphasize the “hard work” and “it takes time” parts, it’s simply that no one wants to listen to them). Therefore, it would be logical to assume that it’s certainly possible to earn full-time income by blogging, it’s simply you need to stay in touch with reality: you’ll have to work your ass off before sipping cocktails in Thailand while the dough is rolling in, so you’d be better be ready for that before even getting into blogging.

    I think that in case you decided to run your blog as a business with the goal of earning a full-time living in form of passive income in mind, it’s a lot more efficient to analyze your approach and tweak it accordingly than to get so upset when your first product launch doesn’t work out the way you intended to. That way, the second launch will work out better and the third launch will work out great. It’s a learning process, after all.

    I think everything boils down to the motivation behind blogging and the commitment to your decision to create a source of passive income via blogging. When you really thought it through and you know that it’s indeed something you want, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’ll get there in one year on in ten years: if it’s something you really want, you won’t change your direction. I’m a blogger myself and of course I’d like to get the money rolling in as soon as possible, but it really doesn’t matter how long it will take, I won’t stop until I get there: I really want to make a living from my blog and “getting a real “f*ucking job” is not an option for me in the long run. I’m 22 now, I’d love to get the ball rolling in the next few months, but even if it takes me let’s say five years, so what? Time will pass anyway, I can as well put it to the good use. Take a look at Steve Pavlina: I bet that it wasn’t fun to work on his blog for a year and not get paid anything (I bet everyone thought he was crazy as well), but fast forward six or seven years and now he’s no.1 personal development blogger and generates loads of money from his blog. Would he be there if he would have dropped everything after nine months and gotten himself a proper job? No, he wouldn’t. Again, time will pass anyway: it pays to put it to the good use.

    Anyway, I think that much of disappointment bloggers deal with would be avoided if they’d really think what they’re getting themselves into before even setting up a blog. It’s really easy to get discouraged when you’re not so sure what you want and you haven’t thought the hard part of your dream through. It’s like with martial arts: people come to the dojo and they’ll think they’ll be able to take out ten guys like they saw in that action movie and then they get disappointed after few months.. Those people often say that martial arts are ineffective or whatever, but hello, how much efforts have you put into it? Are you at least working on your skills everyday No? Well, how are you planning to become a master when you work on it like 4 hours a week in your classes and even during those 4 hours your mind is wondering? People would save themselves a lot of disappointment if they’d evaluate the price of their dreams before going after them. Exactly the same applies to blogging.

    Also, I think the problem with many people, including me, is their arrogance. I remember one day I was learning backflip and I was really, really bad at it and started crying. “Agota, your arrogance amazes me”, – my teacher said, – “I have done this hundreds of times to master it, meanwhile you try it ten times and get all depressed. What’s up with that?”. How is that different from getting upset that your first product launch failed? Hello, it’s your FIRST serious product launch, it’s completely normal that it didn’t work out as you might have expected. I believe if we would be able to evaluate ourselves clearer, we would see that in the bottom of our disappointments there’s arrogance and a belief that we are somehow entitled to results without going through the necessary learning process.

  5. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    interesting case study. i believe in passive income and currently do benefit from it in forms of niche websites and various investments such as rental properties. there is some level of work involved, and a lot of it initially when getting started.

    that said, i believe in freelancing for a higher ROI as well. money earned from freelancing can be invested in developing income producing assets – but one needs that money first. that is why i do not immediately decline a consulting project because i know it can pay me $300+ for an hour of my time. i can then spend that $300 on additional projects, or in tasks that would cost me much less than $300 an hour to get done.

  6. Jonathon

    Freelancing and consulting has a higher ROI in the short term, but setting up a passive income strategy has a much greater return in the long run. Even though you can make 300+ dollars an hour for consulting, a passive income of 1k a month for several years gives you a solid base and more freedom to then branch out to other areas, in addition to be more lucrative over time.

    • Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

      i agree with you Jonathon – that is why i am constantly building profitable niche sites. the more i build the more i make given the parlay effect

    • Prime

      Well one of my medium term goals is to have a passive income source too – e-books or webinars on writing, perhaps bring The Gypsygals to the next level

  7. anthony navarro

    Great Job Prime!!!

    It’s good to see fellow flip’s start their own business. Cheers! And best of luck to you!

    I need some articles written for my blog, how can contact you?

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