Unsustainable

First: I would like to thank everyone for their comments / emails / support. I greatly appreciate them all.

I have been running this site for almost a year now. During that time, I have had several popular posts, I made a fairly complete flow chart outlining the whole medical school admissions process and I have had several thousand readers. However, I believe this site is not sustainable without some changes and further personal  incentive.

I’m not trying to be greedy. There is a cost to run this site, it’s approximately $80 a year for the server, domain name, etc. Additionally, the time needed to run this site, maintain it, and create more content can be quite a burden. For all the time (and time is precious) I put in, I don’t get any money out of it. And lately, less and less satisfaction. If only this site could be more sustainable…

I believe if there was a reward system (Either personal satisfaction or monetary) in place, I would be more inclined to create content. I know this is the internet, information should be for free! But considering my knowledge and experience, I think I could go out and easily charge $50 / hour doing medical school admission consulting. I don’t want to charge money for this site. For my qualifications: I got into medical school early, I did well in my undergrad studies,  and I believe I did fairly well on my interview. Furthermore, I have helped out with the admissions process, reviewed essays and references, been an interviewer and have successfully helped more than 10 people I know successful get admitted.

So I’m asking readers, What should I do? Should I switch to advertising, a subscription, sponsorship or a donation model to keep this site running. Each will have its own pros and benefits. It sucks that I have to even consider this, but I have to consider my own needs too and as a medical student with doing well in my studies as a priority and growing debt, I don’t want to have to worry about this site.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for posting comments, I appreciate all of them. Some of them are very helpful, encouraging and thought provoking.

EDIT: The main purpose of running this site is NOT for the money. A commenter posted out that there are a lot of free services out there I could use to. After reading that, I think what I actually want is a connection between the effort and work I put into this site and a reward or personal satisfaction. (I posted in the comments about this). I am not planning to shut down my site, just perhaps find some motivation and reevaluate my reasons for running this site.

It feels like I’m writing to an empty audience sometimes, a monoquily if you will. The main purpose of this blog is not to journal my day, write about my feelings and thoughts (although I do that now and then). It want to help people understand the medical admissions process, help them become better students and make them more informed about health issues.

Perhaps it’s a writer’s block or burnout, but there are days when I log-on and I just don’t want to do anything. Somewhere along the way, I lost a bit of the joy I had in the beginning. It’s partly due to doing the same thing over and over again – helping people with their “What are my Chances” questions or the should I take Organic Chemistry in the summer? – but another aspect is it’s hard to get satisfaction out of helping an anonymous person you have never met and who’s only purpose in contacting you is to get something out of it.

I help out people all the time in person, giving them strategy and tips on how to do better in school, what medical school is like, etc. And although that’s the same thing, I get some personal satisfaction. I can see my results. I will hear back from them if they get into medical school and that makes it worth it. There is a connection between my efforts and a final reward, whether that is personal satisfaction or gratitude.

22 Responses to Unsustainable

  1. SD says:

    I think it would be a good idea to get some advertising and donations up. If that fails, then the last resort would be to start subscriptions. Just my two cents. 🙂

  2. Premedc says:

    I am not trying to be a wise-ass (as all wise-ass remarks, this one is preceded by complete denial of the fact), but have you heard about Blogger?

    – It is free
    – It fits your content model (no customized applications like perl/php/mysql)
    – It is very similar to WordPress, albeit oversimplified. This does not hurt any productivity for information intensive website such as yours with no specialized database structure requirements
    – Oh, did I mention it was free?
    – Domain alone would be ~10$/year (I am sure you can forgo a couple of visits to Second Cup to keep such a great resource as this site) or even switch to a subdomain on Blogger for free (vanity wake up call? this goes in line with your previous post about the insufficient amount of comments being left on your blog).

    Finally, if you need a reward system to write – go for subscription, but I think you shouldn’t say you genuinely want to help people to get in then.

  3. medaholic says:

    Thanks for the comment premedc. I do appreciate your comments and don’t take any of them negatively. I don’t think it’s the monetary value that I’m looking for. I just think it would be nice to see some connection between effort and reward, it would at least be more motivating for me. So whether that comes in the form of comments, money, appreciation, or whatever, I would just like to see some fruits of my labor.

    I know this is the internet, everything is a free lunch, don’t whine, etc. But I do spend a certain amount of time writing / editing / running stuff. Sure, I would like to help more people become better students, but I can do that offline to and with more tangible results.

