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Tim Ferris Interview – Part II

Tim-Ferris-4This is Part 2 of my in depth IM interview with Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read my introduction to Tim in my previous post. You can also read Part 1 here.

In today’s post Tim and I talk blogging. I ask him about some of the lessons he’s learned about driving traffic, posting frequency and being a productive blogger.

Darren – Why did you choose to add a blog to your strategy for promoting your book?

Tim – Good question, but I’ll reword it for you: why did I start a blog? It actually wasn’t solely to promote the book, though that’s a side-effect. There are a few reasons. First, a number of authors-cum-bloggers told me that they wasted thousands of dollars on book sites when a free blog ended up being the best PR tool. I believe that a good book site is important (www.fourhourworkweek.com), but the blog is much more.

The blog is how I build a “platform”. In publisher-speak, that means a fan base. Once you have a fan base — and I think my blog, forums, and other communities can be much bigger than the book — you have tons of options. Those options could be for monetizing (advertising, products, speaking, consulting, etc.) or simply extending your influence. There is power in numbers. Once I have enough clout with subscribers and fan base, I’ll be lobbying in Silicon Valley to establish an official “E-mail Detox Day” under law, for example! Lots of fun things coming.

Darren – What have you learnt about blogging since starting yours a month ago? Teach us oh wise one!

Tim – LOL… I don’t claim to have all of the answers, of course. Not even most of them, but I’m a pretty good “reductionist”. That just means that I question what everyone is doing and ask myself: if I ignore what’s popular, what everyone says you “have to do,” what actually works? I cut out all the fat and look at just the highest-impact variables.

For example, I’ve been told I need to post everyday, but when I really looked at the facts, a different picture emerged.

i’ve found that if i post less often, my blog has a sine wave sign-up curve. in other words: if i post just infrequently enough (for me, once every 4-6 days), the comments add up on each post, making the site look very popular, and rss subscriptions spike. if i post too often, it doesn’t look popular (since posts get pushed down and comment-count is low), so it is actually better for my site to post less often! love it when that happens…

The most important thing I’ve learned? Blogging is underestimated by many, but it’s overestimated by even more. It’s not a panacea or a silver bullet. It is a tool you should pay a ton of attention to, but it’s still just one tool.

Here’s another odd one.

I pay more attention to decreases in subscribers than increases. There are too many variables that could account for increases, and the easily identified reasons (a link from a prominent blogger) are often outside your control, and thus hard to repeat. Unsubscribes, on the other hand — defection — is due to one of two things, in my opinion, TOO MANY POSTS or POOR CONTENT. Whenever I get a dip, I look at the characteristics of the post — How was the headline different? How long was it? Did it have too many photos? Was it too about me without how-to information?

Paying attention to unsubscribes has allowed me to avoid problem posts and build my base not just quickly, but faster and faster.

Darren – What about getting Traffic for your blog – how are you building that?

Tim – One: guest post on other blogs as often as possible, and be creative. For example, I asked for ideas for book promotion at Ok Dork and got a great response. Not only did it give me great ideas for promotion, it got me a lot of new traffic. I just had my first post on the homepage on Huffington Post this morning, and it’s around Alexa 2,500.

Two: look at the blogrolls of prominent bloggers and look for names you don’t recognize. These are often thought leaders who are well-respected but perhaps not hard-core bloggers. A friend at SXSW told me I had to meet a guy named Brian Oberkirch, so I tracked him down at the event. Super cool guy, and we hit it off. He recently interviewed me for his blog, which is high quality and popular but not huge, and — unbenowst to me — he is friends with Merlin Mann of 43Folders. Brian’s post, and thus my book, then ended up on 43Folders. Moral of the story? Don’t be a traffic bigot. Seek out smart, original thinkers and look for lateral degrees of separation.

Darren – Many of the bloggers that I interact with have anything but a 4 hour work week – how can we make ourselves more productive in the day to day of blogging?

Tim – Just remember: you don’t HAVE TO do anything. Set the rules of the game so that you can win and have a life at the same time. If you set the expectation that you’ll post 12 times a day, it’s going to overwhelm you. Focus on quality over quantity and the critical few vs. the trivial many. How do you do that? You first define precisely what you want yourself and others to get out of the blog — why are you doing it, and what are you doing it for? It is vain to do with more what can be done with less (that’s quoting William of Occam, originator of “Occam’s Razor”), so if you can get your readers to where they need to be with one post a day, or one post per week, establish that as your rule.

