As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. Skilled professional, accountant, customer service specialist, marketer, sign-maker...mind-reader? Maybe not. Without a doubt, knowing exactly what your customer wants can be tricky. We talked to Thumbtack’s most active customers to ask them what they look for when choosing a pro on Thumbtack. Here’s what they care about.
1. Availability and clarity.
Customers told us that completing a request on Thumbtack takes the chase out of finding a great hire — and it’s also a bonus for pros. Requests provide the information pros need to decide whether a job will be the right fit for your skillset or schedule. So when you connect with a customer, don’t hesitate. Reach out right away and make sure your quote clearly states your services, costs and availability.
“I run a small business so I’m always multitasking and my schedule is tight. Thumbtack makes sure that the pros you hire can come and work for you as soon as you need them. Availability is what really sets pro on Thumbtack apart. I hired a packer and they came same day.” —Yolanda F., Washington D.C.
“Without Thumbtack I would be spending all of my time bidding on projects, and that’s a long and exhaustive process. In the end it’s about finding a good pro who’s a fit for the job and whose schedule aligns with my timeline.” —Kara B., Los Angeles
“Rather than doing all the legwork myself, the pros come to me with the details of their service. I’ve found pros are really good at answering your questions upfront and being transparent about what they will and won’t do for a project.” —Stuart M., San Francisco
“Several times, I thought, ‘I’m around this weekend and wouldn’t it be really great to get this one thing done.’ On Thumbtack, I could find a tile guy who happens to have an opening that same weekend.” —Bret W., San Francisco
2. A dynamite profile.
Customers are looking for a profile that is well-written, clear, and that provides proof of past work. When we asked customers what they look to first in a pro’s profile, the answer was always the same: photos, photos, photos.
“Seeing photos on Thumbtack profiles and talking through it with pros was really helpful to figuring out what I actually wanted.” —Shabrina J., New York
“Budget was a big factor, so we wanted to see who was the most cost effective, but we also weighed who most closely matched the aesthetic that we were going for. When looked at photos from the pro I chose, I just really liked her work. It seemed like the brides she was working with were people that reminded me of me and people I’d want to hang out with.”—Lindsay S., St. Louis
“I started a Pinterest board to share with potential hires because I wanted them to know what I wanted from the start. When I saw pictures in their profile that matched what I was looking for, they would move to the top of my list.” —Yolanda F., Washington D.C.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good review is worth a million photos. Reviews make or break a customer’s decision to hire a pro, and the more reviews they have in front of them, the better. But keep in mind that one bad review won’t hurt you — customers understand that less-than-glowing reviews happen and pros with slightly less than five stars are generally perceived with similar levels of trust.
“The reviews on Thumbtack are honest and that helps me a lot. I found the reviews really very helpful.” —Elida S., Los Angeles
“Eighty percent of the time, if someone is well reviewed and highly reviewed you know that pro will be competent and affordable. I’ve been really happy with the way people are represented on Thumbtack.” —Kara B., Los Angeles
“The process of finding quality pros is a lot harder when you’re doing it on your own. When I come to Thumbtack I feel more comfortable because I can read the reviews. I know that it’s a reputable resource so I feel really safe with whoever I find.” —Catherine H., New York
“It’s so important for me to be able to go on and read reviews from people whose projects are relevant to my own.” —Bret W., San Francisco
5. Ongoing communication.
Communication builds trust. Thumbtack makes it easy for you to message back and forth with potential leads and to schedule a time to consult over the phone. Don’t be shy with your customers — the more they hear from you, the more comfortable they feel reaching out in return, and the better their chance of hiring you.
“I like using the Thumbtack messaging service because I prefer to have all of my vendors in one place. Having that ability to string conversations together within the app and to keep them organized by project is so useful.” —Kara B., Los Angeles
“To start, I do a few back and forths on the Thumbtack messaging service and that evolves into a 10 minute call. When you call a pro and they are really engaged and ask the right questions, it makes the process of picking a pro much easier.”—Catherine H., New York
“I like that I can write messages in Thumbtack and I don’t have to use my email account, I can do it right there. It makes everything so much easier.” —Elida S., Los Angeles
What have you heard from customers? Share your insights in the Get hired section and share your comments below.
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That's amazing advice, Serge! Gotta know — is that true for recurring clients too? If you've worked with a customer on their fountain before and they want you to work on something that's slightly outside of your target, do you refer them out or take it on to build good will?
