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Prospective employment running official forum - some ques's

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by need_advice, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2


    I have a couple of questions for anyone who may be professionally running a message board:

    1. Would you recommend proposing a salaried position, or providing your services on a contractual basis?

    2. What would the appropriate salary (or range)/contractual fee(s) be to propose to your prospective employer?

    I have actually been providing this "service" to a surgeon for a few months. He pioneered a cutting edge procedure that I was fortunate enough to have. Prior to my procedure I could find no one online who had it done. I posted in various medical information boards, and the interest was significant enough that I needed a central location to keep track of my conversations.

    The board has morphed into a quite nice support forum for current patients, an excellent informational base for potential patients, and has led to quite a number of new surgeries for the doctor. As membership grows, it is definitely more time consuming in terms of moderation, participation and interaction with the surgeon and staff. It is also of a growing benefit to his practice and new procedure.

    A few months ago I suggested that the surgeon officially link to the forum from his website, in patient literature, emails, etc. I presented a proposal to the him listing my services. The only thing lacking were the financial and employment terms.

    I have been a salaried employee as a programmer in the past, have had (and still have one) my own small business(es).

    For convenience, security, etc., I am leaning toward a salaried employee. But am by no means firm on that. I also never considered running a message board professionally and am uncertain of salary/fees/etc.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
  2. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    One thing that stands out to me is the referrals. I don't know how much time you spend doing this, but among the considerations ( ie: your time and talents ) would be a percentage of his fee's for service. A finders fee if you will. If your message board is increasing his patients, then a cut would not seem to be out of line.

    Let's see what others think.:major
  3. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    I have thought about that, but not sure how to go about it. Especially if it does become officially "linked". It might then be more difficult to ascertain whether the person's final decision was because of what another patient said/experienced or something they read on his site, a news article, etc.

    That's partly where my dilemma is in determining how much money to ask for. My first discussion of doing this officially for him is part of what prompted me to buy the domain name and "consolidate" all the conversations. The initial set up, creation of forums, organizing, mod'ng skins, etc., was certainly more labor intensive than daily maintenance.

    Even the simple moderating of it - there can be busy spurts where my interaction is need several hours at a time, quiet times where I'm uninvolved, etc. An hourly type of pay seems impractical, and why I'd probably prefer to come up with an annual salary (plus the costs of hosting the site (which redirects to the forum)). Just haven't a clue what salary range it could be.
  4. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    I would consider a fee along the lines of a consultant. A large up front fee for setting this up for him. Then a "maintenance" fee that relates to how much time you spend on average per month. You may need to call around to different website developers and get an idea of what the upfront costs are in your area. Maintenance may also be a cost that website developers would charge. You would have to do some investigation in your area.
  5. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    I have an update - a sort of counter-offer to what I proposed (which was a salaried employee position at what I feel was on the lower end of a reasonably competitive rate).

    Their reply/counter-offer was:

    1- "A one-time fee to buy the URL/forum"

    Not sure if I can say amounts, but equal to about what a generic simple pre-made website package would cost

    Initially the "one-time fee" seemed reasonable to cover my initial costs/time. Then I started thinking that to relinquish ownership of the domain name, hosting, forum and data base, considering the rest of the conditions (see below) does not seem wise.


    2- Offer to "sign a 6 month contract to pay" a monthly fee of $$$ to "monitor/moderate it"

    To "monitor/moderate" it implies I would no longer be the administrator, which is not acceptable, nor what I had proposed.

    Again, not sure if I can say amounts, but doing the math, it would be the equivalent of between 1/4-1/3 minimum wage if I worked 40-hour weeks, or 1/2 minimum wage if I worked 20-hour weeks


    3- Stipulation that "6 months down the road if the forum has grown exponentially, then we can all review this again and figure out what makes sense"

    If they do no implement the promotional recommendations I had made in my original proposal, I will have no control over an increase in membership. If there is no increase (resulting in no additional patients), there obviously would be no need to renew my contract.

    At that point, I would have no job, as well as no forum. They would then own the forum, its current membership, the abililty to promote it using their own IT staff.