Other things you can do:

“Batch” email and check it only once or twice per day. Use an autoresponder and other tools to help you do this. One of my most popular blog posts gives examples of this: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2007/03/22/how-to-check-e-mail-twice-a-day-or-once-every-10-days/

Invite guest bloggers to create content for you, write posts in batches, repurpose material from multiple sources (you can bet I’ll be linking to this interview in a post on my blog!), and also unsubscribe from nearly every RSS feed you have consuming your attention and time.

Darren – Many bloggers have big dreams for their online businesses but many seem to hit a ceiling of how much they can achieve – how can they scale up what they do without becoming slaves to their blogs?

Tim – Before you ask yourself how to scale (the brief answer is designing a process-driven instead of founder-driven business model), you need to ask yourself — what am I scaling for? What is your goal with the blog? Let’s assume you want to “make money”.

I encourage you to define your ideal lifestyle in terms of having, being, and doing, then calculate the average monthly cost. If you want a Lamborghini Gallardo, yearly trips to Fiji, and to take cooking classes with a professional chef, great. Determine what all of that averages out to on a monthly basis: this is your TMI — Target Monthly Income — and your goal for your business.

IPOs and acquisitions are fine, but they shouldn’t be your top priority. It’s too easy to defer life if you become myopically fixated on an often elusive exit. Besides, building a business that you can be removed from, and focusing on profitability, are all ingredients for getting a good price when selling your business.

Bigger and more often is not necessarily better, and almost never is from a lifestyle standpoint. Focus on being the best rather the biggest, and focus on hitting your TMI — and most important, living your dreams instead of working for work’s sake — and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself without feeling like you’re shoveling coal into the furnace 24/7 with a monster you have to feed.

Darren – You talk quite a bit in your book about outsourcing – do you outsource any aspects of your blogging?

Tim – I outsourced a good portion of design implementation (I designed the look and architecture with sketches first), as well as SEO work. I haven’t outsourced any writing, but I will be adding guest posters as traffic builds and becomes attractive to good writers. I’ll be training and hiring people to help with responding to comments once volume gets high, as I will with the forums. The secret to keeping my blog low-stress is still a relatively low frequency of posting. All of the time-consumers and stress producers multiply with the number of your posts.

Darren – Where do you find people to outsource different aspects of your businesses to? Do you ever have issues of unreliability? Any tips for finding quality people?

Tim – I’ve used a great company called GetFriday, as well as Elance. There are a number of keys:

1) Hire groups of people or companies, not single people. If you become dependent on a single person and they get sick, for example, you have a single point of failure. Hire companies or groups where there are checks and balances, and where people can replace each other in emergencies.

2) If you narrow it down to, say, five potential groups on Elance, as them all to perform a simple 20-minute task by a specific time. Ask for a report afterwards indicating what worked well, what didn’t, and what they’d change about the process. If they miss the deadline or don’t follow directions perfectly, don’t hire them.

3) If you have a project that you anticipate will take 20 hours, ask for them to confirm understaning first, then ask for a status update after 3 hours. If not, you could end up with something you didn’t even ask for in the end, and it will be too late to correct misinterpretation.

GetFriday offers a 7-day trial for their services, and they are really good. Very experienced with processes in place.

Darren – cool – I think that’s my main questions covered – did you have anything else to add?

Tim – It might be interesting for people to know that I don’t even use an RSS reader. I visit a handful of sites once or twice per week. RSS readers are too easy to abuse and let consume your entire day.

Darren – Interesting – do you have any ‘watch lists’ or ‘alerts’ for your name or your book’s name to help you track what people are saying about you so that you can engage in those conversations?

Tim – Good question. I use GoogleAlerts for news and blogs, and I also check incoming links from within WordPress.

Darren – Thats about all I’ve got. Thanks for your time Tim – as usual, it’s been great chatting with you!

Tim – No problem, it’s been great.

Get a Copy of Tim’s book – 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. David says:

    Thanks for providing the interview Darren. It was greatly appreciated!

    I thought the interview was a good read in general, and I got a lot of interesting ideas out of it.

    Thanks again.

    Regards,

  2. Mark McManus says:

    Great, in-depth interview. I think this guy is inspirational.

