What are virtual assistants according to “4-Hour Work Week”? Why is it, such a secret?
The 4 Hour Work Week (4HWW) focuses on the concept “work smarter not harder“. Among other things to that end, it suggests outsourcing your tasks to someone else, in short, hiring a virtual assistant. By doing that, an entrepreneur saves his/her time from doing short or simplistic tasks and can utilize that time for bigger tasks that only they can, and should, be doing for their career.
The reason why it’s such a “secret” is because most people are resistant to the idea of virtual assistants. This usually comes down to the following three objections:
1: They are afraid of hiring someone to help them who they haven’t met in person. This can be addressed by working through a VA service website or simply having a good system for vetting the best candidates (the book goes into both options).
2: They unilaterally associate price with labor quality, and think that since virtual assistants are cheaper than most other options, they aren’t as good. I’ve found this to not be the case. Number one, most of them charge a fairly normal wage. Second, a VA is just another type of gig contractor, and there are good and bad workers in the online gig economy, because it’s huge and growing every year.
3: They expect it to cost too much. This may even be true, at least until the entrepreneur has some revenue already or some money saved up. Anything can cost too much if you are in a tough financial situation.
Let’s discuss more.
The concept of virtual assistants lets an entrepreneur avoid working on the drudgery necessary to keep their business or life in order. In turn, this means they get to work for fewer hours, or in other words, four hours a week or something equivalently short. Hence the book’s title. There are many other factors it teaches about how to expand your life-to-work ratio, of course, but VAs are one big factor.
Imagine you are running a restaurant. If you only need someone to answer the phone and process calls for you, and all your other employees have enough work to do, you don’t need to hire a new employee just for that. It’s better to get a gig contractor who will do that task, and only that task. This helps you focus on the tasks you yourself need to do and stops your business from bloating up too much in the attempt to hire on extra help.
This is really important. There have been many small business owners who collapsed under the pressure and complications of growing their employee team too fast, hiring full or part-time workers when what they really needed was an assistant. Hiring new employees, for a young business, is often a complicated and time-consuming affair, and VAs are comparatively easier.
The concept of outsourcing and hiring virtual assistants is popular among small businesses as they scale up. There are a lot of tasks that virtual assistants can do, and they allow you to pay someone to do a more narrow and defined set of roles than what a traditional employee would have to do, and in the process pay less for the freelancer’s time. 4HWW discusses all this in a separate section.
Ferriss, the author, recommends the first and primary hire as a virtual assistant as he/she can help you build your business in a meaningful way, and for beginners it’s often all they need. They can control your incoming messages, handle your calls, help you with research, increase sales, or whatever you can’t or strongly prefer not to do.
They just shouldn’t be in charge of whatever you yourself should be doing.
For example, I run a personality-driven content business, so no one can make videos for me, because I have to use my voice and my image. But, with a VA tackling various time-consuming tasks for me, I can focus entire days on making videos if I want, and make far more progress in my business’s growth.
You’ll see this theme throughout the book in its other sections: do not ‘work for yourself’. Working for yourself doesn’t protect you from working too hard. Instead of working for yourself, have others work for you. Be a boss. Create opportunity for other people by letting them help you. Hiring VAs is a fantastic stepping stone to become a boss, for beginners, and a way to optimize and grow at incredibly low costs for more intermediate and advanced entrepreneurs.
To that point, a virtual assistant can help you in hiring more virtual assistants for your business, which is where the expansion gets amazing. This is exactly how the Rhodes brothers’ business is structured, just two guys who make videos, really, and they bring in millions of dollars a year.
4HWW recommends outsourcing almost every small task (to a somewhat silly degree, I admit), which is where the basic concept becomes truly powerful. There are massively successful global businesses right now that only have one employee, or maybe a few more, and many more virtual assistants to handle just the very specific small-tier tasks the business needs to function. It’s a far more effective system than the expectations of the traditional 9-5 employer/employee setup, and far less controlling and restrictive on all sides.
The 4HWW speaks volumes about virtual assistants, and that section of the book is my favorite. Finding the right virtual assistant is vital to the 4HWW plan, and you can’t treat it like an easy band-aid or shortcut to working hard.
Since the book has been a life-changer for me, I have a lot to speak on the points discussed in the book,. All of my encounters with virtual assistants have been great, and I’m thankful to have learned about and embraced this opportunity. I can confidently say that anyone who reads the book will understand the power and value of virtual assistants in modern business. If you haven’t read that book yet, I would recommend reading it once. If you are interested, you can read a review of it through this link.
Anyway, as I said before regarding the second part of the question the concept is a secret in the outside world, but not inside the book. It has been kept secret from the outside world as it’s the USP. At least, that was the case. Nowadays many people talk about how important it is to get a VA, although we still have a ways to go.
In conclusion, the 4HWW beautifully discusses the concept of outsourcing lower-skill-level work to virtual assistants, and it may appear to be a secret, but the book covers it very well. Thankfully, Tim’s ideas have grown a lot more popular and I expect the economy to continue to grow in that direction over the next few years.
Please feel free to leave me a reply if you need clarification.