    I'm kind of getting the feeling the intent is to ultimately obtain ownership of the forum without employing me.

    The problem is I am not communicating with the doctor directly very often. He is not technical, and leaves all related decisions to an outsourced PR person (and company) who has their own IT staff. My gut feeling is that she wants to end up with this in their hands.

    Wondering what anyone else thinks....

    (I am a member here under another name that is more identifiable...I really appreciate the help.)
  6. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    Yes, it sounds like they are trying to squeeze you out. Have you thought of saying screw off and charge your clients a referral fee?
  7. aatony

    aatony Private E-2

    Your creativity and compassion stand out immediately. You found an avenue that they clearly wished they had thought of, and they want it. They apparently see its potential, and they want ALL of it for themselves. I am not in the medical or web fields, but I can easily see a great value as a resource to them, so much info and firsthand testimony available for which they need not provide office space & 'face time' consultation.
    I do know about selling myself short, and I think I hear you not wanting to do that. I suggest that they cannot buy your passion, but maybe they can rent it. This is YOUR creation. The laborer is worthy of his hire.
    I hope you don't settle for less is all I can offer. And I hope other folks in that area of expertise can guide you more specifically!
  8. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    Since posts are usually anonymous, I have no way of proving who the patients are that do end up having this surgery. Wish I could tho!
  9. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    Thanks for seeing that, and for the encouragement. I'm also in a bit of a bind right now - I'm having a follow-up procedure in 2 weeks, so I have to be careful how/what I say between now and then.

    I do not want to give up the forum. Though if we can't agree, my involvement will have to decrease - which won't be as profitable for him. So if that's a point they won't budge on, I don't want to be at an impasse as the anesthesia is injected, lol!

    I think I'm going to tell them I want to think about it over the holidays. By then I'll no longer be a "current patient" and will have more flexibility (or at least more comfort) in negotiating this further. Or walking away (with my forum!) if I am not happy.

    Thanks for all the help. I'll post back with any more updates/questions.
  10. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    Even though I'm going to hold off until the New Year for my "counter proposal", I cannot come up with a professional way to say/word that the forum and I go hand-in-hand/are a package deal.

    I've considered saying that I may transfer ownership if I am made a salaried employee (with the stipulation that if my employment ends, the domain and the forum and its contents are returned to me), but as long as I am contracted, so is the forum.

    As I said, the thought of running a message board professionally never crossed my mind prior to this, so I have no idea of the entire "job" process.
  11. aatony

    aatony Private E-2

    I would like to encourage you further. First, did you follow TimW's idea to call/search other forum admins, in your area, or otherwise, for how they charge? Successful folks I've met do the footwork/research.

    I'm sure as well you could find sites that show common phrases, or latin translation. I liked the way you plainly said "hand in hand/ package deal". As well as researching contract forms online. Have you thought about considering yourself a 'sub-contractor'? I discourage you considering anything close to minimun wage, and certainly not below! You have done the upfront work and investment, intelligently with the purchase of the domain name! You deserve the rewards for your insight and willingness to act on it with latest technology.

    Last, though you hadn't considered running such a forum as a job, it's obvious you have done it here. That may be just the beginning for you. Though you may not know how to charge right now, you may be able to recreate your success in other medical areas. There is certainly a huge gap in the information & time that doctors are able/willing to share in an office visit, and what is needed for patients to be well informed and proactive in the own healthcare. There surely is a healthcare crisis, I will not attempt to define that further, 'thats all I've got to say about that!" You may become a bridge for many to cross that gap, as their needs arise.

    You know you are worth more than 25% of $8.00/hour... ! Consider what the doctors office cleaning contractor bills out their crew for that regular task...

    you may also look into LLC designation for this new endeavour, considering the legal issues in the medical field. (Limited Liability Corporation)
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  12. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    (TimW, if $$ conversations are not permitted, please delete!)

    I did look into salaries/fees for web designers and webmasters. On average in my area they were about $65K. I felt that $55 would have been reasonable, which is what I had proposed.

    Their offer was $3K to buy the domain AND forum. And a fee of $500/mo to "maintain and moderate" it, all up for renegotiation in 6 months. The more I thought about it, the more it simply seemed like they were going to fork out $6K all told, I'd be out a job and the forum, and they could do with it as they pleased.

