Sacha: Okay, 10pm, here we go.
Al: Okay and I'm going to stop this screen share of your announcement, but I'll put it back on.
Sacha: Yes, as I get things going in the background...
Al: This is where everybody realizes that it is me, it is my voice. Okay now, I have switched back to me. Goodnight everyone, good morning in Australia and elsewhere. So it's good morning, good afternoon, good evening. I am Al Navas, one of your co-hosts tonight and the other co-host is.
Sacha: Hi. I'm Sacha Chua. I will be taking notes and doing other cool things in the background so welcome to Helpers Help Out!
Al: Great. Thank you, Sacha. With us we have two panelists. Debbie, yes I have the focus on you. There's Debbie.
Al: And please let us know where you are Debbie.
Debbie: I'm in San Francisco.
Al: Great. Thank you, and Chris, glad you could make it as well.
Chris: Thanks and glad I can be here.
Al: Great, and you are located somewhere in the US?
Chris: I'm from the East Coast, I'm from the [Belcamp] in Maryland area.
Al: Great. I forgot to mention that I am in Northwest Missouri and Sacha, you are in?
Sacha: So, here we go.
Al: Great. Here we go. Okay, we are back. For those of you who just now checking in, please go to the Q&A session at Helpershelpout.com/live to join this training. That will be redirected to my post on Google+. This is a Q&A session, questions and answers.
You will have an opportunity to put questions. So you will have an opportunity as we go in the next half hour, and actually down to about 27 minutes now. Sacha, would you like to please make some announcements? I believe you may have some.
Sacha: Sure. Okay, lately we've seen a lot of interesting news in the Helpouts discuss community. For example, if you hover over people's profile pictures now, you should be able to get to their Google+ profile. (Update 2014/01/17 Nope, sorry! I got confused about something else. - SC) So that should help you a lot. Other announcements that are coming up? Well, there are new featured listings on the front page of Google Helpouts. So if you're one of those, expect to see a good spike in your bookings. We also have a couple of quick tips to help you make the most of your Google Helpouts.
So for example, if you're interested in getting in touch with your upcoming Helpouts, go check out your listings for Your Helpouts and find Upcoming Helpouts. That's where you can send people messages and tell them about things that they can do to prepare for your sessions. If you've received an email notification from someone who hasn't booked the Helpout with you, you can send them a message by replying to that email notification. If you don't include your email signature, then Helpouts will hide your email address when you reply and you can keep that private if you want.
One thing that might help is if you're getting a lot of email notifications from Helpouts, consider setting up some automatic filters. For example, you might not really be interested in seeing all the scheduled or cancelled notifications but you want to see the messages that you received. You can have GMail automatically filter all the schedule and cancellation messages, and then focus on messages that you find important. If you tend to reply with a lot of the same text, consider using a text expander like AutoHotKey or various text expansion applications available for Mac or Windows in order to make your life easier.
Those are the tips that I have for you today. Let's move on to the panel.
Al: Okay. Before we do, I'd like to share something that is huge news today. This morning I submitted a new holiday season listing. It was about 9:30 in the morning and I had a meeting probably by 10am with one of the support specialists and the whole entire new listing was approved by 2pm.
Sacha: That's fast.
Al: This is something that everybody in Helpouts will be very interested. Very fast, super efficient. That may be a record. I don't know of anything that may have occurred any faster. Let's see.
If I could address one question before we move on because I saw it was important - correct. It's from [Ajay]. Hopefully I'm pronouncing your name properly Ajay. "If I joined by clicking on the links Sacha sent, you're not getting audio feed from me automatically, correct?" You are correct, Ajay. Only those of us inside the Hangout will have audio and video. I hope that that clears it up.
Al: Very good. So tonight, let's see. Please bear with me for a second.
Sacha: Go ahead.
