Blogging, Tim Ferriss and the Myth of The 4-Hour Workweek
Carol Tice | 39 Comments

myth of 4 hour work weekI 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.

 

 

39 comments on “Blogging, Tim Ferriss and the Myth of The 4-Hour Workweek

  1. Emily McIntyre on

    Good post Carol. I read the book, after being quite skeptical, and while I was ENTERTAINED I was not very enlightened. Puts me in mind of Euclid’s famous quote that there is “No Royal Road…” and backed up by my own personal experience: you cannot build a meaningful, authentic, compassionate, and sustainable business without a LOT of work. It’s impossible.

    EWM

    • Carol Tice on

      Emily, every successful blog-based business owner I know works like a dog. Delivering help to people who need it is a calling — it’s more than a job. And you can earn well from it, and you can use the power of mass online to create once and sell many times. Maybe other spaces are better for efficiency than mine, but freelance writers have a LOT of questions. And if you’re not going to answer them, you’re not going to earn so much.

  2. Sparky Anderson on

    Blogging? Ferriss is not talking about blogging, he’s talking about marketing and selling a product. If 1-5% of businesses make money selling a product, then .00001% of bloggers make any money. You have to market and sell a product – period.

  3. Kyrsten Bean on

    I wrote along the lines of the same thing in 2009, when I was investigating the book, about it being utter bullcrap, quote, “I find all I’ve read about that book is that it is a complete sham of snake-oil marketing.” I was just reading my blog post the other day going, oh yea! The 4-Hour Work Week and all that life-hacking stuff, and then I stumbled across your post. Here’s my old blog entry, in case anyone’s curious. http://thestifledartist.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/hacking-your-life-is-this-a-new-cult/
    At the time, I was trying to figure out how to blog better (I’m still learning and learning and learning) and was reading a lot of sites about “hacking your life” and blogging your way to success that were just making me feel like I’d been sold a bill of goods.

  4. Katherine Swarts on

    Of course, you could always write a book of your own that generates high royalties–then all you have to find time for is maintaining a Facebook page, answering fan mail, negotiating contracts, submitting review copies and press releases, speaking at conferences, going on book tours….

    I think that most people who emphasize "number of work hours" hate their work and are wasting their energy and imagination wishing for an "idle rich" life that's an endless vacation. Those who love the productive side of their lives rarely push the idea that more time off is always better. And unless someone invents a global network of robots who do literally everything that needs doing (including maintaining themselves), the world can't afford too many "idle rich" if it's going to keep functioning.
    My recent post Is Your Blog Making These 10 Common Mistakes

    • TiceWrites on

      Well, there's an argument to make that the idle rich are a major economic driver — they've got the time AND money to go on expensive travel, go shopping, and so on.

      But I'm with you — recently, I came to the conclusion that I can stop worrying about saving for retirement — because why would I retire? I LOVE writing!

  5. asithi on

    I read the book and felt inspired to find other sources of income in order to quit the 9-5 someday. I started thinking about creating a lifestyle I want instead of making a life of what is left over from working. I don’t think I would be able to implement his strategies, but it did make me start thinking about looking for other ways to generate income in order downshift my day job someday.

  6. Cathy Miller on

    I am another one who has not read the book, but I've heard plenty about it. I have a client who thinks Tim Ferriss is the second coming.

    Fundamentally, I think you can learn something new from almost any book, article, etc. (even if it's what not to do.) Success also means different things to different people. I, for one, am happy making a good living while having time to enjoy it.

    Thanks, Carol, for your insight.
    My recent post It All Starts With a Single Step

  7. Brandon Yanofsky on

    I think it's possible. I have a friend who started a company with this mindset and succeeded. Works very little but makes a lot.

    I don't think it's for everyone though. Requires a lot of set up time and money and intelligence, but if you've got it, you can make it happen.

    But again, it's not as easy as ferris makes it appear
    My recent post Get More Readers for your Blog

  8. Rasmus on

    Tim never writes it’s easy and something you just do. He even writes that he

    Worked 80 hours per week in order to run his business before he started to see how to automate it.

    You probably have to work hard, but I would rather work hard on something that will bring me passive income than sell hours as I currently have to do six months of the year.

    • TiceWrites on

      Well, I'm with you there — I'm just starting to create my passive-income products, with my first ebook and now my 40 Ways to Market Your Writing Webinar, as mentioned above…plan to crank out lots more of that stuff next year!

  9. Adam on

    I think it's funny that a lot of comments on here started with "I didn't read the book but…" so you literally judged a book by its cover or title rather!