    I already do help out friends and people who ask me in real life on how to become a better student / applicant. And usually the information and strategy I give them actually helps them. They are more inclined to follow up, ask more questions, give feedback. And the best part is I see them successfully get into medical school. I do this all for free too, and it’s very rewarding. When compared to running a blog, I take more time running this site but I don’t get that same sense of satisfaction.

    Maybe I’m just complaining or I’m tired of writing or lost that passion/vision that I had when I first started. I know a lot of medical bloggers do shut down their sites after they finish medical school / residency / etc. In a way, I’m getting some burnout. Running out of ideas. People emailing me to help them out and offer advice without any thanks in return.

    Just my thoughts.

  4. Premedc says:

    I did exactly what I did not want to do: put you on the defensive (or at least justification mode). When all I wanted to do is give advice. I think you should spend as much time as you want on a blog, but as soon as it becomes your job you either start charging or quit so it doesn’t interfere with your real life.

    Anyways, I hope you keep writing and maintain the free lunches, at least once in a while.

  5. Phil says:

    Hey,
    Why not do advertising and donations? A lot of blogs have both.

  6. Paris says:

    Hey,

    When you start a website like this you meant for it to be for others and not yourself. This will be your profession for the rest of your life. Working with people who you’ve met for (or as some specialist do not have met them at all) and help them in ANY WAY possible. There is no Thank you at the end of the day and in some cases there are people who expect more and will scrutinize you because you havent done your best.

    If I were in your shoes I would reevaluate a lot of stuff:

    1. Remembering why I chose med in the first place? Was it to make a lot of money or to help those that I can with the brain and knowledge that you have (and will be) blessed with?

    2. Why did I start this blog?

    In both cases I can see that you meant to make a difference and let those of us trying to get into med school and have made it our dreams to work for the people in a health care professional manner a glimps into that world which many people dont do. If this is the case I would say that your passion is admirable and should be commended.

    Now to get to the matter that you are tired and burned out with all of this. Well that is completely understandable. Maybe you should pass on the torch to a new first year med student who can fill us in with all the challenges from a different perspective. Maybe in a year of not doing this you would feel compelled to actually come back and tell us about graduating from med school and all the adventures that you had in the mean time.

    To ask for money for a blog is not right (at least in my opinion) if you want to place a donation box is up to you and your right to do so but to make it purely based on subscription will make you exactly like everyone else in the business of making prospective med students pay for every bit of knowledge and insight which I think is going to go against all that you wanted to get out of this blog to begin with …

    All this said I wish you nothing but the best in your adventures whatever your decision is for the future of this amazing blog …

    • medaholic says:

      Thanks for your comments and encouragement. I originally started this blog to help others learn about the field of medicine, admissions process, what medical school was like. It’s a bit unfair to compare that to why I entered medicine, which is quite different altogether, but I can see what you’re trying to get at.

      Like I said in my post, I don’t want to charge people for what essentially should be “free” information. But there is a time investment and cost on my part, just like how your doctor has spent many years in school learning and training.

      Thanks for these comments, they have been very encouraging.

  7. messi10 says:

    I am totally sympathetic regarding the lack of thanks. Why is it that people feel as if they can pepper you with questions without ever expressing gratitude for your help? I get the same thing just through the forums.

    For all those you have answered, and those like myself that have read your blog: thanks for the help, we appreciate it.

  8. Joshua says:

    Hey,

    I think you know what I think, and we can talk about it privately and stuff more if you’d like.

    Out of the ideas you’ve proposed, I don’t think donations will work (people just don’t do it). I also don’t think subscription is going to work unless you have an entire business model in terms of what you will provide etc., and it seems to me this is more of a hobby/side project for you (as with myself). I would go with advertisements and affiliate marketing if anything.

    I actually don’t understand why consulting doesn’t appeal to you, since it seems to meet what you are looking for in terms of being able to directly see the impact of your work on the people you help. I get the feeling it’s because you are conflicted about the idea of charging people $50/hour and feel a bit weird about it. I do too fwiw.

    I do understand your feeling about the satisfaction of being rewarded for your work. I also remember that we’re both interested in business, and we are both students who are going to be in a bit of debt over the next several years. And so I’m not going to deny that if my blog becomes a major hit that I’m probably going to monetizing it, e.g. putting up ads. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I mean, wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could get paid for doing a hobby?

