I have seen a number of apps recently that provide a way to coordinate times for phone calls, which is always a hassle. Clarify (clarify.fm) adds a few wrinkles — particularly the idea of charging by the minute for the call, which appeals to the consultant in me — that make it pretty interesting.
In principle, people should have figured out how to arrange the time for a phone call, but it’s a real hassle when people don’t have access to a shared calendar system. In my situation, trying to juggle interviews, demos, and research with dozens of people, I always have several unresolved discussions going about upcoming calls. So I have over the years tried a number of apps to resolve these issues, like Tungle, which shut down in December, and newer tools like Lizi and Meetin.gs that I plan to review soon.
Clarify has an interesting take on this problem, well-suited to the freelancer or consultant that would like to charge for their advice. Basically, the app lets you create a webpage with profile information and then adds you to the directory of experts that people can search through. Here’s my profile page as I see it when logged in.
I can edit the profile data and connect to various social services like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Perhaps most importantly, I can set a fee for talking by phone. Note that Clarify provides the option to set that fee to zero or to assign the money to a charity of your choice. And at any rate, you have the option to send someone a secret URL for a free call. Once payments are made, you can transfer to your PayPal account.
Someone wanting to call me — perhaps from a Clarify widget on my blog or from a search through her experts directory — would see that profile and then try to set up a time to call, offering three alternatives:
After providing details — for example, why they’d like to talk — the prospective caller picks some times that work and then is sent along to me. Clarify can notify me by SMS and email, so I can log in and see the request. I have the option to message the caller, pick a time, and even cancel if necessary.
After the call, callers can leave reviews, and the expert can opt to have those shown, as here in the case of Dan Martell, the founder of Clarify:
Clarify falls into the small and simple category, since it doesn’t overelaborate the tool: There is no way to suggest office hours or to haggle over a price, for example. Clarify sends an email with a .ics file, so you can copy that to your calendar. But I’d like something smoother, like a calendar sync, which I’ve heard is coming soon. The service does rely on a conference call solution, so the caller and expert don’t have to exchange phone numbers, but there is no integration with a video conferencing service. So I think it’s a great app for its intended community of users.
I think I am going to drop my price down to $50 per hour and put the widget on my blog for a few weeks and see what happens. I also want to develop some ideas about the use of tools like this within a company. What if there was a price set internally for calling a great designer in your London office? Or if we published reviews on the thoughts and feedback that people offered us whenever we connected, as a matter of course (reminds me of the recent post on Speedback trumps feedback). More to follow on that.