    If you read the book (or some of it at least) you'll see that it is mostly about a lifestyle change and altering the way we look at work. Most of the business examples given (including TIm's successful business) are e-commerce sites that utilize a drop shipping method of product fulfillment. Not blogs or authority sites. He does mention affiliate marketing, selling information products and other common IM money makers, but the focus is really on e-commerce.

    I'm not a Ferris disciple by any means, in fact, I find him rather douchey most of the time. I do a 9-5, freelance write and do Internet marketing so I know that the 4 hour work week is not in cards for me and from reading about the hours the "big guys" put in, it's not the norm.

    However, the book is full of great tips on productivity, outsourcing and alternate ways to think about your life, work and career and at least worth a read.
    My recent post Huge Sale at Huntington Surf and Sport!

    • TiceWrites on

      Hi Adam —

      Definitely not to say we can't all learn to outsource and have business types that are efficient…I'm personally a big fan of outsourcing many tasks. But I still don't see where for most it would ever really add up to almost no work hours.

  10. lifespolitikin on

    I recently read half of the book, he lost me toward the middle when I realized I wouldn't be implementing his plan. However, I have to say that I did take something away from the book, outsourcing. Sometimes I have a ton of tedious things I have to get done, that I would rather not deal with, and outsourcing has been a great time saver for me. This tactic has enabled me to really focus on the more important things going on, both on a personal and professional level.

  11. Oscar Halpert on

    I know a very successful marketer with a membership site who outsources quite a bit and still puts in 60-80 hours a week. Creating multiple residual income streams seems to help but the 4-hour work week really is bunk for the vast majority. And don't get me started on auto-blogging…

    • TiceWrites on

      Or me either! What a joke (autoblogging, that is).

      Exactly — I'm in A-List blogger club, and I can see the hours Mary Jaksch and Leo Babauta are putting into that…now that I'm prepping a Webinar I see the work that goes into that…it's all WORK! Fun work yes, but hours of attention are required for it.

  12. amyoscar on

    Read the book and got inspired – mostly to work even harder. In Ferris's defense, I think the book is really about freedom, not the number of hours you spend. He shows you how to figure it out so you can be your own boss – and he tells his own story, which is fascinating. Though I work longer hours than I did in the office, they're better quality hours – leaving me, at the end of the day, inspired and excited for tomorrow. That's all I could ask for.

    • TiceWrites on

      Well the freedom part I'm totally livin', and I am grateful every day that I can make every school play, game and conference I want now. I look back on my cubicle days and wonder what I was ever thinking, trying to keep that going, especially after we adopted our third child, who came at 16 months from foster care and had some special issues. It was crazy! I should have got into my own freelance-writing business a lot sooner.

      But the fewer hours part…that's the myth.

  13. nhausauer on

    I can't help but notice that several people who've commented haven't read the book! I have read it, and I find plenty to disagree with. (But then Tim Ferriss is just a wee lad, with a lot to learn.)

    I also found some valuable ideas in The Four Hour Work Week. Among them:

    –That it's not not necessarily a virtue to work your fingers to the bone (As the old country song said, "Work your fingers to the bone, whatta you get? Bony fingers. . .)

    –That it's good to rethink cultural givens, such as the concepts of career and retirement

    –That we should define for ourselves what "the good life" is

    –That "the good life" might cost a lot less than we think, indeed, might be well within our grasp, instead of the stuff of dreams.

    This is valuable social criticism, whether or not you buy the whole four-hour thing. Actually, I thought that Ferriss' ideas had some kinship with the simplicity movement.

    That being said, I do agree that Tim Ferriss is kind of annoying. And that being an "infopreneur" is a LOT of work.

    I just happen to love writing.

    • TiceWrites on

      I definitely agree with the work/life balance idea he presents, and thinking of working less and not retiring officially at some arbitrary age point…I actually think I'll end up doing that. But that part where it gets to be sort of effortless…guess I retain major skepticism. Now that I have some Internet celebrity friends, I see they seem to still be putting in tons of hours…I email them or reach out on Twitter at oh, 11 pm on a weeknight, or even a SATURDAY night, and they fire right back. They're on too.

  14. Alice Barry on

    Great comments, Carol. I'd like to add one other perspective. The personal and business lessons gained by doing the work it takes to build a business, understand your value, know what you do best and how to outsource other tasks, figure out how you want to choose serve and respond to your customers, etc. is the most valuable part of the entrepreneurial journey and necessary to being successful in business and in life.

  15. @TheBuzzFactoree on

    I agree, as well, and I dare say that Tim Ferriss would ALSO agree if he were being truthful. I read the book and loved it, but I didn't drink the title Kool-Aid. But there ARE some really powerful ideas in the book for how to outsource and delegate tasks to make your life better and your business more profitable. It's an issue that I wrestle with constantly — how to make my time count for for.

