This week, Life Training Online is reviewing The 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss, the twenty-third of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.
Step III: A is for Automation
In your quest to become a member of the New Rich, it’s not just about looking for ways to work smarter. It’s about setting up a system that can replace yourself. One of the best ways to do this is through outsourcing your life by delegating tasks to a remote assistant.
When I first read this, I was taken aback. Working in the private sector, I’m well aware of the use of outsourcing within the field I work, but up until now, I’ve never heard of using outsourcing to help manage my own personal life.
Ferriss suggests that hiring your own remote personal assistant is a great way to learn the art of remote management and communication. It isn’t time-consuming, and it’s low-cost and low-risk. And best of all it helps to free up more of your time to focus on more important things.
What are some of the tasks that a virtual assistant can do? Here are just some of them: scheduling interviews and meetings; web research; following up on appointments, errands, and tasks; online purchases; creation of legal documents; document creation; proofreading; online research for updating blogs and so on.
Even if you don’t really need someone at this point it’s immaterial. Consider it training wheels for an essential part of entrepreneurship: learning how to manage others. If you’re interested in hiring your own virtual assistants check out www.yourmaninindia.com or www.elance.com.
The ultimate goal of any of the New Rich is setting up automated sources of income. And one of the best ways to accomplish this — as Timothy Ferriss can attest to — is through internet sales. But can anyone get into internet sales? According to Ferriss the answer is a definite yes. It just involves following a certain set of steps that anyone can follow:
Step 1: Pick an Affordably Reachable Niche Market
There’s no sense in trying to outdue the likes of Amazon or ebay. They’ve got their huge markets covered. However there is always room in the various niche markets out there.
Which ones should you get involved in? Well, Ferriss suggests considering all the different groups (social, industry, and professional) that you belong to or understand. This could be rock climbers, skateboarders, computer programmers and on and on. From these groups, find out which ones have their own magazines and peruse the advertising section to discover repeat advertisers (indicating that it is a profitable magazine that you can leverage).
Step Two: Brainstorm (Do Not Invest In) Products
As you’re looking through the various magazines, brainstorm some product ideas that you think might fit these markets. Here are some suggestions that Ferriss offers:
- The main benefit of the product should be easily summarized in one sentence.
- It should cost the customer between $50 and $200.
- It should take no more than 3 to 4 weeks to manufacture.
- It should be fully explainable in a good online FAQ
Step Three: Micro-Test Your Products
After you’ve come up with a few ideas for products, the next step involves micro-testing it in the market to discover if you have a winner on your hands.
Micro-testing is essentially using inexpensive advertisements to gauge how the customer responds to your product prior to manufacturing. Now Ferriss points out that it’s important to know that charging customers prior to shipment is illegal. This is not what we’re after here. There are many ways to test the waters without actually charging your potential customers.
One of the options Ferriss gives is to use Pay-Per-Click advertising like Google Ads to drive traffic to a site that “offers” some test products. Basically, this site would allow the buyer to go through the process of adding an item to their shopping cart but when they continue with the order it would take them to a page that states, “Unfortunately, we are currently on back order but will contact you as soon as we have product in stock. Thank you for your patience.”
Another option is to use online auctions. Selling items on eBay is a good way to test demand as well as determine the highest possible pricing before you ever need to invest heavily in inventory.
Moving Toward Automation
Now that you have a product to sell and you’ve tested the waters a bit showing that it is a winner, it’s now time to create a business you can put on autopilot. Most entrepreneurs don’t begin with automation being their end goal. They create a business, it becomes successful, but they’re unable to remove themselves from the equation. They’ve become a necessary cog in the wheel.
The problem is that they didn’t begin with the end in mind. Designing a self-correcting business at the outset needs to be the goal. Which brings us to the final step: liberation.
Step IV: L is for Liberation
Liberation from the rat race is definitely plausible for the entrepreneur whose created an automated business, but what about those who are employees for someone else? Is escaping the office even possible? According to Ferriss it is. Here are the five steps he suggests you take to setting up a remote working engagement.
- Step 1: Increase Investment
The first step involves ensuring that your company invests as much as possible in you so that the loss is greater if you quit. Some suggestions are to get as much company sponsored training and skill development.
- Step 2: Prove Increased Output Offsite
Call in sick for a couple of days and work from home. Try to double your output to prove that you are very capable of increased production while away from the office.
- Step 3: Prepare the Quantifiable Business Benefit
Prepare a bulleted list of the reasons why working from home is more productive than at the office. Make sure it’s presented in such a way that it shows off a clear business benefit for the company and not just a personl perk.
- Step 4: Propose a Revocable Trial Period
Armed with this remote productivity document, propose a week-long trial period working from home. If one week is too much for your boss, negotiate at least two days.
- Step 5: Expand Remote Time
During that trial period, ensure that they are the most productive to date. This will give you plenty of leverage in slowly increasing the amount of time you work remotely. Continue until you’re able to make working remotely a full-time gig.
Filling the Void
In an ideal situation, you’ve created an automated business which takes very little time away from your day to maintain it. Now that you’ve got all the time in the world, what then?
Ferriss explains that postpartum depression is very typical for many of the newly-inducted New Rich. Frustrations and doubts may come now that you’re out of the rat race. You may begin to ask, “Am I doing this because I’m lazy?” or “Are my friends who are making twice what they made two years ago really on the right track?” These are all normal responses and you shouldn’t become discouraged.
Anytime there is a void a vacuum is created and something needs to fill it. While you were in the rat race you were so caught up in the thick of thin things that it became your reality. Now that you have the time you’ll most likely feel that vacuum.
Ferriss suggests finding those things which bring true happiness: service, learning, traveling, volunteering, helping and teaching others. This is the life and reality of the New Rich.
The 4-Hour Workweek is the twenty-third of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.