    “Focus on quality over quantity and the critical few vs. the trivial many”

    My thoughts exactly. Great stuff. Bravo!

  3. John Wesley says:

    Wow, this Ferriss guy is spreading like an idea virus. Not that it’s a bad thing. The book is a must read for any aspiring entrepreneur.

    Darren FYI, the link to 43folders actually leads to a parked domain 43folder.com.

  4. Deborah says:

    Well I got the book. I m reading it, and I to am one that questions things and how they can be done. So I started at the middle of the book reading through and will continue to the beginning :). So far I have learned a few things, I am totally for the simple things. And clearing out clutter. The outsourcing is something I have been doing for a while on certain sites buildings and to plug the book, it is a very good read. I vote a keeper!

  5. Pedro says:

    amazing interview. I’ll buy this book as soon as it cames to Brazil =)

  6. Steve Madsen says:

    A great interview, Tim’s strategies are simple and I’ve employed a few similar ideas in the past to improve productivity. His email strategy is a good example of how to reduce interruptions. People spend a lot of time answering emails that they received as a carbon copy, doing another person’s job at the expense of their own tasks. Basically, unpaid outsourcing.

  7. Reformer says:

    Great interview Darren. Fascinating learning about all of this.

  8. faraz says:

    Hi Darren,
    This was a very eye opening interview. I liked it How Tim does things the way he likes and gets good results. This is quite refreshing.
    When others are just going on doing what they are being told by others, Tim is just creating his own path.
    Very Inspirational and Informative.

    bye,
    faraz
    author of Who Loves Money Guide

  9. One of the longest interviews so far. I hope Tim will sell more and more books :-)

  10. Keith says:

    nice job in just one month, sheeesh!

  11. Great two-part article. I just ordered the book through your link.

  12. Yo Tim, nice story, and maybe at this moment you are working 4 hours per week. But the road towards your current position probably took you 60-70 hours per week of hard work.

    But nice sales pitch anyway. Reminds me of the fact that I should think up one for my own new site and a good way to make it interesting for the blog-savvy readers …

    Tx, Marc

  13. Hey Darren,

    It was a fascinating interview. Thanks for publishing it.

    Cheers!
    Siddharth Thakkar

  14. Ryan says:

    Great interview. Will be picking up the book. Especially like the tips on expanding your network, as my blog is still in it’s infancy. I wonder if you could ever have too much exposure.

  15. Ryan says:

    Forgot to mention I was interested to hear the response on posting as little as possible. I know when I get ideas for my blog, they usually come in such a flurry, I don’t usually get them all down. This interview made me consider storing all my ideas/articles in a file and posting them periodically to maintain a steady flow of content rather then using the flood/drought method. Once again. Great article.

  16. As far as outsourcing the majority of your work to cheap help at big companies like elance and GetFriday as opposed to partnering with individuals –with all due respect to Tim, this seems a bit short-sighted and superficial.

    Have you ever considered that your business might grow more quickly and be more stable if you partnered with trusted individuals who will stay with you through the long term and who actually care about you, your happiness, your family, your clients and your business personally?

    This is what I do, and I’ve gotta tell you, there is nothing like it in the world! There is soooo much more to running a successful internet business than just getting tasks done and checking off a daily to-do list. There is a human relationship element that involves trust, partnership, collaboration, loyalty and personal support and encouragement that Tim’s outsourcing strategy completely misses out on.

    I know this way of working isn’t for everyone—obviously there are tons of folks who just think in the short-term and want to delegate tasks to the bargain basement provider, but I would like to suggest that virtual biz owners who truly care about the long-term health of their business and who regard their business as their “baby” that they’ve created and nurtured for years, might find it a wiser idea to invest in enduring partnerships with trusted individuals rather just buying time with a bunch of interchangeable/disposable contractors.

    Quality trumps quantity every single time, and I guarantee, if you’ve spent years building a successful internet business you’ll sleep better at night if you actually know, respect and trust the person who is helping you manage your sites. :-)

  17. Bryan says:

    Interesting read, I particularly like the fact that Tim only posts once every 4-6 days. This makes more sense to me than trying to post every day or multiple times a day. Looking logically at it from my point of view, which post is going to be better researched, more detailed, and well written, the one written in a day or the one written over 4 days?

  18. Buddy says:

    I think He’s right in that if you post less you might get more comments but you also have less on the internet to draw traffic into your site.