    • TiceWrites on

      I personally have professional housecleaners, I hire coders and web designers, I have my teen run errands…but my point is I just think there's a limit to it. Yeah, maybe if you have a mailorder business selling widgets that your customers don't urgently need, you can just come in once a week and go mail off their orders. But I don't even know many products where you could do that! Most customers want things FAST, no matter what it is. You of course can sell info-products on autopilot…but what about the part where you're out marketing that product, doing public speaking, social media marketing…it's a lot of hours to get the word out your product exists, still. I just think outsourcing kind of has its limits.

  16. TiceWrites on

    Well I can think of plenty of other things I'd like to be doing a great deal more of — traveling, just spending time with my three kids, reading, gardening. I don't know if I'd ever want to work only 4 hours, but I could certainly work fewer hours.

    My experience is today's new media world requires a LOT of hours to succeed as a writer. There's the actual paid assignments you're doing, then your blog, your information products, and promoting all that. It's like everyone has two jobs. And even if you reach the point where you're just monetizing your blog, there's so much to that as well.

    • Dan Smith on

      Oh I can think of dozens of things I'd like to be doing more of too, but the point I was trying to make – like you said – was that I don't think I could work just 4 hours a week.

      And the more I think about it, this isn't just because I'd get bored not working, but – again, similar to what you said – I honestly don't think it's possible to be running a successful business by only putting in 4 hours work a week – I put more time into e-mailing!
      My recent post Got A Freelance Writing And Business Development Question Let Me Help- For Free

  17. Dan Smith on

    I haven't read the book in question, although I have considered buying it a few times, if not just to see what all the hype is about.

    The way I see it, Carol, is if I could be working 4 hours a week after reading a book and putting a few plans into action, would I have spent most of 2010 working 70+ hour weeks?

    I'm sure there are plenty of people who work just as many hours as I do – if not more – and all for the exact same reason I do.

    I've got my goals and aspirations in life and I'm doing the best I can to ensure that I achieve them and set out a good future for myself, my girlfriend and when we have children, for our family as a whole.

    I'm not afraid of working. Yeah, putting in 70 hours each week can be a bit tiring, but if I was only working 4 hours a week, I'm not quite sure what I'd be doing for the other 66…
    My recent post Got A Freelance Writing And Business Development Question Let Me Help- For Free

  18. TiceWrites on

    OK, big apology to everyone — something's wrong with the subscriber email delivery of this post! It's my first on MailChimp. For some reason when you click on the link it isn't taking you to the full post. Hope folks come over and read it here on the blog…and I will try to fix so that it is working right in future!

    Covered with shame. Sorry all!

  19. TiceWrites on

    I sure wish it would work that way, and I think for a very select few maybe it does. But in general, building any kind of business is just mountains of work!

  20. John Soares on

    Carol, I read the Four Hour Workweek and got a few good ideas from it. But I agree with you: it's not realistic that many people will be able to do the same thing Tim Ferriss did.

    I also create and sell information products, in part because of the income potential, in part because it's fun. However, most people who are successful at selling information products spend a lot of time doing all the things they need to do to promote those products: blogging, social media, interviews, SEO tactics, etc.

    Pay-per-click is one potential way to have passive income from information products, and I know some people are likely successful with this. But for most products the math won't work: the clicks cost more than the sales generate. And it takes time to figure out how to do PPC correctly.
    My recent post Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Ideas

    • TiceWrites on

      I feel like the marketing to successfully sell your own information products is pretty relentless. Yes, it's more enjoyable than being a cubicle slave, but once again – it's still work.

  21. @Corpblogwriter on

    Well (1) I totally agree and (2) I don't think we'll ever see the end of "get rich quick" books, blog posts, seminars, etc. They've been around forever and just don't seem to be going away. Obviously people pay for this bunk. Everyone I've ever known who has made money has worked hard & been passionate about what they do.

  22. @copywriterocala on

    I totally agree. I haven't read the book you're talking about, but it seems to be based on a "get rich quick" premise that doesn't seem feasible. Perhaps, though, the question here is what you'd consider "work." If I were to define work as stuff that I hate to do, it might be possible for me to reduce the amount of hours I spend doing that.

    Still, running a business, whether it's a writing business or in some other field, requires work. There's no real way around it.

    My recent post 4 Ways to Boost Your Image

    • TiceWrites on

      Hi Patti —

      Well, I'm with you — I love doing this blog, and it hardly feels like "work." But it also isn't reading a book, going for a long walk, or curling up with my daughter by the fire and playing a board game. It still takes oodles of hours!

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