Case Study: How Julia went from $8 to $125 per hour

Ramit Sethi


Think about what it would mean to go from $8/hour to $125/hour. It’s a complete socio-economic shift — you have the ability to save, plan ahead, and buy things you would never be able to do at $8/hour.

Today, an amazing story about how one of my students did just that — even though she had no idea what she could possibly do to earn more money on the side.

This is Julia, whose dream was to earn $1,000 on the side. It seems like a pretty modest goal, but what if you don’t have an idea? Where do you start?

You could start by checking out some past case studies of my students who earned more on the side, using ideas like…

All of those people went through my Earn1K course on earning money on the side. A few of them already had their idea before joining, but most didn’t.

It doesn’t matter. Knowing how you want to earn your side income is NOT a prerequisite for joining Earn1K.

Today, I’m going to tell you about Julia, an Earn1K student who realized her marketable idea was right in front of her face: The service she provided for $8.00 per hour at a summer job, drawing caricatures, now earns her $125 per hour on the side. Where she used to earn $64 in a full 8-hour day, she now makes nearly twice that in one hour.

Here’s the story.

How was I going to make another $1,000 per month?

Julia didn’t consider herself an “entrepreneur”.

At 24 years old, she had been working at a non-profit for the last 8 years. “I like it. Great company. The work is good – fulfilling. I have great bosses. They are very flexible with my school schedule. I really have a good gig.”

Julia was putting herself through school to become an accountant, but when she decided to transfer to another college in a new city, she had a problem. She couldn’t take the job with her and worried about going broke.

“I wanted a buffer. A little security. Something so when I moved I wasn’t completely destitute.”

$22 an hour, 20 hours a week wasn’t enough. She needed to earn more.

“My pinnacle of success — where I’d be like, ‘I’m here, I’ve really made it’ — was actually just to make $1000 per month with a side gig. It was something to strive for, but I never thought I’d actually get there. I didn’t really know how to do anything people would pay for.”

Julia had a goal, but no idea for her side business.

That’s when she found I Will Teach You To Be Rich. “When Earn1K came up…I didn’t really know what I wanted to do — but I signed up anyway.”

The $25,000 Idea

While watching the second lesson in Earn1K, “Pick Your Field”, Julia realized her assumptions about ‘not having a marketable skill’ were all wrong. Even better, not only did she have a skill, but she already knew people would pay for it.

“I had taken a summer job at a California theme park drawing caricatures. When you said, “find something you’re good at,” it clicked with me. We were charging people $25 per face at the park, which is a ridiculous amount of money for a caricature. So it kind of dawned on me. People are willing to pay for this. I already know how to do it. If I could just market to a different segment that would pay me more than minimum wage, then I could do this!”

She had her first profitable idea.

In a later lesson, Julia narrowed down her target market and started reaching out to potential customers.

“I straight-up plagiarized Ramit’s script — the qualifying leads one. I used that and I decided I was going to target schools because they have all kinds of events. Four emails later I got my first response: ‘Oh, fantastic. You can come to our next event.’ I thought, ‘Wow, this works.’”

Julia made $200 for her first two-hour gig.

She tried weddings next. “I used the exact same script — it’s pure gold. So I like doing weddings because I can make someone’s face look all crazy, and people are always crowded around going ‘Oh, this is so great, and people tip really well. At one event, they paid me $200 for the two-hour and I made $300 in tips.”

But it turns out the big money is in conventions.

“I got someone on elance to generate a list of all the marketing people putting on conventions near my apartment. Then I started reaching out to them one by one. These guys are already spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on the event, so what’s another four hundred bucks? And with all my new marketing, I used my Earn1K script – it’s my little silver bullet.”

Julia earned $6,700 in the last few months of 2011, and has $18,500 in business on the books for 2012. “A few of those gigs I haven’t completed yet, by the end of the year I’ll have made about $25,000.”

All for doing something she loves to do.

“It feels great. I know I can make it as a freelancer. I made $4,000 in June, and I know I can do even better. Plus, I’ve got my buffer now. If worse comes to worst, I could survive off my emergency fund for 9 months.”