    Including using all of the promotional/marketing ideas I already proposed.

    Aatony, excellent point about the cleaning crew! I may need to use that in my response. (Also good idea about an LLC. My partner and I made our pc repair business an LLC as well - though only recently, so I'm still learning how many ways from Sunday we need to do paperwork - ugh.)

    For now, I'm just going to put something together to buy me time til 2011 and a stress-free surgery!

    You also gave me a lot to think about as far as promoting this as a product/service for other doctors. Thank you.
  13. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    Actually, I think their offer is probably pretty good. You can include a clause about adjusting the monthly fee up if you spend x amount of time more than you do now or at a certain level of your involvement.
  14. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    The monthly fee might be OK for now, especially since the bulk of conceptualizing/creating/setting up everything is complete, and membership and activity aren't crazy right now. But I'm having issues with the buying of the domain and forum/db.

    I was thinking maybe accept $3-5K to cover time and expenses previously incurred, yet retain ownership of the forum. If I don't, I just see it as too easy and subjective for them to determine in 6 mos they don't need me and turn it over to the PR co's IT staff.
  15. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    Good point. It would be ideal if they paid you the upfront cost of creating it and you keep ownership plus the stipend per month to run it.
  16. Triaxx2

    Triaxx2 MajorGeek

    I presume the Domain name is registered to you? Then it's your website, and they can't squeeze you out. My personal feeling would be to offer a direct link to this doctor, and less prominant links to other doctors providing the same services. The web is world wide, and tying yourself to one doctor is not a good idea, plus it keeps you in control, but also in a position to get paid for your work.
  17. aatony

    aatony Private E-2

    I am delighted to see folks helping one another here, its heartwarming!

    The doc 'created a cutting edge procedure' & he gets paid for it, you created a 'cutting' edge procedure for which the doc would (does!) benefit, shouldn't you be paid for it. Yes, of course, we can agree.

    I like that these folks are encouraging you to maintain ownership of the domain/site. What you've created, is your own, as far as I'm concerned.

    I am grateful to the "Major Geeks" that give of themselves to help their fellows!
  18. aatony

    aatony Private E-2

    Hi need_advice,

    Just wanted to wish you well for the upcoming surgery & a speedy recovery
  19. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    First, thank you for your previous support - it really has been helpful.

    But right now - UGH! STILL going back and forth on this with them. I've never had "job negotiations" go beyond a second interview in a two to three week window, max. This is nuts.

    That said....the following are excerpts from their latest reply. One of the biggest problems I run into is that the surgeon has zero technical experience outside of emailing from an ipone and editing patient pics on his mac. All of this is being primarily discussed with a person who owns a PR company and has been handling his appearances on news programs, etc. I guess he considers this PR.

    Anyway, they say,

    "Establishing our own forum has always been part of our goal for 2011. We put it a little on hold when we heard of your forum and your interest. However, we are now finding out that some content on your site can actually hurt our own online ranking efforts due to duplicate content. Google just released an update to combat duplicate content even further."

    First, prior to my forum, they had no intentions of having one, just a page with patient testimonials and perhaps a blog. It took a lot of convincing on my end. But I don't think calling them out on this would be beneficial to me right now.

    Also, does anyone have any idea what they're talking about with google?? The closest info I could find was in the general guidelines in google's webmaster tools.

    That's just talking about content w/in your own site, not across the internet! Is there something else they could possibly be referring to?

    They go on to say that they need to "have control over the forum to moderate its quality and therefore need to have a forum established within our domain."

    Fair enough.

    Then go on to say they would love to have me, "co-moderate the forum daily on a part-time basis. Adding new posts, maintaining quality comments, erasing spam posts, communicate with other members and so on." And offer me the same $500/mo.

    However, they now changed the original offer of $3K to buy the forum to $3K if I "move the visitors from your forum over to the '---' Forum and you close the current one you have and engage yourself to not open / manage / or have a stake in a parallel / competing forum."