Chris: Can I add something to your filters conversation there if you don't mind? There is in GMail Labs a feature called "canned responses" where you can have it autoreply to specific things based on filters. A good example of using this is, let's say you want to respond to emails from people who have booked Helpouts from you. You can just have a canned response that fires all based on filters and things like that.
Sacha: Absolutely. And to add to what Chris said, canned responses will also help you pre-fill in some of your message and then you can edit it afterwards as well. So you can either have it automatically reply or you can play around with a little and you can customize your message.
Okay, one of the topics that people have been really curious about in terms of free listings and paid listings is if you're free, how do you deal with all these no-shows? And if you're paid, how do you deal with not having any requests? Chris, you've been very successful in having a lot of free sessions and great reviews. How does this work out for you?
Chris: I treat it as background noise until somebody actually connects. I sit in front of my laptop. It's a dual screen monitor. you're seeing I had my 100+ five-star rating today but I've obviously accepted hundreds and hundreds of Helpouts, and only a small portion of them actually connects. Then you'll find people are queued up, and queued up, and queued up and they may queue up three times before they connect. I think the reason for this is that there's a large portion of people that don't have the Google video and voice chat installed before they start their Helpout and there's a whole lot of [inaudible] and it happened even before they get into your Helpout. No problem.
Chris: This is my feeling on it. We are the chosen few. We are the people that Google contacted and selected to do this before it goes live. So really if we want this platform to be successful, we have to be the Ambassadors. We have to be the people that have the patience to deal with the system that is beyond obviously in beta, we are the ones that are going to have to deal with these burdens and make the suggestions to Google, and hopefully they listen and fix and make it better.
The advantage to that is that by the time they let the "unwashed masses" come in and do this, we are the pros, we are the people who will have the ratings and the review ahead of all those people. And if we want this to be a successful platform, we have to do the work and part of that work is tolerance. I think that that's just part of the job and I approach this like a job that we have to have that tolerance and understand that that is part of the process of we are in the beta system, we are the beta testers.
Al: That is exactly right. It's a very good point. I think that as further evidence, I just saw a second point that within 35 minutes - let me see if I can find that in the screen here - that within 35 minutes of submission, yes, Michael Daniels, I'll select the question so it will be seen by everyone. "I also make changes. Within 35 minutes, I was approved. Yay!" Well done, Michael.
So it seems like feedback just like you mentioned Chris, feedback to the team is essential in terms of, "Hey guys, I'm not getting approval for this request. It's been in limbo and it's been in limbo for some time. How do we go about getting it either approved, disapproved or a new submission?" This is of course a very important topic these days because of that frustration that you were mentioning, Chris. Have you ran into any of those problems or you haven't?
Chris: I didn't concentrate on building ratings on one listing. I had a few listings in the platform, a paid one and a free one. My strategy--and I shouldn't be sharing this yet because this is my top secret strategy here--is I'm probably going to keep the free ones free for at least the first of the year and the switch that one with paid. So by the time I'm ready to switch over, I want to have a comfortable lead on anybody that's going to come in and try to - because you're not going to beat people on price because there's always be people out there who are going to be free, you have to beat them on value, you have to beat them on quality. If you want to compete on price, you're going to waste your time.
I've done a couple of paid Helpouts, they haven't left me reviews. I haven't encouraged that because my paid Helpout that exists, I intend on deleting eventually. It's only there to get payments from people who might want to choose that and this has been my strategy. I book my free Helpout for a very limited time block, maybe an hour per day. People can only [inaudible] in the Helpout one hour per day and that schedule is almost always full, all [inaudible] sold out which I think is the valuable thing for people to see.
Now in my free time, I make myself available live. It's only in my free time I have paid customers that I have to take care of and it's been important for me to manage that because the first day, what I found out was my entire schedule was full. These free 15-minute Helpouts that nobody ever showed up for. Actually I chose not to do that. In an hour a day if they don't show up, it doesn't bother me, I have that time schedule. There you go.
Sacha: Okay. Debbie, what has your experience been like with the free and paid sort of problem?
