How to Negotiate a 4-day Work Week: Chris’ Story

Enjoy this guest post from 30×500 student Chris Hartjes! — Amy

Have you ever looked at Amy’s stuff and wondered if anyone is having success with it? I’m proof that what Amy tells you works and can lead to greater things.

I have been creating my own products for about 4 years now. I have written 2 books about programming in PHP. Only the second one was built using the lessons and advice that Amy teaches in her 30×500 class.

I’ve known Amy for years (we met at a PHP conference) and had been following her from afar. I was extremely happy for her success…and procrastinating on joining 30×500 out of fear. Fear that I had been doing things wrong on my own.

Like many people, I fell in love with the idea for my first book before I knew for sure it would work. I was afraid that Amy’s methods would reveal the ugly truth that I was wasting my time building something nobody wanted.

Of course, I knew it deep down — I just didn’t want to hear it from somebody else, because of ego and pride.

But I swallowed my pride, signed up, and it was the best thing I ever did in terms of helping me figure out the best way to set me down the path of working for myself in the future instead of someone else.

I regret not taking 30×500 sooner.

One of the things you learn in 30×500 is that you need to do your research first, and only create your product after you’ve found out what people need, and what they are ready to pay for.

Amy showed me how to look at the target audience for my next book & find out what was bothering THEM, not what I thought was important.

That was a big shift in my thinking — I went from being in love with my own ideas to being excited about solving other people’s problems. My second book worked better thanks to 30×500 in this way.

That brings us to my job.

Amy recently wrote a list of strategies for people who want to transition from a full-time job into building a product business. One bit of advice that she gave stuck in my memory like a shard of crystal, slowly driving me mad:

“Go get a firm job offer that’s a 20% raise, show your current employer, and negotiate a 4-day work week.”

Now, I am someone whom many people have labelled as a success. A long programming career (16 years and counting), high profile in the programming community I belong to, and success via two books and videos about writing automated tests for PHP code.

Despite that, I still had a small voice in my head saying “it will never work”.

So I took an honest look at the facts:

  • If I could get one day a week to work on my own things, that would mean the slices of time I was taking away from my life after dinner would be moved to Fridays.
  • Eight hours is a lot of time, especially once you’ve learned how to schedule tasks and break them down into small 1 to 2 hour chunks like I have while writing my books and recording videos on the side.
  • I didn’t need a huge raise. Sure, the money is nice but how can money make up for unhappiness of not doing what you want? Money wasn’t the issue. Time was the issue. You can never get time back, you can never make more time. All you can do is figure out different ways to use the time that you have available to you. I was already taking slices of family time and sleep to try and make more money.
  • If I could negotiate a 4-day work week, I could actually hang out with my wife and kids and watch TV on week nights. Or go read a book.

It hit me: Holy fuck, why was I not already figuring out how to make it happen?!?

So, I decided that the first step was to look for another job. Over the years, I’ve built up a good network of connections within the PHP community, so I sent out feelers to see who was hiring. Quietly, because I have a very public presence in social media.

I was able to find someone that was hiring for a job doing stuff I am good at along with the opportunity to expand my skills, too. I got an offer. Then came the moment of truth.

What if I asked them if they were willing to let me work 4 days a week, with Fridays being for me? Not cramming 5 days into 4 — I mean 4 regular work days, with normal hours, and Fridays off, a day to devote to working on my own stuff.

It was scary. I took the chance.

I wrote them,

“This offer looks great, but I have a counter-proposal. As you know I’ve been working on my own stuff for a while and I want to continue doing it. To make it work better I need one day a week just for me. Let’s change this agreement to me giving you 4 days a week of my time and I can sign it right now.”

Now, let’s be honest. I’m a programmer with 16 years experience, with high visibility in the PHP community. My potential employer has other high-visibility people working for them. I can back up my negotiation for a shorter work week by helping them solve some difficult problems.

I understand that you might not be in the same position as me, or feel like you can make similar demands of either your current employer or future employers.

The worst thing they can say is No. But they didn’t.

They said Yes.

Now I’m making a little more money. And have my nights & weekends back. And I have a full day each week to devote to writing books and making videos to sell.

What the heck just happened? Something awesome.

It’s all Amy’s fault for showing me the path. Thanks Amy, couldn’t have done it without you!

Chris did it, and so can you

When I (Amy) first negotiated a 4-day work week, I wasn’t a 16-year veteran of the tech world. I was a 21-year-old with some experience in my first “corporate” job. In a business negotiation, it doesn’t matter what you are — but what you can give the other party.

If you’re in a full time job, or already freelancing, you should definitely read our Startup Escape Plan and learn how to start taking control of your time and energy, today.

Anddddd to make sure that you have the right bootstrapping mindset and skills to start right away, get our free 7 part guide to bootstrapping a profitable product business:

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