Google's into a whole bunch of cool technologies -- driverless cars, glasses that record videos, robots, home automation, breastfeeding.
Wait... breast feeding?
I'm not kidding. And neither is Google. Millions of women struggle with lactation issues. Sometimes doctors have the answers and sometimes they don't. But there are people who specialize in this field. And it's possible that the best help out there isn't available in your hometown. But, you can still get the help you need. Just visit the health section of Google Helpouts. You'll find plenty of lactation experts who can help you with your problem. For a fee, of course. But that's OK. It's cheaper than a doctor and the advice is probably better. And that's OK for Google too. They're getting a 20 percent commission for providing the platform. Yes, Google does care about breastfeeding.
Google also cares about education. Just recently the company announced a partnership with Get Schooled, a nonprofit organization that provides free counseling to prospective college students. Can't decide on the right college? More importantly, need some help navigating the complex world of Federal and State aid? Get Schooled is providing free advice from expert college counselors using the Google Helpouts platform. It's a great way to get personal, direct, human answers to the questions you have. And it's a great way for Google to promote the capabilities of Google Helpouts.
"We're trying to help those people that have trouble today with a problem that could be more easily solved if they were connected live to a real expert," Google's Dan Arnold, a Helpouts category manager told me. "Getting a baby to stop crying at midnight or getting assistance for a student who's applying for financial aid...sometimes the only way to really get the answers you need is to talk to a person."
Get Schooled is a great organization doing great things. But they're a non-profit. And the fact is there's money to be made here. Money for you. And money for Google. Which is why Google not only cares about breastfeeding and education. The company also cares about your small business and the revenues you (and them) can be creating using Helpouts.
Are you a therapist? A nutritionist? A dermatologist? A technologist? A party planner? Do you teach singing? Do you provide marriage counseling? Are you an expert in lawn care, kitchen design or vegetable farming? Can you fix household appliances? Troubleshoot electrical problems? Install heating and air conditioning systems? Are you an accountant or an attorney? You may know nothing about lactation. But Google cares about you too.
For example, look at Redbeacon, an online handyman referral service that focuses on homeowners who don't want to do fix-it projects themselves. They're using Helpouts to service customers and attract new work. They're using it to connect their experts with their customers to provide home repair advice and troubleshoot problems. According to Garrett Smallwood, the company's Head of Operations, the service "...not only allows us to showcase our associates' vast knowledge of home services, but it also gives us a unique platform to do it in real time. It's just a great way to be that resource on-demand."
There's money to be made here. Both for you and for Google.
You, or someone from your company, can be a Helpouts expert. It doesn't matter what kind of business you are. You don't need to provide college counseling or know how to breastfeed a baby. You have your expertise and there are prospective customers who need your help. And they will pay for it.
You can, for a nominal fee, charge by the hour (or for a fifteen or thirty minute period) to provided the answers people need. It may generate more business for you outside of Helpouts. It may introduce you to new clients around the world that you may have never found. You can schedule appointments in advance. You can promote your expertise online. All that's needed is an Internet connection and a couple of webcams, standard stuff in 2014.
It's not automatic. In fact, you have to be invited to participate. "We are reaching out to experts in their field," Arnold told me. "And there is a vetting process."
You'll need to go through a listing creation procedure where you will provide background information, references, qualifications, licenses and experience as well as an introductory video. But you don't have to wait for Google to invite you. Arnold told me you can reach out directly to the company through the Helpouts website too. Once approved, Google Helpouts will provide the platform for scheduling, promotion and payment (Google Wallet, of course). And in return they'll take a cut of your fees -- about 20 percent. By the way...customers can give feedback to Google too in case your services aren't up to snuff. But the more you succeed the more Google succeeds.
So take a look at your business. It doesn't matter if you're a lactation consultant or a roofer. The question is how are you helping your customers? What advice could you be giving to prospective customers? How do you differentiate yourself from your competition? What ways can you provide a more personalized, valuable service? More importantly -- how can you monetize this? Can you charge? Of course you can. Is there money you could be making if you were to use an online service like Helpouts? Of course there is. And you're probably leaving it on the table.
A version of this column previously appeared on Forbes.com.
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