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Thu Jan 10 2008 18:10:10

Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?

By: Ina Steiner

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I've been reading the best-selling book by Timothy Ferriss, "The 4-Hour Workweek." So far it's gotten me to think about ways to be more efficient, and that alone makes the book worth perusing. I find myself thinking about what I'm doing as I go through my day and evaluating whether tasks really add value to what I'm doing or are time-wasting distractions. (I don't think I'm going to shrink my workweek to four hours, however.)

One of the recommendations Timothy makes is to limit checking your email to twice a day - before lunch and at 4pm. Immediately I thought to myself, this would not work for online retailers. They have to be on top of their email. And eBay sellers are particularly challenged - eBay buyers expect immediate answers to their questions.

However, Timothy suggests outsourcing tasks, and I know larger sellers have employees handling email customer support. Is it possible for a 1-man or 1-woman eBay business to outsource the email process? Or is it possible an email auto-responder system could work well enough to let sellers limit email-checking to twice (or even three times) a day? That's even the premise for HostedSupport.com.

Timothy suggests outsourcing other business tasks (and even suggests outsourcing personal tasks). In my podcast with Doggy Pads' founder, Mark Stern explained how he outsourced the entire fulfillment process using Shipwire.com. (And I noticed Randy Smythe recently blogged about outsourcing using Amazon by Fulfillment.)

As it happens, eLance's public relations firm contacted me earlier this week to let me know about a contest they are running. If you answer this question - "How would you use a virtual assistant to grow your business or improve your personal life?" - you could win $5,000 to put toward a "Virtual Assistant," a concept I'm just getting to in Timothy Ferriss' book. (Timothy is one of the judges of the eLance contest.)

Have you read "The 4-Hour Workweek," and have you found the ideas useful? Which ideas go too far? What are your time-saving techniques? And how would you use a virtual assistant?




Comments (3) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?   Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?

by: billstuff

Fri Jan 11 04:04:13 2008

Strictly on the subject of checking email, I have discovered that I can get away with only checking Microsoft Outlook once per day.  About 95% or more of our customer contacts are generated through My eBay Messages.  We check that frequently, allowing us to respond quickly to customer inquiries while avoiding the need to download and review Outlook emails multiple times per day.  

Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?   Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?

by: john

Fri Jan 11 09:24:53 2008

Hi Ina, I have been implementing change to our business and based on the book made some huge adjustments. I have outsourced email 1st response to India. Did it just like the book recommended as a trial and then ended up shooting the whole thing to India in December.

I check my email 1 time per day and 90% of the busy work type emails are being handled by my India team. I have created auto responses for them and a few training videos to help them ramp up their workers.

The big benefit is that now I am once again able to work "ON" my business and not "IN" it. 2008 will show more efforts to outsource work for 3rd Power Outlet (3rdpo.com) both in the US and worldwide.

Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?   Can Online Sellers Conquer the 4-Hour Workweek?

by: Perry

Sat Jan 12 17:44:51 2008

I have been using Catch Friday (Catchfriday.com) Virtual Personal Assistants in the Philippines, and they've  certainly shortened my working week.

Their virtual assistant sounded totally American, and didn't have any accent whatsoever.

She was so flexible, and I realized that CatchFriday could handle any task.

They do my Quick Books, my web design, and Oh of course answer my email.



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