About 6 months ago, I stumbled across Ramit Sethi. He had a blog post called "6 Ways to Get Your First Client." I honestly can't remember exactly how I stumbled across him, but I think I read the post because I wanted to learn how to send more engaging cold emails to people.
Anyway, after reading the blog I was hooked and immediately subscribed to his email list and bought his personal finance book I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
He started sending me a few emails (pre-written autoresponders) with amazing business advice. I learned a ton of things about online marketing and growing a business using modern technology.
As a headshot photographer running a business, I'm always on the lookout for new strategies to get more clients as efficiently as possible. And guess what the topic of one of the first emails he sent me was?
Stop trying so many new strategies to get more clients - just focus on a few core things.
I was blown away because that was exactly my problem! I kept trying all kinds of new things constantly, and I rarely ever followed through on just one thing to completion. I would get distracted whenever I heard about the "next big thing." And then I would lose much of the progress I made on my last idea. I kept running the same pattern over and over again like a hamster trapped in a wheel.
After a series of great emails that connected with me on a deep level, I was so hooked that I emailed him about investing in his course ZTL (Zero to Launch). Within 5 minutes he responded personally, asked me a bit about my business, and then said I should not join ZTL and instead wait for a more advanced (and more expensive) course called 6 Figure Consulting. The reason he gave was that I was further along in my business than most people who join ZTL, so I wouldn't get much out of it.
This was an interesting email to receive. First off, how often does someone tell you not to buy their product and to wait for a more expensive option? I'm sure I would have gotten some value from ZTL, but was he just trying to up-sell me (like a mean rich guy)? I rarely suggest to my clients that they wait and buy a more expensive headshot package if they want to buy a more affordable one right now. I want them to get what they can afford and get them at least rolling with some new headshots for the time being, until they can possibly afford something better down the line.
Now, normally the cost of Ramit's more expensive course would not be a problem, but I had just had many thousands of dollars of unexpected expenses, so I told him I'd wait 2-3 months before joining because I didn't want to spend the money right away. So he told me to email him whenever I was ready.
About a month later I emailed to ask him for some free advice (which is probably not the best thing to do when someone normally charges a ton of money for consulting services). He quickly emailed me back, saying that we had previously discussed joining his class, and that I already knew the next step. I replied that I was planning on joining in about a month now that business was picking up again and income was coming back in, and I asked whether a new strategy I had recently learned about was worth implementing in my business.
So what was his response?
At this point, I don't think the course is right for you. I'd encourage you to use my free material instead.
It came across as very mean and abrupt… That comment hurt and I got a little offended and angry by it.
Imagine if I were to email a client saying, "Honestly, I feel like you should just ask a friend to take your pictures for free. Our headshots are not right for you."
The person would probably get angry at me because it basically sounds like I'm saying, "Come back to me when you're serious. Our work is above you."
On his website, Ramit seems so cool, friendly, personable, and understanding. Why would he say something like that? It's just not what I was expecting at all.
Well, luckily I'm not the kind of person that takes things personally (or if I do, I get over it fast), and I always look at things from the perspective of "What's great about this?" (something I picked up from Tony Robbins).
So what was great about what he said?
I realized he's not actually just some mean rich guy. Ramit Sethi might be a genius.
He can read people like a book. I'm almost positive he sent me that message because he knew it would get me to take action.
Basically, by insinuating I wasn't good enough (or serious enough) for his paid classes, he asked me to prove him wrong.
And I was up for the challenge.
The reason I decided to write this post is because I think there's a HUGE lesson here for all photographers (and anyone else) reading this post who runs a business. How can you use tough love when it's necessary to get clients to take action to help themselves if you believe your product or service is the ethical and logical solution to their problem?
I'm positive Ramit was not sending that email with a sneaky reverse psychology intent to just get me to work hard and eventually join his course and pay him money. I'm sure he doesn't need my money. I believe his real motive was that he wanted me to get motivated to take action and break through my plateau! Whether I paid him or not didn't matter to him.
Ramit saw that I'm someone who loves a challenge, and so he sent me a message that challenged me. He loves to help people, and doesn't care if he comes off like a mean person while he's doing it - all he cares about is whether he gets through to people.
He is willing to risk looking bad just to help someone take their life (or business) to the next level.
If we all were like that... how awesome would that be?
I believe it's our moral obligation to be completely honest with people we care about (especially clients). We should recommend they wait and purchase a more expensive package later (or not work with us at all if we’re not a right fit). We shouldn't just give people what they want to make a sale if it won't truly provide them value. We shouldn't worry about what people think of us, but instead only worry about whether we are actually helping them.
I'm grateful for the metaphorical kick Ramit gave me via email because a few months later I did, in fact, join his 6 Figure Consulting course. I was so floored by what I learned there and the results I had (such as using a proposal template in the program to land the largest video production client we’ve ever had) that I also wound up investing in his Earn 1K program to learn even more.
Since following the 6 Figure Consulting program, City Headshots is on track to earn $200k more revenue this year, and I feel so much more confident in my business dealings with clients.
So to answer the initial question… is Ramit Sethi a mean rich guy or a genius? Honestly, I don't think he's either. I just think he’s a regular guy who cares about others more than himself.
And if we all shifted our focus outward instead of inward by helping others, I think we'd each be able to live a rich life and completely redefine our image.
What do you think of Ramit Sethi? And what do you think about being honest versus being nice? I'd love to hear from you.
Shoot me an email or leave a comment below. I personally read every response I get. 🙂
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I'm in the hiring process for a new photographer right now, so I figured I'd write an article explaining what I and other employers are looking for when we hire people. I've hired over 50 people since 2007 through my films, businesses, and personal life, and so I've developed a somewhat decent process to help me save time and ensure I consistently bring on the right people.
My goal with this article is to explain the most important things to consider when you're looking for a job or looking to move up in your career.