I also do not want to pay unless I feel I am (or our team is) a good fit for their design job. People contact us all the time for web programming because they think grphic designers are web programmers. We do not do that type of work and I would hate to pay for them to contact me. If we contact them, that is a different story. THen we feel the job is relavant to our skill set. For example if they are looking for grohic deisgn but they need a professional illustrator or cartoonist I would contact them as this is a different skill set even though it is in the category of "graphic design".
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Many are just leads and never send a job offer to any of the five people who pay. As a graphic designer, you were charging $34 for a logo job that I charge around $170 for. Way too expensive so I do not bid on logo jobs. I only bid on jobs like tradeshow booth design and brochure design $300+ in order to make sense of the $17 we have to pay for the graphic deisgn category. We were top pros 2 years ago and for 1 year when we first started. We go so many jobs with our portoflio, reviews, etc. But when my boss aw what he was paying per month for the services he asked me not to use Thumbtack anymore. Some months we would sepnd $100 but get in $1000 worth of work. Other months we spent $200 and did not get any jobs. In graphic design your competiton is websites like Upwork and Freelancer....although we only use Upwork and we are one of the top design teams on there for 9 years. They charge a subscription of $20 per month. We can bid on like 100 jobs. Then if we go over, we pay like $2 on each job thereafter. They also take 20% up to $500. Then 10% after that from jobs we get on there. I normally get 4 jobs per week on average. Thumbtack I am doing about 1 per month but I am not investing my time on here. If you modeled yourself after sites like that. They take a percentage of the job that is hired. Clients pay through the website and it is a safe way to pay. I like Thumbtack in theory and it has alot of potential but we cannot spend money on people who are just "looking" or "price checking" Most of the time the client does not even respond to questions when I follow up. They also expect you to be in their area....when we do not need to be in their local area as graphic design is pretty much done on email and remotely. We work for clients all across the world. Anyhow, too expensive, leads are "soft". I will wait until you have clients that pay on the website and you take a percentage after the job is awarded. In some categories, it might work. ie a kitchen remodeler does not mind spending $34 to bid on a job that could be $5,000. In our category a logo design is less than $200 and we have to pay $34. It does not make business sense for us.
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