Hi all. It certainly has been a while since I’ve last posted. That’s because in many ways the 4HWW concept has been shot given the urgency of making ends meet and scrambling to get whatever dollars are left to spend. One of the most important things for a small business is cash flow. If you can manage your cash flow effectively, you can weather any economic condition. However, if you are spending faster (and/or more) than you are collecting, you can be in a world of pain.
A lot of us 4HWW’ers are searching for muses that are Passive Income Generators (PIGs) and also require little investment upfront or continued maintenance (to allow them to be true 4 hour a week exercises). Maybe it’s a panacea, since if there was truly something that can return income with little or no time investment, everyone would be doing it, which would then eliminate any of the financial benefit. Economic markets are efficient, right?
Or maybe there are such sorts of businesses, but they can never truly replace income by themselves. Perhaps the key to a good PIG-type muse is to have a collection of small businesses, each of which contribute a modest amount, but togethr contrbute a significant amount.
In that vein, I’m getting a few of my muses together. The first muse is this blog. But a blog isn’t truly a PIG. Indeed, a blog is really an Active Income Generator (AIG) because it requires continuous work on the blogger to allow it to derive value. Well, maybe not entirely… some blogs automatically parrot information available elsewhere. Those blogs then can truly be PIG-type muses. But it’s the one where new and fresh content is the draw that makes blogs AIGs.
Note: I really need better acronyms, since we like PIGs and the AIG acronym sounds too close to an existing, failing business entity. Anyone have any ideas that convey the same meaning but have better acronyms?
An e-Commerce site as a PIG
So, one of those modestly-contributing PIGs I am considering is an ecommerce site selling a specific niche of items. There is some set-up time involved in an ecommerce site, especially around the website development and selection of products. Also, there is the issue of dealing with customer support and shipping / packaging. But I have a feeling that e-Commerce has evolved so that it can be completely turnkey without requiring the user to do anything but generate traffic.
Here’s where I’m stuck. I need help here — has anyone recently put together an e-Commerce site with a minimal of money and time investment and managed to keep operations humming with little continuous money and time investment? If so, I want to hear about it! What tools did you use? What companies are you working with? Send me your advice, and we’ll keep it posted here.
See you around the 4HWW world!
The Decay of a Social Network
Has anyone else had this experience? I am in the midst of remodeling my basement (I’ll have a few posts on that subject, so sorry to bore you all if you don’t care). In the process, I had to get rid of a washer/dryer combo that was not going to fit the new space. More importantly, I just wanted some new equipment. Anyways, I didn’t just want to put the washer/dryer out on the street or give it to charity, since perhaps someone would want a great washer/dryer set for just $100 as well as an old tub for the same amount. I was pretty much willing to part with it for whatever I could get, as long as they would haul it out themselves.
So, I decided to post my washer/dryer item up on the local Craig’s List. I figured if someone in the area would want it, this would be the quickest and easiest way to find out.
Lo and behold, 2 days later I get my first response:
Hi do you still have them thanks when good time to stop by
Disregarding the bad grammar, I replied:
Yes, I still have the washer and dryer (separate units). Are you interested in purchasing them?
He responded fairly quickly:
I want them can you hold them for me thanks – I have Blood donation tuesday and my dad gets home around 6pm what area are you at thanks can you give me number can get in touch [phone number]
Ok, so I understand now that he’s a student or some such. No problem. So, I email him my phone number and await his call. Didn’t get it that evening. Or the following day. Or the day after that. So, I email him asking what the status is. No response. So, I decide to give him a call on the number. I finally get a hold of him, and he says he’s still interested, and he’ll come that weekend. I wait for him that weekend. He never shows up. I call again, this time, no answer. I give up and chalk it up to a flake. Hopefully I’ll get another bite.
Sure enough, just a few days later, I get the following inquiry from someone new:
Is it still available?
Yes! But it needs to get out of here this weekend. Can you come and pick it up?
My husband is in XXX tomorrow dropping my step-daughter at college. We actually are renovating a farmhouse in YYY but I thought possibly he could load in his car & drive back…I’ll need to have him coordinate with you. Is there a # you can be reached at?
My husband wasn’t able to be in touch–our loss…
Is the tub still avaliable? i am getting ready to buy a house and a clawfoot tub is a must for me. thank you.
