You’ve got tech skills… your friends and family ask for your help, and you share your knowledge with others on many online forums. Today I’m going to teach you how to turn that tech knowledge into actual money, using the CrossLoop Marketplace from the comfort of your own home.
Note: this isn’t a get rich quick pyramid scheme, it’s going to require actual work on your part… but wouldn’t it be great to make some money while legitimately helping people?
How it Works
CrossLoop is a remote desktop control solution that is extremely simple to use for the end user you are trying to help… all they have to do is give you the code on the Share tab and click the Connect button. It’s just that easy.
CrossLoop takes it all one step further, however, by providing an online Marketplace and customized profiles where they keep track of how many people you’ve helped, how well they rated you, what your skills are, and even your rates.
You’ll notice the button that says “Available Now!”, because I’m signed into CrossLoop currently. You can turn the presence on or off, but this is a really great way to tell potential customers that you are available for help.
Each user has their own dedicated profile URL which you can share with potential customers in order to drive business. This is mine, for instance:
Note that I don’t provide help, other than to my friends and family, so contact requests will be ignored. Anyway, you’re the one trying to provide help, right?
Once somebody clicks the Contact button, they’ll be taken to a page where they can contact you with details of what they need help with. If you have your Rate Card filled out, they can also select one of the packaged services from the drop-down and then add more details in the body of the message.
Once the user submits the form, you’ll receive an email with the details of their question, but you can also be notified directly from the CrossLoop client if you have it running:
How You Get Paid
CrossLoop now provides the ability to easily receive payments from your customers, right on your profile page. All they have to do is look at your profile page, click the Send Payment button, and then fill out the form.
In order to make this form show up, you need to make sure you fill out the PayPal Email section on your profile:
When the customer goes back to your profile to send payment, you can also (nicely) ask them to:
- Click the link to “Tell a Friend about this helper” and spread the word about you.
- Bookmark your profile using the convenient “Bookmark This Profile” link, which uses AddThis! so that you can easily bookmark using various social bookmark services.
How the Marketplace Helps You
CrossLoop will send customers to you… as long as you have not opted out of the Marketplace, your profile will appear in the CrossLoop marketplace for potential customers to find when they do a search for help. For instance, when I clicked on the Windows Vista category in the “I Need Help” section, there’s a big list of helpers.
Note: If you aren’t in the Marketplace, look under settings and click the link for “Upgrade to a helper account”.
I recommend staying signed in to your CrossLoop client, since the default search results show people that are “Available Now” first in the list.
In order to make sure that people are going to find you in the list, you should make sure to fill out your profile with a comma-separated list of the things you can help with in the Expertise section. If you aren’t sure what to use, then browse around and look at some of the other top profiles and see what they are using. Be sure to be accurate here… don’t put “Photoshop” if you aren’t actually ready to help with that topic.
You’ll notice the “Your Rates” section, which is very important to fill out with useful information. You can set a pre-determined price for your services here, or you could even put “Contact Me” for the rate. You could also create some simple “bundles” like “Computer Cleanup and Spyware Removal”, which will help people understand some of the more common services you provide.
Since CrossLoop is actively promoting this marketplace, you just need to make sure that you have good ratings from satisfied customers, and are signed in… the marketplace will do the rest.
Because the vast majority of people look at ratings and reviews before they buy anything online, I can’t emphasize enough that you ask your customers to leave you a good rating and a comment, since those show up on your profile. A large number of happy customers will help you immensely in attracting future customers to give you their business.
You can also fill out a form on your end explaining what you helped with in a particular session. This helps you be found more easily in the search engine on CrossLoop, but since Google will also eventually index your CrossLoop profile page, it can help you attract search results from people looking up their problem on Google as well.
Of course, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just the marketplace, so we’ll explore other methods for promoting yourself.
How to Market Yourself Outside the Marketplace
Now that we understand how the system works, how do we bring new customers in on our own? We know there are people out there that need help… every forum is overflowing with them, so we just need to let them know that we provide remote help through CrossLoop.
Note: There’s a fine line between promoting yourself and spamming… I’ll try to guide you through it, but sometimes it’s a judgement call. When in doubt, try to be helpful first and your reputation will grow. Word of Mouth is the best way to get sales in any business.
