No More Excuses – How to Make an Extra $100,000 in the Next 6 Months

The Wilburns have created a multinational from their home.(Photo: Dana Smith)

“So, do you have any ideas?”

“Well, if we’re going to do something, it should be big. It should make people sit up and say OMFG. Make people actually do something,” I responded.

The conversation continued in front of the Thai restaurant, me pacing on my cell phone in San Francisco — foregoing food in excitement — and Tobi in his offices in Ottawa, Canada.

We decided in the subsequent 10 minutes to offer $100,000 cash as a bribe to you all. The overview?

* $100,000 for the grand winner

* $120,000 total in prizes

* 6 months starting January 1 but you can (and should) get started now

* Even if you don’t win the prizes, you should end up with a viable business at the end of 6 months

The details make it even better…


Randy and Nicola Wilburn in the above photo, featured in BusinessWeek’s “Mom-and-Pop Multinationals“, are just two of the thousands of people in 35 countries who have used the steps in The 4-Hour Workweek as a basis to create near- or fully-automated businesses. The principles of automation have been equally applied within both Fortune and Inc. 500 companies.

The problem?

Some things just aren’t as simple in execution as they appear on paper. If there is one place where readers fail or give up, it is on such automated “muses”, as such automated businesses are called in book to abbreviate.

It’s most often due to lack of technical skills, lack of testing abilities, or — much more often — simple intimidation and failure to attempt it at all. The truth: it’s easier to continue in the predictable and comfortable mediocrity of the 9-to-5 than to start a business. It seems too big and there is little perceived incentive to change.

Let’s change that.

Tobi Lutke is the CEO of Shopify. Several months ago, I polled more than 50,000 Twitter users about e-commerce platforms, and the near-unanimous response was that Shopify offered the easiest-to-use full-service platform in existence. I’d never heard of them.

It seems I was late to the party.

From Pixar to Tesla, Pamela Anderson to Amnesty International, I saw slick design after slick design, all of which could be set up in minutes. Even Google Website Optimizer is built-in for testing. I was so surprised and impressed that I became an advisor upon meeting Tobi at RailsConf.

I want to give you a reason to finally take the jump with full confidence. Here’s what we’re doing:

The Competition – More Than One Winner

Shopify and I are running a 6-month “Build Your Business” competition. The store with the most revenue for two consecutive months (we’ll use your best two) wins $100,000.

There are other runner-up prizes, and there will be worthwhile surprises. To support you with the tools and skills you need, there will be expert tutorials on critical subjects (like Google Adwords testing, design, etc.) on a monthly basis at minimum, posts on this blog with real-life examples, and more.

The bullets:

* $100,000 for the grand winner

* $120,000 total in prizes

* 6 months starting January 1 but you can (and should) get started now. Even two weeks of practice will give you a massive advantage. I strongly suggest playing with it now.

* The best two consecutive months of sales count

* Even if you don’t win the prizes, you should end up with a viable business at the end of 6 months

* The steps and details in the new, expanded 4-Hour Workweek will be used as ground-zero for instructions

* Contest open — unfortunately — to US residents only. Please see “Afterword” below for why you should do it regardless. The tools and guidance will be available to all entrants.

Outside the US? Perhaps you should just incorporate a US company online? But – I’m no lawyer. Speak with a professional first and read the fine print. Be sure to read the FAQ, which opens up even more opportunities.

[Update: there is a new forum on Shopify for questions and feedback about the contest]

Tens of thousands of online stores have been created with Shopify: everything from Nerdbots to CrossFit.

Will you be next? I know a Fortune 500 company employee who’s quitting in 2010 because his Shopify store makes more than $1,000,000 per year. Not bad for a side gig!

If you’ve thought of starting a muse but have put it off or given up, here are two reasons to make 2010 the year that changes everything:

$100,000 and know-how guidance from experts. Though I’m an advisor, I receive no commission or payment whatsoever for this competition. It’s to get more people to pull the trigger.

If you decide not to pull the trigger, ask yourself “why not?” If not now, then when?

This competition is intended as a benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does require stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit to realize: this isn’t that hard. It’s just unfamiliar. If you do it now, a lot of people will be in the same boat and you’ll take the trip together.

No more excuses. Click here to learn how simple it can be.

[Update: there is a new forum on Shopify for questions and feedback about the contest]


Frequently Asked Questions with Tobi

[The most up-to-date FAQ is on the contest page here]

> Rachel: Can you sell a combination of affiliate products and your own products through Shopify?

Yes absolutely. In fact we highly encourage our customers to source extra products that round off the product offering. A lot of our customers started by selling just a single product and later on started cross selling related products between their stores for additional sales.

> BrianReid: Can we use a drop shipper like Doba for products?

Yes, Shopify even integrates directly with drop shippers and consignment warehouses such as Shipwire, Webgistix and Amazon fulfillment. These services are really the key to fully automate your online store because manual shipping is labor intensive. At Shopify we have something called the App Store ( which allows you to add extensions to your store (think a mix of wordpress plugins and facebook apps). I know there are a few developers currently working on Doba integration.

