Expert marketplaces like Clarity.fm are a goldmine for revenue.
Needless to say that investors spend tons of money on seeding the marketplace industry ‘cause the benefits that they get are beyond comparison.
That’s how Clarity.fm blossomed: Clarity.fm has initially fundraised the same year it was founded. Then after a couple of years, it raised over $1M in 2014 when their traction had grown.
So, building a marketplace like Clarity seems like an awesome idea, don’t you think?
1. What is Clarity.fm?
Clarity.fm is an online marketplace that connects entrepreneurs seeking professional advice from experts in their niche.
Having launched in 2012, it is currently the most trusted marketplace for consulting services in the USA.
Although, Clarity is not the only expert marketplace on the market:
There are a couple of similar platforms, like 24sessions.com and Zeqr.com.
How different is 24sessions:
- focused on the European market
- communication via a video conference
- financial, recruitment, sales, and account management consultations
How different is Zeqr:
- e-learning platform
- offers video lessons
Although these platforms are quite different from a traditional advisory platform like Clarity.fm, they all have similar user flow and core features.
Analysing the market, we can assert that the concept of a consulting marketplace is fairly successful and profitable.
Aforementioned Zeqr has an annual revenue of $3M and 24sessions raised $1.1M in series A from Capital Mills in 2019.
2. Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Marketplace like Clarity.fm
#1: Business side of your marketplace
It all starts with a DISCOVERY PHASE.
It is an important part of your business plan since it will point out the direction towards which your marketplace will be going.
As always there are multiple questions that should be answered before actually building the platform.
TOP 5 questions to answer before moving onto the technical part:
- Time frame: Would you rather start with custom development or with a white label solution for building a marketplace?
- Competition and Differentiation: Are there any competitors besides Clarity.fm? What is your UVP and how are you going to differentiate: by niche, geo-targeting or well-known experts?
- Revenue model: How are you going to monetize your expert platform: monthly subscription or pay-per-minute transactions?
- Chicken-and-egg: How are you going to avoid marketplace leakage?
- Investment: Are you going to bootstrap or fundraise?
All things considered, your Clarity-like marketplace must solve a problem in order to fit the market. It is essential to build an expert marketplace that will be different from Clarity.fm.
#2: Technical side of your marketplace
And now your DEVELOPMENT PROCESS begins.
Сlarity.fm is a golden example of a set of features for such advisory platforms.
So let’s overview the core features for Clarity-like marketplaces.
3. Main Features of Clarity.fm
1) User verification
The most important thing for building trust on your platform is an expert’s verification.
- Personal identity verification
One of the methods of personal identity verification is requesting to provide a passport, driver’s license, or another type of ID. In order to double-check the user, you can also ask for a phone number.
- Expert skills verification
You need to verify expert skills. A marketplace can either demand a certificate or publish works or the client’s feedback. The proof that the person is an expert in the field will rely heavily on the industry your marketplace works in.
2) Search System
For the client to find a suitable expert, it is crucial to build a well-designed search system with various filters. One of the ways to make a search system more convenient to use is to implement a tagging and filtering system.
Your experts should be sorted by their level of expertise. It is a must-have since it would be easier and faster for users to allocate the best experts in their field. Tags, on the other hand, are not obligatory, but they can serve as an additional tool for customer’s search convenience.
Furthermore, your platform should include experts’ sorting. Thus after filtering, a customer will be able to sort the results. For example by ‘the best match’ or by ‘the lowest price’.
Integration: This feature can be introduced by ElasticSearch.
3) Scheduling system
For both experts’ and customers’ convenience, your platform should have a built-in calendar for booking a consultation.
Benefits of a built-in calendar:
- specialists can manage their workload
- clients can see when the expert is available
- possibility to cancel or rearrange the consultation
An expert indicates available time slots in a built-in calendar. Since users might be from different countries, their time zones may vary. In order to avoid any confusion, your platform should use a universal time zone so that any user can see the correct time and date of a call according to their location.
Сreating marketplaces, our web development team saves user time zones in IANA format, which is the time zone database (a.k.a. TZ or Olson database).
It’s a universal database of information on global time zones used by computer programs and operating systems. For convenience, our development team keeps time in UTC and then converts it to the user’s time zone.
Overall, there are 2 calendar implementation options:
- Basic option: This particular option is used on the Clarity.fm marketplace: a customer is given 3 editable time slots. An expert either accepts one of the options or declines all of them and proposes their own.
- Advanced option: It is the most time-consuming choice because it takes a lot of time to integrate each expert’s personal calendar onto the platform.
