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Tim Ferriss Interview – Part I

Tim-FerrisThis is Part 1 of my in depth IM interview with Tim Ferriss author of The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read my introduction to Tim in my previous post.

In Part 1 I ask Tim about the concept behind his book, we talk about how he wrote it (as I know many bloggers are looking at getting book deals) and talk about some of the lessons he’s learned about building buzz around his book. In Part 2 (which I’ll publish tomorrow) Tim and I talk blogging and he shares some of the lessons that he’s learnt in using a blog to support his blog launch.

Darren – ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ is a great title for a book – what’s it about?

Tim – The premise of The 4-Hour Workweek is that there are three currencies in a digital world: time, income, and mobility. In the last 2-3 years, it’s become possible to do things like outsource your life and create virtual businesses, both of which can enable you to live the lifestyle of a millionaire on less than $50,000 per year.

The concept of retirement, as well as single offices with 9-5 clocks, is hopelessly outdated.

Darren – How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Tim – It came out of my guest lectures in high-tech entrepreneurship at Princeton University. In 2004, I was working 80-hour weeks in Silicon Valley as the CEO of my own start-up, and I realized that income had no practical value without time. The next two years were spent traveling through more than 20 countries, automating my business, checking e-mail once per week, and interviewing other “lifestyle designers” who had figured out how to “hack” life in a digital and flat world. It was a wild ride that continues today.

My students were the ones who suggested I make it into a book, and the idea wouldn’t go away, so here we are.

Darren – A lot of bloggers are also aspiring book writers – what advice would you give bloggers currently writing books (both the writing of them but also the promotion of them)?

Tim – Bloggers are uniquely positioned to create bestsellers, but there are some huge myths among bloggers about publishing. Number one: do not write your book and then attempt to sell it. Non-fiction is sold with book proposals, not completed books. Above all, do not create an e-book or self-publish as a path to a big publisher. No publisher will purchase something already self-published.

For actual writing, I found that identifying your peak periods in your circadian rhythm is key. Some big-name authors recommended I just sit in front of my computer every day from 8am to 6pm, and it was like living The Shining. Awful. My book only took off once I accepted that my best writing was done from 1-4am when I was highly caffeinated on yerba mate tea. The quality of my writing dropped miserably if I tried to do more than four hours per day. It’s not necessary to put in 9-5 hours.

For promotion, I recommend becoming an quoted expert first, using something like ProfNet to figure out what journalists are working on. PR Leads is a good outfit: www.prleads.com or, if you want to get an extra month through me, www.prleads.com/discountpage

Second, I recommend spending $500-1500 on “media training,” to both train for offline Q&As, but also to get a reel of yourself that you can use to sell yourself as a guest to TV producers. You can see a demo reel I did in LA at http://www.timferriss.com/dev/ferriss-multimedia.htm.

Third, focus on promoting internally at the publisher as much as promoting outside to readers. Without publisher support, you won’t have good distribution, a good publicist, etc. Make the people at your publisher your allies and it will set the stage for a successful launch. It is impossible to launch a big book alone.

Darren – Where does one buy yerba mate tea?

I bought it in Argentina, but you can just search for it online. I don’t recommend liquid types — too unstable. My favorite brands are Cruz de Malta and Rosamonte. If you can’t deal with loose leafs, you can get Cruz de Malta in little tea bags, which is called “mate cocido”. It’s awesome stuff. I was quoted in the NY Times for a yerba mate article, which I found out about via PR Leads. Now I can legitimately say I was featured in the NY Times, and that helps you in a million ways.

Darren – How’s the launch of your book going? I’ve heard it’s already ranking well on Amazon?

Tim – The launch is going extremely well. I should say “pre-launch”, as the book isn’t technically out until tomorrow (Tues)!

The book has been around #100 on Amazon for about four days straight, which is very unusual. It was on the “movers and shakers” and also around #30 in it’s categories. So, technically, it’s already a bestseller and isn’t even out yet!

Darren – Wow – nice work. How’d you get it so high?

Tim – The key has been establishing real friendships with awesome bloggers who share similar interests. There are some cool writers in the blogging world, and I’ve gone out of my way to ensure I meet them when they’re most vulnerable: in person. Somewhat like how I stalked you! LOL…

Darren – I wondered why you were so friendly :-)

Tim – There are a few rules for building buzz about anything in the blogosphere, whether a book, a product, or your own blog….

