Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why I dropped Thumbtack

As a freelance photographer and social media designer I am always looking for ways to let people know what I do. After all a freelancer with no clients is just an unemployed person with a better job description. In my research for how to find leads I came across a company called Thumbtack.

The purpose of the company is to match people who need stuff with people who do that stuff. There are several companies that do this in different ways. Elance and Odesk (which is merging with Elance) allows me to bid on jobs using a credit based system. Craigslist has geographic based, gig and job sections and is completely free to use.

Set up was fairly simple and quick. The first surprise was when I was asked to pay a third party to verify my identity. Several freelance sites do this. I don't pay for the service until I can determine if the site is going to be worth the cost, which ranges from $8 to $15. The site is then supposed to email me leads to bid on using credits. If I don't get the bid then I get my credits back so that I can try again. (Note: I've been told that although this is what Thumbtack claims will happen, it's not accurate. You get the credits back if the person who submitted the request doesn't view your bid. If it's viewed and then rejected then you loose the credits.)

Thumbtack's business plan does not allow for freelancers to browse open requests. This is frustrating because job sites will index the listings. So if I'm browsing Simply Hired I may find a posting from Thumbtack for a job I want to bid on. But when I click on the link there is no "sign in" only "sign up" and the job posting can't be found on Thumbtack's website. I emailed support at Thumbtack about this and their answers weren't helpful.

  • Change your geographic radius - The job posted on the job site was already in my designated radius
  • Update your profile - Everything except the $10 fee for a background check from a third party is done already.
  • Add more categories - which ones? The ones I didn't pick when I signed up because I can't do that? 
  • Add some reviews (clients like reviews) - With no LinkedIn integration and being to new to have any clients through Thumbtack how is that supposed to work?

I am less than impressed with the customer service. It was mostly cut and paste answers that didn't address my actual problem. A few days later I finally received notice of a bid request (one in the week I was member). It wasn't what I was looking for but I could do it so I filled out the quote. At the bottom of the page it alerted me that I didn't have enough credits to bid on the project. The project quote cost was 2 credits and I was 2 credits short. I clicked through to the payment page to purchase credits but was disappointed. Credits are bundled into sets. The smallest set is $5 for 3 credits. If I purchased this then I would have a single credit left over. The whole process felt like the site was trying to scam me. What was I going to do with just one credit?

Oh, I see, I'm supposed to buy more credits in another week or so when the next request comes in. Or spend the $18 to get 12 credits so that I'll have them ready.

Most sites that operate off of this model give you credits for setting up your portfolio. Enough so that you can bid on a request or two to try out the site. Thumbtack gives you points for setting up your portfolio. However all of my points apparently didn't equal 1 credit. This may be a hold over from when they started as a point based system before switching to credits.

Thumbtack also offers a way to get free credits, up to 30. Credits are given for posting a badge on your website (10 credits) that refers potential clients to use Thumbtack. This seems like a bad idea. Why send potential clients to a website that will allow them to get quotes and bids from other people? Not to mention a site that may not even offer you the ability to bid on the job yourself (See above mentioned issue about the photography job).

The other option is to write an article or blog post about the site (10 to 30 credits based on site's preference). I'm not sure exactly what they think people will write about them when they are brand new to the service. But then I wrote this after being a member for a week and getting only one "lead".