Debbie: Yes. I started out with free only and I had two Helpouts at first. I was doing Photoshop for Beginners which I'm technically is still doing, and I also do a piece of software called Axure which is a little obscure but that works for me. I had people sign me up to book like crazy when everything went live. My whole schedule was booked. Of course like everyone else, I found that these were mostly tire kickers who never showed up and didn't communicate. So something I started doing early on, I'll be talking about later in the panel and then giving you the customer service and trying to weed out some tire kickers.
But within the first week, I decided to switch to paid just because I was getting a little bit tired of all of the no-shows and the lack of communication, and the people just not really making a connection. So I switched all of them to paid but I started out with them - I took like kind of a [inaudible] approach. Like you can have 15 or 30 minutes of my time for $2.99 or some sort of very small amount of money that in the real world, I would not be charging.
So, I've been running that for a few weeks and I have to say, obviously the number of bookings I've been getting has severely decreased but the quality of the interactions and the quality of the bookings is a zillion times better. I still have a lot of people who message me, trying to kind of pre-qualify me. I'm like, "Well, I see you're teaching this but do you really know this and are you really at the level you claim you're at?" So I don't mind that either. I've just been telling everyone that I added to my listing, "I'll give you a guarantee. If you're not happy with it or if I can't answer your question, of course I'll give you your refund." So, it's really risk-free for the $3 I'm asking for.
Debbie: Yes, Al?
Al: Did you say that part of your success is due to your pre-Helpout prep work? Because I think you have been very thorough in that area.
Debbie: Thank you Al. Yes, I got on board with Helpouts a couple of months ago and so I have a lot of time to write, re-write, and think out how it's going to present stuff. I do a lot of training in the real world too so I already had lot of descriptions of myself and what I teach. I did shoot the videos that they suggested, I just sat at this desk here and [inaudible] Android phone at myself and shot like a minute-long video. So I think that's helping.
But I think at this point, most of my Helpouts, I expect them to be Axure, I expect to lose a lot of the Photoshop ones to the people who were still free and I think since I went not free on Photoshop where obviously I have competitors or colleagues every [inaudible] did, I think I've had one paid Photoshop one since then. But I'm getting a pretty steady stream of the Axure or at least people sending me questions about my Axure training.
My strategy is to focus on Axure, to make my Photoshop Helpouts available, to make my Android for beginners Helpouts available but I'm putting everything as paid just so I don't have time wasters and like Chris, I'm making myself available one hour a day roughly. Couple of extra hours on the weekends but in general like my lunch hour during the week. So I want to make sure that that time is spent with these other people who really want it, and need it, and will hopefully appreciate it and have something nice to say about it and maybe even come back.
Yes, I have a strategy and it's been evolving a little bit but my strategy has been - if any of you read marketing books by Seth Godin and he always says, "The best thing you can do is find what you are the best in the world at and hone in on that as kind of a niche." So I may not be the best Photoshop trainer on the planet, I think I'm good; I may not be the best person to teach you Android, I think I'm good; but I know I'm one of the best Axure trainers on the planet. I know that's very specialized and very niche but there's obviously a call for it because I am getting some bites there.
So one of the things that I'm doing now is I'm treating my half hour Axure training as a - I'm actually driving traffic to it from outside of Helpouts and I'm saying, "Hey, I turned gazillion dollars an hour to train Axure but before you commit to that, why don't you come have a half hour Google Helpout with me for $7.99 and kick some tires with me and see how good I am." And then I would hold those people back into my regular world and charge them a zillion dollars. But at least I'll be able to give Helpout some exposure and hopefully drive some stuff there, drive some ratings there and give people a good taste of what I can do. If anyone is Axure-curious, you're welcome to sign up but it's really very, very specialized and niche.
