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Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning money on the side

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Don’t tell me you’re too busy to earn money on the side.

Today, learn how Elizabeth Weil (formerly a venture capital associate, now at Twitter) turned her hobby of arts & crafts into a side income selling via Paperwheel.com and to premium clients. She has so much demand that she’s sold out of products — and this is her side job.

Elizabeth does high-end letterpress printing — basically super-premium custom stationery — like these:

il_430xN.101665382
An example of Elizabeth’s high-end letterpress

Think back to yesterday’s framework on the 3 easiest ways to earn money. In Elizabeth’s case, since the letterpress stationery is hand-made custom for each client, this is a combination of freelancing and productization.

In this 25-minute interview, you’ll learn:

  • How she managed to make more doing letterpress than working at her venture-capital job!
  • How she rapidly tested her idea
  • Where she invested — and where she cut corners (and still does, to this day)
  • The systems she’s built to scale her work
  • How she manages time/productivity while working fulltime at Twitter

Listen to the interview here

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

* * *

Introduction

  • 0:29: How do you earn money on the side?
  • 1:44: What do you for your fulltime job?
  • 2:42: WTF is letterpress and how’d you get interested?
  • 4:02: I make fun of artists

Psychology

  • 4:18: How did you take your interest and turn it into extra income?
  • 5:30: What was the FIRST thing you did to get started?
  • 6:50: What investments did you make in yourself?
  • 6:57: (Rapid testing) Spending $200 or $500 on courses doesn’t come naturally to many people. How’d you decide to do that? How did investing in courses help you?
  • 8:53: What barriers did you come across?
  • 9:58: Crushing barriers: Nervous about delivering to your first customers. How’d you get over that?

Tactics

  • 12:26: How did you find your first paying customer?
  • 14:04: First order of $250 sounds like a lot. Is that average? (Notice how Elizabeth understands her business in terms of the different kinds of costs. This takes a long time to get. You don’t need to understand it all from day 1.)
  • 14:42: Freelancing + productization, and how to simultaneously sell products and services.
  • 15:14: She’s sold out on Etsy!
  • il_430xN.114128840

  • 16:32: How she systematized her side income as she grew.
  • 18:56: How long did it take her to set up a website? (Notice her answer — 4 years! And she’s still doing incredibly well.) This is where people waste so much time earning money. I’ll cover more of prioritization and productivity soon.)
  • 20:14: Let’s talk numbers. How she made more doing this side job than working at her venture-capital salary.

Time management with a full-time job

  • 21:10: How do you do this while holding down a busy full-time job?
  • 21:57: Did you tell your boss you have a side job?
  • 23:00: How do you think about a side income? Fun money? The multiplicative effects of staying busy + earning money.

* * *

Make More Money

Get advanced strategies to earn more: You’ll find more case studies — including someone who turned down over $100,000 of side income — plus an MP3 download of this interview with Elizabeth. And lots more unannounced techniques to help you earn more – just join my private Earn1K insider’s list below:


(Can’t see the form? Click here.)

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60 Comments on "Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning money on the side"

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Aitor Calero García
6 years 8 months ago
Great story. My wife, but sadly no me, has the same type of art abilities to launch such a side-income business. This podcast has inspired me to encourage her to do something similar. Mainly, because I know that this is one of the things she would really love to do. From my side, I am have now started my own blog (in Spanish) and that has bring me some side-income as a (yet poorly) paid blogger for other sites. The good news are that, following some of your tips, we have started to take the control of our money. Do… Read more »
Michael Gioia
6 years 8 months ago

Great story, it was awesome to hear the process from how she got started up to present day. Thanks Ramit and Elizabeth

Justin King
6 years 8 months ago

@Aitor, maybe that’s a good idea for you for a side business, translating popular blogs into Spanish. Come to think about it, there are very few international transcriptions of popular blogs in either the West or the East

Definitely something to think about.

Ramit, I love that you do things like this. It’s one of the things that keeps me coming back again and again. Thanks a lot and thanks Elizabeth for taking the time!

