Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Business, Pleasure or Charity ?

One piece of advice which I’ve been given by more than one person is this : - if you can make your hobby into your business, then you’ve cracked it. Its something I can well believe is true, but its not something I have ever been able to put into practice.

I do know a few people who make their living through running quizzes, and writing questions. However I can’t imagine that it can be an easy thing to do. The people I know are all dedicated quizzers, who love their quizzes, who have put a lot into building up their reputation and their clientele, and put a great deal of care and effort into their work, not necessarily for a huge amount of remuneration either. I should imagine that there’s quite a bit of competition out there too, and when you consider how cheaply you can pick up a set of quiz questions off the net, the chances of someone being able to start up on their own on the cheap and make a go of it seem pretty slim.

This is not to say that I haven’t ever sold a quiz. I did once sell a quiz I’d put together for the rugby club, on ebay ,just to see if a) there was a market for it, and b) if it was worth the effort of selling it. To be honest after you’d taken into account the time and effort put into making the quiz, and the cost of the seller’s fee, printing it and posting it, you weren’t making much of a profit. Still it was interesting to go through the process once.

This is not to say that I haven’t made some money from a quiz. In fact I did just that two weeks ago – just not for me. I produced a fund raising quiz evening for the school. Charity and fund raising quizzes are things that I’ve put on occasionally at different times in the last few years, but I’ve done more in the last 3 years than in the previous 20 years put together. I suppose that this might in part be due to the Mastermind thing. I don’t know that being able to put ‘Quiz Master – Mastermind Winner etc. etc. “ on the poster ever enticed anyone through the doors, or ever put an extra pound in the till, but I did have more requests after my final was shown than I’d had before.

I mention fund raising quizzes because today a colleague asked me if he could have the set of questions I used in the fund raising quiz a couple of weeks ago to use in an event he is involved in . Which was quite flattering, especially considering that one of my fellow governors asked me just the same thing last week. Its not impossible that this set of questions could do the rounds, and that somewhere down the line in the next 12 months or so I might actually find myself in a one off quiz where that very same set of questions are asked. It has happened once before. Still, that’s not really why I write.

The two requests seem to confirm my feeling that I am actually getting better at putting together this kind of evening. What have I learned over the last 12 months or so ? Well, here’s just a few observations : -

Up to quite recently I thought that giving value for money for the people paying the entrance fee meant providing tons of questions – that is, a full ‘rugby club’ style quiz of 8 rounds of 10 questions, with a handout as well. The thing is though, that the majority of people I get attending charity evenings aren’t people who normally play in quizzes every week. Doing a shorter quiz of 5 rounds of 10 questions seems to work a lot better. There’s enough questions to get your teeth into, but not so many that you lose the non quizzers.

Conversely, two different handouts – one of pictures, lets say, and one of cryptic clues tend to work better than just one.

Again – up to fairly recently I thought that you shouldn’t make it too easy. What I try to do now is make sure that there’s enough gimmes that each person in each team can answer something – even if it means that there are some very high scores in the quiz. What we might think of as old chestnuts would effectively be new questions to people who never actually play in quizzes.

People like prizes – and they don’t necessarily have to be expensive prizes. Case in point. In my school fund raising quiz I provided three prizes – a bottle of wine for the top adult or adult/child combined team. Cost – nothing , I’d won it in a quiz 2 nights before. The top pupil only team won a box of chocolates – something like 2 boxes for £5 . The other box I used as a spot prize. I asked a question with a numerical answer – anyone could then pay 50p , and write their guess on a piece of paper , and the closest to the correct answer would receive the chocolates. That spot prize alone raised £25 on the night, which was 5 times the cost of all 3 prizes together.

Its probably fairer, and more lucrative, to set the entry at £1 per person, rather than a flat rate per team.

If you explain where the money’s going, and what its in aid of right from the start of the quiz, people are usually very supportive, and forgiving if you drop any clangers during the evening.

When you actually get started, make it clear that you’re going to have a break at the halfway stage. You’ll want that to sell refreshments. ( If you don’t do this you’re missing a chance to push up the money you can make in the evening ). When you’re actually doing the quiz, though, don’t drag it out. Crack on , and keep it moving.

The best thing about the evening is people tend to be really grateful , yet you have actually been doing something you really enjoy . Everyone's a winner.


Chris said...

Hi Dave,

I agree how difficult it can be. I am also qualified as a running coach and for a couple of years now I've been trying to get to a point of making some money form it using the Internet....and failing!

I run about half a dozen charity quizzes a year which led me to my only paying quiz which is the Christmas quiz at the golf club. They make a fortune out of it and are happy to pay me £50 to set and run it. I agree about making questions easier rather than harder. I have a rule - the question must result in people either answering, reacting with "Oh, I knew that!" when they hear the answer or reacting with "I never knew that, that's interesting/funny/I could have guessed/who'd have believed. If it is just a question to show how clever I am, don't set it!!

DaveBill said...

I attend a quiz every Wednesday which has must take AGES to write.

You've got 6 written rounds of 10 questions - three rounds of which will always be a round about a specific town, on this day in history and news of the week. (plus three assorted others).

On top of that, there are 5 handouts!! Two picture rounds, 20 Anagrams, A 'list' (which last night was Number Ones which start with the word I) and a Wipeout Round.

You can get a score of around 225 each week, depending on bonus marks - yet the whole thing is over and done between 8.30 and 10.45.

Londinius said...

Hi Chris

Yes - really good rule about the questions. My late friend Allan Coombs always used to say that the very best questions are the ones you know that you know, but just can't bring the answer out.

Hi Dave

That sounds wonderful - to get it over in that amount of time means just getting the hell on with it, which I totally approve of.


DanielFullard said...

My friend is a quizmaster and because I work as Tutor/Teacher (of sorts) he emails me his quizzes to use as team building exercises and such like. He tends to do one quiz per week and uses it at the three venues he operates on with only slight variations as one tends not to appreciate pop music rounds.

I would love to run my own weekly quiz but its finding a venue. I am appealing for co.durham quiz fans at the moment (see my blog)

Valley Libran said...

A picture / dingbat / cryptic round seems to get people settled quite early.
Easier questions keep more people in the running - so the final round can contain some real stinkers, without fear of losing interest too early.
Popular Culture i.e. Celebs / TV / Adverts etc. levels the playing field against the 'professionals'.
A music round gives the Quizmaster a chance to regroup his thoughts / catch up on marking / have a pint. (But has the disadvantage of being a set time - so you can't speed things up if running late.)

Above all, make it fun.

Londinius said...

Hi Daniel

A good way in would be to volunteer to do one at a local , already established quiz. Believe me, somewhere will be delighted to have a volunteer come in.

Hi Valley Libran

- and welcome to LAM. Thanks for taking time and trouble to leave a comment. Yes, fun is what it should always be about - even if I do take it all far too seriously a lot of the time.