Student Success Story (WIP) with Adrien Sanborn

By Adrien Sanborn

Today’s success story is a little different. We’re co-titling it a “WIP” or work in progress. After some back and forth communication with Adrien, we challenged him to a feature to share what he learned from Double Your Freelancing Rate and why he wasn’t yet as successful as he wanted to be.

Our aim is to tell his story and hold him accountable to his goals for the second half of this year. He’s declaring his intentions publicly in today’s blog post and we’re going to follow-up with him later this year to ensure he keeps his word. How’s that for a case study? PS: Don’t forget to check out last week’s with Jeff Bronson

If you’ve taken DYFR and want to accept a similar challenge, share why. 

Adrien Sanborn is half of the partership behind Adrien Design, which he runs with his wife, Yuko. He went solo in February 2014, but has been doing small freelance projects for the past few years.


What got you into freelancing? Was it what you expected?

I was an English teacher in Japan. I taught in middle school for six years. Amazingly, the longer you do the work (in my city, anyway) the LOWER your pay gets — shorter contracts and straight-up pay cuts of 10% or so have been the trend recently. With two small daughters, the pressure to provide was growing.

My wife said, “we’re going to be spending our savings soon anyway, so let’s take the dive!” She was right, the only way to escape the ceiling was to take the risk. I wanted more fulfilling work, and more potential for earning. I didn’t know what I know now about how to position yourself for better rates, so even then, my expectations were bleak.

I loved writing CSS and JavaScript, and I literally didn’t know why web design was so valuable. So, I thought my desire to land $5,000+ projects was actually a bit selfish!

Why did you decide to enroll in Double Your Freelancing Rate?

After months and months of NO RESULTS, lots of bleeding and uncomfortable negotiations with clients — I had an experience that changed my life.

I contacted a magician who was published in a local free paper and who had no website. We talked about working together, but my approach to these initial meetings was very unrefined. He ended up giving me lots of advice about how to appeal to clients, and he told me about my competition — another solo designer/developer.

We had a second meeting where my partner and I tried to refine our pitch, and he once again gave me advice, showing me the competition’s pitch documents. He ended up going with her because he thought she was more professional, more clear and more convincing on the value. She was also cheaper by a couple hundred bucks.

“I raced to the bottom and LOST.”

He was right that I was missing something, but I thought he was wrong about what it was.

That’s when I searched around hard to figure out what to do, who to talk to, what to learn, etc. Someone referred me to Double Your Freelance and reading through the blog posts and the short email course was one of the most exhilarating experiences ever. I never would have set the goal of $100/hour, even! And Brennan was talking about setting your sights even higher!

The critical point, however, was the anxiety I faced trying to follow his advice — I didn’t know the first thing to advise new contacts on. I had no idea how to write a valuable email newsletter.

I started learning about conversions, analytics, SEO and marketing like a madman. Now I have services that I can offer with value.

What’s currently holding you back from being more successful?

What’s holding me back now are two things:

  1. I have no numbers or case studies proving that I can deliver results — I just have theory and concepts that I understand.
  2. I have only done generalist web work — I need to get more experience with my niche, English Education Providers.

What would you like to accomplish in your business by the end of 2015?

By the end of 2015 I would like to:

  1. Have a good handful of English Education Provider clients
  2. Have case studies that appeal to more of these clients
  3. Know more about the specific problems they face
  4. Have a steady income and break out of the red (having enough to start investing again would be nice, of course)
  5. Redo my marketing for our new niched focus

Thanks for sharing Adrien! Now get out there and get it done. We’ll be here cheering you on along the way.

AdrienAdrien and his wife, Yuko, are both skilled designers that together run Adrien Design, a print and web design company in Nagoya, Japan. Being Yuko is Japanese and Adrien is a native English speaker, they have the distinct advantage to service both cultures.

The fact that they’re both bilingual doesn’t hurt either. Working with them means no funny translations — and even better, content that is catered to each independent audience. Adrien and Yuko also have the unique ability to blend these influences as desired.