Quinny
Quinny
6 years 8 months ago

I found this site today through your post on getrichslowly and wanted to let you know that this post is right up my alley. I’m in the creative industry and it’s exactly the kind of inspiration and information I’m looking for. Especially the part about the website. Best to get your products out there and test them on the public asap than wait for a perfect site-those things can take a while. So thanks Elizabeth for your words of wisdom and Ramit for this site!

Looking forward to more stuff like this.

Writer's Coin
6 years 8 months ago

Love the push from the husband to just get that press. THat’s showing some real confidence and support. And I also like that this wasn’t planned as a business from the start. Feels real pure and I’m sure that’s part of the reason for the success. Congrats!

FinanceDad
FinanceDad
6 years 8 months ago

I love these interviews, keep ’em coming, thanks.

Megan
Megan
6 years 8 months ago

Awesome interview! — Great points made! Great questions, great answers! – Now we’re rollin’! Thank you, Ramit!

BTW… since we started this Earn More Money thread, I got an account at PBworks and was approached for what sounds like a great money-making project — few months hard work for 20% of sales commission, that just keeps coming in as long as the clients I find for them remain clients. —- Have to check out the company’s background, financials, etcetera. But I’m excited 🙂

Megan
Megan
6 years 8 months ago

@Aitor — You know, eBay was started by a husband creating a way for his wife to make money with her talents 🙂 You may find that you two make a great money-making team!

Megan
Megan
6 years 8 months ago
OK, one more post: I mis-spoke earlier…. I was not APPROACHED with an opportunity, I jumped into a conversation and GRABBED it. I met the daughter of a friend for the first time, and she was overwhelmed because she has a family, two jobs and a kid in after-school activities, but she had stumbled on a fantastic opportunity…. I saw a person who needed help to make a lot of money and told her I’d be happy to work for her in whatever capacity she needed. SHE WAS DELIGHTED! She sent me all the background and next steps in an… Read more »
Vin
Vin
6 years 8 months ago
Great stuff, Ramit. I think the main take away is this: Anyone looking to earn money on the side should really examine what it is they love to do. Period. We all have day jobs that we work at to make money. Even if we enjoy our industry, our passion is often stripped from us by the drag of day to day monotony. Get excited! Analyze your personal loves and passions and see how you can extract value you from them – without sacrificing the sanctity of what made you love this interest in the first place. Personally, this post… Read more »
John B
6 years 8 months ago

Hey Ramit, do you have this as a downloadable MP3? I want to listen to it during my commute.

Stefanie
Stefanie
6 years 8 months ago

I am not able to view the video just yet, but I’m really excited to get home and do so.
Regarding Megan’s comments, I believe we need to be especially careful of pyramid schemes, or sales jobs where our income depends on getting customers or recruiting fellow sales people and taking a percentage of their sales.

Evan
6 years 8 months ago

This is going to be the FIRST podcast I have ever listen to! I usually skip of them. I am not sure if it was you selling it (and the 3 day build up lol) or if it is the topic.

Kevin M
Kevin M
6 years 8 months ago

Cool story, the notepads are 100x better than the standard:

From the desk of _____……

Kevin M
Kevin M
6 years 8 months ago

Ramit, there’s nothing to sign up for on the earn1k.com site, just a blank page. Am I missing something?

Vidya
Vidya
6 years 8 months ago

I’m a big fan of Paperwheel and I’m excited to see that you’ve featured Elizabeth here today! I need to go home and watch the video.

Mike
6 years 8 months ago

Great interview! Elizabeth, you’re an inspiration to us all.

Ramit, thos were some really great questions. I really appreciate the questions about psychological barriers and balancing a full-time job and freelance.

Thanks! Keep up the good work.

Anoel
Anoel
6 years 8 months ago

Can you PLEASE do transcripts for audio/video stuff? I’m not going to listen/watch when for me it’s a waste of time since I can read a LOT faster than I listen/watch and don’t have to turn off my music to do it.

s7726
s7726
6 years 8 months ago

Loved the interview.
Couple side notes:
1. If you could work out the volume difference between you and her it would be nice. When I could hear you at a whisper, she was screaming at me.
2. Could you add a “Share This” style button to your blog posts, I’d like to send them around via twitter, facebook, email, etc. I think my friends could really benefit from your stuff as well.