I have built my blog traffic and book buzz using mostly offline activities, and I recommend others do the same. It is the empty channel right now. I come from a direct marketing background (including online analytics with companies like Marketing Experiments, which I partnered with for close to six years). Once a marketing channel becomes saturated, like PPC, it gets expensive and largely ineffective. This is when I would migrate to a neglected medium like print or radio for advertising. Similarly, there are different media, or vehicles, for reaching bloggers. The most saturated and difficult is e-mail, followed by phone, and the least popular and most effective at the moment is in-person. Rather than fight for attention with everyone online, I’ve focused on attending and speaking at events where bloggers are the attendees.

This seems expensive — with plane tickets, hotels, and all — but I look at it like a direct marketer would. I want leads, whether that is readers or bloggers who can link to me. What is their Lifetime Value (LV) to you in dollars, if you had to quantify it? If one good blogger links to you and you get 200 high-quality subscribers, are they each worth $2, and the blogger therefore at least $400? If you can productize your knowledge effectively, certainly.

Here is the most important part, though: for it to work, you need to be genuine. What does that mean? If you wouldn’t want to grab a beer with a blogger or hang out with them, you’re just trying to sell them something, and it’s transparent. If you have the shared interests and personality traits that would make you a good match in the first place, it happens naturally once you take the effort to introduce yourself and… another key… help them somehow, whether commenting well on their blog, offering advice, or introducing them to other cool folk.

I just had a pre-launch party for the book last Friday, which is a case study in what can been done if you make the in-person connections. Three of my now friends are heavily involved in the tech communities and all have birthdays around the time of book launch, so we held a “Birthdays, Beer, and Book Bash!” that got 250+ RSVP from a ton of the top bloggers around San Francisco. I gave away about 200 books, signed copies, had a ton to drink, misbehaved and had fun. I was 100% genuine and just myself. The outcome has been awesome — becoming an Amazon bestseller is just a sample of things to come. I’ve also been interviewed by the largest newspapers in Canada and the UK as a result of buzz from the party! Fun stuff.

Darren – I notice on your book (which I got a preview copy of today – thanks) that it says that it’s also available as an e-book. Why are you doing that and how did you get your publisher to agree to that?

Tim – Ha! That’s a funny one. So, here’s one thing I forgot to mention. YOU don’t usually sell a book to a publisher. You get an agent, then that agent pitches the book to editors, and then you and your agent decide what to negotiate if they make an offer. In my case, we decided to sell worldwide rights to Crown (an imprint/division of Random House). They also go e-book rights, so that’s their work. The funniest part for me? The e-book costs around $17… and the hardcover costs less than $14 on Amazon! Fuzzy economics, but what do I know?

Darren – So a 4 hour work week sounds like a pretty nice goal – how many hours do you work per week?

Tim – If we define “work” as what you do for income, I spend about 2 hours every 10-14 days checking email for my companies. The structure is entirely virtual, even though I have 200-300 contractors at any given time, and I’ve removed myself from the information and decision flow.

Now, if we look at time on the book, it’s a lot higher, but I’m not doing the book for income. NOTE TO ASPIRING AUTHORS: writing books is not a good way to make money. The benefits are huge, but not often financial. For me, if I had 100 million dollars in the bank, I would still be writing this book and spending most of my time learning about publishing and PR. I love it.

My book is not about being idle at all. It’s about spending little or no time doing things that you dislike or find boring. It’s about adding more life, not just subtracting work.

Darren – So if one’s only working 4 hours a week – what do they do with the other 164? Taking out the sleep, there’s still a lot of time to fill in. Do people find it hard to adjust to all the ‘space’?

Tim – It is enormously difficult, and that’s why retirement is so flawed. Please just assume that they’ll make enough money to stop working and then be happy. Instead — and I’ve interviewed dozens of millionaires and retirees who agree on this — you get severely depressed and even suicidal! Why? Because most most people never define the alternate non-work activities that they’ll use to “fill the void” once they remove work and the office. It is not as simple as most think. Sitting on a tropical beach is cool for about three days, then it’s just as boring as hell. I dedicate an entire chapter, called Filling the Void, to this, as I’ve never seen it addressed well elsewhere. For me, it’s learning new skills (especially languages), and thinking up hugely ambitious projects like this book. I’m also trying to get every teacher in every public school in the US access to private investors for better materials, trips, etc. THAT is a big project! It’s exciting, and that’s what I think people should chase in life: excitement. Not happiness — the term is so overused as to have no meaning. Chase excitement and you’ll find happiness, but not the other way around.

