The Truth About Tim Ferriss – The Four Hour Work Week, and Growing a Virtual Business
I don’t remember how it happened – but I remember when it happened. One day, in May of 2007, while browsing the interwebs, I read about a book that was soon to be released title The Four Hour Work Week.
Sure, I knew that that title had to be mostly hype, but from what I read online this was just the book that I had been looking for – and actually the book I had attempted to write two years before. But that’s a story for another time.
The Q&A with author Tim Ferriss intrigued me. He talked about growing a business, traveling the world, all while working less and less. Was it too good to be true? Maybe. Maybe not!
You see, I had started a new business four years prior. The first year was a struggle, and then through great trial and error, by the third year in business, I was only working two to three days per week . The rest of the time was spent at coffee shops writing a book.
So, the concept of growing a business that didn’t require my constant attention wasn’t foreign to me. What was foreign was traveling the world, making tens of thousands of dollars each month in profit and only checking on my business occasionally.The Holy Grail?
The Holy Grail?
Could Mr. Ferriss have found the holy grail of profit and business automation? Was it indeed possible to work less and make more? Could I really outsource my life? The only way to find out was to pick up a copy of The Four Hour Work Week – and that’s exactly what I did.
Once I picked it up I honestly couldn’t put it down. Not that it was brilliantly written, but it was chock-full of little gems of truth for working less and making more.
Not only did I read it from cover to cover, but also I immediately started taking action. Within the first couple of weeks I had hired my first Indian virtual assistant. My brain was aching from all the possibilities that having a virtual assistant would open up for me.
While I was sleeping, Darani could be working for me. She could be making me money as I slept. How could this possibly go wrong?
I initially started out by assigning simple tasks, like finding several articles on this or that topic. Or, create a list of the contact names and email addresses for the top business blogs. Things that I thought could have, and should have, been simple to complete – despite Darani’s rough English.
I’ll spare you from having to hear about all the agonizing clarification that I had to do for each and every task. Even for the simplest tasks. I would end up spending more time explaining, correcting, and re-explaining the task then it would have taken me to do the task for myself.
So, after about six weeks of trying to make our relationship work, I decided to break off the relationship. (There is a whole embarrassing incident she created that I wrote about over on AMEX OPEN FORUM.)
By this time, I read that hiring a virtual assistant from the Philippines would be a better option. What a difference it made. Rachel’s grasp of the English language was far superior to Darahni’s – truthfully, it was probably far superior to mine.
Again, I started with simple tasks. And she did great. I even paid her nice bonuses if she completed the task on time, and accurately. Things worked very well (although I really hadn’t figured out how to make money from our relationship) until one day she simply disappeared.
After nine days she resurfaced. She was very apologetic and explained that she had been without internet connectivity for the past nine days. No worries. We simply pressed forward.
The problem? My muse (a little side business that won’t require much time or money) wasn’t making much money. To Tim’s credit, my muse was making money, just not enough to pay my virtual assistant.
Look, I’m not blaming Tim, really I’m not, but it wasn’t as easy as his book made it seem. But who was I fooling? I had just spent three years growing a business from scratch, and then successfully selling it.
My experience said the process would be hard, and require a lot of time and mental investment. But Tim had me believing his magical Four Hour Work Week system would be quick and easy. WRONG!
Honestly, I’m not here to bash Tim, nor The Four Hour Work Week. After all, I own all three of Tim’s books, and regularly read his blog. I’m simply sharing my experience…and my frustration.
Having just grown a business from the ground up, and successfully selling it, I knew it would require some time, so I kept plugging away. And kept failing. This lead me to start asking questions. Like:
How much money would it take to start a nutrition supplement business? (Tim’s Muse that made him a lot of money.)
Why were most of the case studies in the book single people (no spouse, or children)?
How did Tim get into Princeton when he wasn’t a great student in high school?
Doesn’t it require a significant financial investment for parents to send their children to Japan as a foreign exchange student?
Can you really automate your business/muse and life?
I know, I know! Sounds like I was looking for a reason to hate the guy, right? Wrong. I was applying what was in The Four Hour Work Week, but simply was not getting the same results that all his case studies were getting.
I attempted to convince myself that Tim’s book was written for single folks who didn’t require much money to pay their bills and survive each month. That certainly wasn’t me.
By this point in my journey, I had been married five years, and had my first son (for the curious I now have three). And neither of my “magical” muses where making enough to pay the electric bill, much less all of our bills.
