How I got paid $20/hour during high school

Ramit Sethi

When I was in high school, I knew nothing about sports, I got the worst scores in my math class, I had no game with girls…

…but I could write.

I decided I wanted to get a different job than just working at the pizza place near my house.

And (this was in the late 90s) I was into the internet and technology. I used to joke that I wanted to major in computer science, only with no math and no programming, because I was a huge idiot.

Anyway, around sophomore/junior year, I sat down and found a bunch of websites with horrible copy…and emailed them, telling them I could fix their website and help them get more sales.

I emailed about 50.

20 replies.

I had serious calls with 3.

And I ended up going with one company that paid me $20/hour and bought me a cellphone to do sales calls. This was a big deal for a high-school kid.

And it was eye-opening to see that, while I was earning $4.25/hour making pizza, I could make $20/hour doing something a lot more fun.

It all started with a simple pitch. I noticed their problems (horrible English on their website), wrote them a note telling them how I could fix it, then just clicked “Send.”

This is a totally different way of approaching the world. Most of us wait for someone to tell us what to do, what to fix, and how to do it.

For the few people who can proactively identify problems and suggest fixes, you will never worry about doing interesting work, or being compensated extraordinarily well.

And today, I want to show you.

I’ve set aside $1,000 to the person who sends the best pitch.

For 10 years, I’ve wanted to show you how changing your approach — zigging when others zag in money, business, even relationships — can be incredibly liberating. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is.

I’ve set aside $1,000 to hire whoever sends me the best pitch by Friday.

I’m doing this because I want to show you the power of focusing on MORE instead of LESS.

It’s funny — there’s a reason it’s easy to talk about cutting back: Everyone knows areas of life they could cut back on: eating out, buying drinks, expensive beauty products.

That’s why writing about cutting back is so common, like fart jokes — it’s a cheap laugh that everyone gets. It’s the chicken parmesan of the money and business world.

Interestingly, when you write about earning more, people’s reactions are reflexively negative:

“There’s no way anybody would hire me…I don’t have any skills that somebody would pay for.”

Really? I point out all the things they already pay for:

  • Oil changes (which they can learn how to do in 20 minutes)
  • Restaurants (they could cook themselves)
  • A nice coat (why not just get the 1/2 price one from Wal-Mart?)

But I can give you intellectual arguments all day…

…or I can just show you.

In the past, I’ve hired a personal chef, stylist for photo shoots, someone to help with travel/flight booking, etc.

If you think you have a pitch, just send me an email with your best idea. I did it in high school when I took my skills (writing), my interests (technology), and found a bunch of websites that I could help with their problem (sales).

What about you?

Later this week, I’ll share the best and worst pitches and show you how you can get started earning on the side — even if you don’t think you have any skills someone would pay for.

My goal is to help us radically reconceptualize the idea of MORE. If I can show you how easy it is to turn your existing skills into income…I’ll have done my job.

Pitches are due Friday!

This contest is closed. I’m no longer reviewing pitches, but thanks to all who participated!

P.S. Hints: You can review my bookmarks for insights. You can also Google Charlie Hoehn, who sent one of the best pitches I’ve ever gotten (and I hired him to work with me for years).

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