Read Part II of this interview with Tim

Want to know more about Tim’s ideas? Buy the The 4-Hour Workweek

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Evelyn Chai says:

    “The funniest part for me? The e-book costs around $17…” by Tim Ferris.

    Wow, i guess an ebook would have better margin compare with hardcover. Marketing strategy today, i guess it is going to be paperless for books, but of cos there is a pro and cons on either ebook or hardcover. Due to the fast moving internet buzz, and web technology, or even the torrent kind of thing.

    “NOTE TO ASPIRING AUTHORS: writing books is not a good way to make money. ” by Tim Ferris.

    I agree, it is also consider as sharing your knowledge via a wired, and helping or even guiding others.

    My best wish to your upcoming great books, and will be awaiting for the launching.

    Thanks Darren for sharing the interview out. Its a nice thing that you did here. Great job, and keep up the good work. Really admire all your works.

  2. Blake Snow says:

    Tim sounds like an awesome guy! Hardly the “get rich quick” type as his brilliant book titles implies. Intellegent.

  3. Rehuel says:

    From this part of the interview alone, this is definitely a book I’m buying!

    This is the kinda life my wife and I have been talking about recently. Instead of working 40 hours and more a week at some boring job, find something we like where we can spend less time doing what we’re good at very high quality, so there is more time to enjoy family life and do fun things.

    I thank Darren for writing about Tim, but I think I need to thank Tim too for offering you lunch, which resulted in me knowing about his book.

  4. David says:

    Excellent interview so far. It offers great insight.

    I look forward to reading Part 2.

    Regards,

  5. “NOTE TO ASPIRING AUTHORS: writing books is not a good way to make money. ”

    As the writer of six e-books, I can tell you, truer words have never been spoken. They must be part of a larger marketing plan.

    As as for the yerba tea, it’s excellent. I first discovered it on a trip to Cordoba, Argentina years ago and it is a national pasttime drink. The little cups used to drink and mix the tea are also collectibles for many.

    Great interview, Darren. Can’t wait to read the next installment. Mr. Ferris seems like an exciting person, with a rich, varied life. I’m jealous!

  6. Ponn Sabra says:

    “Chase excitement” now those are inspiring words!

    Thanks for a great part 1 interviews. I read every single-word of this highly-informative, detailed, and personable post. It’s a must-read for all bloggers and authors/writers! I look forward to tomorrow and the book launch (or was it yesterday–Tuesday)? I’ll check out amazon right now :-)

  7. Nicholas says:

    Wow, Tim sounds like a really down to earth guy.

    I think I may just pre-order the book to see just how good it is.

    By the way, Yerba Mate can be bought at any health food store.. It really is good stuff!

  8. Shane says:

    Hey, just a note. The first link to his book actually goes to the Audio CD version. Almost didn’t catch that as I was ordering. Would have been very disappointed :)

  9. Ali says:

    Amazing Interview!

    Can’t wait to read the book. By the way you wrote this post in the future for me. It’s still the 25th of April where I am and the date stamp on this is the 26th.

    Anywho’s very good read, thanks.

  10. iVi says:

    haha! i have exactly the same habit – yerba mate tea and writing until 4am! what a huge relief to see someone accomplished and recognized that has the same rhythm! i have felt that this is exactly what has been holding me back most of my life, i only recently dipped my toes into writing…
    Cruz De Malta is my usual brand as well, too cool!
    Thanks Tim! Thanks for putting this together Darren! Great Read!

  11. Myg says:

    My god, the title of the book is so good, I don’t even care if the book is good or not–I’m buying it anyway! (That said, given what I’ve read so far, I’m confident it’s going to be money well spent…)

  12. Congrats on the book Tim (and a great interview Darren)!

    BTW–I must be a natural “void filler”–I work about 4 hours a day running my virtual business, and I have absolutely no problem finding stuff to do with all my free time. I can’t imagine anyone being bored just because they aren’t “working” :) .

    Tim– I was curious–what exactly do you do for income?

    It says that you spend time checking email for your companies and that you have 200-300 contractors at any given time–can you tell us about your companies?

  13. Rebecca says:

    We like Nobleza Gaucha, which technically means “noble ranchwoman” but I call “Proverbs 31 Woman” (yerba). lol

  14. Darren a small typo:

    “Where does one by yerba mate tea?”

  15. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks Daniel

  16. Peter Cooper says:

    Sounds like an interesting guy and this was a good interview, but the ethical side of me knows that this sort of lifestyle isn’t globally acceptable. If we all sat around delegating and running virtual businesses, then we’d have no-one to delegate to and society would not more forwards. In that way, this sort of lifestyle is like a pyramid scheme, except a pyramid scheme where you take advantage of people without them knowing it. For us to get away with working four hours a week, there need to be a whole lot of people out there earning a pittance and working their butts off.