Yes, but it must go tomorrow! Can you come by tomorrow to pick it up? It’s on the third floor and needs to be taken down (carefully!). It’s quite heavy and I can’t help to carry it down, but I’m sure you can (perhaps along with a small crew and a dolly). Let me know if you can come and get it!
what time would be good for me to come and get it? im free after 5?
Hello, Is this still available? I own an antique and refinishing shop in XXXX and am putting a vintage style kitchen and bathroom on the upper level. thanks so much for your response.
Yes it is, but you’ll need to haul it from our third floor. It’s quite heavy – do you have folks who can get it and bring it?
Yes, I do, my husband has a truck as well. How much are you asking again? and could you send me the link or ad # I am so sorry I have responded to about 15 ads today for clawfoots and am trying to keep them straight..
Hello Again, I was able to find one with a kitchen sink also, so I won’t be coming by. Thanks again
Flakes: 4, Me: 0. Ok, I’ve had it. I donate it to a local good will and get $300+ as a tax write-off. I guess I win.
Here’s what gets me about this whole thing. I understand that there are lots of choices on Craig’s List and maybe my appliances and tub weren’t the best, but it seems that the ratio of flakes to real buyers is quite high. NONE of the buyers bothered to let me know that they were either not interested or found another option after they set up a specific date and time to come by and pick it up. They had absolutely no consideration for my time. I thought this might be just my bad luck, but apparently, after doing a search on “Craigslist flake” on Google, this is so common, it even has its own Urban Dictionary definition!
It seems that it is the exception that someone is able to find a buyer on Craig’s list rather than the rule. Geez, if there ever was a decay of the value of a social network, here it is.
Craig’s List: Good for Nothing
Digging into Craig’s List deeper, I found that Craig’s list provided very little tangible value to anyone. I saw blog posts and forum comments about people who couldn’t even give away items on Craig’s list. Even more worrisome is the trend that people are using Craig’s List for scams and criminal activity. Craig’s List provides a great anonymous front for the very sort of criminal element you don’t want near the items you have for sale.
Indeed, that very anonymous front might result in probably the only community that gets value from Craig’s List: Pimps and Hos. In the personal’s section called “Casual Encounters“, you will find a deluge of advertisements for thinly-veiled offers of adult services of all sorts. There must be a lot of buyers, because there’s a heck of a lot of sellers. If many legit sellers of goods, like myself, are having such a hard time getting real people to buy goods, and if scammers are pushing out the good sellers in droves, then it must be that the Pimp-n-Ho audience is what Craigs List caters to the most.
But even in this area, Craig’s List is a danger zone. Police the world over now know that Craig’s List is an open market for sex trade, and both buyers and sellers are targeted in Craig’s List oriented raids and stings. Over time, even the Pimp-n-Ho audience is bound to leave Craig’s List when the pressure is too much to bear.
Where does that leave Craig’s List? With no value whatsoever. When a good social network that provides a real value proposition is left to decay without any quality enforcement, it rapidly becomes an abandoned, crime-ridden, and flake-prevalent destination. Just like many of our good urban cities — when the real value generators leave the community, all that’s left is decay.
Am I wrong?
Is it just me? Am I bitter because I had a quadruple-flake experience and over-generalizing? Has anyone had any luck (recently!) with Craig’s List? Have you been burned? Have you had the same experience? Please tell me I’m not alone or off my rocker!
Hi all –
Sorry for the pause in content. I’ve been working hard as well as I’ve embarked on my MADFUN exercises. Plus, I haven’t really had much to write about. Maybe I should write anyways?
In any case, thanks for the feedback I’ve gotten from you all on my eLance and Time Management posts. I hope they have helped. On the 4HWW front, I’m looking at writing and publicizing some eBooks as a passive income source. Has anyone else had any experience in successfully doing that? Ironically, if I come across some great techniques, I’ll publish them as an eBook so that you all can learn from me!
I often listen to NPR and other Public Radio stations. Do you? Doesn’t it annoy you when they have to interrupt their broadcasting to make an appeal to their audiences for donations and support?
Just like you, I find it annoying that those pledge drives interrupt the shows I like to listen to you, but at the same time, I understand why they do that. They have to somehow fund their activities, and since they don’t barrage you with advertisements, the pledge drive is the only way to make their financial ends meet. It’s actually good that they don’t rely heavily on advertisements as the non-public radio stations do, since that could also taint their independent perspective.
