Thumbtack: Pros & Cons / Tips & Tricks

Some of my clients are also professionals on Thumbtack, like me. Some are new to the game and are surprised at how much I've learned to strategize what I do on the service. I'm always happy to give what little advice I can.

First off, let me say that my relationship with Thumbtack is fairly new. I've been using the service for about 6 months and I've had some success with it. It's a love/hate relationship. I love doing the work, I love working with the clients, but I hate paying to get the work when a majority of those who submit requests never respond or provide feedback. 

Before I go any further, I should tell you what it is, and how Thumbtack works.  Professionals, (like graphic designers, window washers, lawyers, photographers, etc.), sign up for Thumbtack, create profiles, upload portfolio materials, fill out a bio about their services, etc.  Customers, (anyone with access to the internet in the USA), can then come to the Thumbtack website and request quotes from professionals for the services they are seeking. Unfortunately, this costs NOTHING for the customer, but costs something (prices vary by profession) to any professional who gets the request and wants to reply with a quote.  Requests only go out to 5 professionals and only within the United States. None of this eLance or oDesk junk of competing with teenagers, design students, or cheap labor in third world countries. No, professionals (and customers alike) must reside within the USA and be of a minimum age.  Also Thumbtack does not do contests where the designer basically works for free in competition with other designers, like 99designs. Read more about how Thumbtack works, here.

 

PROS

  • Professionals are ONLY in the USA. This is good for the customer and the pro. 
  • Thumbtack is fairly easy to use and pay for (PayPal or credit card).
  • Thumbtack customer service is pretty good (if you call Thumbtack, instead of emailing support). They are pretty understanding about glitches and bad requests.
  • Quotes are refunded if the potential client does not look at your quote in 48 hours.
  • Prices for credits (which you use to quote requests) seem pretty fair.
  • There are no contests or crowdsourcing like 99Designs, eLance or oDesk.

 

CONS

  • A majority of customers that you spend money on, and send quotes to, will NEVER respond to your quote or your correspondence.
  • Thumbtack often doesn't deem your "suggested questions" worthy of asking potential clients (which keeps you from being able to weed out fraudulent requests or requests for services you don't feel a fit for (i.e. I don't do design work for rap singers, non-profits, or "elegant", "upscale" types of businesses...my style doesn't fit those types of businesses)
  • Thumbtack says that customers are still waiting for you to submit a quote (as if it were personal) and this is false advertising. I have yet to have a customer state that they actually saw my particular profile and wanted me to personally quote their request.
  • I'm not sure that Thumbtack completely understands the professions, it is catering to. For example, people request "printing" (not design work at all, just printing) and "installation", under the category of graphic design. Thumbtack is a service professional site, not a site for manufacturing or printer services. (Although I'm happy to help a customer by pointing them in the right direction of a local print shop.)
  • Professionals are often left feeling like they are not listened to, or unimportant because thumbtack caters to the customer shopping for the professional (for free), not the professional seeking the customer (who pays)

TIPS & TRICKS

  • Always follow up on quotes you've sent, especially those that have been refunded after the 48 hour waiting period
  • Do not follow up with someone who has yet to look at your quote. They have 48 hours to look at it. Only follow up once they've looked at it, or it has been refunded.
  • You may not want to send a quote for requests with the following words in them, "personal project", "small company", "non-profit", "tight-budget", "school", "resume", anyone complaining about a previous professional, "just", "simple", "easy", anyone dictating how long it should take you, the professional, to complete the project. (These are just some of the "red flags", I look out for as a graphic designer.)
  • Do not quote any request that you do not feel has enough information. Either submit a question, (which most likely won't see the light of day), or simply click the "Decline" button and go on to the next request.
  • Do quote requests that you have the most interest in. Follow your heart. If you love animals, quote that animal shelter logo or veterinary hospital.
  • Keep your request emails for a week or more so that you can look through them and see if you've seen the same name or quote several times. Pay attention to names, cities and states. Do not submit quotes for duplicate requests. You should report them to Thumbtack, if you have the time.
  • Use the search feature in your quotes. If a request looks familiar, search for the name in your quotes to make sure you haven't bid on the same request before. (It might be that the customer doesn't like your profile or your work, so why waste money on bidding on them again.) Also, you might already have their contact info if you've done something for them before.
  • Only bid on REAL NAMES. Requests are supposed to be put in under real names, not "QR S", a company name or some other bogus name. Supposedly thumbtack has a way of weeding these out, but I see them all the time.
  • Don't bid on anything where they want you to compete. Your profile/portfolio should give them all the info they need to decide. I don't know about you, but I don't work for free. I have bills to pay.
  • If you want to get really picky, (and somewhat judgmental), you can run CityStats on the city, state and zip of the person bidding and see what the average income is in that area. If it's higher than the state average, you can gamble on it and submit a quote or just submit a quote because it's something you're passionate about.

Below are some screenshots (in slideshow format) of various things to look for and to look out for. Hover over the larger image for more details. They may help you to better understand some of the things I've discussed above. Please keep in mind that I use Thumbtack as a graphic design professional, I'm not sure how it looks from the viewpoint of other types of services.

I'm sure I've left out a bunch more things. I just heard that Google has put a bunch of money into Thumbtack so I'm hoping something good will come out of that as well. 

Professional Ethics Note: I also will not submit quotes to alter another designer's work unless the client specifies that #1 the original designer has refused to do the work, or #2 the original designer is no longer available (out of business, etc.).

I do my best to adhere to the "Code of Fair Practice" which can be found here: Code of Fair Practice