    Of course, I guess it all comes down to whether you believe in contributing to society and being a ‘good citizen’ or just looking out for your own back. I must admit I veer towards the latter myself too, but my conscience certainly reminds me that there’s something not quite right about all of this even though economically it looks rosy for us.

  17. When I first started reading the interview I thought it was largely a big crock and that Darren had been duped by a free lunch and a friendly smile. After I read on down to where Tim talks about his chapter on filling the void, I realise that this is a book I am going to have to buy. While the four hour work week is interesting and all, I am more interested in how he suggests you manage that void.

    When my dad retired from his job he had a lot of spare time, a huge void. Because it was never filled (he never found himself a hobby making model aeroplanes) he turned to the drink instead and because of it he is no longer with us.

    I look forward to my copy arriving and now I feel bad for judging so early. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Darren.

  18. Alright, got my order in…

  19. Lisa Brown says:

    Darren, thanks for writing about this. I’m awaiting my copy of the book – tomorrow! and have been reading everything about the book and Tim that I can get my screen on.

  20. Mike says:

    I have similar thoughts to this guy. I am only “working” a few hours a day, and living like a millionaire – which is not too hard in Cambodia.

  21. I met Tim a few months ago and I have interacted with him every couple of weeks. I find him a sincere genuine person with something interesting to say. I am looking forward to reading his book.

  22. Steve Nguyen says:

    Thanks Darren for the great interview. Tim Ferris sounds like an über-interesting person. I’m looking forward to reading his book and for the next part of your interview with him. I love the part where Tim said: “…retirement is so flawed…Sitting on a tropical beach is cool for about three days, then it’s just as boring as hell.” Funny stuff! Even your interview with him alone can make for a great book!

  23. cornflower says:

    I get the $17 eBook thing.

    One hardcover – $14 plus $20 postage to get to Australia in 4-6 weeks time.

    One eBook – $17 no postage, get it now.

    No brainer. ;)

    I just bought the eBook and I’m about half way through it. Brilliant stuff!!

  24. I am by no means bagging this guy, good on him I say, but you gotta check out the “Smells Fishy” review on Amazon. That is funny.

  25. Chris says:

    I would really like to know what kind of businesses he runs, if anyone has any info on this let it be known…

    I’m assuminng he outsources in many ways…..

  26. Hugh says:

    I would like to read the book he sounds pretty interesting. I would be curious how many people manage their online businesses from overseas.

  27. Jeremy says:

    That’s a book I’m definitely going to have to buy. The title is awesome, and since I plan on retiring before 30, I’m going to have to start thinking of what I should do after I do that!

  28. Matt says:

    Sounds like this is a book I should definitely read – can’t wait till it hits the stores. I’ve been thinking lately that I’m spinning my wheels a bit too much and not getting anywhere. Thanks for posting the interview up.

    And Tim really sounds like an interesting and genuine guy. Hope the book does well for him.

  29. Joe says:

    Great interview.

    One small disagreement. I know how-to ebook authors making a very comfortable living off of their writings. It’s certainly an exception, and yes, it does take work in other fields such as web design, SEO, marketing principles, attracting super affiliates, etc., but still is definitely attainable for the aspiring writer wanting to monetize their works through non-traditional book publishing.

    Congratulations to both of you on your successes & I look forward to part two of the Tim Ferris interview.

  30. hl says:

    Just by reading your interview, I can tell that this guy’s got it down with the meaning of life. He’s far past the materialistic stage that most people are stuck in. Also, his saying, “It’s about adding more life, not just subtracting work,” clicks with me. I’ve eliminated the excess in my life, and I’m looking for the next step to take. I think I’ll pick up that book!

  31. Mariano says:

    Hey this guy knows more about yerba mate than me! (I’m from Argentina) Darren if you want Yerba Mate let me know, I’ll exchange it for a couple of tips!!! he he.

  32. igor berger says:

    One word of advise!

    You cannot get the life style from the book, but only from life experiences!

    And Tim is right! Chase excitment not happines

  33. Frank says:

    Wouldn’t the SEO benefits of the article be a bit better, not to mention your credibility, if you actually spelled the author’s name correctly?

  34. Dana Mark says:

    Looking at early retirement soon, this sounds like a book I need to read. I have lots of ideas to fill the void, but I think reading this book will be one of the first. It may well give me a new perspective on what I’ve been thinking of as retirement. Thanks for sharing the interview.