Megan
Megan
6 years 8 months ago

@Anoel: You can pause the videos, and come right back to where you left off. I’m listening to them in the background at work when I’m doing mindless tasks. Works great! — Or glance at the time stamp if you have to log off. Works on Ustream too.

Guy Bowring
6 years 8 months ago

Great interview. I was amazed to hear about the parallels with my own experience (your side-biz being your outlet because it’s what you love).

Now while my side-biz hasn’t equalled my day job pay yet (soon!), I would love to hear about those “tough days” at the day job about keeping yourself “emotionally invested” in the day job! 🙂

Thanks again for the interview.

J
J
6 years 8 months ago

Ramit, I am now even more excited about this series! What a great, fun way to start things off.

Jeanne
6 years 8 months ago
Ramit, The part of this that really struck a chord with me was that she spent money on classes to invest in herself AS OPPOSED TO just buying stuff and fiddling around with it without training. I’m in college, and for the last week, I’ve been trying to decided if I should stay in one of the classes that I enrolled in, even though it wasn’t required. To stay in this class (ceramics, by the way), it’s costing me $190 more in tuition than if I just took my required classes. Right now, money’s super tight, so this has been… Read more »
John B
6 years 8 months ago

Re #12 & #13 I’m already signed up! Looking forward to getting started.

Mike Stankavich
6 years 8 months ago

I found this interview inspiring and relevant. I particularly noted that Elizabeth avoids burnout because her side project is so different than her day job. I tend to get burned out because what I do on the side is fundamentally the same as what I do in the day job.

If you’re considering several possibilities, be sure to give the variety/novelty from your day job some weight in the decision process.

Dave
Dave
6 years 8 months ago

New posts every day makes me a happy boy, but enough reading (and now listening)! Time for doing. Thanks! See you.

John Massaglia
John Massaglia
6 years 8 months ago

I signed up on the earn1k.com site and I still can’t figure out how to download the mp3.

MotivatedProcrastinator
MotivatedProcrastinator
6 years 8 months ago
What a well put together interview. It was choc full of things to take note. Interesting that it took her 4 years to complete a website. It was surprising that this “side” run business/hobby overtook her 1st income. I also agree with Jeanne that there was SOME ‘learning’ as well as ‘money’ investment put into this business up-front. Awesome return! We can recognize that she implemented smart steps that were in alignment with her success! Bravo! I am surprised you don’t have a “share this” button! I would love to easily share around the web this is great stuff!
Scott
Scott
6 years 8 months ago

I was already signed up at earn1k.com apparently, and it didn’t let me download the mp3. Gave it a listen though and found it really informative.

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[…] the original: Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning money on the … January 8th, 2010 in […]

muffet mccleneghan
muffet mccleneghan
6 years 8 months ago

I’m Elizabeth’s mother and have known Ramit since junior high! Enjoyed the interview. Two very talented people doing what they love to do. You have to allow time in life to follow your passions. Enough from mom.

Patrenia
6 years 8 months ago

Great, great interview Ramit! I’m inspired by you and her story!

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[…] How a side business goes full time […]

Arti
Arti
6 years 8 months ago

Hello folks. Has the email with the mp3 already been sent out? I am part of the mailing list but haven’t received anything related to this post yet. Dunno if I missed the email?

Elizabeth Godwin
Elizabeth Godwin
6 years 8 months ago

Thanks so so much for this! I have been looking to earn more money doing something similar, but was sort of overwhelmed because I don’t really know what I’m doing and don’t have it figured out. I had slowed down because I don’t know a lot about websites or e-commerce, and also had a lack of confidence in my crafts, but it’s good to hear that I don’t have to be perfect at it. LOVE success stories and love your site.