    And I too have writers block a lot of the time. I want to try and post something meaningful, something that makes people look at things differently, if I can. But that isn’t easy as you know.

    Anyways, feel free to message me if you want to chat a bit.

    Good luck!

  9. Nadia says:

    You’re going to be making millions of dollars once you become a doctor, just pay up the $80 and stop being so gay

  10. sara says:

    Hi I want to thank you for working on this great site… your hard work and effort are definitely not wasted. The hardest part of any project/work is not seeing the immediately result of your time/effort. I am University of Ottawa student and I find your site to be both informative and entertaining. You provide glimpse of what it’s like to be a medical student. Sometimes praise and thank you are not enough and I do understand that money is most powerful incentive. Maybe you should look into subscription if it feasible.. Or mentor students/friends if you find that to be more rewarding. Whatever you decide to do I wish you luck and Thanks…..

  11. JGHali says:

    Like I said in my post, I don’t want to charge people for what essentially should be “free” information. But there is a time investment and cost on my part, just like how your doctor has spent many years in school learning and training.

    The two are not remotely comparable, and the notion that one should charge for advice which requires no particular qualifications (hey, I got in too – I guess my time is worth $50 an hour too) is laughable. I charged only half that as a tutor, and at least then I was teaching undergrad (and PhD!) students basic biostatistics.

    Just about any med student will be asked by applicants for help or advice, but I tend to restrict this to, ya know, actual friends. The information is otherwise very much available on school websites and a wide variety of commercial study guides, school counsellors, etc. I’m not clear on what “knowledge and experience” you have to offer that differs markedly from anyone else who got in, much less the various free resources available. Add some ads if you wish, but I can’t see it helping much – $80 a year is not exactly a lot either way, and my own blog costs me nothing on Blogger.

    I should add that several years ago I ran a CD review site. I never made much of any money off my Amazon links (maybe about one free CD), but I did get a lot of free promo discs, since labels have an interest in, well, promotion. Correspondingly, I put a lot of time and effort into my reviews, but when it got to be too much, I retired from it and informed my promo contacts. It’s still up somewhere. What’s my point? Don’t expect to make money off something that you have previously offered for free, that is offered by many others for free, and that does not serve anyone else’s financial interest. There are lots of premed keeners around, but I think it is decidedly unethical to charge them for simple advice, especially in light of exhorbitant application fees.

    • medaholic says:

      Thanks for your feedback JGHali. As I’ve posted above (maybe I haven’t been explicit enough) it’s not the money that I am looking for, but maybe more of a meaning / satisfaction for what I am doing. Do remember, I am a medical student just like you, my priority will always be school first and preparing myself to be a doctor. This site is just a side interest that I sometimes get stuck with a writer’s block.

      As for being qualified, I would like to believe I know a fair bit more than an average medical student. I’m on the admissions committee, I’ve been on the interview committee, I’ve personally interviewed students, read their profiles, read many reference letters. I know the difference between a good and bad applicant. I’ve tutored students before, taught an MCAT class, studied for the MCAT on my own. Believe me, I don’t want to “charge” people for information. That is the last thing I want to do… like I’ve said before.

      Maybe I just need a break from this for a while, to get a different perspective. I’m sure you have experience too with this, with your CD review site. But all this feedback is definitely appreciated. I am happy to see that many people share the same sentiments as me. Thanks!

  12. Joshua says:

    I agree with the above post that simply getting into medical school does not necessarily make someone a good consultant when it comes to medical school admissions, let alone one who should be charging $50/hour.

    That being said, this doesn’t mean there can’t be medical school admissions consultants who are worth that much in terms of the value they can provide to applicants.

    For what it’s worth, as someone who has personally been very successful in many student application/admissions processes including some of the most competitive, I can say with complete confidence that Medaholic is one of the few people I’ve met who understands some components of the process much better than I do. In fact, Medaholic is the only person I know who I would consider paying for consulting in this type of stuff, and I’ve never had to consult with anyone ever.

  13. sara says:

    Hey, Premed do get eager for information and vulnerable to marketing/kaplan and alot of students who get into med school do not pay consultants….its not economically feasible

  14. eps says:

    fwiw, i enjoy’d reading your blog, however, it seems to be having a strain on you.. so you should take as long a break as you want… not like we can complain 😀

  15. Ronjon says:

    Hi Medaholic,

    You don’t know me; I’m currently studying an MBA in Australia and happened upon your blog by chance a few days ago; am considering going to med school myself, so this blog is awesome, and thanks for doing it.

