Student Success Story with Celina Wong

By Celina Wong

We’re continuing to share a different story every couple of weeks of how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing (check out last week’s with yours truly, Gina Horkey!). 

If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why.


My name is Celina and I have been a subscriber of yours since 2014. Back then, I attended one of your webinars where you talked about the importance of understanding your target market’s needs and positioning your business around those needs. I also remember you had a question from a freelancing artist in the audience about applying that concept in the world of design and art. 

That moment stuck with me. 

Ever since then, I have been trying to use your material to create my freelancing career… and I am happy to tell you that I finally managed and quit my banker job seven months ago. I now earn at a rate of $100 per hour to sustain my lifestyle as a story-time illustrator.

Hi Celina! Tell us about yourself; who are you and what do you for fun?

Hi, my name is Celina! I am a 26-year-old former wealth manager turned freelance artist.

I also spend a lot of time teaching my fellow artists how to make more money, telling them where I learned the tools of the trade (thanks Brennan!) and hoping that they’ll stop cutting themselves short!

As for what I do for fun, I enjoy a lot of muay thai and compete in local competitions just for fun.

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

I got into freelancing in a completely accidental manner, as I started having a fanbase with my artwork and people started asking me for “commissions.”

In the beginning, I was over the moon and thought that maybe I could retire and just draw for the rest of my life… but then reality set in when I realized it was literally impossible to make a living. Not when your audience was only willing to pay $15 per drawing anyway.

In that way, it wasn’t what I expected… but ever since I started to follow Brennan’s advice and started to target my market, the life that I am leading is every single bit of what I expected a successful freelancer’s to be.

Tell us about your hardest moment as an entrepreneur to date.

The hardest moment I ever had was when I found out that an artist I heavily respected (someone that has 16,000 subscribers to her name!) only earned $24 per month. And I only found out because she had gotten to the point of begging for donations to make her living.

It was beyond crushing. That revelation coupled with my Asian family background, really reinforced the idea that art was a poor career choice in my own head.

After that I stopped for a month. And thought I should settle with my corporate job and just climb the corporate ladder.

Then out of nowhere I started looking for examples of successful artists. As I dug deeper for them, I realized why some people succeeded and others failed.

It wasn’t simply persistence, as most people think. It’s also positioning, personal branding and truly understanding your audience.

It was a tough lesson. It would have been tougher if I went through it myself, but it’s definitely one that I keep in mind at all times.

On the flip side, what’s been your biggest success so far?

My biggest success is definitely closing my first $1,000 project.

It was also a rare moment when I actually drew an advertisement campaign for a company (though it was because I knew the founder of that company very well).

In retrospect, $1,000 isn’t a small sum, but it isn’t a huge sum either. And it could definitely have went for a lot higher – now that I am more experienced and realize what a good deal that was.

However, hitting that magic number of $1,000 allowed me to learn what worked and how to really get into people’s head. It also allowed me to discard what really didn’t work in the past.

Reaching that $1,000 benchmark changed my mentality in three distinct ways:

  1. I realized that it is definitely possible to make a lot of money doing what I do.
  2. It affirmed that I can definitely do this.
  3. I started to grasp the “hot buttons” of my market.

Ever since that experience (even though I still focused mainly on B2C instead of B2B), I realized that a lot of what Brennan teaches here can still be readily applied in a B2C business.

Basically, you really just need to cut through your own BS.

What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Brennan’s course?

Oh, definitely my mentality.

When I first started reading and listening to Brennan’s material, I actually thought to myself that it was impossible, because I don’t run a B2B business and he does. There was a lot of mental noise telling me how his advice couldn’t help me.

If it wasn’t about how I don’t run a B2B business, it was about how I am not living in America… or even more extreme, I once thought that I never won anything, so OBVIOUSLY I am not going to be lucky enough to pull this off.

But eventually I realized that all of those super negative thoughts were basically excuses to stop me from trying and succeeding.

The inside of a mind is a strange place… but once you realize how ridiculous your thoughts can be, you realize you can also stop listening to them and start taking action.

What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?

Oh, there is so much to learn from Brennan’s material!

Here are the three most important takeaways that contributed to my success:

  1. Niche down! Find and focus on a very specific niche. This is super important because it brings us to the next step…
  2. Really, really understand your market and your potential client’s head space. This brings us back to what Brennan always talks about with positioning. You can only position yourself well if you understand what you are trying to position around.
  3. Most importantly, don’t ever low-ball yourself. It isn’t worth it and there really isn’t any upside to it. I am not saying that you should charge $300 per hour right from the beginning, but rather that you shouldn’t do those $15 drawings. There are much, much better prospects out there — and the higher rate you start with, the easier it is to find better clients.

And the faster you find better clients, the faster you’ll be able to build a relationship with them to sell yourself at a higher value.

What are you most excited about for your business in 2016?

I am most excited about the new step that I am about to take with my art career! I have decided to start sharing my story to the world, starting with the place that influenced my career the most.

Hopefully with that, I will be able to help artists find their way through the fabled mess of a freelancing career. 🙂

DSCF0428Seven months ago Celina Wong gave her corporate job a giant middle finger as she left work behind to become a full-time story-time illustrator. Since then she’s been able to grow her former side hobby into a full-time job that gives her the freedom to work wherever she wants. Celina’s been on a mission ever since to prove that the stereotype of starving artists is untrue!