How far can you push personal outsourcing?
Can you outsource your dating? I did.
Can you outsource your worrying? AJ Jacobs did.
Reading to your children or bickering with your spouse? No problem. Send it all to Bangalore or Bosnia. Even mainstream media like the Wall Street Journal is starting to explore the basic options, but we've been there and done that. The mundane is simple if you can cover the ridiculous. So the more interesting question becomes:
What are the limits -- and the most entertaining uses -- of personal outsourcing?
One friend of mine insisted last April that there were serious limitations to what could be effectively "outsourced." What about face time? Not in work, mind you, but in the harshest competition of all: mating. In Silicon Valley, where Santa Clara is called "Manta" Clara and San Jose is called "Man" Jose, the odds are against heterosexual men.
Bets were placed over a few glasses of wine, and so it began: I would outsource all of my dating for four weeks.
Even if you would never consider doing something this outrageous, the results were beyond belief, and the process used to pull it off can be used for almost all personal outsourcing. If hacking matchmaking isn't of interest, no worries. How about a personal chef for $5 a meal? Just keep reading.
Here are a few snippets of a recent interview about this experiment, which I labeled "From India with Love" on my desktop (Thanks, Donovan Glass!):
Donovan: I hear you outsourced your online dating. Such a crazy concept. Could you explain the general idea?
Me: Online dating is largely a numbers game, so I hired virtual teams of people all over the world -- India, Philippines, Jamaica, Canada, and others -- to compete against each other and set dates for me on an online calendar. Each of them were assigned one of my accounts on either online dating sites like Match.com, or on social networking sites like Friendster, and there would be a $150 bonus to whichever team set the most good dates. Excluding the bonus, the entire experiment cost less than $200 dollars.
Did you just "cold turkey" the outsourcing, or did you work out a system first?
I worked out a one-page "rules and regulations" sheet with all of the goals and guidelines, being sure to include links to girls I found attractive, must-haves and must-not-haves, etc. I moved all of my online to the teams at once. The experiment was 4 weeks long, and I got more than 20 dates. It was unreal. The best part was that I compressed all of those into three days and had all of the dates within 1/2 mile of my house.
What is the best word of advice for guys looking to meet women online?
Rotate your profile photo, use direct subject lines for email, and focus on volume. I had once used clever, time-consuming subject lines that got nowhere, then one Filipino pulled in jaw-dropping results with "looking for a date" as the subject. Test and tweak, test and tweak. In the end, look at the numbers.
How did outsourcing work for getting the types of women that you're attracted to?
It worked extremely well. Perhaps a 70 percent hit rate, which is far better than what I was averaging with clubs, bars, parties, and the like. No comparison.
What sites did you use and which ones had the best results for you?
Match.com has the most profiles but also the most competition. It's good for short emails with direct subject lines. The social networking sites consumed more time but ultimately resulted in more dates.
Did any problems arise while outsourcing your dating?
Only once. One of the outsourcers neglected to put a date in the calendar, and I happened to be in the spot where the girl and I were supposed to meet at the right time. She walked right up to me -- I was writing on my laptop -- and started chatting like an old friend. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I felt really badly about it, but the entire 4-week process was -- after all -- a social experiment. If I hadn't had any problems, I would have felt like I hadn't tried hard enough.
I'll add, though, that every girl I had a second date with was told about the outsourcing. This was part of my litmus test. I needed a girl with the same odd sense-of-humor that I have, and if she couldn't find the outsourcing at least a bit funny, we wouldn't last anyway. The result? Most of the girls called me a jerk with a smile but found it pretty damn funny. Those are the keepers who will keep me sane when I take myself and the world too seriously.
"Outsourcing mating, Tim?" you might say, "But what about the most primal need of all, food?" I'm glad you asked.
Here's an e-mail from one reader (thanks, David!) who got a Thai cuisine personal chef for next to nothing. I started drooling just thinking of the possibilities...
This was a very tight focus -- ultra specific -- I had just two applicants in two months -- one who was a 2/10 match but the guy we just OK'd was a Hare Krishna follower for many years, lived in India and his sample menu proved he knew what he's doing so we just started him.
The food is absolutely awesome. The hourly rate is *extremely reasonable*, he's a 5 min. detour when either of us are in town to collect food and I now have delicious Indian food for less than $5 a meal and it's as good as anything I've ever eaten anywhere.
I'm going to progress onto other cuisines now...Thai, Italian, Chinese, etc, and it means when I do have time to cook I'll enjoy doing it that much more as I am not the only one cooking!
Sound appetizing? Here is the actual post he used on Craigslist. Imitate and salivate.
Ready to outsource your life? Good. Let's get started and upgrade your lifestyle quotient...
GetFriday and Brickwork, two of the firms I recommend in The 4-Hour Workweek, are overloaded with client requests since the book and appear to have a 2-3-week wait period. For some people, the wait will be worth it. For others as impatient as myself, here are a few other personal outsourcing marketplaces where you can find your own digital concierge:
1. Elance.com (this is the site I have used for the most projects, including the outsourced dating Olympics. See more below.)
3. Craigslist.org (this was used by one reader for a $5-per-meal private chef)
If you've seen A Christmas Story, arguably the greatest movie ever made, you'll be familiar with this: I triple-dog dare you. Lose that necktie and get mischievous. Stop being so damn practical and have some fun for a change.
Where to start? I had a few espressos with the CEO of Elance recently, and we were able to come up with a fun idea: $25 off your first project on Elance. $25 could get you more than 5 hours of experiments if you play it right.
I get no affiliate commission or payment for this, so don't say I never loved you! I'll be following up soon with an interview of said CEO, Fabio Rosati, who will discuss some of the little-known subtleties of "outsourcing," as well as its incredible future. But first, let's get absurd. I find that reaching the sublime (and the serious) is often best done via the ridiculous and fun.
What would you outsource if you could outsource ANYTHING?
Important Odds and Ends:
DonorsChoose.org made the finals of AMEX Members Project with a 65 vote margin-YOU, the readers of this blog, did it!
Please take 30 seconds to vote for them here to ensure they win the $1-5 million in funding this week to change the face of U.S. education. Every single vote makes a huge difference -- please leave your mark here!
***Please help me to hit #1 on the New York Times this week!***
I was #2 on the New York Times business bestseller list for June -- I was just barely beat by a political book that shouldn't have been on the list! July is ending this week, and I need your help to fulfill a lifelong dream -- to be #1 on the New York Times! It's very close. If you have thought about grabbing a few copies of The 4-Hour Workweek for friends, family, customers, or perfect strangers, please do it this week, the sooner the better! If you get multiple copies, please do it through B&N instead of Amazon. Thanks so much in advance for supporting this dream if it makes sense!