  35. Ken Silver says:

    Darren and Tim,

    I’m one of several authors who are living proof you CAN make a constant million/yr by selling books (http://www.silverlotto.com), but the secret is to do it in highly specialized areas with an idea based on a secret formula.

    I hope Tim’s book gets to that happy #1 stage because it’s a great read, and even as a longterm business automator enthusiast, I picked up a lot of good ideas that I am applying right now. Outsourcing from India has got to be the holy grail of automated business!

    And I particularly like Tim’s philosophy of no-retirement. It’s always been my aim never to retire, but also never to work. Tim’s book outlines and confirms that lazy work practice beautifully in a way I haven’t seen before.

    PS. I rarely give public praise to any book. This one is the exception.

  36. Dan says:

    Great interview, introduced me to Tim in the first instance. And guess what? I ordered a copy. He is an inspired hustler and thankfully answered a few questions of my own on my blog. Let me know what you all think. Cheers.

  37. owl says:

    Why does pg 284 of Tim Ferriss’ book make use of a fake email chain letter that circulated in 1999? Fraud or oversight?

    Do a search on google for “slow dance” + “urban legend”

    owl

  38. WeebleWobble says:

    Tim seems like a dynamic person with a very rich background. To have such insight and flare for communication (“adding life, not subtracting work”, “if you want a free month – [insert affiliate link here]“), I’m sure he has worked very hard over the years leading up to this point.

    To be in a position where you can effectively outsource “life” and business, you must have years of experience. In other words, you need to put in the time before you can build the automaton.

    I built an online business from $0 to $1.3M over 4 years with nothing but hard work and persistence. This year it will do closer to $2M. Once you get to this point, you then ask yourself “how do I down-shift the gears so I can enjoy life, but not destroy my business?” So, we seek and find places like elance, rentacoder, etc and we begin the decomposition of our business into parts that we can outsource. Hiring a F/T employee is a great way to outsource your *low-risk* day-to-day activities. But to be in this position, you have to earn it, and you need capital to invest in outsourcing. Trial and error will occur and you will waste money on bad contractors.

    The title should read “4 Hour work week (for those who already have a million dollar business), 20 Hour work week (for those who are still corporate slaves running a side business), 70-80 Hour work week (for those who have quit their jobs and are dangerously trying to succeed in a new business venture)”

    Please dont just bash me for this post. Please read it and try to capture my perspective first, then go ahead and bash me.

    I really like Tim’s communication skills. He does an excellent job of getting everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, to eat out of his hand. This is A GOOD skill! I’m not knocking him. I think his book is perfect for guys like me and other business owners who are not fantastically successful but have spent years building a modest business that provides themselves a comfortable living, but requires a lot of their time to sustain. I DONT think this book is good for the new entrepreneur who is starting out with nothing.

    I wish every blogger and business guy out there the best of success.

    Weeble Wobble

  39. Hey problogger, I took your advise and became a bit controversial…

    Must be following in the foot steps of Pud. :)

    I see you do not hang out with the GWHF regulars and I do not blame you… Adam L. and Matt C. get enough ass kissing….to lest them 10 life times…

    Anyway just came to say hello…don’t ask me for royalties if I strike infamous.

    Come check out my World.

    Igor The Troll

  40. Congratulations Tim on making The New York Times Bestseller List!

    You’ve made consistently good points both on this site and on your blog site!

    Again, my heartfelt Congratulations! What an inspiration!

    Adrienne Zurub

  41. Doubtful says:

    I think ferriss is full of bullshit. can anyone help to verify his claims as stated on his blog? He says he’s advisor to 30 world champions and olympic athletes but doesn’t say who??? He also says he’s a world champion in mixed martial arts but doesn’t state the 4 champions he defeated?? Smells like another l ron hubbard or aleksey vayner. If this is a scam, it’s a good one!

    Doubtful

  42. Shoesalesman says:

    Hi All, My Tim-o-ty mentality has alredy started, why buy for something you can get for free or special price?? how has alredy bought me the E-BOOK 4-hours work week for FREEE!!! Downloaded from INTERNET!!

  43. Nancy Wylde says:

    This is interesting stuff. Thanks for the information. I am certain I will find it useful!

    Nancy Wylde

  44. Werbegott says:

    Nice Interview – but is the whole story true?

    I read his book till i thought … come on look at his website…
    i did and omg it’s just a shame… everything a fake!

Trackbacks

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