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Deciding When To Go To A Paid Model

Posted by on Dec 1, 2009

I’m not going to lie. I love finding free stuff on the internet. If it’s applications I can use that will handle little stuff for me, it’s all good. If it’s information that I’m looking for, even better. It’s not that I’ll never pay for anything, but I find most of the time that the free stuff addresses my specific need and nothing else. Most of the time that suits me just fine.

I also recognize when I have to be realistic and pay for something. Depending on what it is and how much it is, I will look around for a bargain. But sometimes there’s only one place, or one way, to get certain information. if I need it bad enough, I’ll pony up the cash and get it done.

Sometimes it’s us who are giving away a lot of free stuff. Nothing wrong with that, but every once in awhile we have to look at what it is we’re giving away, how much of it we’re giving away, and whether it’s time to start charging for at least a portion of it. That’s not easy to do, especially when you’ve started out establishing that you’re doing a lot of things for free.

Such is the case with my Medical Billing Answers site. Many of you know that I’m also a healthcare finance consultant, centering on revenue cycle issues. That’s charge capture and billing for most of you. Anyway, I set up that site to try to give information to people in terms that were fairly easy to understand. I add articles to that site from time to time also.

I actually created the site for people who wanted to learn some things about insurances and the like and to get some information on how medical billing works as far as getting their bills paid. I also said that I would answer medical billing questions, one per customer, for free.

What ended up happening is the people who were asking me questions were people in medical billing. And some of the questions they were asking was some pretty technical stuff. I had answers for everyone, but sometimes I had to do a bit of research. That didn’t trouble me all that much; however, when more of them wanted me to provide links to prove that my information was correct, I figured that was the last straw, so to speak.

About 8 days ago, I decided it was time to go for a paid model as far as answering questions. I set it up on my consulting services page that I would now answer medical billing questions for a fee, $4.50 per question. I would also entertain as many questions as people had, as long as they paid for it, which obviously was a change in the business model. And, while I was at it, I set up a monthly consulting fee that I don’t think is overly high and is a pretty good deal for smaller hospitals or physicians offices that don’t the money to bring in a high priced consultant to help them out.

Then, while I was at it, I figured it was a fairly good business model to add to my business website also. After all, if I can provide consulting services and stay home, all through email, and can get enough people to pay my monthly fee, why not take a shot, right?

So, how have things progressed thus far? First off, no one has paid for anything, but it’s still early, and we had the holiday. As a matter of fact, I figure that all the bad stuff I’m going to mention can be blamed on the holiday week, so I’ll probably have to check the stats after another week to see how things really are. Anyway, second, I haven’t made a penny since last Monday, and this is my biggest Adsense money making site. However, my consulting services page is also the 5th visited page over the course of the week, which means people are at least looking at it. And they’re reading it, as they’ve spent an average of a minute and 55 seconds on it.

How about on my business site? My new consulting services page was the 8th most visited page for the first week, and people stayed there an average of 7 minutes and 37 seconds. Now that’s a bit of overkill if you ask me, but in my mind it’s telling me that people were at least thinking about it, even if they didn’t pull the trigger. Maybe it was because of the holidays; I can only hope. Since I only have Adsense on a couple of pages on my business site, I didn’t expect it to bring in any money.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to make money from your specialty. I can honestly say there are a few blogs I visit where I know they have some stuff that they should probably be charging for. Not everything, of course; I’d never charge anyone for reading my blog, like Garry Conn did at one point for certain posts (I’m not sure if he’s still doing it, but it looks like he’s started accepting comments again, and he has good stuff so give it a look). But I have been asked why I’m charging for my webinar when many people use theirs as freebies to help promote themselves. And I answer because I didn’t give a fluff presentation of nothing to entice people to pay big money for something later on, I gave real information that people could immediately use and thus I charged for it.

It can be a struggle in deciding what, and when, to start charging for certain things. If any of you have tried it, or have thoughts going to a paid business model of some sort, please share them, because I think it’s something valuable that many people should think about every once in awhile.

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Isn’t medical billing one of those occupations that are often targeting “work at home” and “business opportunity” types with short courses that allow for certification (or some other credentials) that help land a job?

If so, then I think it’s only right that you charge for your service. It’s like you’re offering continuing education. Or, at the very least, filling in the gaps in curriculum.

