How I Quintupled My Income in 90 Days

In January 2013 I started my first full-time job for $43,000 salary + stock options. Exactly 1 year later, I quit.

To capitalize on relationships I made a lightweight CRM (aka Google Spreadsheet) filled with ~20 people I knew who had money.

ryan-kulp-freelance-crm

By auto-sorting the contacts by Score, the ‘next steps’ column became my to-do list every morning when I woke up, jobless and poor in NYC.

Fruitful conversations at ~60 coffee appointments within the next 2 months allowed me to quintuple my income.

Below is how I did that.

Week 1
Thanks to a friend’s warm intro, I signed my first freelance marketing client.

Although I had freelanced part-time for 2 years prior, I still had no clue how to price myself and I quoted $25 /hour for the project.

I committed to 15 hours per week, and my finances now looked like this:

MRR (Monthly recurring revenue):
$1,600 /month — Client 1 ($25 /hour * 60)
+ $1,224 — Former full-time job (1/2 income for 2 weeks’ notice)

=$2,824 /month (15% raise from my former job in < 7 days)

Week 3
Through a business partner I was introduced to a 2nd prospect. This one, I figured, should be a flat monthly retainer. We settled on $1,800 /month.

New MRR:
$1,600 /month — Client 1 ($25 /hour)
+ $1,800 /month — Client 2 (retainer)
+ $1,224 /month* — Final paycheck from last job

= $4,624 (1.88x former income)

Week 4
In the first week of February I landed another retainer client for $3,000. At this point, I completely abandoned the hourly billings option.

New MRR:
$1,600 /month — Client 1 ($25 /hour)
$1,800 /month — Client 2 (retainer)
$3,000 /month — Client 3 (retainer)
$1,224 /month* — Final paycheck from last job

= $7,624 /month (3.11x former income)

Week 5
Having four jobs at once was no joke, and I pulled 2 consecutive all-nighters to meet project deadlines.

In spite of this wakeup call, I signed another client because they promised a manageable (3–5 hours /week) commitment.

New MRR:
$1,600 /month — Client 1 ($25 /hour)
$1,800 /month — Client 2 (retainer)
$3,000 /month — Client 3 (retainer)
$1,500 /month — Client 4 (retainer)

= $7,900 /month (3.23x former income)

While thankful for the work, my growth had slowed from 3.11x former income to 3.23x. It was around this time that I realized how incredibly unscalable I was as a one-man-show.

I knew that if I wanted to level up my earning potential, significant changes needed to be made to my deal-flow.

Week 9
The first client I signed became a pest to my schedule, so I negotiated new terms for a flat-rate project.

New MRR:
$2,100 /month — Client 1 (flat project)
$1,800 /month — Client 2 (retainer)
$3,000 /month — Client 3 (retainer)
$1,500 /month — Client 4 (retainer)

= $8,400 /month (3.43x former income)

Feeling confident about my run rate, I moved into a studio apartment for $2,200. This was double my previous rent, but I listed it on Airbnb and felt justified because it was ~90 blocks closer to my client meetings in Union Square.

Week 10
Within days of listing on Airbnb, my apartment was booking at $1,050 /week for 2+ weeks per month.

New MRR:
$2,100 /month — Client 1 (flat project)
$1,800 /month — Client 2 (retainer)
$3,000 /month — Client 3 (retainer)
$1,500 /month — Client 4 (retainer)
$2,100 /month — Airbnb guests (variable)

= $10,500 /month (4.25x former income)

Week 11
Settling into new clients became easier, as fewer coffee appointments and a more centrally located apartment allowed me to focus on work instead of commuting or drafting proposals.

I started pursuing small, one-off projects that I could crank out on the weekends.

Week 12
Thanks to my spammy email technique I booked two small projects at $1,000 /each for approximately 30 days of work.

New MRR:
$2,100 /month — Client 1 (flat project)
$1,800 /month — Client 2 (retainer)
$3,000 /month — Client 3 (retainer)
$1,500 /month — Client 4 (retainer)
$1,000 /month — Client 5 (flat project)
$1,000 /month — Client 6 (flat project)
$2,000 /month — Airbnb guests (variable)

= $12,400 /month (5.07x former income)

In the 30 days that followed I netted the same income as August — December, 2013. It was a wild ride.

That said, money is nice but it isn’t everything.

In a few short months I learned volumes about value capture, time management, and contracts, and those experiences are so valuable that I would gladly give back the extra income in exchange for the lessons that hustling for it taught me.

Nowadays I work full-time at another startup founded ArtSpot, making things up as I go on and for a smaller wage undoubtedly. But I’m helping build something I believe in, and that’s what counts.

So if you feel stuck with your profession, working too much or making too little, I recommend finding a freelance client. The extra cash will be nice, but the lessons will be priceless.

Because as the famous adage goes:

Manager — What if we invest in our employees and they leave?
CEO — What if we don’t invest, and they stay?

4 Comments

  1. Jeremy Cai October 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    This is an awesome writeup, Ryan. Thanks for the share!

    Reply
    1. Ryan Kulp October 30, 2014 at 2:22 am

      Thanks Jeremy, I had fun putting the experience into words and hopefully showing a few readers that if I can do it, anyone can.

      Reply
    2. ryankulp October 30, 2014 at 2:22 am

      Thanks Jeremy, I had fun putting the experience into words and hopefully showing a few readers that if I can do it, anyone can.

      Reply
  2. Marvin Mathew May 7, 2015 at 3:03 am

    Seems like you’ve made some serious headway since then!

    Reply

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