  19. I not only bought the book, but I’m starting a new effort to learn to live without working. I’m going to chronicle my efforts and success (or, hopefully not, the lack thereof) at my blog Live Without Working.

    Steve

  20. TimFerris says:

    Isn’t there another “s” on Tim the Younger’s last name? I am the longtime national proponent of the 8-hour half-working week, which is close to Tim Ferriss’ newer 4-hour fully-at-work week, and we need to bear in mind that there are important distinctions raised, 4, and 8. Besides, Tim the Stargazer, formerly of Rolling Stone fame, and I have enough trouble with getting googled, without your interjection of the double-s whippersnapper here.

  21. Cory says:

    That was a really great interview. Many useful points. I bought his book and am almost finished. It really makes you get up and act on the principals unlike many others I’ve read. He pretty much spells it out how to do things which is very useful.

  22. JohnN says:

    great interview

  23. JohnN says:

    great interview, tim ferriss has inspired many.

  24. 1) Focus (quality over quantity) and email diet are clutch.
    2) Outsourcing has its ups and downs
    3) Focus more on decrease in email/RSS subscribers
    [but at the same time you can't beat yourself up]
    4) Batching various work tasks including email.
    5) I think his encouragement in other places to use Jott as a productivity tool

  25. Great interview. My experience with batching and email diet has helped my workflow and productivity a ton. A couple ideas from the interview stood out:

    1) Focus (quality over quantity) and email diet are clutch.
    2) Outsourcing has its ups and downs
    3) Focus more on decrease in email/RSS subscribers
    [but at the same time you can't beat yourself up]
    4) Batching various work tasks including email.
    5) I think Tim’s encouragement in other places to use Jott as a productivity tool makes tons of sense too. Jott sends you an email message (or blog post) of mobile messages to yourself.

  26. Really great interview. I’ve read The 4 Hour Workweek three times now and I still can’t get enough.

    It all comes down to the 80/20 rule. Only do the things the contribute the most results. Too many of us work on all of the things that contribute very little results.

    I encourage you to pick up the book. It’s been truly life-changing for me!

  27. Platypus says:

    Did I miss the part where he actually explains how to accomplish this?

    Oh, wait, let me guess: to become successful, simply start your own successful business. Okay, great, thanks for the “help.”

    Don’t do as these rip-off artists say, just do as they do by employing hype and manipulation. Keep selling “the dream” (don’t bother making anything genuinely useful or beneficial for mankind) and the ignorant masses will point out what a great success story you are. Avoid honesty and decency at all costs–these are obstacles on your path to success.

    And look, I didn’t even charge you for this great advice. Now get out there and screw somebody over!

  28. Mike says:

    An amazing interview Tim has it together in an interesting way that we can all learn from. The interview puts a new perspective for me on the book which by itself seemed a bit unbelieveable when I read it. The interview adds a personal touch lacking with just the book.

  29. Nancy Wylde says:

    Great interview. Thank you. Your interview has been quite inspirational!!

    Nancy Wylde

  30. Derek Murphy says:

    I agree – Tim is an inspiration; a success machine, and a lot of his tips about creating a great life with little work are fabulous. But is it just me, or is this blatant self-promotion off-putting? Granted, its the reason for his success and as such it’s indispensable. But being ‘featured in the NY times’ for getting a quote about tea printed? If we all twisted the facts that far, we’d all be celebrities.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Ferris Interview – Part 1 Tim Ferris Interview – Part 2 This two part interview by Darren Rowse provides some excellent business advice. Tim’s book [...]

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  3. [...] Part I of my Interview with Tim Ferris Read Part II If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to the Free ProBlogger [...]

  4. [...] to Tim Ferris, it isn’t. Tim recommends posting every 4-6 days, long enough for comments to build up. Wierd. I’m not [...]

  5. [...] Most of the conventional wisdom is still recommending a daily posting regime, but Tim Ferris is telling people to post every 4-6 days. Time will tell which is the winning [...]

  6. [...] Rowse interviewed Tim Ferriss on the subject of his book (part 1, part 2). In the interview, Tim mentions that two of the resources he uses for outsourcing are GetFriday [...]

  7. [...] saw the Problogger interview with Tim Ferris, author of The 4–Hour Workweek book … and it [...]

  8. [...] example Tim has written here at ProBlogger about how he finds that posting every 4-6 days on his blog is enough (and actually [...]