Like many of my Earn1K students, Julia noticed the emotional benefits, too. “Your mindset changes. You become a much more active person in your life. It’s different than earning a paycheck. I can see how the results of what I do has a direct impact on my income, and it’s made me a more outgoing and active person. You’re more aware, more alive and involved in your life. You aren’t just passively sitting there letting things happen to you. You just kind of go for it.”



From $125 an hour to $250 an hour

Now that Julia has a sustainable income from her side business, she’s working on increasing her earning power.

“I farm out some of the gigs to other artists, but the big thing is I’m learning digital caricatures. You draw directly on this little computer and project it onto a big screen. People get a digital copy they can print out. It’s a more complicated setup but you can charge 2.5x more per hour for it. $250. That’s where I’m hoping to go next. If you can break into that it’s a really sweet gig. The artists who are good at it are getting flown around the country.”

The sky’s the limit.

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  1. Stanley Lee

    Happy to hear Julia’s success. However, wouldn’t she run into trouble with the lawyer effect at $250/hour if she tries to scale her business even more? What do you think is the best way to package her offers and benefits going forward as she’s moving to digital drawing?

    • Ramit Sethi

      There are so many ways to grow the business:
      – Build relationships with companies and get paid a hefty day rate to do caricatures of employees (we actually hired a caricature artist to do this at my last company)
      – Go back to existing customers and ask if they want caricatures of their entire family (package deal)
      – Hire another artist to work under her as a contractor/employee

      And at least 10 other ways to “scale” the business. I cover all of this in Earn1K.

    • Stanley Lee

      Thanks for revealing some examples before your appearance on CreativeLive. I’m shocked to learn that you hired a caricature artist at PBWorks. Sounds like a lot of referrals and outsourcing involved, as I have a hard time picturing how retainers work in this example.

      P.S. I’m just giving you a hard time in public as a test.

    • David Hunter

      Ha! I love the caricature of Ramit. Badass!

  2. AD

    Great job, Julia! As an Earn 1K student, I definitely relate to this post and what she says about a change in mindset.

    Btw, that caricature of Ramit almost made me spit my coffee onto my laptop. Hilarious.

  3. Kylie

    Julia, this is SO awesome. I especially love that you were proactive about reaching out (duh, right?). It makes so much sense that larger organizations like schools, and conferences like you mentioned, would of course be able to pay the higher price point. I’m so impressed!

  4. Brent

    Congrats, Julia!

    Aside note, the “send me the script” code is broken.

  5. Thora Bott

    I would love to know more on how your earn your money?

  6. Åsa Roth

    Great success story! I am officially jealous. I have for the last year or two worked hard on finding my business idea. Listening to you and other experts in the field. I know I am a good leader and business administrator. Very systematic, finance focused and result oriented. And that is what I love doing. My skill is not very “hands on” like Julia’s. I have hobbies but they are not areas I necessary would want to start a business in. How do I work from that? What is it that I don’t see? Ramit? Anybody?

  7. Grace

    Haha this is amazing! I smiled when I saw the caricature of Ramit…didn’t even notice he was standing on a pile of money!

  8. Govind

    Great work Julia and congrats for your success.
    Success is very much depends upon the goal set,what initiative we have taken to achieve the goal and how we are working on it. Just setting the goal is not enough to be success but planning and working that too dedicatedly to achieve the goal will help us more to be success.

  9. Natalie F

    Such a great success story! I personally am also interested in the art field, and drawing caricatures is such a great creative outlet, its fantastic that Julia made money off of doing something she loves! Best of luck!

  10. Darby

    Wow Julia congratulations! It is so great and inspiring to hear about someone successfully building a side income from scratch, especially with a “non-conventional” skill. Also your caricature of Ramit is spot on so you’re obviously very talented. 🙂

  11. Elina

    I reading this from last three years to earn high in an hour , but when I started blogging I founding we cant earn fast beside this we need much hard work to build our tower. Realy you thinks your opinion works?

  12. Sunil @ CPA Career Success

    congratulations to you Julia. great post and great initiative Ramit.

    this is a real scenario, one that happens often once the mind set is shifted. i continue to coach many of my students. i have had so many take the solo route after spending 3-5 years in corporate. when they go on their own, i suggest the same – but the key is the mind set and a unique perspective.

    i had a student who did taxes at a big four firm for 3 years. when he got out, he did taxes on the side for small businesses and high net worth individuals. his quadrupled his salary from 65k to $250kish per year.

    not every situation will be the same, but the key take away is that you can certainly increase your effective hourly wage with certain shifts in mindset, approach and execution.

    i also coached an accountempts employee who was later my student to go from $15 an hour to over $50 an hour. a much smaller scale than the above but nonetheless example of possibilities.