Have you ever grouped your inbound questions? Are their themes? Perhaps making each of those themes into something like a CEU (Continuing Education Unit) is worth your while.

It’ll let you take payment on a question by question basis to a course by course basis.

Sorry, that’s the TeachingSells ideology rubbing off.

December 1st, 2009 | 8:15 AM

Hi Natasha,

Actually, the questions have been all over the board, which is another reason I went to the paid model.

And you’re right, the term “medical billing” is indeed touted in that fashion, but I’m not the guy supporting it all that often. As a matter of fact, I wrote an article on why it’s not such a good idea for most people.

December 1st, 2009 | 10:22 AM

Mitch, seeing as how your a professional in your field I see nothing wrong with charging a few dollars per question. At the least it will filter out those people with nonsense questions, and those seriously looking for an answer won’t mind paying a few dollars.

As to Garry Conn, I’m not at all surprised he turned his comments on again. Just goes to show how important it is to network with your readers.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Giving Your Blog That Christmas Feel =-.

December 2nd, 2009 | 2:03 AM

Thanks Sire. What’s a shame is that, once he turned off comments, I left his site, and now that I’ve rediscovered it again, it seems to be more lively. Maybe he just wanted a mental break.

As to the other, we’ll see if I make any money off the new model. But I do agree it needed to be looked at.

December 2nd, 2009 | 3:39 PM

Hi Mitch,

In my personal experience, there are just some folks that only want the free stuff.

My two cents:

Are you leaving them wanting more or are you giving them all that you’ve got? The phrase “always leave them wanting more” comes to mind.

Perhaps if your response to a question actually has five steps/tasks to the solution, you can give them three of the steps, letting them know that they can obtain the full report for a small investment.

I host many free teleseminars and even facilitate 7 to 10 week masterminds for free occasionally. I give attendees a lot of knowledge that they can apply immediately; however, I tease them with what they can get that’s even better with an investment.

Can you re-purpose what you are giving away for free–create a product that you can sell? Perhaps you can transcribe those jewels and turn them into articles,blog posts, eBooks, physical books, how-to courses, eCourses or some
other kind of learning material.

.-= Rachel Lavern´s last blog ..Will You Finish Strong in 2009? =-.

December 2nd, 2009 | 3:40 AM

Hi Rachel,

Natasha made the same inquiry you did. Truthfully, the questions I’ve mainly been answering aren’t in the mainstream. Those are the easy ones to respond to. I wouldn’t know how to tie in questions about things like green laser light, thermograms, multiple months of billing for home health, trauma, etc. In health care, it’s almost impossible for one person to try to think of all the odd things that might come up that you can answer until someone actually asks the question. And if I were going to answer general questions all the time, there’s plenty of books on those subjects already.

Also, medical billing questions and answers never have five steps. Usually things are fairly cut and dry, although there might be differing conditions that facilitate different responses. A seminar I went to today brought out that very thing. The presenter told the room something no one had ever heard of before. After about 20 minutes of debate, with me as one of the leaders, he finally realized that what he was saying was the state’s position on it was not only what no one did, but was unworkable because no hospital’s computer systems are set up to do what he was proposing. So, it’s something he’s taking back to the state lawyers to review. No one would have seen that particular issue coming up, let alone what he was saying, and he said this was how the state has interpreted the law for close to 20 years. I’ve been in health care 26 years, and some in the room longer, and no one had ever heard this.

So, it doesn’t negate your premise, just that it’s kind of hard to figure out the model. Besides, with the new paid model, people can just get their question answered, no teasers, and move on with life. For others, in whatever profession they’re in, maybe your model would work great for them, so it’s great that you and Natasha have mentioned it. Thanks. 🙂

December 2nd, 2009 | 3:48 PM

Hi Dennis. No, you didn’t misread it, but I’m not sure I’d say I was doing their jobs. Instead, I’d say that they’re acknowledging they don’t know how to find the information and want someone else to help them with it, which is fine. It’s that next step of entitlement, the “proof” part that you’re telling them the truth, that was what pushed me to start charging. Every once in awhile I would give a link to the information anyway, especially if the explanation was going to be a long one that I didn’t want to write it all out. But on those times when one link just wasn’t going to get it done, and I actually knew the answer because of my background, that’s when it was really starting to get to me.

December 2nd, 2009 | 3:52 PM