How to form a corporation of one

Empty office desk

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Kai Ryssdal: There's nothing better than summertime to make you want to forget about the 40-hour work week. Or the 50 or 60 hour week, depending on what kind of job you have. But what if you could get by working less — 90 percent less?

Cash Peters recently picked up a book that says people can prosper that way. And he figured he had to talk to the guy who wrote it.

TIM FERRIS: I wrote this for the half-dozen friends of mine who've done everything right, they've worked very hard, they have high paying jobs, and they're utterly miserable. Or, perhaps even worse still, they're bored and they've accepted something that's tolerably mediocre.

CASH PETERS: We call it working in radio. And Tim Ferris used to be like that, too. Then he developed this system for getting rich without actually doing very much, called "The Four Hour Workweek." It's easy — says him. First, it's vital you eliminate the static of your everyday life, the stuff you don't really need. Stop reading newspapers, for instance. Switch off your radio. And only check your e-mai . . .

. . . don't switch it off, yet! Wait till I've finished. He also suggests you only check your e-mails twice a day. Plus, start hiring people to do stuff you don't like doing.

FERRIS: If you're spending your hard-earned weekend cleaning your house, go get a cleaning lady who will do a better job for $15 an hour.

Yeah, stuff like that. In other words, start figuring out what your time is really worth. Example:

FERRIS: If you make $50,000 a year and you work 40 hours a week, you get two weeks of vacation. All you need to do is you take off the last three zeros, you have 50. You divide that in half, you make $25 an hour.

Uh, yeah. But the point — I have no idea what that means — but the point is, you calculate how much you'd have to earn to be living the perfect life. Then, instead of earning it yourself — and this is where it gets brilliant — hire someone to do that for you too.

FERRIS: There is a delegation part. To be the person that you want to be, to have the lifestyle that you want to have, you need to learn to manage other people.

MARILYN HALLETT: Good morning, Cash Peters' office.

It's OK. I don't really have an office. I just have a woman who says I do. That's Marilyn Hallett of Michigan Avenue Office Services in Chicago. She's my virtual assistant. Tim calls this "personal outsourcing." Your assistant can be anywhere in the world. Doesn't matter, they're virtual. But you pay him or her to do your work for you. Trouble is, how do you know you can trust them?

HALLETT: Good morning. Cash Peters' office.

It's me. How do I know I can trust you, Marilyn?

HALLETT: I think the only thing I can say is, you take it one step at a time and wait tiLl you're comfortable before you start divulging too much information to anyone.

PETERS: There are only two people who could have written this book: you, and Santa Claus.

FERRIS: (LAUGH)

PETERS:'Cause I'm just thinking, this is what's Santa's done.

FERRIS: That's true. I mean, he has elves in the North Pole, I have elves in Manila and Bangalore and Canada . . .

PETERS: But do you really, though? Do you have thousands of people striving away in sweatshops all over the world keeping your entire lifestyle afloat?

PETERS: No, I don't have anyone in sweatshops. In fact, some of the virtual assistants that I use are Americans overseas.

Hmm, sounds great. And you only pay them hourly, too, which means it's cost-effective, but, well, also kind of impersonal. Having an assistant you don't get to meet every day?

Donna Kozik runs mybigbusinesscard.com, and I was going to ask her about her virtual assistant. Then I thought, no, Marilyn, I'm paying you. You ask her.

HALLETT: Isn't it kind of impersonal having someone you don't get to meet every day? Wouldn't you rather have someone you can gossip with and who'll bring you coffee?

DONNA KOZIK: Talking about the latest celebrity in and out of jail doesn't interest me a whole lot. And I'm happy to get my own coffee. I need someone who can help me make money.



PETERS: So right now, as we're both sitting here and we're both doing nothing, nothing . . . How many people have you got working for you?

FERRIS: Ah, about 325 probably.

Three hundred twenty-five virtual assistants, all making him money while he just supervises them. The details are in the book, but the last thing Tim says in "Four Hour Workweek" is stop thinking about retirement. Get that word right out of your head. In fact, play your cards right, follow his system, and you could retire straight after college.

FERRIS: There are a number of words that are so overused as to have become meaningless.

PETERS:"Cholesterol."

FERRIS: Cholesterol! Happiness is another one that I'm not a big fan of. It's a very dangerous term.

PETERS: And "goodbye."

FERRIS: And "goodbye"? Right. The . . . so . . . I think "success" is another one that I have real issues with. So, forget about retirement for the time being. Ask yourself, if I retired today, how am I going to fill that void, what am I going to do?

Better still, hire someone at 40 bucks an hour to fill the void for you. That's what I did!

HALLETT: In Los Angeles, I'm Cash Peters for Marketplace.

PETERS: Thank you.

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