Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker

Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business by Chris Ducker

reviewed by Michelle Richmond

While anyone who has read The 4 Hour Work Week may find this book a bit repetitive, entrepreneurs looking to save more time for themselves by outsourcing will find good information on how to find virtual assistants, how to work productively with them, and how much to pay.

The author interviews several entrepreneurs who have successfully grown their businesses in partnership with virtual assistants. Each of the interviewees offers his or her own favorite resources for things like project management, document sharing, and payroll. Ducker makes a convincing case that the Philippines is the best place abroad to seek virtual assistants. Ducker’s explanations of the roles you can expect each employee to play in your business seem like common sense and possibly filler (a web developer creates your website, an SEO expert optimizers your site for search engines). However, his descriptions of the cultural sensitivities one must have when working with a virtual assistant, and his emphasis on the fact that many virtual assistants in the Philippines are primary breadwinners for their family and thus should be treated as such, could help many online entrepreneurs avoid bad business practices that are harmful to their employees.

A caveat that the author admits to up front: he owns a virtual assistant firm. Naturally, he recommends his own firm to readers. His firm specializes in GVAs (General Virtual Assistants), and the book, unsurprisingly, argues that the most important part of your team is the GVA–the result being that the book feels a bit like an advertisement for his company. And, having read about the way the online entrepreneurs in the book make a living, you’ll be hard pressed not to assume that Ducker simply hired some virtual assistants to research the market and write a book that would bring customers to his business.

Verdict: Helpful and easy to read, with some good insights on navigating the cultural challenges of outsourcing…but because of the advertorial bent, one should take it with a grain of salt

BenBella Books  ISBN 978-1939529749

Buy the book: Amazon    Barnes & Noble   Indiebound

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger

Reviewed by Michelle Richmond

In this entertaining, enlightening book, Berger explains why certain ideas and products become viral. Using examples as diverse as an As-Seen-on-TV blender, a $100 Philly cheesesteak, and the suddenly cool-again Kit Kat, Berger outlines the STEPPS system for making an idea or product highly sharable:

  • Social Currency – Will people feel cool and in-the-know when they share your product?
  • Triggers – What will remind others to think about and talk about your product?
  • Emotion – “When we care, we share.”
  • Public – How visible is your product or idea?
  • Practical Value – People like to share information that is helpful and practical.
  • Stories – If you package your product or idea in a remarkable, interesting, and relevant story, you increase sharing exponentially.

Despite a fair amount of unnecessary repetition, the book offers clear strategies for breathing life into a campaign.

Bottom Line: Contagious is a tremendously helpful guide for anyone looking to spread brand identity and create buzz on a budget. While the ideas are useful for businesses of any size, small businesses in particular will benefit from the relatively low cost of putting the STEPPS into practice.

Related content: Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor who blurbed the book, offers clear explanations of some of the behavioral patterns described in this book in the Psychology of Money segment of his online coursera course, “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior.” For a video lecture explaining prospect theory and diminishing sensitivity, see Ariely’s lecture on money and relativity. 

Simon & Schuster, March 2013


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Reviewed by Michelle Richmond, author of the international bestseller The Year of Fog and the forthcoming novel Golden State. Creator of The Paperclip Method. Follow Richmond’s reviews @michellerichmon