    That sounds rather spam-ish to me. As a member, I think I'd be slightly pissed if my membership got "sold" to someone else. Also sounds in violation of the terms I agree to when someone currently registers at the forum. Or would that not be the case if I were to be employed (albeit contractually) by the owners of the new forum? (Still "feels" kinda wrong.)

    I guess if I did consider this latest proposal, I would envision announcing the intended transition to the members and it would be at their discretion to register or not.

    Geeeeez, they just seem to making the whole thing so ridiculously complicated.
  20. DavidGP

    DavidGP MajorGeeks Forum Administrator - Grand Pooh-Bah Staff Member

    I would say thats your best option and let the membership decide if they wanted to migrate or not to the new forum.

    I have to re-ask if the domain name yours and does the forum get many hits/posts per day and membership levels? if so and they wish to aquire this then its your market to dictate terms and not theirs.

    Have to wonder why they have a PR company looking at this also, you maybe squeezed out if they are an outside PR company over an internal one, the PR company will want this in their hands at all costs.

    They are scared that your forum is getting better page rankings on google or otehr search engines than their own, as some information if on the sam emedical topic is duplicated and as your forum has a better page rank its getting the top/first page listings in a search.

    I would be tempted to in the next negotiation to say hey, the forum run by me has X members with X numbers of posts and hits per day which is a good advertisement for you! I will be willing to run the forum at $xx per month but I will be the main administrator and webmaster of the site.

    Hey thats surgeons for you!!! complicated is their middle name for simple tasks... trust me I know only too well.
  21. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    Yes, the domain and forum are mine. As for hits per day - I just have the usage stats, but of course that's including search engines, etc. I can say we went from 20 members and about 100 posts in Aug (when I consolidated topic from another personal forum I own and moved them to this new one). Today there are 113 members and about 2000 posts, with approx 1/4 of the members actively participating.

    They seem to do EVERYTHING for him, including IT - his staff is short to begin with (one of the patients' on the forums biggest complaints).

    I'm definitely seeing that now.

    Well, my "site" is just a redirect to the forum. I'm certainly not qualified to be his webmaster for his practice's site (I wish!). But I see no reason other than the PR company wanting to remove me from the picture to have a Forum Admin that isn't me.

    I emailed the dr asking him to call me directly at this point, but I think once we start talking the tech aspects of it, he's gonna push me off them again.
  22. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    I still think you just need to keep it simple and go for the $3K for all the previous work done and the $500/mth. Can you give us a link so we can see what you have done?
  23. DavidGP

    DavidGP MajorGeeks Forum Administrator - Grand Pooh-Bah Staff Member

    Depending what the medical condition/s that the forum caters for then thats not so bad, if its an unusual or specialist condition then its very good, especially if its one thats on t advertised too much in madical journals etc

    A 1/4 (25%) membership actively participating is better than most tech forums.

    The conditions my research work is in is hammered in the journals (I am co-author on a few papers) so while I'm going to for our dept deal with a website at some point its on the back burner until I have time. But as TimW mentions let us see your work and the forum and its medical topics.

    Yes you will see a PR company take over as they will want full control to make more $$$$$, in medicine $$ is not always looked at closely and its just handed out like candy! in no looking for value for money, I see this daily.

    I wouldnt sell yourself too short now, the PR company maybe less qualified but can say they are and hire a pro to take over and charge a fortune for that privilege.
  24. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    Tim and David,

    I will PM you a link to my forum and to the surgeon's site as well.

  25. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    OK, nvm.....I received an error saying I need over 50 posts to send a pm. I tried to find my old ID and the email addr would have used is not recognized...? (But I doubt that ID had 50 posts either. Ugh.)
  26. TimW

    TimW MajorGeeks Administrator - Jedi Malware Expert Staff Member

    You can contact me at timw at majorgeeks.com
  27. need_advice

    need_advice Private E-2

    I did email Tim at the addr he gave. Are you able to post yours as well? Or if you want, maybe he can forward (or PM) the info to you....?
  28. DavidGP

    DavidGP MajorGeeks Forum Administrator - Grand Pooh-Bah Staff Member

    HI Sent you a PM with my contact email :)

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