I first reached out to Tim through Ramit Sethi in 2008. We ended up working together for three years.
Here is my initial e-mail routed to Ramit:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Charlie Hoehn
Date: Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 11:25 PM
Subject: Re: Response requested
To: Ramit Sethi
Below is the email I wrote up for Tim Ferriss. Thanks again so much for your insight on how to approach this, and for your willingness to pass it along. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Also, I'd be willing to help you out in any of the ways I outlined below.
After visiting your site countless times since May '07, I've come up with a few suggestions that could improve your readers' experience. Here are two of the things I think you need…
1) A network for your followers: Right now, you have a lot of passionate and devoted readers who comment on your blog. These are people who are likely to spread your ideas. You need a place where your loyal readers can interact with each other more freely, and share their stories about how your book has inspired them.
What it would take: A micro-network. You could frame it as “a crusade against the 9-5 workday."
How I could help: While I was interning for Seth Godin, I learned how to create micro-social networks for very specific niches. I could easily set this up for you, making it a more exclusive “invite-only," if you wish.
What the benefits are to you: Allowing your most devoted readers to share their lifestyle design stories will provide you with even more case studies for blog posts (or for a follow-up book). It will also serve as a spot for your readers to get to know one another, and they'll appreciate that you've given them that opportunity.
2) A more dynamic “About" page: Currently, this page starts off with a quote about you from Albert Pope, followed by three thumbnail pictures of your face and a great deal of text outlining your achievements. While your credentials are impressive, this page doesn't really capture your personality or the lifestyle you've designed for yourself.
What it would take: You need a video, between 2 and 5 minutes, that captures the excitement that comes with lifestyle design. The video would showcase exciting things you've done (skydiving, tango, motorcycling, etc.), and would be a great way to show your readers that you are the real deal.
How I could help: I can make this video for you for free. I've been editing video for more than four years, and started a business in creating movies for special events. All I would need to make your video are great pictures and videos of you. The more they show the human side of you, the better.
What the benefits are to you: Reading something is fine, but an image is far more powerful. This video will establish an even deeper credibility with your new (and old) readers. Even if you end up deciding that it's not right for your site, you'll still be getting a great video about you that would normally cost several hundred dollars. If you like my work, we can discuss other ways to implement videos into your site (including higher quality and more exciting videos for your blog).
In exchange for these things, I hope that you'd consider taking me on as an intern (real-world or virtual). I would love to help you out on future projects. Let me know what you think, and I look forward to hearing from you.
“Charlie! Thanks very much for the suggestions. I currently have the forum and other Ning sites, so I'd be eager to hear how what you propose is different, as I'm always interested in fostering connections between my readers. Last but not least, can you please elaborate on what you mean by “intern"? Would you expect this to paid or unpaid? How many hours per week, etc.? What do you hope the pay-off to be for you during or after the experience? Thanks for letting me know, and for writing. -Tim"
Tim- Thanks so much for your response. Here are my answers to your questions:
What I suggest that's different – I've looked at your message boards and Ning sites (I don't know if you started any of the Ning ones or moderate them). They're pretty good but they are just places where your readers connect and idly discuss your ideas. The boards and Ning don't have any call-to-action, really. They aren't places for your troops to rally for an assignment, so to speak – that's mostly what you've used your blog for. I think you need an exclusive network that has some hurdle to get in (e.g. invite-only).
This could be a group reserved for the people who have actually used and implemented your ideas to create unconventional and extreme lifestyles.
With these people, you compile their stories together and sell it as an ebook (all money going to “Room to Read" or some other good cause). Or you could create a video of the top 3-5 unique lifestyles, following them around and filming them to get a feel for their daily life. This is much more ambitious but something that could turn out really cool. I'd definitely be willing to help you execute these ideas, if you're interested.
What I mean by “intern" – Non-paid virtual internship for two months, then possibly discussing a real-world internship at the end of the year. For a virtual internship, you could delegate tasks to me, or I could help you with executing ideas you have.
Paid or unpaid – For virtual, unpaid. For the real-world, I'd work for cheap.
How many hours per week – Varies, depending on how busy you are. Five (5) or more for a virtual internship.
What's the pay-off for me – I would learn firsthand about your methods for extreme productivity and efficiency. Reading has given me a solid level of understanding, but actually seeing it would help me comprehend it more fully. Second, you've already done what I want to become: an entrepreneur who travels a lot. Working with you would allow me to really mentally shift gears and help move me towards my goals faster.
That being said, I have a great deal of respect for you and the things you've done. I think it'd be brilliant to work with you in some way, but if it doesn't work out, no hard feelings. Thanks for your time, Tim, and I hope to talk with you again soon.
Tim decided to give me a shot... and I promptly screwed everything up.
The first assignment : find three possible movie theaters to rent out for the James Bond premiere of “Quantum of Solace." At the time, I had a horrible cell phone and missed every third word of the task. Rather than ask for clarification, I assumed I had the gist... and missed a few critical details.
I immediately took the blame for screwing up, hustled overtime, got it fixed, and the event (a thank-you to Tim's readers) went off without a hitch.