Tim Ferriss, Outsourcing, and Losers—A Rant

Tim Ferriss, Outsourcing, and Losers—A Rant

by Kerry Scott on 11 March 2009

66164294_ff9d614206Photo by Paul Keller

A while back, I wrote about a trend I’ve seen in the postings I get from freelance job boards:  people who want to outsource the mechanics of their job hunt.

Lately, I’ve seen postings for something I find even more shocking:  people who are personally outsourcing parts of their regular job, behind their employer’s backs, and then taking credit for the work.

People are posting the projects they’ve been given by their employers, paying someone $3/hour to do the work, and then presenting it to their bosses as their own.  Some of these postings even say things like, “I’m trying to get a promotion” or “I don’t have time to do this stuff myself, but I need it to be perfect.”

Seriously, what the hell?  Are people now secretly outsourcing their work to people who will work for peanuts so they’ll look smart without having to, like, DO anything?  Is THAT what we’ve come to?

I don’t have a problem with outsourcing in and of itself.  If you can pay someone $3/hour instead of $20/hour for the same quality work, you should.  That’s just math.  People in those $3/hour countries have just as much right to earn a living as we do.

But to say, “I’m looking to get a promotion,” and hire someone to handle your project, and then present it as your own work—that’s over the line.  You’re lying to your employer, and you’re screwing yourself…because when you don’t do the work, you don’t learn anything.  If you get the promotion, you’ll fail, because you didn’t earn it—somebody else did.  It’s just like in high school, when you have someone else do the homework, and then fail the test (in fact, I’ve seen THOSE projects posted too…doing some kid’s math homework or writing his history papers can provide a steady $3/hour income, apparently).

Evidently, this whole personal-outsourcing thing has been made popular by Tim Ferriss, who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek.  The idea is that individuals, not just companies, should outsource as much as they possibly can, so as to free up more time for really important things, like learning to tango or something.  I don’t know whether Ferriss advocates this sort of bait-and-switch, where you hire someone to do your job and pass the work off to your employer as your own.  I didn’t get through the whole book, because I was so turned off by the gimmicky vibe.

If you want to be good at your job, though, you have to actually do some work. That’s how you learn to be good at things–by doing them.    If you’re paying someone in India to do your job for you, and then passing the work off as your own, you’re a fraud.  What sort of economic security does that provide, really?  All you know how to do is hire someone cheaper.  That’s not a very marketable skill.

Additionally, when your boss finds out you’re a liar, he’s going to can your ass.  When that happens, please don’t write to me for resume tips.  I will have no sympathy.  I hope your job goes to someone with a little more integrity.

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Sadistic Manager March 11, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Well, crap. Here I was going to offer to let you write my blog posts for the next week so I can put in less effort, but if you really feel that way…

I wonder what kind of work you even can outsource that way without running afoul of corporate confidentiality policies. I once caught an employee giving internal information to people not covered under the NDA. She was out on her ass before she even realized what was going on.

Maybe I’m just not with the times, but it makes me just a little sick to realize people do this.

Sadistic Manager’s last blog post..Oh. You Mean You Want Good People?

Michael Tischer March 12, 2009 at 8:23 am

I have mixed feelings of outsourcing in general. We as a nation have continued to stray further and further from production of goods as the years pass, leading to an increased and untamable trade deficit (which if China, for example, decides to call us out on, will bring us to our knees economically – picture a can of Spam skyrocketing to about $11). Of course, because we have nuclear weapons China wouldn’t do that. We’re big and we like oil and fast trucks and other symbols of power, right… Back on point, since as a nation we no longer produce in the capacity we once did, all that is left is to provide a service to other countries. Well now that we’ve decided we can outsource services, we are slowly losing that attribute as well. Once India reaches a state of not only providing support systems, but also managing and operation of businesses, China, among other countries, will have less use for the US. And with an unstable global economy and increased volatility in our country as a result of greed and the current crisis we face, why wouldn’t countries explore other, more mature, options?

The other side is, as you said, that it is a simple point of business that the same quality for a lower cost is better. And if we can make a move to receive same quality/lower price while helping less fortunate nations make a living then I do, in theory, support that.

So to take this concept of outsourcing business to outsourcing personal lives is very typical of how we operate in America. We specualte that because something works in one large sector that it can be applied to all areas underneath. One example (and possibly the best) is individual investment in real estate. Companies can buy and sell real estate or even businesses and take out highly leveraged loans to make that purchase, why can’t we as individuals? So the real estate companies do what they need to in allowing Americans to hop on the bus of unrealistic mortgages and….downfall.

Gina Morello March 12, 2009 at 8:57 am

Outsourcing of ones work isn’t just restricted to paying peanuts to someone from another
county. I think we have plenty of individuals in our workforce who “outsource” their work
to assistants and then pass it on as if they had performed the work. I work with two women in a small office that have done this for a very long time. They have taken credit for the work that’s good and placed blame on the assistants when it is not so good. In this manner of outsourcing they have managed to survive several cuts while manipulating their

Carla March 18, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I did outsource some work for my blog and website to people on Elance because I couldn’t do it myself and I couldn’t afford $20-40/hr. I’m not sure how I feel about it either, but I know it wouldn’t be done if I had to pay local San Francisco Bay Area market prices.

Of course, the people looking to pay any amount of money for other people do their work and pass it off as their own is a complete fraud!

Carla’s last blog post..Eco Fashion: Do it Yourself – Yarn

Kerry March 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Oh, I have NO problem with outsourcing when it makes sense. I considered doing that when I started my blog, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I would have gone with the most qualified cost-effective person, regardless of where they were. No problem there.

My beef is with (a) people who outsource the work they are hired to do, without their employer’s knowledge or consent, and (b) people who outsource relationship things, like getting a job or finding a spouse (I’ve seen those too). It’s shady stuff like that that makes me mad.

Ashe March 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Having met the author and read his book, I’m 100% sure Tim Ferriss doesn’t advocate using virtual assistants in one’s regular job. His book is essentially about entrepreneurship — his intended audience doesn’t *have* bosses. These people using assistants to do their corporate job are missing the point badly, and unethical to boot. But it’ll probably come back to bite them.

Using a virtual assistant in one’s job search might be worthwhile, but I can only see using one to save time on the semi-mechanical research aspects, such as identifying open positions. The potential benefit to the candidate would be more time for networking, preparing applications, developing porfolios, and growing relationships.

Kerry March 20, 2009 at 5:39 am

Identifying open positions is not even semi-mechanical, if you’re doing it right. Most jobs are filled by networking, not by Monster. Even the jobs posted on job boards are actually filled by networking.

Nyxalinth October 17, 2009 at 5:37 pm

I agree, outsourcing makes sense in some areas. Not in call centers, though. Not to say every company in India or wherever does a poor job of it, but it can be very hard to understand them sometimes. And in the really low-budget call centers, they’re taught to read English phonetically and can’t respond to questions or comments not on the script.

I lost a couple of call center jobs due to outsorucing. then I realized how badly I hated it, and saw it as a blessing.

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