That's one of my many strategies and I hope I'm not boring people too much by my endless talking but I think by finding a niche and honing in on it, and then being careful about driving traffics. I hear a lot of people say, "Well, I'm going to drive traffic to Helpouts" and I say, "Well, have a plan for that because depending from what you're doing, you may be driving traffic to competitors or colleagues." I hope you want to see that. I'll take a breath and see if people have questions.
Al: Thanks. I'll check the stream in a minute. Sacha, I like to ask you a favor. I've been switching back and forth to your drawing. If you don't mind making it just a little bit larger on screen because it's a little pixelated.
Al: If possible that would be great. For everybody watching the stream, Sacha has been excellent. Thank you very much. Sacha has been doing a doing a drawing in real time, essentially part of her notes for this Hangout. I'll take a breather here and ask the question that Ovais makes because Chris may be able to answer it or even Sacha. I don't know. Ovais asks, "Does the potential customer need to have GMail? How does someone without a Google Wallet pay on a regular credit card?" Anybody? Come on guys, we only have 10 minutes left.
Chris: You will have to have a Google Wallet account. You don't need a GMail address to have a Google Account. They're separate entity. For example you could have a Yahoo, or an MSN, or any other account you want and just create a Google Wallet and just put in the credit card information. Anybody can do it. There is no barrier. I think in some countries, they can't. They don't have Google Wallet in their country but other than that, it shouldn't be a huge barrier.
Al: Yes, very good point. The only caveat that I would put on that is this, Chris. If you have more than one GMail account or if you have a non-GMail account and the listing, and you're coming, as a client, you don't need the GMail account. That is a major difference. But if you're going to become a provider, I believe that you will need a GMail account because it's that that will be paid up to your Wallet account. Am I not a 100%?
Chris: No. You don't have to use GMail but you do have to have a Google+ account which is not necessarily GMail either. You just have to be signing up for Google+ [inaudible].
Al: Yes. There's a little bit of confusion sometimes. I just want to make sure that everybody watching the stream would understand. Sacha, a question about your drawing. Can you move it around a little bit because I'm fascinated. "Ambassadors and feedback." Yes, that is becoming a super critical thing and I think that Chris kicked it off that we are the "Ambassadors" at this point, that we are the key to provide feedback. Do we need to kick that one around anymore right now?
Chris: I will say one thing. [inaudible] when I talked with him. I'm going to quote him on this. He basically said that basically, reviews are the currency of the realm right now and I think that is absolutely true. That is what we're farming here. Good reviews, good reputation, I think that's the currency of the realm and I think that's what we should be focusing on as getting those reviews and getting those ratings because not only does that help us but it also helps the platform.
Al: That is so right. I'll put that in this context. Chris right now has probably the largest number of five-star reviews that are extremely high, typically five-stars and maybe one or two four-star. Those count but overall the critical part is that the reviews are so favorable and to be able to focus on that at the point is absolutely key.
Debbie, anything else that you'd like to cover in terms of not only your experience but maybe in the post-Helpout? I have a comment about that but I'd like to give you a chance to talk about that a little bit.
Debbie: Yes, I haven't had too much post- yet. I know how busy people get during the holidays so I might follow up with some of my Helpout people in the New Year and just see what their needs are and where their focus is. A lot of people who come to me for Axure are coming to it for job-seeking and I know job seeking just goes here or over the holidays. So I'll probably do more post work in the New Year.
One other thing I wanted to add was I'm also running an experiment with having identical Helpout set or different periods of time. Of course they're for slightly different pricing. I'm assuming that Google will eventually figure out parent-child relationships and let you have a Helpout and then kind of different time slots and pricing and things like that. But for now, without the parent-child relationship, I've got separate Helpouts and really running the free ones helped me realize that not everybody has one quick Photoshop question, or not everybody has one quick Axure question.
So I will say there's a lot of good reasons to run the free ones but ultimate I just felt overrun by no-shows and some of the other issues we've all seen on the discussion. As of now I don't have any plan to go back to free but I would suggest that everybody do free for at least a week or so just to get more people, get more ratings and learn more about what people tend to need from you and how long it takes to work with them.