Alternative: Another way to solve the scheduling issue is to implement a chat where participants can discuss what times and dates work for them and then an expert can book an agreed timeslot.
Integrations: Calendly, Doodle
The consulting platform should also be able to send emails and SMS-notifications with reminders and alerts about the time or date changes.
Integration: MailChimp, Twilio
4) Audio & Video Conference
For a consulting marketplace, it is essential to provide the possibility of a phone or a video call between the client and the expert.
Integration: Generally, audio or video calls are implemented with the help of Twilio and Zoom – cloud platforms for real-time communication in the browser. Twilio and Zoom are integrated via an API.
With these software systems, you can add Video, Voice and Screen Sharing to your marketplace.
Note: beyond the common choices there are also other software service providers for audio and video communication.
Recently, we’ve implemented a video call integration with VideoNor while developing our customer’s marketplace TikTalk.
A video call is one of the core features for TikkTalk. We need to make the video experience as seamless as possible that is why we’ve integrated VideoNor. VideoNor provides virtual video rooms that allow users to make a call from anywhere in the world. It also provides screen and content sharing, recording, and streaming.
- File & Screen sharing
Another feature that is worth mentioning here is File & Screen sharing. While having a video call, there may be a necessity to share files or to share a screen. Both Twillio and Zoom allows in-meeting file transfer and instant screen sharing.
For example, with Twilio API, you can enable screen sharing over Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) connections.
5) Payment system
- How to charge users
A marketplace acts as a mediator and regulates transactions.
On the one hand, experts need a guarantee that they will receive the payment. On the other hand, clients need to be sure that they will get the expertise they’ve paid for.
A marketplace can charge users either by time or by booked time slots.
Fun fact: On Clarity.fm an expert indicates an hourly rate but the platform shows an expert’s rate per minute. That is an interesting way of attracting customers since it is more appealing to look, for example, at $1,6 per minute rather than $96 per hour.
- Types of payment flow
1) Prepayment: after the call time is confirmed, a marketplace charges an expert for the time of the booked slot. The call will automatically stop when the time of the booked slot expires.
2) Escrow: When a consultation is booked, the fee is frozen and kept in a secure escrow account. When the consultation is completed, money is transferred to the expert’s account. If the consultation didn’t take place, the paid fee is refunded to the client.
3) Post Payment: In this case, the platform charges the client only right after the call.
You should choose a type of payment based on the correlation of your marketplace’s reputation with the cost of services your expert and platform provide.
In the beginning, you can choose post-payment, this will allow users to join the platform more easily. Though, you have to accept the risk of some money losses as users can simply leave the platform after the call and the client’s credit card could appear to be invalid.
With Escrow payment, both sides are safe, so it’s worth considering this option when you are sure of your reputation.
However, if you are still a newbie on the market then an escrow model might be a bit intimidating for your platform’s newcomers since they risk giving money to an unknown platform before receiving any kind of service.
- Ways to withdraw funds
Note: First of all, a marketplace should determine the minimal amount of money for an expert’s withdrawing. However, the platform should give a possibility to experts to indicate their personal minimal withdrawal amount, either automatically or manually.
Identifying the optimal withdrawal amount
Your marketplace’s minimal amount of withdrawal would influence both your customer retention and customer trust.
A small amount may be unprofitable due to bank fees, and a large minimum amount may demotivate new users.
- Choosing a payment gateway
The payment process can be managed by different payment providers, such as Stripe Connect, PayPal for marketplaces – Braintree, and Adyen
While choosing a payment provider for your advisory platform, there are a couple of factors to take into consideration:
- Geo limitations
- Transaction fees
Related: How to choose a Marketplace Payment solution?
The biggest challenge when choosing a payment provider is geo limitations that each payment provider has. They especially refer to merchants on your platform.
To take a closer look at geo limitations, none of the previously mentioned payment providers work in the UAE. While developing platforms for our clients from the United Arab Emirates we usually use Payfort, a payment provider from Amazon.
Here you can see the available geos for TOP 3 payment providers.
6) Review and Rating system
A rating system is a powerful tool for all user roles: admins, experts, and customers. It helps users find the most outstanding experts and admins to delete the ones that are neglectful.
Integration: The most common solution for marketplaces here is to use an in-house developed review and rating system and apply the custom logic required in their business.
There are a few things to keep in mind, after overviewing the core business and development aspects of building a Clarity.fm-like marketplace. All in all, having a solid business plan and an experienced development team should be enough for handling your own Clarity.fm-like marketplace.