> Erica: I’m using 1ShoppingCart right now. Can I just move stuff over to Shopify and qualify, or does it have to be a new business?

The point of this competition is to encourage people to create new businesses. If you could simply move a million or multi million dollar business over to Shopify and take the pot then the entire thing would be fairly uninteresting. So in other words, moving an existing business over: no go. Creating a new, related business that you organically grow from the start without simply redirecting your old store: OK.

That being said, we would love to get your existing business on Shopify. If you want to talk more in depth about this, contact me at tobi[at]

> Erica: For the Shopify folks: Do you offer a 1-click post-sale upsell feature like Upsell Express from 1SC?

I’m not familiar with the 1-click post-sale product but marketing to prior clients is a big part of Shopify. We have great integration with Sendloop, Vertical Response, Campaign Monitor and all such services. Through the App Store that I mentioned earlier there are also some really exciting new apps being developed that help people find related products that go well with their current cart content. Shopify is a very flexible platform.


Gross revenue and US residents only? A case study in technology and real-life lawyering…

First and foremost, the best prize we can offer is this: your own near-automated, cash-flow positive business at the end of six months. The $100,000 is just a catalyst, a push. The former is, as the proverb goes, teaching you to fish, whereas the latter is handing over a single fish.

No contest is perfect. Shopify can’t verify net profit (without private investigators proving margins), so revenue is used as the measuring stick, which is trackable. Does this handicap you if you sell comic books instead of race cars? Not necessarily. It just means you’ll need to sell more units. Important: the most any single transaction can be applied the contest is $5,000.

Life is a competition. The rules were the best we could put together without making it impossibly complicated.

But, what’s up with the “limited to US residents” and all that?

From a post on Etsy about their own contest challenges (the whole post is worth a read):

Etsy is an international site. We have buyers and sellers from all around the globe. And we love our community. To solely enable U.S. residents to participate in an aspect of our site did not sit well with me or with Etsy. So I called an attorney who specializes in contest law to find an alternative. Unfortunately, his response supported my disappointing findings. He explained that in order to hold an international contest, Etsy would need to consult a licensed attorney who specializes in contest law for each and every country eligible for the contest. And, in fact, for many countries a translator would have to draft the rules. “How much would this cost and how much time would it take?” I innocently asked the contest law attorney. His two-word answer was most discouraging: “a lot.”

Here is Tobi’s version, especially frustrating, considering that Shopify is based in Canada!

“When putting together the contest we really wanted to make it a contest for anyone, anywhere in the world. Throughout the planning I spent more hours on the phone with lawyers than I’d care to admit to anyone. Unfortunately, as time when on, it became clear that it would be impossible to hold the contest anywhere outside the US without fundamentally altering the original concept.

Without going into too much detail, the crux of the matter is the classification of the contest as a game of chance versus a game of skill. Apparently, being good at selling stuff online is considered chance by many agencies and therefore would be governed by Lottery laws, as silly as this sounds.

That being said, you can still participate in this contest wherever you are. The prize money is significant, but don’t forget the spirit of the contest: to give a kick in the pants to all those people who have wanted to start businesses but haven’t. The real prize is having a business of your own at the end of the six months. You’ll still have all the same resources and guides as everyone else: support from the Shopify team, help and guidance from Tim and other experts, and more control over your financial independence.”


Elsewhere on the web:

Get the brand-new Expanded and Updated 4-Hour Workweek, published 12/15, which includes more than 50 new case studies (including families) of luxury lifestyle design, muse creation, and world travel.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

394 Replies to “No More Excuses – How to Make an Extra $100,000 in the Next 6 Months”

  1. Sounds like a great idea! Too bad I already have an eCommerce site. I’m not sure if I have the time, energy and resources to start a completely new site. At least now I have a little experience…

  2. Thanks! I woke up at 3 am today, shaking and sweating- feeling pretty manic. I have the shingles. I’m 24. My business- a denver based Organic Maid Service is ruining my life. Running me into the ground. Driving me nuts. I turn down about 10 new clients every week for the past 2 months. Atlast SUCCESS, and I’m turning it away- because if this is what success is… it’s not for me. I saw a guy selling hats on the beach, and realized that he prob has a better life than me.

    This post has atleast given me inspiration for new beginnings immidiately. I was about to drop out and become a transient this morning.

    aaaah so refreshing.

  3. Timothy,

    Can you please come clean and tell us what is your cut on the volume of all the new business that you are bringing to Shopify?

    Seems only fair, doesn’t it?


  4. Who needs to be compensated when the contest supports the content of the book? I bought the old version a while back and read it 3 times in 3 weeks. I also plan to buy and read the updated version. The promotion techniques in this blog and via the contest are brilliant and shameless.

    How much do you make, JJ? Only fair you should make that information publicly available as well.

  5. Tim,

    I’ve created a clothing line that will donate 100% profit to Invisible Children. Will I still be eligible to win if all of my sales are being donated to a non profit?


