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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 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:

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.

* * *


  • 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


  • 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?


  • 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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  1. 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 you have plans to have your book translated into Spanish?

    Thank you very much for this awesome blog!

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

  3. @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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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

  7. 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 🙂

  8. @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!

  9. 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 email within 2 hours.

    Another friend of mine who is always talking about wanting to make money on the side was in the same room – and would have said nothing. It never occured to her to offer her services for part of the pie.

    My advice is: BE READY! Never leave the house without your PERSONAL business cards. This woman hadn’t even thought about the fact she really needed help, until I OFFERED to help.

    And when I realized I could prove to be even more valuable to the entire effort than what we initially discussed…. I emailed her a description of how I could help her succeed in a big way, using my REAL skills… and asked her how much THAT would be worth to her.

    • Glad you liked the interview! Elizabeth is terrific.

      Megan, I love your comment. Earning more is not about waiting for it to happen to you. You got off your ass, identified an opportunity, and proactively offered a solution. Now THAT’S how you do it. Well done.

      [Edit: But be wary of commission schemes. Pay-for-service or pay-for-product is best.]

  10. 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 got my wheels turning. I was able to add a few more “skills” to my list of potential money earning opportunities. I’m still very much in the dark about how I will create value from these skills, but I have hope.

    I think my point here is to do something that you love to do, just like Elizabeth. If you choose to jump on the bandwagon of a current trend, will you be happy? Will it last?

    …Just something to think about.