Readers looking for a book know they can turn to Amazon. Shoppers looking for… well, anything, can turn to eBay. But what if you’re looking for a Web designer or a caterer? Or a wedding planner or a house cleaner? What if you’re looking for the kinds of local services that tend to be supplied by freelancers but which aren’t available from outlets like Amazon or eBay, and you want to make a hire now, as easily as any other online purchase? Today those buyers can turn to Thumbtack — and freelancers can advertise their services in one location at a site aimed directly at the clients they’re used to serving.
Thumbtack lists 230,000 suppliers, about 70 percent of which are home improvement professionals such as carpenters, electricians and cleaners, and event service suppliers such as disk jockeys and wedding planners. The remaining 30 percent of freelancers though cover a broad range of categories, from Web designers to auto services and hot dog trucks. About 3,000 new freelancers and small businesses join every week.
Pay Per Lead
Membership is free but freelancers pay for leads. Buyers answer a series of questions describing the job they need completed, and Thumbtack sends the wanted ad to qualified service providers. Those freelancers then respond with a quote and a pitch, and the lead makes his or her choice.
“We seek to be not a directory listing site, but rather a ‘decision engine’ where you instantly and conveniently find, book, and pay for any kind of local service you need,” explains Sander Daniels, the site’s co-founder and Director of Business Development. “Right now, you can go to our site, submit virtually any kind of job request anywhere in the country, and receive 3-5 bids on that job to your email inbox within 24 hours.”
Freelancers can choose to pay a commission of between 4 and 15 percent for each job they win (not including the cost of materials) or a flat fee of between $4 and $40 to answer an ad from a lead. Freelancers listed on the site can realistically expect to receive at least two good leads a month. Some receive a dozen or more.
For some freelancers, the service has been remarkably successful. Judy Musgrove is a freelance Web designer who has been on Thumbtack since the end of August. Before joining Thumbtack, her business had been based entirely on word-of-mouth. Although she was reluctant to pitch her services to people she didn’t know, she finds that the site sends her between four and six job requests every month from across the United States. Most of those calls for help are coming from small business owners who need help with WordPress setup but she’s also asked to design business cards and to manage social media accounts.
Mahal Ramos, a resumé and speech writer, has been on the site for about a year, and has a similar success rate, receiving about five requests each month from people she’s able to serve remotely.
“The clients fit the profile of the kinds of clients I normally service,” she says.
Steps for Success on Thumbtack
1. Complete the Profile
Add a picture, complete the FAQ, build credentials and ask for reviews. The more complete your profile, the more it will be noticed.
2. Link Your Thumbtack Profile to Your Social Media Activity
Post directly to the site and place links on Facebook and LinkedIn that lead to your Thumbtack page.
3. Build Your Credentials
Verified credentials build trust, something that’s very important for remote freelancers. Thumbtack provides plenty of ways to verify its members. They may be overkill but an absence of a verified Facebook page or LinkedIn account chips away at that trust.
4. Ask for Reviews
Use Thumbtack’s system to pick up testimonials.
5. Offer Transparent Pricing
Once you’ve received the lead, you’ll still have to win the job. A clear price structure and a complete response will help.
Write Your Own Interview
But while the theory of how Thumbtack works is simple enough, the practice is a little more complex. As with any job site, freelancers have to create profiles that look inviting, build trust and allow the buyer to feel confident about making the hire. Sander Daniels recommends filling out the listing as completely as possible, and notes that the site encourages freelancers to do so by awarding points for adding photos, answering questions about their business or linking social media accounts to the profile. A dedicated tool also lets freelancers email past clients to encourage them to leave reviews.
A typical page on Thumbtack will contain a picture of the freelancer, a series of credentials such as address, phone number, social media page and website that show the seller is genuine and reliable, an hourly rate and a quick list of services. Freelancers can also add a slideshow (useful for designers), a map that shows the location of their offices and even a video. But it’s the mini-interview that really stands out. It acts as a kind of FAQ that gives freelancers a chance to squish objections and push sales points.
It’s also possible though to promote the profile away from the site itself. Judy Musgrove’s profile, like that of Mahal Ramos, is one of the first to be returned by people browsing the site for writers. She puts that success down to a combination of a complete profile and a close link with her social media networking. As she’s fine-tunes her LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, she makes sure that her posts correspond to the information on her Thumbtack page. She also places posts directly on Thumbtack and feeds them into Twitter so that her Thumbtack page both looks active and delivers valuable information to leads.
“Know your keywords,” Musgrove advises, “and use them throughout your networks. People want to see that there is relevancy. Provide links that take people to examples of your work, your websites, your social networks. Show them that you are active on the Internet and that you participate.”
Of course, all of that will only attract attention. You’ll still have to win the job — and impress the client enough to pass your name on to friends and colleagues.