It wouldn't be surprising if you hadn't yet heard of Google Helpouts. Helpouts went live in November 2013, with listing offerings by invite only in limited markets.
I was one of the first round of people invited to host a listing in Google Helpouts, and after a month of Helpouts, I believe there are ways to create value in Helpouts for both the offerers and those seeking help, as well as ways to earn revenue for your business.
Determining the Helpout that I would offerI originally started out with three different Helpouts, but interestingly only one of them was approved (at least initially): "Improving your website and blog's layout, design & experience". That Helpout began focusing on just blogs and blogging, helping users with design, layout, and content strategy. Since that original approved listing I have modified it multiple times, broadening the appeal to be for websites, blogs, and e-commerce websites, as well as focusing on content strategy and capture strategies.
I wanted to attract a wide audience of people wanting/needing help in an area that I'm very qualified in, and I wanted to make sure there was value that I could provide in a 15 to 30 minute video session. Providing detail work, and a Helpout that required more than consulting, would be difficult to fit into this format.
Setting the rate or going freeWhen Helpouts was first announced I thought: "yes, another market where I can charge my hourly rate and people can pop in for 15-30 min sessions prorated to my rate". Helpouts provides the ability to set a per-minute rate or per-session rate. I set the rate... and after a week hadn't received any takers.
I realized I was being penny-wise and pound-foolish. I wasn't capitalizing on the interest that there was in Helpouts, mainly because of the barriers that there were to capturing a paid Helpout. Beyond the technical (people needing to set up Google Wallet), there is also the fact that it's a brand new product where people are still kicking the tires. Add to this that I had zero reviews, and there was radio silence.
So I set the rate to free.
Building a reputation and developing a new market in a new marketplaceLots of people have questioned my decision to set my Helpout as free. Some thing it's making it harder for those trying to earn a living through Helpouts by forcing pricing towards free, instead of making it "more acceptable" to have a paid listing. People have also questioned the "freebie model", believing that it decreases my value in general as I'm giving away my expertise for free.
That future direction is when I'd like for those users to think about my firm, the one that gave them great ideas and great feedback, and hire us. I'll have established a rapport with them, and hopefully that will be a very strong factor in the next phase. And until then I ask that these satisfied customers leave positive reviews of their Helpout experience with me, helping me build my authority and reputation.
Did I mention that Helpout listings are indexed and prominent in search results?
How much of a boost? A search for "improving your website layout and design" returns my Helpouts listing as #1 in an incognito search. That result (my listing) is a great pitch page for my services, including links to my company website, Google+ Profile, and all of the positive reviews that I've received from very satisfied Helpouts customers.
All in all it's not a bad addition to my company's new business capture strategy!