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

Side Income | Turn hobby into a side income. Free Audio shows you how Start A side Business and How To Freelance using your hobbies passions and interests.

Ramit Sethi

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

* * *


  • 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!
  • 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.

* * *

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  1. Aitor Calero García

    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. Michael Gioia

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

  3. Justin King

    @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. Quinny

    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. Writer's Coin

    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. FinanceDad

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

  7. Megan

    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. Megan

    @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. Megan

    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.

    • Ramit Sethi

      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. Vin

    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.

  11. John B

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

    • Ramit Sethi

      See the bottom of the post: Sign up at and I’ll send out the MP3 there.

  12. Stefanie

    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.

  13. Evan

    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.

  14. Kevin M

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

    From the desk of _____……

  15. Kevin M

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

    • Ramit Sethi

      Yeah take off your adblock.

  16. Vidya

    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.

  17. Mike

    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.

  18. Anoel

    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.

    • Ramit Sethi

      No, sorry, not for these. Transcripts cost $1/minute and frankly, I’m looking for the types of users who will find something like this useful enough to listen to it. Time indexes help.

  19. s7726

    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.

  20. Megan

    @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.

  21. Guy Bowring

    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.

  22. J

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

  23. Jeanne


    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 a big dilemma for me.

    However, after listening to this, I feel like I should stick with it–I signed up for the class for a reason, because I really wanted to spend more time learning ceramic techniques and having access to a wheel and a kiln (which I don’t have at home). My original idea was to launch an etsy shop to sell some of my work. So basically, I’ve realized that investing in myself is a good idea–and that $190 isn’t that high of a price to pay for what I’m going to receive from the class. Thanks!

  24. John B

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

  25. Mike Stankavich

    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.

  26. Dave

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

  27. John Massaglia

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

  28. MotivatedProcrastinator

    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!

  29. Scott

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

  30. I Got Money in the Bank » Blog Archive » Case study: How a venture capitalist started earning money on the …

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

  31. muffet mccleneghan

    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.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Ahhh this is my favorite comment of all! Hi Muffet. So great that you could drop by.

  32. Patrenia

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

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  34. Arti

    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?

  35. Elizabeth Godwin

    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.

  36. Janelle

    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 deal with customers, etc. And like Elizabeth said, you can’t burn yourself out. Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly working 24/7 when the orders pile up. So if you do decide to do a creative type of side business, make sure it’s really something you love and try not to bite of more than you can chew.

    If anyone is thinking about starting up, I say GO FOR IT! Even if you think your work isn’t worth anything….someone out there just might love it.

  37. SC

    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.

  38. Side-businesses – just go for it! « Whip it good

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  39. Kristen from FiLife

    Great interview – thanks for it!

  40. Ken Siew

    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, one more lesson from Muffet: You have to allow time in life to follow your passions. No explanations needed.

    Looking forward to the great contents in

  41. Sean Supplee

    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.

  42. Will Pickering

    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 breaking it down into sections, it’s great to listen to real life examples of how people succeeded. I also hit rock bottom today finance and mental healthwise coming across your website and this link completely turned my day around.

    Tomorrow I’m buying your book, tomorrow I’m starting my business, tomorrow I change my life,

    A massive thank you,

    Will Pickering

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  44. Sarah Hubbell

    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 go the cheap route I’m afraid I’ll get stuck on the set up because I’m a web moron. I’ve done pretty well so far using just my blog as my website.

  45. Katie

    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

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  47. Chloe

    What a great interview! This was awsome!!

  48. brad

    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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  50. InfoFish

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

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  53. Anonymous


  54. Anonymous


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