    Farrell Hudgins

  6. Where will participants find the “expert tutorials on critical subjects (like Google Adwords testing, design, etc.) “? In this blog, elsewhere?

  7. Very creative with the contest idea for Shopify. Looking forward to watching you teach internet marketing to complete newbies. Product + Traffic + Conversion = Successful Online Business.

    Most folks can find a product to promote. The more challenging part is traffic and conversion. SEO and PPC have serious learning curves, and if you’re working with a new domain (less than 6 months old – the length of the contest), it’s going to be even more challenging. Adwords quality scores, poor CTR, poor conversion…newbies will struggle with all of this. SEO is even trickier – esp. if you’re working with a newly registered domain.

    People can create an online store – that’s the easy part. The more difficult part is driving (targeted) traffic, and then converting that traffic.

  8. I have a few questions to anybody who can answer them.

    1 – How much start up capital should we have for this project?

    2 – What should I do if I don’t have any of my own products to sell?

    3 – What shopify package should I get for this project?

    Any help would be appreciated. Thank You

  9. I just received this feedback from an enquiry about starting a corporation in the US. Seems reasonable…

    The cost of a Wyoming company is $495, plus $125 FedEx shipping to you.

    We just need the following to establish the company:

    1. The name you want to call the company.

    2. The number of shares you want the company to be authorized to issue.

    3. The name of the person you want listed as the director of the company, on

    the state’s records.

    4. Your contact information.

    5. A credit card or some form of payment.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    Best Regards,

    Gerald Pitts


    1-307-632-3333 ext 201


    Now if we could just confirm this structure will be workable for international citizens, I think we will have lots of happy campers 🙂

  10. Tim,

    Jus’ so you know, I quit my job today, and it’s all your book’s fault 😀 Well, I’m blaming the book….. I hope you’re happy……cause I certainly am :-). I finally ‘pulled the trigger’ and I’m extatic. Then to make the day even sweeter THIS competition shows up! I’m in the UK so not in it for the prize but I will give it my all, I have just the idea. I’ve also booked my first ‘mini-retirement’ to New York in Feb – it’s not actually hit home yet. Man, this has been a life changing coupla months!

    I really hope it works out, but even if it doesn’t it’ll be one hell of an adventure! Good luck to all those who enter who are up for the big prize.

    I’m not sure how many of your comments you get to read on here Tim, but just in case you see this one – I wanted to say – Thank you.

  11. What a great idea Tim. I have been toying around with the idea of a tee-shirt company. This is just the kind of incentive I needed.

    Here’s a thought…

    Maybe you could convince the government to do something similar with some of that extra TARP money to help stimulate the Economy. 😉


  12. I have been looking for an e commerce solution for our new global hemp business. Out of the blue I got a call from Lance Barton @ takingoverhollywood and he suggested we check the out the contest. If anyone has any additional thoughts that would help us Plant The Seed about the value of hemp, feel free to contact us @hempsters.

    Maybe this will be another component that will help make hemp the solution.


    Rod Pitman

    Executive Producer

    Hempsters – Plant The Seed

  13. In your own words, “I know a Fortune 500 company employee who’s quitting in 2010 because his Shopify store makes more than $1,000,000 per year.”

    I haven’t really run across too many inexperienced entrepreneurs that could generate approx. $83K per month, $1M annualized revenues, in less six than months.

    So doesn’t the Fortune 500 guy (or somebody similar) have the contest in the bag? Or did I misunderstand the way the contest works?

    I still think people should get motivated and start their businesses.

  14. Quick question Tim – how comprehensive are the tutorials?

    I’d be interested in entering just for the tutorials, but I’d like to know if the change of focus is worth it – ie. are the tutorials related to marketing and research as you practise it, or more focused on the technical aspects of setting up an online store?



  15. Looks like I’m back to reading the book again. Do I really need the new edition for the challenge or can I get by on the original?

  16. We will be doing this just for the mere fact that we were going to do it anyway, this fits in so perfectly. We’re in the UK, so will be using the guide material as we go along – not sure where that will be though, on this blog or on shopify… I’ll sign up nearer the end of the month so I get my 1st month free 🙂

  17. @Naomi: We are still finalizing the details. We hope that the tutorials will help people with specific aspects of building the business such as product sourcing and automating order fulfillment and such things. Also Tim’s book is full of great advice but I assume you have read this 🙂

  18. @nathan- The way I read the rules was that it had to be a new product, so while the fortune 500 person might indeed have the experience, they still need a new product, with the goal of automation (which some might not already have done anyways).

    Tim etc- Am I reading the rules right? Would I be able to do this while still keeping it a part of my current business(using my current business name/tax numbers)? I run a related product based business now but want to do digital goods for the contest. Products etc would not be on the shopify site, I just want to be able to continue using my same business info.

  19. Tim, your competition just might kick-start the U.S. economy back into life for 2010!

    @ Helen.

