Answering Reader Questions And Evaluating Your Time

One of the goals of this blog is to try to help bloggers make more money without spending more time blogging.  This can be done by changing your efforts from non-profitable activities to more profitable activities.

Another side of the equation is to try to eliminate time spent on tasks that don’t provide any return.

In my case, I’ve decided to stop answering questions which I get from readers.  As much as I enjoy answering some questions (and might continue to do so on occasion), a lot of the questions are repetitive, have already been answered in posts or are so complicated that they will take a long time to answer.

I have goals I’m trying to achieve with my business.  A lot of those goals are dependent on producing more content, both online and in book form.  I have to spend time to achieve those goals.  Answering questions provides almost no value to me.

My solution is to provide a canned response every time someone asks a question.  I’ll explain that I’m not answering questions anymore and will list some references they can use.

Here are a few other points on this issue

  • Can’t make money – Even if I make a post out of an interesting reader question, it is likely a pretty rare occurrence and unlikely to get any search engine traffic money.
  • Time consuming – If I have to do research to answer the question, that is costing me a lot of time.
  • Obligations – Just because you provided some information about a topic, doesn’t mean you are obligated to keep answering questions.
  • One person – If you answer one lengthy question, you help one person.  If you spend that time on an entire post – you likely help many more people.
  • Who are they? –   Most questions are from search engine visitors – not your regular readers.
  • Obligations part II – You might feel obligated to your regular readers to help them out, but why?  You provide them with free content, why do you owe them anything else?
  • Thanks – And the biggest reason not answer questions – at least 50% of them don’t even say thanks.  Drives me nuts!!

Evaluate your time

The point of this article is not to discourage you from answering reader questions.   It is to suggest that if you are not meeting your blogging goals and you are getting frustrated (as I am) about spending time on “other” items, it might be an idea to evaluate what you spend your time on and maybe think about dropping activities that are not helping you to achieve your goals.

16 Responses to “Answering Reader Questions And Evaluating Your Time”

  1. Rachelle says:

    I feel your pain…I have no idea how you wrote a book with everything you have going on. I’m trying to put a free ebook together and I can’t even find the time for that.

  2. Mike Holman says:

    @Rachelle – You need to spend less time with your son. He’ll understand. 😉

  3. Interesting post, Mike. I spend a lot of time answering reader questions — more than I should, but it goes against my grain to ignore them. I have stopped doing research to answer questions: if I don’t know the answer, I’ll just admit that and suggest where the reader might start looking. I also do my best to simply provide links to existing posts, which takes minimal effort.

    But I agree completely about people who don’t even take 10 seconds to fire off a quick thank you. 🙁

    Cheers.
    D.

  4. Mike Holman says:

    @Dan – It does go against the grain to ignore questions, but sometimes you gotta do, what you gotta do!

    I’m going to give it a try and see what happens.

  5. Rachelle says:

    While you’re not answering questions how is MSB doing with fewer posts as far as monetization goes?

    Ha if my son goes to daycare more often the germs will kill us !

  6. Mike Holman says:

    @Rachelle – Posting frequency doesn’t have any short-term effects on income. In general, you make more money if you have more posts in the archive. But, the posts I’ve been doing have been pretty informative (ie boring) which means they have a good chance at making a bit of $$.

    If I were trying to crank out 4-5 posts a week, I would probably end up with most crap, which won’t make any money at all.

  7. Mike Piper says:

    Early last year, I found myself spending 10-15 hours per week answering questions (because many tended to be uncommon tax situations that required research). Eventually I just put a note on my contact page that said “I don’t offer personalized investing or tax advice via email. If you’re seeking such advice, I suggest finding a local CPA or CFP.” It was quite effective.

    I eventually took the note down because I enjoy answering questions, but now if I don’t know the answer, I just send them right off to the Bogleheads or “IRA Help” forums rather than spending lots of time researching.

  8. Mike Holman says:

    Very interesting Mike.

    I can see maybe answering some questions and then referring the rest to various resources. That might work out better.

  9. Echo says:

    We get a quite a few Boomer’s asking specific advice about their retirement situation. I pass them on to my mom (ha-ha!), but even she responded back and said she doesn’t like to give specific financial advice because she doesn’t know all of the details of their situation. At least most of these older guys email us back and say thanks, but it’s not like they have anything better to do 🙂

  10. Hi Blogthority,

    Perhaps we’re too new to get bombarded w/ questions. We do try to answer questions when they come up.

    I will state that i’ll miss answers from you buddy – you’ve helped us immensely and we’re happy to help you in the future any way we can.

    SPF

  11. Mike Holman says:

    @SPF – The ban doesn’t include bloggers. I love talking blogging stuff. 😉

  12. Mike Holman says:

    @Echo – It’s probably not a good idea to give out specific investment advice. I tend to give advice regarding operational stuff like setting up accounts etc.

  13. Echo says:

    @Mike

    Yes, we just use that as our generic statement whenever dealing with specific advice. Like Dan said, sometimes it’s just in our nature to want to answer reader questions. When it gets too specific, it’s definitely time to refer them to another source. And when it takes too much time and effort to answer, there’s nothing wrong with a plain old “I don’t know, but maybe you should check here”.

  14. Just last night, spent over an hour and half replying to comments. Looks like I should have spent that time writing my column that’s due in a couple hours!

  15. Mike Holman says:

    @Echo – great advice.

    @Larry – Perhaps. It’s a tough decision – reader questions and comments can be a great learning experience.

  16. Youngandthrifty says:

    So true! I spend so much time replying to emails and a lot of the time I don’t get a quick “thanks” and it does peeve me off..but only momentarily because I forget about it. I feel rude though in not responding…(perhaps it’s the “I cant say no” side of me coming out).

    I agree that posting frequency doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run.