An Awesome Example of Viral Marketing & The 4 Hour Work Week For Writers

August 8, 2007

Marketing and PR types who are looking seed ideas, engage in viral marketing, or just learn more about how the blogging community works, take note: Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week has posted about how he reached #1 on the New York Times Business Bestseller list.

His strategy (as described on Steve Rubel’s Micropersuasion):

* Go where bloggers go
* Be there with a message and a story that will appeal to their interests, not yours
* Build and maintain those relationships through your own blog too

Yes, this advice seems a little basic, but it clearly works – there’s lots more good stuff in his post, and on his website in general, so go read it.  Tim has really embraced the idea of a book as a manifesto and helped a community to grow around it (I think his site may have been the first place I came across that term, actually).  Also, the 4 Hour Work Week is a pretty fantastic book, and as we all know, no amount of buzz, clever packaging, or marketing stunts will make up for a product that’s not up to par. 

On a related note, here are my thoughts on the 4 Hour Work Week as it applies to what I do (I’m a freelance writer/blogger/consultant).  I actually started this post immediately after I read the book, but I decided to wait and apply some of the techniques and ideas to my own life, and then finish the post.

The book appeared on my radar when I read about it on several popular blogs (after Tim spoke at the SXSW conference) and honestly, I was prepared to like it before I even read it.  It’s always been drummed into to my head that you have to work, work, work all the time and that if you didn’t put in at least a 40 hour work week, you were ridiculously lazy.  I liked the idea that someone was willing to put into words how the current system of working your ass off to become the “fat man in the red BMW” was flawed, and how to really get what you want out of life.

Then I read the book, and liked it even more.  His productivity tips and techniques made sense (an aside: have you ever noticed that many of the so-called “life hacks” seem to make things needlessly complicated?) and although his pared down approach to running a business may seem like it doesn’t apply to those of us with creative-type jobs, I found that separating the “work” from the “play” part of what I do enabled me to look at everything in a whole new light.

The “work” part is all the boring stuff – hunting down PR reps and interview sources, emailing clients and prospective clients, and general administrative type stuff.  I’ve developed a system to streamline all that – one thing that I took away from the book is that it’s okay to not to respond to emails immediately – everything can wait until it’s email time or whoever it is that emailed can call me if it’s that urgent. 

The “play” part is the actual writing and researching.  After all, I get to research and write about topics that fascinate me, and meet/interview/work with some awesome people while I do it.  Granted, I do spend more than 4 hours a week writing, but it doesn’t feel like work (obviously, considering I take the time to keep a blog on top of my other gigs).

Another important point that the 4 Hour Work Week makes is that you don’t need to have buckets of cash to live like you do – there’s all sorts of deals to be had, countries where your dollars go a lot further, and if you keep your overhead costs low, you can spend your money on the things that are truly important to you (case in point: I live in a pretty small apartment, but because of that I save money to spend on travel and such).  It’s obvious when you think about it, but people want to be wealthy because of the lifestyles that millionaires lead, not because they get off from counting their money (Eh, some people probably do – more power to ’em.  On a related note, Penelope Trunk posted about living a lean, spare lifestyle yesterday).

One more thing – this is actually taken from Tim’s first interview with Darren Rowse (the Problogger) – is that it’s important to “identify your peak periods in your circadian rhythms”, or to work when you’re at your most energetic and inspired.  For some reason, I used to feel slothlike and a little guilty when I wasn’t raring to go at 9am, even though I knew that I was at my best during the evening.  My creative abilities are night owls.  Now I’ve pretty accepted that I’m not a morning person, and I organize my time accordingly.  After all, as long as I make my deadlines, my clients don’t care whether I wrote the piece at 10:00am or 10:00pm.

In the past few months (I bought the 4 Hour Work the day it hit the shelves and read it immediately), my productivity has increased greatly while my actual time spent working decreased significantly.  I’ve also had a lot more time to pursue my own projects, and to just enjoy all that Chicago has to offer.  Thanks Tim – and if on the off-chance you read this – congrats on topping the NY Times and WSJ lists!

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