    Helen, you are a trigger-puller ‘par excellence’. We do accommodation in New York, so when you get closer to planning your mini-retirement in the Big Apple, get in contact. We’ll see if we can sort you out with A Room in New York.

    (Now if only we could find a way to drop-ship B & Bs for businesspeople! I reckon shopify would have a winner on its hands, Tim)

  20. @Nathan – Regarding your question about someone having the contest in the bag, note that contestants have to start a brand new business. A continuation of a current one or putting an existing online or brick-and-mortar store on Shopify does not qualify. The idea is to get people who have no business started to start one.

    From the FAQs:

    “Can I move my existing online store over?

    Obviously we would love to have your business on Shopify. However, the spirit of this contest is to encourage new businesses to be created. ”

    What about a brick and mortar store?

    It’s a fantastic time to move your business online. However, much like with existing online stores – see previous point – the spirit of the contest is to encourage new businesses. Moving an existing brick and mortar store online is not going to be a valid new business unless you can clearly demonstrate that you are not taking advantage of the existing offline business.”

  21. I’m in.

    This contest is great in so many ways – for me and others I work with.

    Also, per above comments on eligibility, when you go to sign up, there’s a check box,

    “I guarantee that xxx is a new business that starts operating December 2009 or later.”

    (I thought I may be able to enhance a current business by opening a whole-new ‘automated component’ with an online store, but I couldn’t guarantee it was a new business, so didn’t enter that one.)

    Tim, as always thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Thank you Tim! Because of you and you’re book I’ve been simplifying my life this last year in preparation to quitting my job, living out my dream line, and feeding my Muse. I owned my own company (in the service industry…oh hell I admit it- I was a slave!) I just couldn’t get away from it to start on my Muse. I packed everything up two weeks ago and moved to a little town in CO where I’ll have no distractions (except when the ski runs call my name)! Now I can finally feed and love my Muse! This competition you’ve sprung on us couldn’t have come at a better time! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

  23. Hey Tim,

    Thanks so much for this kick in the butt.

    It’s refreshing to see a successful entrepreneur who is so concerned with helping others!

    You’re the real deal.


  24. Ok, Tim, I’m in! 🙂

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    As a non-US entrant, I’m more interested in your guidance than in the prize money.

    How will you implement that? Do you plan to run a forum? blog? some way of helping the poor struggling saps that you have enticed into take this challenge 🙂

    Caro (in South Africa)

    ps. any other SA folk planning to do this? contact me please on – it would be good to have some company on the ride.

  25. Exactly what I needed. I’ve stalled after the initial excitement of reading the 4hww a few months ago. Motivation is priceless.

  26. Butt kick… Thank you, Sir, may I please have another?

    Tim, I take heart because I remember that you have had several failed attempts–like “How I Beat the Ivy League.” I wanted to wait for the new 4HWW to regroup and plan my next attempt, then start in January. Perfect timing.

    I’m not in it for the $100k. I’ll take the automated business any day, thank you.


  27. hi tim,

    i agree. we are are from nz. we read your book, quit our jobs and started our business.

    i think there should be a prize that if someone wins from overseas they get to meet you. you fly and see us or something.

    what do you think?

    kim and jase

  28. A good old fashioned throwdown! I’m game.

    Automation is about constant tweaking and tinkering, continuous improvement is what leads to the breakthroughs..and this contest is sure to generate some serious breakthroughs.

    Thanks, Tim

  29. Thank you Tim and Tobi for the awesome kick in pants! I’ve had an idea for a business nagging at the edge of mind for a couple of months; this is EXACTLY the push I needed.

    I do have a couple questions about the contest rules (sorry to be a rules-dweeb, but as anybody who’s read 4HWW knows, it is critical to understand the rules of the game! 😉

    1) You mentioned that businesses in some U.S. states cannot participate for legal reasons. Is a list of these states available somewhere? I couldn’t find that info in the FAQ. I need to incorporate and don’t want to disqualify myself out of the gate.

    2) What about subscription businesses? The FAQ says:

    “However, only the first $5,000 of each order counts towards the contest. No you can’t get 100 orders placed by the same person for $5,000 each either. We check for this”

    My business idea is for a product sold on a subscription basis (either monthly or biweekly, I haven’t decided yet.) Will monthly subscription orders from the same customer count for scorekeeping purposes?

    Thanks again for the opportunity!

  30. Ok, Tim, I’m in! 🙂

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    As a non-US entrant, I’m more interested in your guidance than in the prize money.

    How will you implement that? Do you plan to run a forum? blog? some way of helping the poor struggling saps that you have enticed into take this challenge 🙂

    Caro (in South Africa)

    ps. any other SA folk planning to do this? contact me please – it would be good to have some company on the ride.

  31. Ok, Tim, I’m in! 🙂

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    As a non-US entrant, I’m more interested in your guidance than in the prize money.

