It’s hard out there for the freelancer or entrepreneur. To create products or perform services that people want to pay for, you need to use your time effectively and be paid for it accordingly. However, monetizing your time is tricky and too many are forced to give away time that they could, and more importantly, should, be getting be paid for.
One way to go about that is to make the process of hiring your time easier and more approachable. It is already common for sites to include plugins that allow you to chat with your users (or have a robot chat with your users for you) and plugins that allow you to schedule paid appointments with your users. But what if you could could combine those two functions and make it easy to charge your users to chat with you? Instagage has brought forward a plugin that will do just that – allowing savvy freelancers and entrepreneurs to charge for their valuable time.
What Can I Do With It?
Once the plugin has been installed (more on that below) and you are camera ready, it will display a widget with four buttons.
- Begin Chat: This enables AJAX chat with customers
- Start Video Call: This enables video chat with customers
- Request Project: This creates a form that lets your users send you a proposal
- Send Message: This is a way for them to email you.
Let me explain how these work with a scenario. Say you are a plugin developer who has created a free plugin that sends the site owner an email of all the really friendly spam comments they received that week (“Thank you officechairsdepotnow.tv! I do think my blog is super insightful!”). When users visit your plugin’s website, they will see the Instagage.com widget in the lower right hand corner. Those users who are impressed with your plugin, but need it to do something unusual, can click on Request Project to solicit a customized feature. If they are really impressed with your coding skills, they can click Send Message to let you know what they think of your work. If they would like one-on-one support or installation of your plugin, they can click on Begin Chat to initiate an AJAX chat, while if they want a tutorial, the can click on Start Video Call to see your beautiful mug. For functions #1, #2, and #3, the Instagage.com plugin will allow you to bill for the interaction and thereby encourage your visitors to pay you for custom changes, new projects, or dedicated support.
Here are some other ideas for how those of you who are entrepreneurs in the WordPress ecosystem can put it to good use:
- If you are an SEO consultant, you can charge for a site appraisal.
- If you are a coder, you can charge for a custom script.
- If you are a graphic designer, you can charge for a design tweak.
Featured Plugin - WordPress Pop-Up Chat Plugin
The Nitty Gritty
So Instagage is supposed to make it easier and simpler to convert casual users into paying customers. But is it also a sensible and worthwhile option for the freelancer who has installed it on their site? Check out the information below to find out more about whether/how it can or cannot work for you:
Pricing - They basically offer two plans: Pay As You Work and Power Professional. With the Pay As You Work program, there are no upfront costs. Instead, they charge .19-.39 cents/min for chat and a 10% “Escrow and Billing” charge for projects. With the Power Professional tier, you pay $19.99/month and a 5% “Escrow & Billing Fee” for month to month use, or $9.99 per month if you get 12 months in advance. Here is more info on the pricing and features that each program offers.
Installation - Actually, pretty easy. Check out Getting Started below.
Getting Paid - When it is time to withdraw your funds, you can either receive your money by check, which takes 5-10 days to receive, or request a PayPal transfer, which will take 2-3 days (they do it in batches using MassPay). Instagage charges USD$1 to withdraw money using PayPal, but does not charge any fees for the check service.
Some Issues - Alright, here are all the things that I don’t like about it:
- The window is not ugly, but it certainly could not be accused of being slick. They could do more to make it look impressive/inviting/attractive, considering that I am going to encourage my users to click on it and send me money. They offer only four colors for the widget (green, blue, orange, or gray), which means that it is also almost guaranteed to clash with your theme at least a little.
- Users who want to use the service have to create an account with Instagage. This is a large frustration and one that I hope the service does away with in the future. It sounds insignificant, but it adds another half-dozen actions before purchase. Also, it takes away from the primary appeal of the plugin. While this plugin is supposed to makes it a lot easier and less intimidating to approach a developer with a business proposal, they have made it harder and added the should-I-sign-up-for-this-service concern in the mind of the user.
- You must complete a W-9 Tax Form on their site to be able to withdraw money. They give no explanation as to what you should do if you aren’t a US citizen.
For fuller answers to both these questions and some other questions that I have not mentioned, you can also check out their FAQ.
First, you will be required to sign up with instagage.com as an “expert” (as opposed to a client). Signing up is easy, as they only require an email address to register – they ask for more information than that, but most of the it is optional. Once you are registered, you create your widget, selecting the color, whether you would like to offer Text Chat,Video Chat, or both, your rate per minute (you can choose free), and whether you would like to offer the first 5, 15, or 30 minutes free (or none). Then, install their plugin and enter the email address you used to register for the service in the Settings>BusinessBites panel. Your widget is now activated and ready to go. As a backup, if at any time the WordPress plugin is giving you an issue, you can simply grab the HTML code from the website and install that on your website in a sidebar widget.
There is one last thing to do. How do your clients know when you are available? You have to download and install their Expert Connector to your desktop. The Expect Connector will create a dialogue box where you can select whether you are online, busy, away, or offline. It then displays in the widget on your website options to “Begin Chat” or “Start Video Call” as well as the default options to “Send Message” and “Request Project”.
Want an idea what it looks like in action? Check out this really loud, but pretty good, demo video: