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.