    How will you implement that? Do you plan to run a forum? blog? some way of helping the poor struggling saps that you have enticed into take this challenge 🙂

    Caro (in South Africa)

    ps. any other SA folk planning to do this? contact me please – it would be good to have some company on the ride

  32. Thanks Tim. This is a great idea.

    I have been reviewing a specific niche that I’m passionate about and would like to begin marketing as an affiliate. In my research, I have found a product publisher in Colorado that has exactly the product I want to sell. Payouts to affiliates are approximately $33 per product and he has a suite of complimentary products that I’d be proud to be selling. It’s a digital product that is only offered on ClickBank (dot) com.

    I am excited about this contest and see this as a perfect tie in to begin my muse. I’ve been reading the contest rules and understand that affiliate sales qualify. How does this work if it is a ClickBank product though?

    Thanks again for the great idea and if you’re interested, I did a cool blog post about you and Matt Cutt’s presentation at WordCamp this summer. (on my blog at the above address)



  33. Have you (or anyone else) seen any success with affiliate based sites? Is it possible to make a modest steady cash flow simply by advertising other sites. For example, using only products and making referral money from the affiliate program?

  34. Sounds cool, i need a kick in the butt to get serious about creating a passive income so i’ll give this a try! Alas, i’ll be travelling in january, so i’ll give the rest of you a little head start (hoping the fable of the turtle and the hare applies here as well 🙂 ) .

  35. Tim, brilliant idea, I am in. Set up my store in an hour, Starting off selling our home stuff; clothes, books, shoes, equipment, just for practice. Doing this while I re-read 4 Hour to implement a real product strategy by Jan 1.

    My six month goal is to pay off credit card debt. After that its student loans, after that we are debt free. Looking forward to eventually having the time to spend time with my daughter, be financially independent and having the time to pursue competing in the Crossfit Games. Thanks for getting me off my duff.

  36. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for this swift kick in the drawers. Got my site up in an hour. Starting off selling household things for practice(old books, clothes, equipment), while I re-read 4 Hour and implement a real product strategy in Jan.

    My six month goal is to pay off all credit card debt. After that its student loans, then after that saving for a house. I look forward to spending more time with my family, being financially independent and finally having the time to train for the Crossfit Games.

    Keep the content coming!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Congrats on taking the first step! Selling a few things for practice is a very, very smart idea.

      Good idea and may you crush it at Crossfit!


  37. I see a lot of people making excuses.

    It is rather sad that most you are wasting time criticizing and asking nonsense questions instead of taking action. Just get to work and stop with the “reasons” things will not work. You are only hurting yourselves with your petty gripes, cynicism, and confusion.

  38. Hi All!

    Thanks so much for the great comments and discussion. Just an important FYI:

    The live QA for y’all who get the new edition will not be on the 17th — it will be on the 12/22, as I’ve realized some people won’t receive books by 12/17.

    Here is the new and expanded edition — much, much improved with more than 50 tips and case studies from readers:

    More call details to come soon.

    If you want to join the call with the older edition, that’s also totally cool, but we’ll be focusing on content in the new book and things that have happened since 2007.

    Looking forward to it!

    Thanks so much and all the best,


  39. Hey Tim,

    QQ’s, can you shed light on how I would create my own ROI equation? I am concerned that if I build the business based on what I spend for marketing, that I might run into a problem when I decide to take a profit. So basically, if I spend X(adwords, outsourcing, etc..) to make Y(revenue), where do I draw the line to make a profit after COGS? Do I factor it in the beginning? My first inclination would be to put all the revenue back into marketing in the beginning to get traffic. But once I have traffic, I think that the business model(ROI) will naturally result from how much I spend on marketing, and when I decide to take profit(income) from revenue, that it could throw off the model and I could see a decrease in revenue(based on the decreased marketing spend). Do I spend more on marketing in the beginning to establish my business, and later pull back on ad spend to take profit? I realize I will see a lot more organic traffic once I establish through marketing, but I cant bank on that, or can I?

    If the answer is simply “its in the book”, just reply with that 🙂

    I am re-reading the book, and looking forward to the new edition.


  40. I’m grateful that Tim started the Shopify contest, but…

    Here’s a few observations I’ve made about Shopify.

    1. There is NO telephone support!

    2. If you don’t know how to mess with HTML and CSS, then you will most likely need to consult with a designer. Designer=money. This is especially true if you’re working with many products.

    3. I followed their online solution for inserting my logo on my Shopify store and it did not work. You actually have to go into CODE to incorporate your logo on the Shopify store! A store where you can’t insert your logo without messing around with CODE! Never heard of such a thing.

  41. Tim,

    First off THANK YOU! I have always been into maximizing efficiency and output while minimizing time of production. However, you have taken it to another level and helped many lives in the process!

    With that said, what’s the word? CAN THE WINNER OF THE CONTEST MEET YOU?! (or even the top 5, I’m sure they’d be willing to fork out the money for travel. I know I would.)


  42. Ok, gonna give it a go… I have a few web businesses that I’m starting with an investment of less than $100. Can’t afford AdWords right now, but I’ll be using all the SEO tricks I know to get this off the ground.

