Want advice for your small business? 3 websites let you access experts

Are you wrestling with some aspect of operating and growing your small business? Ever wish you could quickly get advice from real experts…people who have been there/done that? Three websites operating with different models now offer you the opportunity to get advice from successful entrepreneurs (including super stars like Mark Cuban) as well as experts in specific business subjects. And all of this help comes at a very reasonable price…for the most part.

First up is clarity.fm, a website through which you schedule a phone call with one of roughly 11,000 experts in various aspects of entrepreneurship. This is a pay-by-the-minute service, with the average cost being about $1.50 per minute. Alas, if you want to chat with Mr. Cuban, his rate is $166.67 a minute, so you’d better talk fast!

Inc. magazine’s technology columnist John Brandon tried this service and was very pleased with the results, as he reported in the May issue of the magazine. Brandon also tried the next website offering something similar, LiveNinja.com. This site sets you up for a live video chat with an expert. Their focus isn’t strictly business, but they do have experts in business and technology topics. Most LiveNinja experts charge about $1 a minute, but some offer a free 15-minute consultation, probably with the hope that you’ll sign on for more.

Finally, there is Pearls.com. Here you post a question and then are asked how much you’re willing to pay for a detailed response from a professional. The average cost is $40. Like LiveNinja, Pearls is not exclusively about business, but they do have experts in law, marketing and business. Both Pearls and LiveNinja are in the process of creating mobile apps, so you’ll be able to get your expert advice even when you’re out and about.

Before trying any of these services, it would be wise to hone in on the question(s) you want to ask. Even when the cost is only $1 a minute, you want to be clear about what advice you’re looking for and be able to explain your situation succinctly. Also, although it might be tempting to schedule a call with one of the pricier super star experts, consider whether you really need this much firepower. While it might be tempting to talk with Mark Cuban just so you could tell people he had advised you about your business, a better path would probably be to spend the same amount of money to talk with two or three experts to get a diversity of viewpoints.

Also, as John Brandon points out in his article on LiveNinja and Clarity, you might consider signing up as an expert in your field and turn this into an income-generating opportunity as well as an advice-getting opportunity.

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