My work set-up consists of two monitors, one of which has TweetDeck running with a tab that displays tweets containing the words “WordPress” and “Help” as well as a tab that display anytime someone uses my twitter handle (@dianeensey). I keep an eye on it all day and if someone asks for help with WordPress or tweets me I can hop on and see what they need.
This has worked out well, so well in fact that I now announce my “office hours” on twitter, encouraging people to contact me through my support chat on my website. If you’re reading this on my blog you’ll see a block on the lower right. If I’m online that opens a chat window and you can talk to me immediately.
The questions range from just needed advice about plugins (“is there a plugin that does XX?”), template layout issues, and just general questions about WordPress. If the question is a new one I try to remember to write up the answer in my FAQs.
All this help/advice is free.
Wait, what? Free? Don’t you do this for a living?
Yes I do and yes the advice is free – with some limitations.
Giving advice doesn’t take away from my paid business at all. Most of the questions take less than 3 minutes to answer and there are usually less than 5 questions a day. Once in awhile I’ll run across a particularly knotty issue which I’ll spend more time on. A few months ago a woman was having trouble with her Post editor. The content she typed in only took up part of the edit box and it was driving her crazy. I knew the solution (her theme was the issue) and the fix, but it wasn’t working. We tried a few things over chat which didn’t work until finally she let me access her files directly and I was able to pinpoint the problem. It was an extremely unusual case and we spent more than an hour solving the problem, but I was glad to do it because I learned what to look for if I found the problem again.
While I didn’t charge for the initial troubleshooting an fix, when the person came back a few months later because she’d overwritten her theme files and wanted me to do the fix again I pointed her to the FAQ I’d made and that I’d need to charge to make the fix again.1
I’m getting more out of helping people than they are.
The real-world problems people have help me train clients; I’m more aware of where WordPress’ learning curve hurdles are. Some “issues” required research into WordPress’ code and the philosophy behind the decisions for how WordPress works. This increased my knowledge of WordPress. Finally, there is the exposure I get from helping people.
Nearly every person I help tweets their appreciation, along with my twitter handle. Several have referred other people to me for paid work. Two people I originally helped have turned into clients.
Even when I don’t get takers for my offer of help, I’m still getting publicity. When I tweet my “office hours” I usually get 5-10 retweets and an average of 3 new followers on top of the people I actually provide assistance to.
You know the drill:
- Tweet me
- Click on the “Click Here to Get Help” link in the box at the bottom of the page on my site.
- Email me
And by the way, I offer affordable paid assistance as well!
1 Note: Ideally the “fix” would be done to a child theme and not the main theme, but that was definitely going beyond free work. I advised her of the cost of setting up a child theme with the fix and she decided just to go with the fix in the main theme, understanding that she should not update the theme. Later she did update the theme, losing the fix.