  43. Judjing from the comments, I assume that the most wanted and dreamed about tutorial would be

    “How non US citizen can create the US company: what are the cheapest options, what are the risks involved, what are the requirements, limitations and timings, what are the difference in conditions between countries (how Russia is different from South Africa for example), what are the difference between different schemes (e.g. buying stuff remotely in the USA and selling it in the USA as well or importing/exporting schemes), what are the preferable payments and taxation schemes and what are the next actions to be taken right now.

    Or put short “comprehensive, but short tutorial on how to open and manage US company for non-US citizen”.

    That would be INCREDIBLE.

    PS I’m from Russia BTW 🙂

  44. I’m sorry to bo so wordy today, but I think there a couple more extremely important issues that prevent many others from joining:

    1. It would be really great to understand the product sources (in case if you’re not producing smth by yourself).

    2. It would be really great to understand the shipping schemes (how can I ship something within the USA or internationally remotely, what are the prices, companies, etc)?

    3. How can be drop-shipping schemes integrated here?


    How can I ship something from China from to the USA for example and sell it through shopfy while staying in Russia for example and get pay. 🙂

    I do believe that the project will be a huge success if you could address these issues in a simple and understandable manner.

    Thank you very much for all that you do!

  45. @John

    1.) Yes, there is no phone support, but there is an extensive email help system that works well in my opinion and usually you have your answers in 0 – 6 hours.

    2.) You can select from different basic themes to choose your main look. Then each theme has some settings (e.g. colors, logo, background image) that you don’t need any code for. Anything more custom you have to dig into HTML/CSS yes, but if you want something professionally looking it doesn’t work with WYSIWYG tools.

    3.) Allmost all themes support setting a logo (and position) without any code. If it didn’t work out for you, just ask the customer support, they will help you incorporate it.

  46. What is the difference between the FAQs and the Rules? For example, the FAQs make mention of the $5,000 per sale limit, but the rules do not. I mention this because I predict you should make it more clear up front what the rules are.

    I understand the spirit of the contest, but also recall that 4HWW opens with advice to read “the rules” and look for “loopholes”. For the good of the contest overall, I offer the outsider perspective that you might make it more clear if the FAQs are a part of “the rules”?

  47. Can’t you just buy something from the winner’s store for $100,000?

    Or buy $100,000 stuff from the winner and then give the products away to a charity?

    I’m from Germany :'(

    And I want to be in the contest.

    …ah well, maybe i’ll start a shop anyway. Just to see if I can beat the US winner….

  48. Looks like this was setup before BigCommerce came on the scene. Shopify is OK but compared to BigCommerce it’s quite basic and BigCommerce feels easier to use after trying both.

  49. @soleone

    1. With all due respect, I’ve not had a six hour turn-around with geting emails back from support. It’s been longer. When you’re dealing with crucial issues like uploading multiple products, it’s VERY helpful to have phone support. You can even follow all the directions in an email or forum and still not have things work right. That’s why phone support is crucial, in my opinion.

    2. I selected a theme, and found out that I could insert a logo, only to change that theme to find out that the new theme didn’t accept a logo image. On one theme my descriptions display HTML just fine, on another they don’t. Same HTML, different results. Shopify turned out to be a major hassel for me.

    3. I asked the customer support (via email) about adding a logo, and they simply gave me their standard “We don’t assist with design; go get a designer” mentality.

    I think this idea is great, but I don’t feel that the right company was chosen for the stores. In frustration, I went to another company (not to be named here) and setup a store, with logo, with 300+ products, with phone support, with flawless uploading capability, and no need for CODE (editing .CSS files) in a matter of hours.

  50. Hey Tim,

    I wish I had the resources and money to join this contest. I would love to start my own Business and not have to answer to a boss. I think when things get better for me I will try.

    Tanks, Stephen

  51. Tim, or anyone for that matter,

    You say in your book that weebly is great for non-technical newbies and for working SEO techniques. Does weebly integrate with shopify or are they similar?


  52. My company is a fulfillment outsourcing company that would love to help out any of you entrepreneurs with the pick, packing, and shipping of your products. I have read 4HWW and it is my passion to support entrepreneurship. Best of luck and let me know if I our my company can be of help in any way.

  53. Tim,

    The contest is a great idea to help people get going on their muse. Kudos. Looking forward to the updated version of 4HWW too.

    I went through the process of setting up my own online store a few months back. I made a case study of it, that includes all the particular problems from shopping carts to getting listed in Google base and setting up an email program.

    Here is the case study.

    A couple of points from the case study.

    1. Amazon’s new Checkout by Amazon service radically increases conversions.

    2. At checkout, always offer a simple 1 or 2 click option ( ala Paypal, checkout by Amazon etc..).

    Requiring people to fill out a long registration page is death to your conversion %.

    3. Email lists can be lifesavers if used properly. The traffic I get from my weekly emails converts 3 to 4 times better than organic traffic.

