The 4-Hour Workweek: Chapter Summary (Chapter 8: Outsourcing Life)
Chapter 8 introduces the third main section of the book and step three of the DEAL formula: automation. It puts into practice the principles learned in Chapter 7 and expands them further to include “geoarbitrage”—the use of international, often remote, solutions to enhance productivity and maximize resources and opportunities. It deals with the most critical of NR skills: remote management and communication.
That includes using discrimination in your delegation practices. As he says in his usual blunt but useful manner, Golden Rule #1 is that if it’s a waste of your own time, it’s a waste of your VA’s time.
Golden Rule #2 is to have fun. To Ferriss, this means having someone in a remote location set up lunch dates with your friends for you or harass your boss, the idea being to not take things too seriously.
Ferriss sums up the main point (aside from having fun) as follows:
“Eliminate before you delegate,” and
“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined.”
An example of one of the many tools and templates that the book presents is a flowchart (p. 144) created by Jed Wood, an active lifestyle designer. In a very succinct and useful way, the chart outlines how to choose prospective activities based on enjoyment, amount of time required, and outsourcing potential.
The next section of the chapter gives multiple examples of the huge variety of things that a remote VA can do for both your business and personal life—everything from standard tasks such as market research and business presentations to finding clients jobs, talking to parents, buying groceries, or sending flowers. The list is enormous, and it’s clear that, if done right, outsourcing could conceivably save a lot of time.
Choosing a VA
How do you know whom to choose? Ferriss says that the only way to really know is through trial hiring. One way to minimize the risk is to work with a firm as opposed to an independent freelancer.
Here are some of the advantages:
· If your VA gets sick or has an emergency, the firm can automatically provide a back-up, saving you the time and trouble of having to look for one.
· You can deal with only one person who then coordinates and assigns each task to the most qualified person. This means that you can hire one company for a variety of assignments, requiring less management on your part and in some cases allowing for 24/7 workflow and assignment fulfillment.
Ferriss cites Brickwork and Your Man In India (YMII) as his two main examples of excellent VA firms, the first of which specializes in business-related assignments while the second covers both business and personal tasks.
Whether you choose to work through a firm or with an independent contractor, don’t just hire the first person you find. Interview your prospective VA, and make sure that he or she speaks excellent English and is a good communicator. If you find that there are repeated communication problems, find someone else and do so quickly.
Finally, think in terms of per task rather than per hour cost. A competent and efficient VA who costs more per hour can potentially accomplish four times the amount in far less time, ultimately saving you money, time, and aggravation.
Tips for Managing Your VA
First, make sure that the task is worth delegating, i.e., it should be sufficiently tedious and time-consuming to warrant outsourcing it. If it’s a small task that will require as much time to instruct a VA as it does to do it yourself, don’t waste your time or money.
When assigning tasks, give very precise, simple instructions that can only be interpreted one way. Ask non-native speakers to confirm your instructions by repeating them. Assign only one or two tasks at a time, and give short time frames. Too long a time frame (e.g., one week for a small task) invites time waste. If you are working with someone new, ask them to outline how they plan to accomplish the task and then request a status report within the first few hours to ascertain the person’s effectiveness.
For all the current concerns about information abuse and identity theft, Ferriss asserts that it is in fact very rare, claiming that he could find only one instance out of a significant number of interviews. Here, again, using a firm is safer than dealing with an individual, especially if that individual is an unknown quantity. A higher-end company like Brickwork uses multiple security measures for just this purpose so that, according to Ferriss, your information is probably safer in their hands than on your own computer. Examples of measures, to name just a few, are background checks, NDAs, electronic access for employees, personnel restrictions for credit card processing, 128-bit encryption, and prohibitions on removing printed material from the office.
Ferriss also gives tips for minimizing the risks of information abuse and theft:
· “Never use the new hire.” You have the right as a client to request specific VAs, so take advantage of that.
· Do not allow independent VAs to subcontract to freelancers without your express written permission.
· Never use a debit card online. Reversing false credit card charges is much easier, faster, and more guaranteed than attempting to do the same for a debit card. According to Ferriss, this is especially true of American Express.
· Give VAs unique logins and passwords for accessing websites in your name.
Ferriss adds that the hassle of information and identity theft is much easier to reverse and “not that big a deal” when these guidelines are applied.
Item 1 of the Questions and Actions section lists a number of VA firms and freelance sites specializing in either business or both personal and business tasks. Costs can vary from as little as $4 per hour to $20-60 per month and, barring tasks requiring someone’s physical presence, the possibilities seem limitless. Item 2 gives advice on how to decide which tasks to delegate—such as looking for non-moving items on your to-do list—and provides specific examples. Item 3 suggests experimenting with delegation just for fun. Finally, Item 4 provides tools for updating and synchronizing calendars in case you hire an assistant to do your scheduling.
The chapter ends as usual with a Comfort Challenge—in this case, the “criticism sandwich,” a technique for effective and tactful criticism—and the LD in Action section, which always contains useful and interesting tips from actual lifestyle designers. For anyone genuinely interested in maximizing efficiency, this chapter is an invaluable source for tools and advice on how to get going.