Now fast-forward a couple of years. I’m starting another business – Ugly Mug Marketing. There are several compelling reasons I started the business, but the most compelling was that I wanted to start a life-style business. You know, a business that could eventually support the life-style I wanted for my growing family and myself.
What was it that I wanted? What was it that my family wanted?
Here’s the list:
- A business that let me control my schedule.
- A business that truly made a difference for our clients.
- A business that would increase in value.
- A business that provided enough income for my family.
- A business that could be operated from anywhere in the world.
- A business that wouldn’t require a lot of fixed overhead.
- A business that could work for clients anywhere in the world.
- A business that was scalable.
- A business that could be automated.
- A business that would have an influence on the world.
- A business that had a personality.
No need for fluff, or fancy words. But to say the first year was a struggle would be an understatement. After about six months I began questioning everything. Sure, I had complete control over my schedule. Sure, I could technically work from anywhere in the world. Sure, I could technically do work for clients from anywhere in the world.
It doesn’t do much good to take time off when you’re not sure if you’ll be able to pay your bills. It’s impossible to work from anywhere in the world when you can barely afford to put gas in your vehicle. And I couldn’t seem to get clients from next door, much less from around the world.
Sure, there were many times that I wanted to quit. There were many times when I questioned my decision to start the business. There were many times that I didn’t know if we would be able to pay our bills.
But none of this mattered. I kept my head down, and kept pushing forward. I knew where I wanted to go, and what I wanted Ugly Mug Marketing to look like. I knew that if I could survive The Dip I would come out on top of things.
A Blessing in Disguise
Looking back now, I can honestly say that the struggle was a blessing in disguise. You see, it was this struggle – specifically the lack of clients that provided me with plenty of time to work on building business systems. Systems to automate, systems to streamline, systems for growth, and systems that would one day allow me to grow the business from anywhere in the world.
I wish I could say to you that the process for creating these systems was quick and easy, but I can’t. Most of the systems that now run Ugly Mug Marketing were developed as a result of good ol’ trial and error (with heavy emphasis on error). And many of them were created as a result of reading The Four Hour Work Week.
Over the years, we’ve certainly had our fair share of problems and made a lot of mistakes. But during that time we never lost focus on our vision, and this is what enabled us to get back up and keep going.
The only way to test a new system is to use it, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Once we had substantial business, I would take off and hit the road with my family, testing to see if I could indeed operate the business without being physically present.
Naturally, there were issues that arose, but once an issue was identified, I would then rework the system to prevent that issue from coming up again. Over and over our systems were tested, corrected, tested again, and corrected again, until they were virtually flawless.
I’m not claiming that we now don’t have any problems or issues, because we do. I’m claiming that the systems we now have in place have brought me very close to my original goals for the company. So much so, that I’m going to put them to the test this September.
Traveling to Costa Rica…for a Month!
Crazy, right! Heather (my wife), Truett, Jett, and Hudson (my three sons – yes like the tv show) and I will be spending the entire month of September in Costa Rica. Hang on before you say, “Well how nice for you, but I could never do something like that.”
You see, this was the exact same mindset I had when I first read The Four Hour Work Week. And it was this same mindset that was preventing me from succeeding. Remember all of those questions that I started asking after I initially failed at creating my muse?
If you go back and look at all those questions, you’ll discover one commonality – all of them gave me an excuse for quitting! All of them allowed me to point to external circumstances that I had no control over. For example: I couldn’t control the fact that my parents didn’t have a lot of money. I couldn’t change the fact that I was married (nor would I have wanted to).
Your Success Solely Rests With You!
Over the past ten years, I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that my success solely rests with me. If I’m going to succeed, it’s up to me. If I want a company that allows me to make a lot of money and travel around the world there’s nothing preventing me from pursuing that – this is America after all.
I know the economy has been “bad” for the past several years. Actually, before I started Ugly Mug Marketing I had several people warn me not to do it. “Don’t you know how bad the economy is” they would say. But I can’t control the economy. I can only control what I get up and do each day. That’s it!
Poor economy or not, over the past three years Ugly Mug Marketing has grown by over 300% each year – and is on track to grow by at least 100% this year.
Over the next month I’ll share how I’ve grown a business (Ugly Mug Marketing) that enables me to work it from anywhere in the world. I’ll also share specifics of the systems that we use, and how we’ve managed such substantial growth – despite the economy.
Have you read The Four Hour Work Week? Have you successfully built a muse? Do you have a business you can operate from anywhere in the world? Have questions about growing a virtual business? Leave a comment below.
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