    Obviously there’s a market for info like this; people pay thousands of dollars for MCAT review classes, etc, so I think they’d definitely be willing to pay $50 for an hour of your time, especially given that you’ve done interviews. If you do it right and build up enough of a following, I think it could also lead to speaking arrangements, for instance, but that may not be what you want to do.

    Of course, in med school, your time is probably worth more than that, right? I mean, is it worth it to you to spend an hour of your time with a stranger, even for $50?

    More than that, is it worth any of your time maintaining this blog? If not, it’s definitely worth thinking about whether you want to keep it. Even if you make $1000 / year from the blog, that’s still a pretty low hourly wage, and it’s not going to make you any happier.

    It’s also OK if you don’t have the time to maintain. You won’t be any less of a person because of it.

    Thanks for what you’ve done so far and I’m sure the silent masses appreciate it.

  16. Kitt says:

    Hello there!

    First off, whether or not you decide to continue this blog, thank you for all the fantastic posts you’ve made so far. I’ve only gone through a couple of posts, but I’ve found them extremely enlightening and useful.

    If you need the money or think that a financial incentive will help to motivate you, I think offering some consultations is a feasible idea. I personally don’t see why charging for consultations is so unethical. Some people want the one-on-one help and it doesn’t make you a greedy person if you want some sort of tangible reward for your efforts.

    Money doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem though. You probably just need to take a break from updating and stop forcing yourself to add more content when you’re in a slump.

    I hope you find the joy in writing this blog again. 🙂

  17. Weilanna says:

    I should not be reading or commenting on your blog at the moment (or any blog), but I couldn’t help it after seeing this entry today:

    For the last few months, I’ve been reading through every entry you’ve ever written. A lot of your advice is encouraging to pre-med students, and sometimes not-so-encouraging, but practical and good to know nonetheless. I especially enjoyed your flow chart (funny and very aesthetically pleasing too, btw). Obviously, I can’t speak for the hundreds of pre-med readers who come to your site, but I’m sure many of them are just as grateful. Most of your readers, being the busy pre-med students they are, are probably not regular bloggers and don’t know what to comment on, and sometimes they (myself included) don’t realize how valuable a simple “thank you, your advice was very helpful” could be.

    As someone who has tried blogging before, I can sort of sympathize with your lack of satisfaction (erm… if not financially, at least the emotional part), especially since so many people read and don’t leave feedback, but you should still feel the same sense of accomplishment, as if you did get the amount of feedback you expected! I mean, you have about a hundred really fantastic entries–you probably got something more out of this blog than just the readership.

    But if you haven’t, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to keep this blog running. As some readers already suggested, you might consider moving the entries to a free blog provider and just leaving it at that… this blog being the masterpiece that it already is. Future med students will still be able to access your past advice and you won’t need to spend the time and money maintaining this site. I’m sure many of your readers will understand. 🙂

  18. another med hopeful says:

    I don’t understand why there are mean comments (well, at least one up there =P)… come on, he’s doing this for free…
    I’m just curious: Have you ever felt unfair that you never got any of this advice back when you were applying, and now, thousands of people could get it for free? To be honest, I agree with JGHali in that maybe you should consider restricting this to your friends and clients. I mean, I’d love to continue reading your blog for free since I am planning to apply to med school in the future, but quite frankly, I limit the advice I give to my friends only because I really don’t think it’s fair for me to give advice to random “leechers” out there…
    As for my advice, again, quite frankly, I wouldn’t pay to read this. Though I wouldn’t mind reading blogs with advertisements…
    I read that the amount of money you make depends on the number of clicks to the ads… if you want me to click on an ad 10 times each time I visit, I’d be happy to =P

  19. AD says:

    I personally think it is a great thing you are doing and I sincerely do hope you keep it up to the benefit of future students. That said, perhaps you could recruit a fellow Medical school student to help you maintain the site. I also agree that you could set up a donations option – you might not get a flood of people throwing money at you, but maybe enough to cover the website domain costs. I’ve made several websites myself and generally domains come for as little as $10 dollars a year. Either way – I am grateful for all you have done thus far.

    As for your option to charge say $50 per hour for personal consulting. That doesn’t sound too bad considering the ridiculous rates some other people charge.

    Good luck with your studies!

    AD

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