I remember feeling excited when Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek first came out in 2007. I thought — aha! That’s it exactly.
In the future, we’ll all hardly need to work, as our Internet businesses run on autopilot. Selling our information products online will allow us to connect with buyers all over the world, and we’ll make money almost by magic.
Three years of long freelance-writing hours and two years of striving to make my own blog into a money-earner later, I have a totally different view of Ferriss’s manifesto.
I think it’s utter bullcrap.
The proclamation that soon we’ll all only work a few hours weekly reminds me of the predictions a decade or two back that with computers and email, we soon would enter a paperless society. Still waiting for that to happen, as snowdrifts of paper litter my desk.
Why am I skeptical? Because everything I’ve learned about having a successful Internet business — on A-List Blogger Club and elsewhere — indicates that it’s still a heck of a lot of work. I worked far fewer hours as a staff writer filing four stories a week than I put in now as I strive to make this blog a money-earner!
Nobody I know is talking about magical money on autopilot, including top, seven-figure-earning bloggers. (Except the lying, scammy ones.) The real successful bloggers I know talk about grueling ramp-ups, massive guest posting, and working insane hours to make a new product launch a success. They coach others to work harder at burnishing their writing and revamping their blog design to make it more enticing. They encourage writers to create free products they can use to build their audience.
And you know what? It all takes time. Loads and loads and bucketloads of it.
I see really successful bloggers building paid learning communities or launching interactive training courses, which they earn well at, certainly. And it’s absolutely true that at this point, many Internet-based businesses can be done anywhere. Since I live on a small island and work for companies all over North America, I can say that part’s a fact.
But the tiny work-hours thing? Total bunk.
If you have the model of simply slapping a bunch of ads on a site, that might be something where you could outsource every function and live a life of ease. Except at this point few of those type of sites seem to be earning well. Most Web surfers are sick to death of ad-clogged sites and increasingly stay away. Unless you’ve built the next LinkedIn or Facebook or something with a huge audience, forget it.
Which leaves the monetizing-the-blog model. Which I can tell you is work, work, and more work. You can outsource some of it, sure. You can hire a Web developer, get a few guest posts a month, hire a social-media marketer to tweet about what you’re doing. But the core of it, the part where you build your audience by creating amazingly useful, sparklingly well-written blog posts multiple times per week, and then follow that up with stellar products your audience wants to buy from you, where you build your personal brand until you’re hot stuff and everybody wants you…there are no shortcuts there.
Being brilliant and providing lots of value to readers doesn’t happen in four hours a week, for me or anyone I know.
Yes, the Internet allows people to connect in ways that never happened before, and that opens new markets to those seeking to build a business. But the Internet has also created new demands — to respond to your blog readers (in real time, please!) when they leave comments or ask questions, or to interact with the members of your paid community. And that, friends, takes a lot of time. Even in a model like A-List’s, where leaders Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch have deputized a small army of moderators to help them, they still need to lend their own presence and insight to the proceedings. I’m sure if they stopped, membership would plummet.
So I’m don’t know if there is any level at which a four-hour workweek starts to look realistic.
Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek theory is a load. When I checked in on Amazon to see the reviews, the first three were labeled:
For Sale: One Bridge in Brooklyn — EZ Payments
21st Century Snake-Oil Salesman
Get-Rich Quick Guide for the Shallow
One thing’s for sure — writing a provocatively titled book about how you once got an Internet business to earn for you with little effort (and how everyone else should be able to do it, too) is the surefire way to get rich and end up not having to work a lot of hours. If only we could all work that angle.