Make Your Blogging Time More Efficient

As a very part-time blogger, one of the things I try to do with my business is to use my time more wisely. If I want to make more money without spending more time working, I need to focus more time on activities that are profitable and less time on activities that are not profitable.

All businesses practice this in some form. Restaurants will encourage consumption of higher margin products (another beer anyone?), retail stores continually monitor their profits on all products and will drop products that don’t make the grade.

Increasing the return-on-investment of your time can be harder than it sounds.  Most of us started our blogs as a labour of love – reading blog posts, answering comments and email questions, writing posts are likely things that we enjoy.

It’s hard to stop doing things that you like doing. I really like reading blog posts and newspaper articles for example, but the return on my time investment is practically zero, which is why I’ve cut down on my reading.

I’ve already mentioned this idea before on this blog when I talked about writing more profitable posts. That concept could mean you end up writing on topics that might not be your first choice of topics. However, sometimes you have to ask yourself – Do I want to have maximum fun or do I want to make some money

One of the activities that I really enjoy doing is answering reader questions received through email or comments on the blog. It’s flattering to be considered an “expert” by someone and it’s also fun to help people. Reader questions can be a good learning experience as well.

The problem is that answering questions can take a lot of time and there is little to no financial benefit. Another problem is that I’ve noticed over the past year that for all the questions I answer – about 75% of them do not acknowledge my response.

This really annoys me since I’ve likely spent at least a few minutes of my time providing the answer and the reader can’t even be bothered to say a simple “thanks”. In most cases, the reader has probably saved both time and money thanks to my help.

I’ve considered not answering questions anymore and using my time for more profitable ventures, but then I thought of trying to charge money for answering questions.

If I could get someone to pay me $5 or $10 (or more) to spend some time helping them, they would benefit greatly and I could then justify using my time I spend on answering questions.

So I set up a “consulting service” payment page and did a little test. Whenever I received a question which I could answer, I sent an email asking for a small payment and then I would provide the answer. The payment would be made through Paypal using their debit or credit card.

I expected very little takeup of this great offer and I wasn’t disappointed. So far I’ve sent out about a dozen emails and have not heard back from any of them.

No wait, there was one guy who was apparently annoyed enough at my $5 quote to email this to me:

Thanks, but I got my answer, and didn’t cost me a dime….sheesh.

Kudos Gary, I hope the information you got was worth more than you paid for it.

Now you might be thinking that this test was a failure – that my consulting business isn’t going to make any money. In fact, it was a success.

Why?  Because now I can justify not answering any more reader questions. I used to think that the readers really valued my opinion, but the fact that they won’t even pay an amount equal to pocket change indicates that in fact, they don’t value my knowledge or time at all.

But don’t you like answering questions?

Well yes – but only when I feel that my answers are appreciated. When most of the people I help don’t even say thank you and other people won’t pay a token amount of money, that’s clearly not the case. 



9 Responses to “Make Your Blogging Time More Efficient”

  1. Hey Mike,
    I hear you man. Even though my blog is in the Personal Development niche I get way more questions about blogging than anything else.

    I have never contacted another blogger via e-mail to ask them for advice because I know that their time is valuable. I have no problem with someone wanting to charge a small fee like $5-$10 in exchange for some time and info. I think that it is reasonable enough. People have it in their heads that getting something for free at the expense of someone elses time and energy is a good thing.

    It is not. Could you imagine if a Lawyer went around answering every Law question for free. They would be out of business. They even charge money to answer e-mails.

    I did have one girl that contacted me many times in regards to personal problems and even blogging questions. We went back and forth several times at least.

    She did eventually donate $50 to me via PayPal. If I could just get everyone else on board.

  2. Mike Holman says:

    Hi Justin. Oddly enough, I don’t mind answering blogging questions – probably because I don’t get too many of them and bloggers are usually extremely friendly and grateful for any help.

    You’re right that someone trying to make a living has to charge for their time. Most bloggers are doing it on the side, so I don’t think there is that urgency to charge because they have their day job. Regardless – time is money! 🙂

  3. Rachelle says:

    I turn reader questions into blog posts. This way I get more posts out and keep people happy.

  4. Mike Holman says:

    @Rachelle – That’s a very good idea.

    However, two problems that come up (eventually) with that strategy are:

    1) Some questions are very specific, which means that blog posts may not help many people and are unlikely to make money.
    2) After a while, I’ve seen all the questions before (ie on RESP issues), so I can’t just keep doing new posts.

  5. g416 says:

    There’s also the issue of “getting what you pay for”. Quite why you’d trust a question about a specific and personal financial issue, of all things, to a total stranger who has no incentive to get the answer right is pretty puzzling to put it mildly!

  6. Mike Holman says:

    @g416 – Another good point Guinness.

    I trust some bloggers that I have followed for a long time and know they know what they are talking about. But I’m sure some of the questions I get are from people who just found one of my posts through Google.

  7. Bahrul says:

    Hi Mike .. a few years ago, I’ve become a support team of internet marketing forums for nubi. And I have a duty to answer at least 5 questions from members. This task is free .

    At first I was happy to be in there. I’m happy to help a friend in distress. but eventually I got bored. And also because I have to make a living for myself. Finally I decided to get out of the forum. So I understand the situation that you experienced. keep the spirit.
    p.s :sorry my english is bad

  8. Have you ever tried the payment option as a suggestion or a donation? If someone asked a question and you answered through email maybe you could offer a link at the bottom saying something like, ‘Is my blog valuable to you? Did the answer to your question help you? Feel free to donate for my time on the link below.’ I see that a lot of free plugins provide this option and wikipedia offers a way to donate. Maybe if the readers saw it as an option they might be more likely. -Just a thought-

  9. Mike Holman says:

    @Bahrul – I hear you. The novelty of helping people wears off after a while.

    @Nicole – I’ve never been a fan of a donation button. I guess I feel like I’d be asking for charity which I don’t need.

    Also – from an economic point of view, I would never help someone and then ask them to pay me if they want. The prices should be stated up front and the clients can make a decision from there.