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According to his calculations, Dallas-based accountant JR Gramstad gets a 2,300 percent return on his investment as a pro on Thumbtack. Here’s what the business savvy accountant shares about getting a business off the ground.
1. Invest your money wisely.
When I started my business in November 2015, I looked at many different print, online and advertising services. Nothing I have used has come close to the ROI (return on investment) that Thumbtack has generated. By my last calculation, Thumbtack has generated over 2,300 percent on the investment I have put into it.
2. Make a great impression.
First impressions matter, especially on Thumbtack. Clients want to know that the professional can handle their tax situation.
3. Build a great profile.
Take the time to set up your profile properly. Clients look that what you write or if you even bothered to fill it out at all. Make sure your pictures and headshot look great. Do like I did and hire someone on Thumbtack to take it! Ask for the client to leave you a review. I have had clients outside of Thumbtack hire me just because I had outstanding Thumbtack reviews!
4. Three other marketing tools to use.
In the accounting industry, word of mouth is always a primary marketing tool. If you do a good job for clients, they will tell their friends and family. I have used other marketing tools such as Facebook and Google. Those tools combined with Thumbtack has been a successful mix so far.
5. Know your client.
Understanding your prospective clients is so important. The better we know them, the more effectively we can craft our initial message. While we can’t possibly know everyone on a personal level, a professional should be able to anticipate a prospects’ needs based on past success. If the initial message fails to communicate the potential for success, the client might pick another pro, so it’s critical we have a profile or persona for the ideal prospect.
What are your tips? Share them in the Using Thumbtack or post your comments below.
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In less than six months, makeup artist Marisa Warren moved to Austin and built her beauty company, Velvet Beauty, from a fledgling business into a full-blown enterprise. She relied on artistic collaborations, Thumbtack and good old elbow grease to kickstart her company, and two years later business is better than ever. Here’s how she closes deals, gets reviews (100+ five-star reviews!) and keeps jobs coming even during the slow season.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
In 2015, one week before I left San Francisco for Austin, a colleague told me she was starting her own business. I was so curious how she could do that in the tough SF beauty market, and she told me about Thumbtack. I thought she was so bold. I joined Thumbtack in San Francisco to test the waters and went full force when I moved. In Austin, I met a bunch of photographers and was able to build up my portfolio. I offered discounts in my first six months to build business. Within six months of me going all out, I was established.
How did you choose what to include in your Thumbtack profile?
I put my story on my profile. It’s the story of how my business has grown. I talk about how my aesthetic is more natural, I like enhancing natural features as opposed to heavy makeup. It targets the Austin brides.
I constantly change the photos on my profile. I get new photos all the time and I only use professional photos. I try to keep a good variety: model shoots, different ages, different skin colors. I show my range. Clients tell me that other makeup artists are using photos from their phones on their profiles. They like that I use professional photos.
What has been your learning curve on setting the right job preferences?
It’s changed quite a bit. I want to focus mainly on makeup (as opposed to both hair and makeup which is an option in my field), and have set my preferences for that.
You’ve grown enough that you need assistants, how does that work?
I hire girls who are just starting their careers. Once they have been trained, I bring them on as assistants for an hourly fee and pay them as contractors. Right now I have a pool of five assistants. They get experience and I get help I need when I have a ten-person bridal party that all need makeup at the same time. No one girl will do a whole face, though. I have my hands in every part of the makeup. I find women who specialize in lips, or eyes, and that’s what they focus on. It’s a teamwork thing.
How do you stay busy even when it’s slow season?
I have learned to be flexible with my prices. I’m successful because I want to be busy, so I cater to the flexibility of their budget. During the wedding season, I’m stricter about my costs, but I’ve learned that on a Monday in off-season, I can be flexible. That’s the great thing about Thumbtack — I’m able to talk directly to the customer and find something that works for both of us.
You’ve styled some seriously famous people. What’s that like?
I was hired for a business conference to work onsite at the Austin Convention Center for three days. I as set up in a fancy green room to touch up presenters, hosts, and big internet people who were presenting. Turns out the special guest was Matthew McConaughey. I’m glad I didn’t know until the morning of, otherwise I would have been nervous. His wife came too, and she’s gorgeous. We were together in the green room for 45 minutes. At first he didn’t want any touch-ups, but after a while I convinced him to let me even out his skin a bit. I’m so glad I did, now I have him on my client list. He went on and killed it onstage and I was so happy. I wouldn’t have worked with him were it not for Thumbtack.