  13. Robby Goodwin

    Great Work, Julia!
    I was wondering if julia ever heard a book that is published annually called the ’20XX Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Art’?
    You can find it on Amazon or at any bookstore.
    It’s a book with contact information for every book & magazine publisher, website, greeting card company, etc. that hires artist/ illustrators.

    Websites and magazines always needs someone who can draw caricatures.
    Especially in this current celebrity-obsessed world we live in.

    • Pete Wagner

      There was a similar guide published for about five years, edited by Bob Staake when he was focusing on caricaturing (he’s now moved to children’s books), in the early 1990s. But it died partly because there is VERY little demand for caricature or any other kind of cartoon or comic art these days. There was a great article in the Village Voice five or six years ago, “If cartooning is so hot, how come they can’t get paid for it?” or something like that. And the amounts the publishers were willing to pay was ridiculous, like $25 for a cartoon that would take 15 hours to conceive, draw, send out, include sase’s, etc.

  14. Anca

    This was a really great case study. Enough to make me want to brush off the dust on my Earn1K materials.

  15. Srinivas Venkataraman

    Hard to believe, but you are proving it :- )

  16. dsebd

    Fantastic story. I wish If I could earn that much money on per hour basis like Julia. I have set my goal and working according to my plan. But, I find it very difficult to be successful in my targeted goal when I am doing 9 am – 6 pm job and for six days a week. I don’t know how Julia managed her gigs after doing the office job, but this story is really inspiring and I give thanks to Earn1k to produce such talented students.

  17. Pete Wagner

    For those whose main goal is to make money and caricaturing is seen as a viable way to do it, I think setting up concessions at theme parks is probably much more lucrative than going after trade shows and conventions. It seems to be an overlooked market or “best kept secret.” There are so few concession owners/operators but so many theme parks. Most of the ones that have caricatures have at least three stands with several artists at each stand. When I looked into it 20 years ago or more, the artists were getting 33%, the concession owner 33% and the park 33% but today if Julie’s report of $8.50 per hour is correct, the concessionaire must be getting a LOT more. Personally, I don’t like to see caricaturing overcommercialized, I am finding that it is losing its popularity among the general public due to overexposure and because the “artists” are either ham-handed in their attempts at “humor,” or like the ones being done by Julie’s company, which are very nicely drawn and good likenesses and beautifully finished, are more like party favors than comedy, and people just aren’t THAT thrilled with them as they are with the ones that really get them laughing. After theme parks, I think the best way to make money from caricature-related activities is to set oneself up as a guru and capitalize on the huge number of wannabees. Again, I don’t advocate this, I actually try to discourage them because there is such a glut, but I’d rather see more business minded types get into both of those areas and generate some competition for the current moguls because so much damage is being done to the popularity of caricature by them, I think competition might help shake loose some of the worst operators.

    • Pete Wagner

      btw, when there were just a few of us in each major city doing caricaturing at events 20 years ago, I had my hourly rates at about $95, then by 2000 I was up to $120, and by 2005 I was getting about $140 in Minneapolis. And there was already a lot of “competition” here. A friend who is a caricaturist in Seattle, where there were very few other caricaturists until just eight or nine years ago, was up to $250 an hour for paper-and-pencil caricatures. Because there are so many others here now, at least 30 actively self-promoting with websites, etc. and many more working through party agencies, my ability to increase my rates stopped about eight years ago. And I now find I have to give slight discounts to about $125-130 for some clients and my friend in Seattle is down below $180. So the glut of trainees from the parks is deflating prices. I have no certainty of how they do at theme parks but I suspect it has to be high enough for the concession owner to make at least $800k a year at most, assuming they have six artists or more and an open season of 100 days or more. Do the math.

  18. Joowon Park

    I just found out about your blog after purchasing creative live videos!! Still on the fifth video but loving it. Literally the most enjoyable lecture I’ve seen in college by far…