CrossLoop provides a ton of widgets that you can embed on your blog, MySpace or Facebook profile, or dozens of other places. This widget will show what you can help with, your ratings, and has a contact button so that people can directly get in touch with you.
You can find the widgets by clicking on the Promote item on the top menu:
There are a bunch of widgets to choose from, and as you can see they support a ton of services like MySpace, Blogger, and Facebook.
One of the cool things about these badges is that they automatically update with your session count and ratings, so you can continue to grow your personal reputation anywhere you’ve put the widget, without having to do anything else on your end.
For this widget to work, of course, you need to be active online… starting up a blog and writing helpful articles is one good way to start getting people in, or you can simply promote yourself through your MySpace/Facebook profiles to your list of friends.
Forum / NewsGroup Signature
If you participate in an online forum, you can often create a signature line where you can add your CrossLoop URL. I’d suggest something very simple like “I’m a CrossLoop Helper”, with the link. Be very sure to check the rules of the forum before you do this, because many might consider it a spamming tactic. You can also see what other forum members are using their signatures for, and adjust accordingly.
If you send a lot of email, you should absolutely include your CrossLoop URL and the CrossLoop button. Some email software will let you create HTML signatures, so you can also link the button to your profile as well.
There are more details on how to do that here.
You can post a free ad on Craigslist promoting your helper status and offering your rates. One of the great things about this solution is that you can market yourself in any city listed on Craigslist, not just the city you live in, since this is a remote service. You’d do well to list yourself in some of the more popular cities, for instance New York would be a good place to start.
Buying Ads (Do with Caution)
You can even buy an ad through one of the many online advertisers to promote your services. You should be careful, of course, because you don’t want to dump a ton of money into something until you are sure it will work.
Word of Mouth
Getting People to recommend you to their friends is one of the best ways to get people to come to you for help. You’ll notice that on the top of your profile is a link to help others refer you. Be sure to mention this whenever you have a thankful customer.
You can also use this yourself to tell your own friends. You’ll notice that CrossLoop can import your address books so that you can send out a message to your friends telling them about your new business.
How to Create Happy Customers
Creating customers that are happy with your services is the best way to get them to tell their friends about you, so you can bring in new customers. Here are my recommendations:
- Relationships – This is a people business, built on referrals. Building those relationships is what will differentiate you from everybody else in an online world.
- Service – Be polite, prompt, and above all else Friendly with All of your communications online.
- Define the Problem – If you provide free estimates, you can figure out what the problem is, since in most cases the end user won’t have any idea what the real problem is. Being able to diagnose the problem is the critical factor in solving it.
- Solution – The most important factor is solving their problem. Combine a solved problem with friendly help and you’ve got a happy customer.
- Learning – The more experience you get at providing help, the better you will be able to provide help. If you help educate your customers on how to use their computer, they will remember you.
- Trust, Integrity, Honesty – Don’t do anything without making sure the customer knows what is going on. Ask their permission before you do something that might have consequences, like deleting files. You can’t simply be cavalier… the customer’s data is all-important to them.
- Free Stuff – It doesn’t cost you anything to give a helpful tip, or help out with something extra for free if you notice a problem you can easily fix. That type of thing will give you great feedback, and they will remember you the next time they have an issue.
- Feedback – Make sure that you get objective and honest feedback from your customers, and learn from it. Don’t get offended if somebody complains, ask them how you can better help them next time, and try and make it right.
- Know What You Are Doing – Don’t take on a job that you have no idea how to fix. The customer will notice, and you will sweat bullets hoping that they don’t leave negative feedback. You should spend time helping out your friends and family so that you feel completely comfortable with the help you can provide. If you don’t know how to fix something, you could even suggest another CrossLoop helper that does (making sure to tell the customer what your alternate expertise is)
These suggestions will take you a long way towards building up happy clients.
If you’ve got tech skills, this is an excellent way to start making some money and gaining some experience… all from the comfort of your home, and also start saving some money without paying ridiculous gas prices. (Here’s a New York Times article on how the increase in gas prices is making more people shop online).
If you become really great at it, you could even eventually do this full time… the great thing is that you can get started now, working from home at night, growing your business…
So when are you going to stop working for the man?
Programmer by day, geek by night, The Geek, also known as Lowell Heddings, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 07/22/08