Google has launched Helpouts, a new website that allows users to get in touch with experts and pay them for one-to-one services over live interactive video chat. There are already people offering computer and programming help. Is this a promising way to monetize your expertise?
To judge from the introductory video Google envisages that Helpouts will be used for practical skills including things like guitar lessons and cooking tips:
But in fact the idea can work any field where one person has an expertise that another person would like to use, and where showing someone how to do it works better than them reading about it in a book.
This is a marketplace - where buyers come to look for help and sellers need to set a fair price for their time. If you browse the current catalog of Helpouts some expertise is being offered for free or at very low rates - but looking into it some of the free help promotes other goods and services and the low rates charge by the minute.
This is not a cynical comment - for Helpouts to work not just during the launch phase but over the longer term compensation will need to be seen as a fair by both parties.
In many cases there are two rates - per Helpout and per minute and from this you can see how long a typical Helpout is expected to last, with 10 to 20 minutes being typical, although one expert offering Computer and network setup/repair gives the alternative of $1.00 per minute of $55 per Helpout which accords with my experience that any such call out is unlikely to be done in less than an hour! And the fixed fee for Virus/MalwareRemoval by a specialist already in the scheme is $90 per Helpout - which reflects that urgent nature of requiring this type of assistance.
As most Helpouts are offered by individuals they are not available 24/7 and the site gives next available times and lets would-be users schedule appointments.
To be either a user or a provider you need a Google+ profile. Payments are made using Google Wallet so providers will need to set up a Google Wallet Merchant account. Google's cut of the fees is 20% of each transaction and Google offers a money back guarantee to dissatisfied customers
At the moment you need an invitation code to become a Helpout service provider, and if you don't have one all you can do is sign up to be notified when more applications are being accepted - and to take this step you need to agree to its terms and conditions. You can expect to be vetted before actually being accepted into the scheme.
So is this a potential money maker?.
Possibly. Being online it gives you access to customers without geographical restrictions. Its also flexible with regard to working hours in that that you set your own schedule. And if Google's 20% cut seems high you need to keep in mind that it is hosting your videos and supplying the bandwidth to deliver them.