Ming the Mechanic:
Outsourcing your life

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Outsourcing your life2007-06-25 23:45
1 comment
by Flemming Funch

What a splendid idea. Read at 43 Folders about The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. So, this is first what Merlin Mann says at 43 Folders:
A lot of my friends have been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and, to varying degrees, several of them have started trying on some of his more audacious ideas, such as checking email once a week, finding an “income muse,” going on an extreme information diet — a few people I know are considering outsourcing pieces of their personal and professional lives.

For reasons I can’t fully explain — and will, for now, just write down to Tim’s engaging style — I also found this outsourcing idea weirdly fascinating. You identify the tedious tasks in your life that don’t represent the best use of your time, and assign them to an overseas worker who can complete them for a few bucks an hour. This apparently can be virtually any kind of mundane task, from booking a dinner reservation to doing research on a company to — heck, why not? — answering your email...
And he asks for examples from people who've tried things like that. Does it work, does it not work?

Read an excerpt of the book from Tim Ferriss.

Again, I find the idea very intriguing. Not that I haven't thought of it, but there's a certain jump to actually doing it, and making it work. Obviously there's a potential there. That is, if you have too much to do, particularly tasks you find boring or difficult, which are expensive for you to do in terms of time, but which aren't part of your core activity or your mission in life. Others who maybe are better at it, or who get paid at a different rate, might of course be able to do a better job, and more gets done, and everybody's happy. At least in principle.

I have tried outsourcing where it didn't work so well. I.e. where communication difficulties, having to explain everything too much, and different work rhythms end up making it not give any benefit. There's an eastern European fellow who still writes me and says thank you once in a while, because he was able to get married and start a family and get a nice place to live for what I paid him, which was relatively little for me at the time, but which kept him working full time. But it didn't really work out for me. The idea was that I would just pass things on to him that I needed to do myself, and I always ended up losing patience and finding a faster way of doing it myself before he was done.

At the same time I see it apparently working in places like rent-a-coder. It is not personal assistants you get there, but anything related to programming, graphics, translation, project management, etc. I do notice people who piece together whole projects there, for very little money, but with people who're perfectly happy with the work. If you do it well, you can get one person to develop a program, another to do the website, with graphics from a third person, a fourth writing the content, a fifth testing it, and a sixth being the project manager, etc. And it wouldn't be unrealistic that a whole project might get off the ground for $1-2000.

But it appeals even more to me on a personal level. I tend to either focus deeply on one project, forgetting everything else, or I scatter myself in many directions, pursuing interesting ideas. And I'm not very good at the stuff in the middle, like staying organized and remembering to bill people and ask others for things I need from them etc. I have very much enjoyed times where I worked with others who enjoyed doing some of those things, who were perfectly happy answering the phone for me, coordinating projects with customers, etc. Because I tend to hate doing that myself. So the idea of a personal assistant makes me salivate.


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26 Jun 2007 @ 07:09 by Merlin Silk @76.168.217.251 : tried it
From my experience it can work. I tried it recently with a template for wordpress where I wanted it to mimic the style of a website I liked for a client. I probably could have sat down and done that myself. But I found somebody in India who offered to do this for 200 bucks - man, it would have cost me at least several days, maybe more with my little knowledge of theme writing for wordpress. I still had to invest a few hours for communication and testing, but it turned out to be a sweet deal as I got paid much more for the thing from my client - this is how I became a real capitalist ;-))  


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