In 2009, Randall Gibbons had been working as a recreational vehicle (RV) repairman in California for years when he needed help getting his Buick Riviera to work. A friend told him about JustAnswer, a site that lets people pose questions on subject matters ranging from taxes to plumbing and get an answer from a knowledgeable expert.
Gibbons got his answer and his car running, and "in the meantime," he says, "I said, 'Gee, they've got an RV section. Somebody's answering those questions, why isn't that me?'"
Gibbons started answering RV questions on JustAnswer. In those first years, he made $400 or $500 per month. Since he sold his RV shop in April, though, he's working full time on the site, and he's come a long way from those first monthly paychecks.
"I think I've made almost $20,000 every month since May," says Gibbons, now 74. "Not bad for answering questions."
Here's how Gibbons built his successful side hustle, which has become his sole source of income.
In his early days on the site, as he was still working full time at an RV repair shop, Gibbons didn't have too much time to devote to the side hustle: He logged on to the site on his lunch hour, for example, and answered a few questions.
These days, his schedule is more rigorous. "I get up, usually at 4:30 in the morning," he says. "I'm always online by 5." Gibbons stays up until 10 or 11 at night answering questions, working 16-to-18 hour days.
There are breaks in between his time on the site, he says. He's helping his wife with her bookstore, for instance.
All told, he answers about 300 questions per week.
JustAnswer's payout for questions varies and a lot depends on how an expert answers a question, says Gibbons. Taking time to ask people about their day, for example, can go a long way for some experts.
His preference is usually to be more direct. "When it's real busy you can't take time to give all that foo-foo flowery stuff," he says. "I want to get to the nuts and bolts. I'm more of a guy that says, 'Look, I want to solve your problem.'"
That approach has worked for him. "People come back and say, 'You know, you really helped me out here [in] a pinch,'" he says, adding that users have asked for him specifically, having heard of him from a friend.
Experts in the RV section can make up to $19 per question, including a bonus, he says. For him, "sometimes the bonus will be as much as the question."
The coronavirus pandemic has been good for Gibbons' business. While he recognizes the countrywide tragedy it has brought on, he has found that one silver lining is that many more people are taking up RVs as a safer vacation option as a result.
"So many people didn't want to get cooped up at home so they said, 'Let's just get an RV,'" he says. "And so, man, business has just exploded this year. At the end of August, I had already made more than I made last year."
Last year, Gibbons made about $96,00 before taxes. This year he had made $120,000 by October alone.
If "you have a skill" and "you need a little money," says Gibbons, like if you're retired or out of work, give JustAnswer a shot. It's flexible, there's a real variety of categories to sell your expertise in, and you never have to answer a question you don't want to answer, he says. (Be warned, the site has an acceptance rate of 10% to 12% for applicants.)
Plus, as long as you have expertise in a field, he says, getting started is easy: "All you need is a laptop or a tablet."
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