Few years ago, while working for one of my web design clients, I stumbled across Tim Ferris and his well known blog.
I didn’t pay too much attention, to be honest, I just finished the design my client needed and minded my own business. After a while I found another reference to him (this time about his book, The 4 Hour Workweek and got interested) and decided to pay more attention.
This is a pretty well known book, so I’m sure many of you have already read it. If not, here are few of the things it taught me and how I received some of Tim‘s teachings:
Who is the book for?
Whether you’re a small business owner or ‘just’ a freelancer who’s trying out to earn some residual income, you might find the book useful. And it’s not just for the self-employed type of professionals, ‘corporate’ people can get few tricks and ideas, too. Some of the resources in the book have already been verified by myself too, so I can vouch for them, while others need to be checked with some more care in the near future.
The main idea of the entire book is that we WASTE A LOT OF TIME, pretending to be hard working and yet we fail to learn how to be really productive and just value our personal time more.
After I read the book, a wide smile came on my face – me and my husband have unconsciously tried to achieve the ideal situation: work just ‘enough’, travel a lot and put a big value on our time. We’re still learning the ropes of this new lifestyle, but it has been an amazing ‘ride’ for the both of us. And we’re living proof that you can enjoy life and have food on the table, even without working 100 hour weeks. Still the book taught me even more about the mistakes I still make, so the plan is to try change some of my wrong ways and see what this leads me to.
1. What matters are the RESULTS, not the time you have worked to achieve them
Here comes the first shock. What does he mean it doesn’t matter I have worked 24/7? How can I brag about how important I am at my job and how much effort it takes to do it? Yes, I was that person, who’d brag about working for 14 hours to really launch my business back in 2009. I was willing to work for 10 hours at least/day just to succeed and was happy that I get the chance to do it.
After a while I realized my earnings can increase once I set some better rates and stop working for pennies. And that the sky hasn’t yet fallen down just because I took 3 days off from my web design business, when I caught a cold.
Right now, in few hours of work/day, I make at least 4 times more than when I started out (and worked for 14 hours). My experience and focus allow me to reach the same results (or even better) with a quarter of the effort it took me more than 4 years ago. My clients want RESULTS and decent rates, they could care less if I overworked myself or not.
2 The Titanic won’t sink (again) if people cannot reach you 24/7
Now this is an idea that makes most people fall off their chairs. How can you still be successful and not answer your phone at 3 AM? How can you run a successful online business and not ‘hog’ your email address all day long? Can you actually ignore your smartphone and stop obsessing about the clients who want answers and they want them yesterday?
If we are HONEST with ourselves, 99% of the ’emergencies’ in our business are not really emergencies. I know that, ideally, we should reply to our clients immediately. Theory and real life don’t always mix well, though. As a web designer, I need to work for my clients and provide them with the service they need. This means I have some time to do it and need to focus to provide the best service I can. But what happens if I need to still spend time to reply to all interruptions, even if some of them are not more important than the work I’m being already paid to do?
The moment you have to choose between being productive and replying immediately, you’ll probably notice that a reply can wait for few hours.
I won’t come to use the email only once/week, but I do try to log in, when my work is done and I can then focus on other problems. Even if I also provide web hosting services, domain name registration and site administration/set-up, none of the issues we faced so far needed an instant reply. All my clients are very happy to be contacted 1-2 hours after their email has reached my inbox and many appreciate a reply in 12-24 hours since they contacted me.
Tim comes with many ideas that would allow us to shorten/avoid/optimize our interactions with the people who contact us, you might find some of these ways to be a little extreme, while others might work better with your own style.
The main idea is to be PRODUCTIVE in the work you have to do, still be able to respond promptly to your clients and not waste 12 hours/day in doing so.
3. Automate as much as possible
Here I have some reserves, based on my own style and needs. In order to be even more effective, delegating tasks is the way to go. For instance: if I charge 100 bucks/hour to do web design for instance, it makes sense to pay someone to do a data entry job for me, as long as their work hour costs me less than what I make.
I wouldn’t hire a virtual assistant though, but many of you might find this saves you a lot of time. At the end of the day we don’t need to do everything, there are skilled people to be hired to help us save some time and still get excellent results.
4. Not all our clients are made equal
Amen to that! I’m sure many of you have heard about Pareto’s Principle (80% of the results come from 20% of the effort). Surely this can be extrapolated to many other situations (and even different numbers), but the main idea remains: most of our business comes from few clients, while a small percentage of the money come from all the rest. It wouldn’t be an issue, if sometimes we wasted most our time dealing with problems that come from the clients who don’t keep our business running, while we sometimes ignore the ‘big payers’.
What we do now, after we finished playing the percentage game? Do we ditch our small clients altogether? This might not be such a great idea, but we do need to understand which of our clients bring in the most business and really make sure they are best served. Instead of offering 20 separate services and spreading ourselves thin, we can focus on fewer services and really care for our most prized business partners.
What was I left with after reading the book?
I might not agree entirely with The 4 Hour Workweek and Tim’s teachings and it’s normal. We all run our businesses in our own style and some of the changes proposed there might not work in our particular cases. And yet it helped me realize the importance of focusing, optimization, automating and delegating. This means I can still do a great job for my clients, grow my business, earn better and still not sacrifice my family and personal time doing this.
Have you read the book? Which of Tim’s idea do you agree with? Which don’t make sense for you?