Janelle
6 years 8 months ago
Great to hear a success story from another creative Etsy seller! I learned to sew via blog tutorials and a couple $20 Japanese craft books. I made so many little toys as a hobby that I decided to sell them. And the rest is history! I started my side business for hand sewn toys this past March and I’m doing very well with over 120+ sales. Having a full time job and having a side business definitely isn’t easy. You have to do a lot of research: competition and their pricing, evaluation of your own pricing, shipping, learning how to… Read more »
SC
6 years 8 months ago

Thanks for all of this, Ramit.

My friends think I’ll be a successful serial entrepreneur if I ever get a big enough kick in the pants to carry through with my ideas. I am looking for a big kick with earn1k.

trackback

[…] 10, 2010 · Leave a Comment It’s great to listen to an interview on I Will Teach You To be Rich,  by an entrepreneur with a full-time job (at Twitter!). Elizabeth gets to indulge and earn an […]

Kristen from FiLife
6 years 8 months ago

Great interview – thanks for it!

Ken Siew
6 years 8 months ago
This is probably the best interview I’ve listened here so far! Love your letterpress too, Elizabeth. I’ve learned 2 great lessons here: 1) rapid test to see if you’d do something consistently, don’t worry about investing some money upfront. It really takes money to make money down the road. 2) don’t set up any type of barriers for yourself by trying to perfect all the details such as setting up a website, having a logo. Basically, stop being a perfectionist and just go out and take action. This is a huge reminder to myself not to get trapped psychologically. Opps,… Read more »
Sean Supplee
6 years 8 months ago

Awesome interview and right to the point. It’s so true so many people make up reasons why they cant make money on the side or even full time from home etc. Instead of using that effort to take action and get things done.

Will Pickering
Will Pickering
6 years 8 months ago
Ramit (& Elizabeth).. Thank You. I’ve been out of university for just over two years and have come to realize the pay cheque to pay cheque struggle is definitely not for me. I want more control of the financial part of my life. I’m a talented designer/creative type and have been thinking & researching ways I can use my skills but have been going around in circles for the last year thinking how I’m going to go about it. Thankfully I came across your website (through Tim Ferris’s blog) this interview has helped deconstruct it nicely for me. Thanks for… Read more »
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[…] Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning money on the side. 25-minute audio interview where we cover mindset, tactics, and shortcuts to earn more on the side, even if you’re insanely busy. […]

Sarah Hubbell
6 years 8 months ago
Awesome interview, thanks so much Ramit!! Agree with the volume difficulties. Also I know it’s personal info, but I would have loved to hear some hard numbers in terms of salary and revenue. I’m an engineer but have a side biz as a professional portrait photographer so I understand about the left brain/right brain comments she made. I have struggled a bit with the website issue, I have a blog but most pro photogs have a particular kind of website that I would probably need to pay someone at least a bit of money for…template are available but if I… Read more »
Katie
Katie
6 years 8 months ago

Hi Ramit,

Really enjoy your posts. Just wondering if it is possible to download the audio – I get more time to listen to podcasts on my iPod, and I would love to listen to this interview.

Thanks, take care

trackback

[…] was inspired by a podcast interview I heard this morning conducted by Ramit Sethi (Author of I Will Teach You to be Rich) and Elizabeth […]

Chloe
Chloe
6 years 8 months ago

What a great interview! This was awsome!!

brad
brad
6 years 8 months ago

Hi Ramit,
Just a quick tip to others – the audio clip would only play for me in FireFox. All the other browsers I tried (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari) played at most 2 minutes of the clip.

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[…] Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning money on the side | I Will Teach You To Be Rich. […]

InfoFish
InfoFish
6 years 8 months ago

This is GREAT. SO GREAT! Thank you for this interview. I’m starting to “get” it. Thank you, Ramit!!

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[…] « Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning more money on the side (audio) […]

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[…] a survey of over 1,000 people that I recently did, the #1 reason people don’t start earning money on the side is this: They don’t know what to […]

Anonymous
6 months 24 days ago

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Anonymous
6 months 24 days ago

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[…] of the 3 primary ways to earn money, the easiest way to earn money on the side is tostart a freelance business, meaning you take your skills and turn them into direct income. It costs virtually nothing to get […]

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