    4. Google base is mandatory. Gives beautiful highly targeted free traffic.

    Cheers! Good luck to all

    All the best


  54. The 4-Hour work week changed my life for the better. It was what inspired me to finally get with it and create my new business.

  55. Are any non-americans working on incorporating an american company to participate in this contest?

    I am strongly considering a wyoming LLC.

    My research seems to indicate that LLCs are best for foreigners, due to pass-through of income.

    Wyoming seems to be better than the more common nevada & delaware incorporation states.

    I’m a Canadian currently living in the Philippines, enjoying a bit of 4hww geo-arbitrage.

  56. I just bought the revised 4HWW and I have been excited to try this out, especially if there’s a free 30-day trial. But I have been skeptical about how practical this idea of starting an online business is for complete newbies.

    A huge thanks goes out to Russ and the few others who have offered some practical advice for the newbies like myself!

  57. Tim,

    You are distracting me from my muses……

    And with as little capital as I presently have, hard to get a product based business going.

    Seriously though, in about two months I may need to get in touch with you and Kevin in regards to my other (read main) muse.

  58. I’m looking for info on the Dec 22nd call I’ve heard about. Bought the new book..yayy! Can someone let me know how to get on the call soon? Its tomorrow! 🙂


  59. Hi Tim,

    Great that you are encouraging people to go out there and take some kind of control of their income. While it’s not always easy it certainly isn’t as hard as most people will tell you.

    I have a question that I am sure will be of interest to many of your readers. I want to start an affiliate program for one of my language teaching businesses. Do you have any experience / recommendations? Is an off-the-peg solution best or an tailor-made solution (using an Elancer or Guru developer for example)?



  60. Hi Tim,

    this is a great contest, and I like the idea behind it very much. Again you managed to be such an inspiration for a lot of people, and with the added incentive there is no reason not to give it a shot. And even for non-US residents it is a great idea to start an online shop like this; start small, think big.

    I do have a question though; I’m an international student from the Netherlands currently living and studying in California, am I allowed to enter the contest? Or is that too difficult for you to answer?



  61. Tim et. al.,

    I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the Shopify store I’m currently implementing, and am just about at my wits end. I’m curious how other folks are making out. . .as someone pretty familiar with HTML, as well as wordpress platforms, I’m surprised at exactly how dang difficult it is to really get something going OTHER than the most simple of sites. Templates are great, but not being able to manipulate the code in a simple fashion is proving to be a big P.I.T.A.

    Also, not being able to capture visitors to the site…even those that don’t want to buy immediately…is a huge disadvantage, in my eyes.

    Anyone else having problems with the code, and limitations of the marketing?

    I’d love to stick with this model, but am currently considering other store platforms that are easier to work with. I can’t imagine how hard this is for people with zero knowledge of code. 🙁


    1. Hi Doc,

      Let me shoot your comment to Tobi. Let’s see what we can figure out.

      Thank you for the comment. I suspect there should be a work-around here.


  62. @Doc

    I totally relate to what you’re saying. My earlier posts describe my frustration. In my opinion Shopify is TERRIBLE.

    I went to another store (ProStores) and setup everything I needed in a matter of hours. The greatest part was the telephone support I received, which is absolutely NIL at Shopify. That’s there downfall.

    As I said earlier… Great idea Tim, but bad choice of vehicles.

  63. Tim and John,

    Nice to hear from each of you. Re: marketing, Shopify doesn’t support user accounts, which was, and is still part of my concern, as my site will be tailored to folks coming back regularly. I’m afraid the constant need to fill out their information will stifle repeat buying. Maybe I’m wrong, but this is one main reason why I’m considering other platforms.

    Shopify does, however, integrate with MailChimp and a few other contact programs, and after a lot of .php editing and junk that didn’t seem to work, I found Chimpified . It’s the simplest way to integrate email capturing for list building once a purchase has been made.

    Tim, if it helps Tobi in sorting out his ideas, below are a few things I’m looking to do at the moment. I realize I can post these questions in their forum, and know they don’t help folks with design, so a nod in the right direction the best I might ask for, I suppose.

    1. Substitute standard “add to cart” images with something cooler, like “gotta’ have it!’

    2. Sidebar manipulation/Columns…where in the heck are they?! 😉

    3. Is there a way to see the code behind pages/product pages?

    4. How can I place newsletter signup boxes simply? I saw something about newsletter.signup at one point in the wiki, but lost it…getting it in the right place through trial-and-error without any WYSIWYG it’s really tough. I still haven’t figured it out, actually!

    5. I’m using the Moderno theme, which is nice because I want a single product on the home page at a time, but can’t seem to place a “add to cart” type button on that page that automatically will add that product to the cart.

    6. Also, on the frontpage of my site, the theme automatically places a banner description right over top the image, I can edit the code out, but part of the color remains. In actuality, I’d like to have the banner, but above the item, not over it.

    7. Also, is there any hope of implementing a membership option? There are other rev streams I could and want to create in a single domain, one being a membership area and/or VIP kinda’ discount area. Any hope this will be available at some point?