What are your best tips? Share a few in the Get hired section and leave a comment below.
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Knowing exactly how much to charge for your services is as much an art as a science. Staying competitive is impossible if you don’t raise your prices, but knowing when to do so is tricky. We caught up with professionals in all different industries to understand when they decided to raise their prices and why. Based on their feedback, here are six signs that it’s time to think about charging more.
1. Your competitors charge more than you.
Having the lowest prices in town can help when you’re trying to get a business off of the ground. But once you’ve established yourself, it’s time to raise your rates. Find out what other people in your industry are charging, and make sure you’re in range, but still competitive. Remember that having the lowest prices isn’t always the best business move, and tends to attract people who are making a decision based solely on price.
2. You’re so busy, you’re turning down work.
If your workload is at capacity, you’re doing something right. You probably have a great reputation and lots of referrals — good on you. But if you find yourself in the position of having to tell clients you don’t have the bandwidth to take on any more work, it’s time to raise your prices. Clearly your work is valued, and your rates should take supply and demand into consideration. You might even use that extra income on things like payroll or marketing that may not be the best use of your time and frees you up to accept more business.
3. The cost of doing business has increased.
If your operating costs have gone up because of things like inflation, rising labor costs or steeper prices on equipment and repairs but your profits have not, it might be time to raise your prices. Make sure you have a comprehensive bookkeeping system that includes your revenues, costs, and profit so you know exactly how much you’re making and spending. Then track those costs over time to see how much you’ll need to raise your prices to keep making money.
4. You haven’t raised your rates in quite a while (or ever).
When you first started your business, there’s a good chance you didn’t initially charge what you were worth as a way to attract customers and get your foot in the door. But if a significant amount of time has passed and you still haven’t increased your rates, it’s time to give yourself a raise.
5. You’ve gotten better and learned new things.
It’s common to price low when you’re getting started, in large part because you’re still developing your skill set. As you invest more in training and developing new competencies, you deserve to make more money. If you’ve gained new skills or improved on old ones, it should be easy to justify an increase in prices.
6. Your customers are high maintenance.
It’s an odd psychology. But how much you charge says a lot about how much you value your work. If a customer feels like they’re getting too much of a steal (or worry they’re doing something “on the cheap”) there is a good chance they’ll want to micromanage your work. If you charge more — and prove your worth it — how your customers treat you will follow suit.
How do you know your price is right? Tell us in Trending topics and share your comments below.
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Ian McCarthy and Rosa Lynley built their travelling bartending service after spending most of their working lives in the restaurant industry. Now they run a business that sources locally and mixes drinks with attention and care. Here’s their story, as told to Thumbtack.
Rosa and I had been working in and out of restaurants for more or less our whole lives, and met while working together at a bar in the city. We both knew that we wanted to do something on our own, but it’s very expensive to start a restaurant or do anything creative like that without investors.
We realized we needed something that would be light on its feet. We wanted to make really good, interesting drinks, and we wanted to make them without compromising on materials.
We’re not doing one hundred or two hundred gigs on a small scale or time frame, so it’s worth it for us. For example, we’ve created a relationship with a big client that is now in the low-to-mid five figures. That initial bid cost us $12, and now that one client is going to pay for all of the money that we ever spend.
We all have a story. Tell yours in the Pro Forum and share your comments below.
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Vaughn Chung runs Chung Music Academy in Houston. Here’s how he built his business, as told to Thumbtack:
My parents moved here from Vietnam during the war, and they brought music with them. But it was always something they did only in private. I remember hearing my dad tuning his guitar at night when he thought that I was asleep. When I was ten, I told him I wanted to learn to play and he agreed to teach me. We didn’t have money for lessons, so he bought me books and CDs and practiced with me. It’s probably part of why I teach music today.
Being the greatest player doesn’t make you the greatest teacher or networker. In the five years I’ve been on Thumbtack I’ve learned how to be better on social media, better at networking with people, and learning through trial and error to what works and what doesn’t. People get discouraged in this line of work because there are so many peaks and valleys. There are months you do really well and months you don’t do so well. Adversity reveals who you are, so you have to believe in who you are and what your philosophy is. If you commit to that, good things tend to happen.
