Entrepreneurs

Freelance Professionals Find That Answering Consumer’s Questions On “Expert” Sites Can Be Lucrative In An Era Of Online Everything.

When Billy Wills, a heating and cooling professional from Battle Creek, Michigan, had trouble with a lawnmower repair he was doing, he started hunting online for information that would help him finish the repair. He came across JustAnswer, a site where it’s possible to hire experts for a small flat fee or under a subscription program and sent his question to one of the experts. “He answered my question, I went out in my garage and within 30 seconds, what he recommended worked,” says Wills.

Wills, who lives in Vicksburg, Mich., was intrigued and, in 2008, signed up to be an expert on the site himself, answering questions people submitted about their HVAC systems. He had a full-time job in his field, but, as the father of six foster children, was glad to earn the extra income—which added up to $1,000 to $3,000 a month. Although the youngest of those children is now 16 years old, he continues to answer questions in his spare time and earn money from the site, looking forward to his monthly paychecks. “You can be productive any time you choose,” he says. 

Wills is one of a number of freelancers who are finding there is extra money to  be made on expert sites like JustAnswer. JustAnswer, a San Francisco-based company founded 17 years ago, has 12,000 experts, adding 2,200 last year, as well as 900 employees. Other sites in this category include 6ya, Maven and Skillshare. With many people still conducting much of their lives online, business is booming for many experts. Hot categories include appraisals of items people have stored away in their attics and basements, home improvement, small appliance repair, veterinary care and automotive repair. 

As the site has grown, it has raised the bar for qualifying experts. “It’s gotten more and more vetted and quality controlled,” says Andy Kurtzig, founder and CEO.

How much the experts earn depends on the category. Appraisers of those attic finds average about $8,000 a month, though one appraiser has made $88,000 in a single month, says Kurtzig. Tax advisors average about $4,000. On average, freelancers bring in a little over $35,000 a year, says Kurtzig.

“The whole industry is growing like crazy,” he says. “Remote work in general has skyrocketed in the last year and half due to covid. Remote access to professionals has grown right along with it.”

Therapist Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., found her way to JustAnswer in 2012. She was having computer trouble, used a search engine to look for help, and then found JustAnswer. Noticing a button that said, “Become an expert,” she decided to apply. 

Now she’s a regular contributor to the site, answering questions on topics such as relationships, parenting, and mental health, bringing in about 10% of her income from it. She likes it that she can work on JustAnswer at whatever times are convenient for her, whether that’s while stuck in the carpool line or once her children, twelve-year-old twins, are in bed. Sometimes she spends a lot of time working on the site; other times, when she’s busy with her practice and her kids, a little less. “You get out what you put in,” she says.

She likes to the opportunity to provide help to people who may not be able to afford therapy. “I always found it disheartening that many people could not get therapy,” she says. 

Because of all of the emotional challenges people have faced since the pandemic, she has an abundance of patients at her practice, as well as questions from JustAnswer’s customer base. One of her greatest challenges is making sure she doesn’t overwork herself so she can give her best to each client. Fortunately, both her business and work for JustAnswer are flexible, she notes. “If I’m feeling stress and strain, I will take some time for self-care,” she says.

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