Like public radio stations, I write in this blog mostly for my amusement and for the information and pleasure of those who read it. While I do have many advertisements placed throughout the site, the truth is that they really don’t result in much, if any, revenue for me.
I posted a while back on the topic of blog revenue as a passive source of income, but until this blog reaches a significant traffic level, it’s pretty much all a pipe dream.
In that vein, I come to you, my faithful readers. Like NPR, I’d like to take this opportunity to pass the Tip Jar and ask for donations. I am working as hard as I can to turn this blog into a Muse and thus a Passive Income source. But until then, it’s hard for me to focus on the blog when there are other pressing financial concerns.
As such, I’d like to ask you to donate whatever you can to my cause. On the right side of the screen, you might notice a donation widget from a website called ChipIn that allows you to contribute to my Muse. If you can’t find it, I’ve also included it below:
Thank you so much and keep tuning into this station!
Editor’s Note: This post is a guest post from Hilary Catherall. Hilary Catherall is a co-founder and the president of technology startup DOMITECH, L.L.C., a revolutionary web development company. DOMITECH’s projects so far include www.city-dweller.com and www.saneliving.org. Hilary still holds down her day job for now, and just started seriously applying the principles from the 4HWW late last year in hopes of attaining a little Liberation. You can contact her at email@example.com and read more of her writing at hilarycat.blogspot.com.
As I recently posted in my hilarycat blog , I think I’ve wrapped my mind around what Tim Ferriss calls a “muse” in the 4-Hour Work Week. As Tim says, muses are automated vehicles for producing cash without requiring much time… but to put the complete explanation into a (densely packed) nutshell, they are automated & outsourced businesses that drop-ship quickly manufactured, moderately priced, substantially marked up, easily-understood specialty products with staying power to niche audiences we already understand.Whew. If you haven’t thoroughly read 4HWW, you may not grok that definition very quickly, but for those of us who are starting to internalize the system, I believe it’s a neat and tidy summary for easy reference. Contunue Reading
Editor’s Note: First, let me note that this is a very long blog post. I probably should have chopped it up into a few blog posts, but I didn’t want to lose the stream of thought.
Getting a bit more practical, one of the themes in the Four Hour Work Week is the idea that you can have a nice source of passive income from a short investment in time called a Muse. Hilarycat posted recently on what constitutes a Muse (or in her words, a Passive Income Generator [PIG]). But the gist is that it’s not necessarily your main “day job”, but rather something that allows you to earn the income needed so that your main job doesn’t consume you. You can be free to pursue the things you want because the lights can stay on and the kids can stay fed.
As a way to get things started, blogs themselves can be nice sources of revenue and could potentially be muses if they turned into something bigger. That does not mean that it has to consume lots of time, but you should definitely thing about all the ways to generate revenue from a blog and related media. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. If you know of other ways to turn blogging and writing activity into muse-worthy income, let everyone know by posting some feedback in the comments.
So, the first question people ask when I tell them I’m shooting for 4-hour work weeks (via the 4 hour work Day) is: “What do I plan to do with that extra time?!”
Of course, the first answer is: “Start other businesses”. The idea is to become a parallel entrepreneur. That can only happen with effective time management.
But there’s more to it than that. If it was work, work, work, even with good time management, life is just no fun. The idea is to lessen work so as to focus on living.
So, what do I want to do other than just expand the revenue opportunities? Have MADFUN. That’s what. What do I mean by that? Here you go:
Music – I am a musician and want to do more of it. If I’m not working, I should be playing, composing, and sharing more music.
Academics – I plan to enroll in a Weekend or Executive MBA program. With my extra time, I should be able to get more education, degrees, and opportunities! There’s no better investment than education.
Dance – I love to dance. It’s great exercise. It’s great social activity. It’s great stress relief. It’s great fun. Why not? So, with the free time, I should be Dancing.
Food – I love to cook. I need to find time to enroll in cooking classes, expand my cooking talents, and cook more.
Uninterrupted Family Time – When not having personal fun, have family fun, and make sure that every day has some Family time.
Networking – If I still have free time and not devoting it to work or any of the above true muses, I should be networking to increase my connections, knowledge, and opportunities. Networking increases opportunities.
So, there you have it. Increase available time, and allocate it to new businesses. When not doing new businesses, have MADFUN. In that way, maintain a proper work-life balance and spend more time with the family as well!