I went from zero reviews five years ago to 70 five-star reviews, so it’s been a pretty big journey.
Everyone has a story. Tell us yours in the Community Forum.
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We can’t wait to have more Self Made celebrations like the one we hosted in San Francisco this spring. Nearly 300 pros from across the U.S. joined us for a day of workshops, networking, employee feedback sessions and fun. While we’re brainstorming our next big shindig, here’s where to catch up on all of the Self Made sessions, workshops and other resources. It’s our way of bringing the magic of the Self Made event straight to your virtual doorstep.
Presentation videos. Stream the event presentations and sessions on your own time, including an overview from Thumbtack’s head of product Noam Lovinsky on how Thumbtack works today, and an inspirational panel with four hardworking, self made Thumbtack pros.
Session recaps. Don’t have time to watch all the sessions? Get the short version with these easy to skim articles and other Self Made resources.
Self Made stories. Who are the Self Made? They’re pros exactly like you. Hear their stories in their own voices — and maybe even share a few of your own .
Other pros just like you. The Self Made event was also the first time we introduced the new Thumbtack Pro Community . The Pro Community is an online meeting place for Thumbtack pros in all professions everywhere around the country, a place to share tips and talk shop. Who said you need a big fancy event to talk shop and network? Not us.
Catch up on all of the Self Made sessions and resources online here.
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By Thumbtack co-founder Sander Daniels
Building a business and starting a family are the two most rewarding things that I’ve done in my life. But doing them together, at the same time, wasn’t easy. In the beginning I had no balance. I slept in a closet while my company was rejected for funding time and time again. I spent all of my time learning totally new skills, staying up late and waking up early to get everything done. It wasn’t sustainable — my wife and I both knew it.
My work-life balance tools.
My wife is a working mom and the one responsible for most of what I know about balancing my work life and my family life. Here’s what we’ve learned about balancing our jobs with our home life.
Find your values. For us, this one was easy: family. There’s no doubt in my mind that my family comes first. My family is my number one value. My business is my vision and professional fulfillment.
Invest in your personal health and wellness. When you run a business, your personal health has to become a huge priority. This means taking care of your body, setting healthy limits and investing time in activities that will fulfill you beyond your job and allow you to be creative in new and exciting ways.
Minimize distractions. This is the tough one. Ask yourself what’s frivolous in your life — what doesn’t align with your values or your business goals — and cut it out. That doesn’t mean cutting out things you love. Far from it! It means focusing on where you spend your energy and making sure you’re aligned.
Stay organized. Keep a calendar, make to-do lists. Whatever you do to stay organized, make sure it’s a vital part of your daily routine. And don’t skimp on personal obligations. Schedule date nights in advance and make time for your home life to keep your work life at work.
Don’t get discouraged. Remember no single day is balanced. Some days will be work from the time your alarm goes off to when you’re back in bed. Other days, it’s full-on family time. Most days, it’s a mix. For us, the secret to not burning out has been making sure your time is an even blend.
A few more tips from other pros.
But that’s just what has worked for my family. Here’s a list of work-life strategies the group brainstormed during our Self Made session. We talked about how to find the right balance — and knowing how to spot the signs that things are out of whack.
Think of at least three signs that you look out for to help you determine if your life is out of balance.
Addicted to your smartphone
Name at least five must-haves or qualities that describe your version of a fulfilled life.
Having time to start a family
Having boundaries and guidelines
Working to live vs. living to work
Showing gratitude every morning
What is the most successful tactic you have learned that helps you strike a better work-life balance?
Working from home one day per week (if possible)
Taking time to get organized
Having a clear vision/purpose
Taking a trip
Doing things right away instead of procrastinating
Learning how to say "no"
Taking at least one day off per week
Including family and friend events in your schedule
For more on balancing work and life, try this guided reflection print-out from our session. And here’s one specifically for business owners who work with your partner or spouse .
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Sergey Shikhalev is a Top Pro handyman in San Francisco who has been hired 500+ times. Here’s what he told us about building his business, in his own words.
My wife always wanted to live in San Francisco. Three years ago, I gave in. Back in Virginia, I worked in a shipping yard, but that didn’t exist here. I was in a new place with no job. A friend of mine suggested Thumbtack. Within six months, I was busy enough to work full-time. Now I only work for myself. I’m so glad we made it here. We love it.
Are you self-made? Tell your story in the comments below.
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