    There are a lot of great aspects to Shopify, it seems, particularly once things get moving. The back end seems GREAT, but the front end is…jeez…really not intuitive, OR, I’m looking in all the wrong places for the right help! I’ve been through the wiki and forums, but one thing I’m finding difficult is that while, often comprehensive, some of the coding explanations just seem to end right when they’re getting informative, or they assume too much current knowledge as when mentioning objects/filters/expressions.

    These two sites, listed on the Shopify Wiki, are worth a look-see for others working on their sites. They’re a bit more “tutorial” in nature:

    Thanks, and I look forward to still giving it a roll!

    @John, I too have a list of other stores I’m considering, including ones that have different pricing models. I won’t list them here, but there are numerous opportunities, each with their own advantages/difficulties, I think. The coding, though, as you’ve mentioned is, indeed, making this one a challenge! 😉



  64. For those working on Shopify sites, I had a great conversation with Tobi, who is really looking forward to learning about how things are going in creating our sites. He’s particularly interested in any particular challenges we’re finding. And, since this is – at least for now – a good forum for each of us, we can post ’em here unless Tim or Tobi suggest otherwise. They’re working on a number of things and I’m still positive about what the site can do. There’s always a learning curve and the more we can share with the Shopify folks about how to make it better, the easier it will continue to be!

    Tobi is already taking advice he’s rec’d recently and begun working on certain improvements on the wiki, etc.

    Thanks Tim for calling my concerns to Tobi’s attention, and thanks Tobi for your time and interest.



  65. Hi Tim –

    First off, thank you for getting this contest going. It has certainly inspired me to get something of my own off the ground. Anyway, my shop is something that I could market to others that are joining the contest or even people who are new to Shopify (we are creating logos and other basic design packages for small biz start-ups). Any idea on how I could market to people through either the contest or Shopify? Thanks in advance for your answer.

    -David Fiddler

  66. OK, I admit it… I’m a little slow. I’ve been going through the website and all of it looks really neat. BUT, what drives traffic to my “new” website? What makes people want to buy the products that I choose to sale? What makes this more than just another on-line site that makes money for shopify vs. myself also?

  67. Hi Tim,

    I have been working with my family over the past year to build a website. We just launched our beta this month. obviously we are not using shopify, does this disqualify us or are we still eligible for the prize?



  68. Math is fun.

    Shopify gets X number of new customers for minimum of 6 months at the recommended business rate of $99/mo (that’s minimum $600 per person), and they are generously going to award those customers (who are paying a 1% transaction fee to Shopify) for the best two consecutive months of sales.

    If X is > 200, not counting transaction percentage and whatever cut Tim is getting from this promotion (don’t think for a second he did this for just the publicity of it — THAT is how you automate your income, btw), Shopify is clearing a profit.

    Maybe I should hold one of these contests. It’s little more than a business performance lottery.



    As I already noted, I’m not getting a cut of anything. Feel free to hold your own contest, though. The more the merrier.


  69. Hi Tim,

    I just found your book and website. I think you’re a genuine person and really have found a way to fight back against the dreaded 40 hour work week.

    I’ll give this a try. I tried it once before but my marketing skills are not my best trait. I’ll hopefully be signing up soon. Do you have to sign up for this before jan 1 2009?

    Thanks, George

  70. @Stewart Christensen The contest is hosted by Shopify and only stores run through their shopping cart can win…that’s how you enter on their site. Hope that helps! 🙂

  71. @Stewart Christensen, Also note that the rules state that contest participants’ businesses must be new, not simply extending a pre-existing business to a Shopify site.

  72. @Jason Tim is an advisor to Shopify, as he clearly states up front. Of course he is not going to advise Shopify to do something that will make them lose money. I believe Tim when he says he’s not getting a cut. By promoting and supporting this contest, he’s simply doing his job as advisor which is to help Shopify grow and profit.

  73. @michael — Search Marketing is going to be a key component. Google AdWords (Pay-Per-Click) will be one of the quickest ways to drive traffic. Over the 6 month period you can also work on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to build up your website’s authority with the search engines and start to deliver ‘organic’ traffic from search. The SEO benefit won’t be immediate, but you should see results in the first 3-6 months if you’re consistent in your efforts and it will pay huge dividends as you cultivate your ‘muse’ long term.

    @tim — That makes me think… perhaps I could provide some LotusJump accounts (extended free trials?) to contest participants to help them with SEO. Hit me on email or twitter if you want to talk.

  74. Does anyone know if shopify is SE friendly? I am used to wordpress and have several sites, but I want to try shopify for the competition.

  75. @Sophie Doesn’t matter where you are 😉

    “I have an idea for a business but I have no idea where and how to find manufacturers (PS: I’m in Europe).

    Any ideas?”

  76. Tim –

    Thanks for this contest!!! I’ve just opened up a “Shopify” account and so far am amazed at how easy and basic the interface is. Next step, design, upload, and crazy marketing.

    Again, great idea, and I look forward to seeing how this thing unfolds.