Al: Right. Excellent. Sorry Chris, go ahead.
Chris: No. I have an alternative that I would like to put out there. This is something that you caught me on and [inaudible]. You notice how you can offer a flat fee or a per-minute fee on your Helpouts?
Chris: I did a $0.02 flat fee for 15 minutes or $1 something per minute. That way you can offer both free-ish and paid under the same listing and garner reputation on the same Helpout. If you're worried about the no-shows and so forth and so on, that two pennies of making them sign up for a Google Wallet account will probably move a tire kicker to somebody else's listing. But anybody who's actually interested in dealing your content would think $0.02 as nothing and then the per minute.
For my thing, people could hit me up for the $0.02 listing and then I could say, "Look, this is all well and good but we're not going to be able to cover this and I'm going to run out of time. If you want my time..." You can find the people who will value your time and will pay you because there are definitely those people there. I made already a couple hundred dollars on my paid listing just by saying that people, "We're out of time. I only have 15 minutes, there's three people waiting behind you. I'd really want to help you and I'm happy to help you for free but this is going to take more time than this format allows." Those people who value what you're doing to them will pay you.
Al: Very good point. One of the things that I did in terms of feedback was I contacted the support team and then I followed through to somebody in a higher position. I locked out and I made a proposal. To be able to do what you just described within a particular Helpout with the capability of switching, being able to switch somehow, they'll put their mechanics in place from free to paid because that time is so limited that - it will be possible to do it if you don't have anybody waiting.
Chris: I could picture them [inaudible] but I think that the mechanism that you're offering wants itself to abuse and I could see them being worried about that.
Al: That would be the biggest problem, I think. Yes.
Chris: But if we have the switch, I can see that as a problem whereas if the customer had the switch, the [inaudible] method, that might make them happier.
Al: Sorry. Not that we would switch but the client would have the option. If you say to the client, "Okay, we're out of time. I'm sorry I'm going on this a little bit too long and I'll finish it up by saying this and let the powers handle it. We're almost out of time, we don't have anybody in line and it's your option. We can either go to another Helpout or this feature exists now that allows you to request a paid session." And he'll know the exact price for that particular Helpout. Whether that's ever implemented, I think there are some difficulties.
Al: I think if they can work it out, it would be great.
Chris: Well, I would see that as a problem if you're doing live and there are people waiting in line behind that list.
Al: Yes. That would be the biggest thing that I pointed out that you cannot have anybody waiting. And there's a simple technique. Sorry Sacha, go ahead.
Sacha: As you're saying since it's almost time, it sounds like we've got a couple of great tips for focusing on free Helpouts like Chris does and also going up to paid Helpout either as a way of giving people a low-cost trial or as a way also of building up business through Helpouts itself.
It sounds like we've got couple of great tips out of today so I just want to make sure that we end on time.
Al: And it sounds like we could have gone on sure quite a while longer and we do have still several questions in the stream. Sorry, we were not able to get through them. Sorry Sacha?
Sacha: Okay. So we won't be able to cover everything but we will be back here next week talking about what to do after Helpout, right? Following up?
Al: Exactly. Hopefully we will have more great panelists. We thank you to Chris Hubbell and Debbie L. Chris, that was great, glad you could make it. Debbie on the West Coast, nice to see you, it was very nice of you to take the time and folks, you have been watching Sacha do a drawing right in the middle of the Helpout as well as taking typewritten notes and I thank you all for coming.
Sacha: I'm not having notes, just a drawing, that's it. I can't draw and type at the same time. But the notes will be posted at Helpershelpout.com and you can check there for our next week's session as well. Thanks to everyone who posted questions. We weren't able to answer all of them but we might follow up in the Google+ community.
Al: Great. Good night everyone.
Debbie: Good night.
Chris: Good night.