Tim Ferriss – author of The 4-Hour Work Week – has never been the VA industry’s favourite person – especially when he advocated the exploitation of labour in developing countries for $5 per hour in order to get himself rich. As Meagan Day of Jacobin Magazine puts it:
After dozens of pages of self-help and time-management cliches (“Poisonous people do not deserve your time”; “Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening”; “Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle”), Ferriss finally laid out his magic bullet solution: follow in his footsteps and become a fake expert. “Expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators.”
He then presented his regimen for aspiring charlatans: join two trade organizations and read three top-selling books on a topic. Paraphrase and combine the ideas you encounter in your own words, then hang posters at a nearby university inviting students to a free seminar. Use that experience to give another seminar at a corporate campus. Record the seminars. Write a couple articles for trade magazines. Put the recordings and the articles on your website. Now you’re in business.
But that’s only half the work. The other half is even more important. Once you’ve set up shop, Ferriss advises that you take all the work of promoting your bogus expertise and outsource it to “remote assistants” in the developing world for $5 an hour. These assistants will continue generating content under your banner, while managing every aspect of your brand and business. All you have to do is manage them. Then, after you’ve got that system up and running, hire a US-based head remote assistant with whom you can easily communicate — your “domestic outsourcer” — to manage your remote assistants. Now your only task is managing your domestic outsourcer.
Congratulations: having reached the stage of “full automation,” you are now working only four hours a week. You’re rich, and free to travel the world.
Our industry fought against this when the book was first published in 2007 and we continue to fight against the perception that virtual assistants are cheap labour, useful for exploiting to achieve your dream of emancipation from work. Our colleagues in the Philippines are having an even more difficult time struggling against the perception that they only NEED to work for $5 an hour – some even being offered as little as $2 – and Rochefel Rivera, owner of Professional VAs in the Philippines, has indicated some even as low as 50c.
While Tim Ferriss advocates the freedom of breaking away from the drudgery of the 9.00 to 5.00 – something we all aspire to – he likewise advocates keeping developing countries in relative poverty while he lives the dream, and this has unfortunately had a flow on effect to western virtual assistants who are constantly justifying their rate. But take another look at the process. Your first step is to basically ‘fake it till you make it’ and dupe people willing to pay you for your “expertise” into believing you know what you’re talking about!
At least with a professional virtual assistant you know you’re getting someone who has come from a background in administration, with years of experience, and some with specialist training in their niche. The majority of my clients don’t question my rate: because they believe the value I bring them far exceeds the hourly rate I charge them. This could be in increased productivity, or allowing them to work on client acquisition and retention, marketing, income and lead generation, not wasting their time on projects they don’t have the skills for. And if you’re a professional charging your time at $200, $300, $400 an hour – how much are you costing yourself doing it all when a professional VA can get that work done more efficiently, in a fraction of the time, costing you far less in the long run? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!
$5 an hour doesn’t cut it. No one – regardless of their cost of living – can exist on that. I’d challenge Mr Ferriss to try it.
(For Meagan Day’s full article: The Fraud and the Four-Hour Work Week – go here.)