Thumbtack… service or rip-off?
I’ve been a user of Thumbtack as a professional for several several months now and have spent a decent amount of money on credits. I have sent lots of quotes and have gotten a few replies but none of my leads has resulted in any work. Now, I know it’s not me. I know that I cannot expect to get every job out there, but based on my work and reasonable prices, I should be getting at least some jobs. The closest I have come is one man who was ready to hire me but we put it on hold because the weather started getting bad, and the woman that flat out said “yes, I want you to do my wedding” but then failed to send in her contract and deposit.
Honestly, I’ve wondered how many real professionals use this site. Of course, the ones with a lot of bookings don’t need to nor do they have the time, I’m sure. After talking to him about it, a friend of mine submitted a request for work in my area because he was curious the types of quotes he’d get. He got back one. ONE. From a photographer who, to be honest, was not any good and who lived 80 miles away. (Think underexposed, over-processed pictures.)
I started to look around the web. I found that a lot of other people also have this complaint and there is a camp of people out there that believe that Thumbtack actually generates false requests for work to make it look like they have a productive site and get professionals to pay to bid on these fake jobs. One man even proved this, as far as he was concerned, by asking the “client” baited questions where he knew the answer was “that place does not exist” and the client answered as if they had no idea of the venue in which they were supposedly getting married. He also posted how when he had credits that he’d purchased that he could use for quotes, he would get a lot more leads than when he did not have credits. I hadn’t thought about until that point, but that’s completely true. It’s a way to keep you buying. (Editing to add, one month later, I exhausted my credits out and I think I am down to 1, which you can’t do anything with. Since I wrote this post, I have received maybe 3-5 lead emails, when they were once coming several times a day when I had credits.)
Here’s one thing that’s really waving red flags at me: the complete and utter disregard for any kind of consistency. Case in point: asking questions. You pay credits to send a quote but you can ask some public questions if you need a bit more info before giving a quote. I have done this very few times, but 90% or more of the time that I have, my questions have been deleted and/or removed because they were somehow deemed inappropriate. Of course, I have NEVER asked an inappropriate question.
About a month or so ago, a lead came up asking for someone to do professional head shots in an office setting. The user stated their budget was “more than $1,000.” With this info, I was thinking this must be a pretty big company needing to update some kind of directory be it a website or whatever. So I asked “how many people?” As a photographer, this is essential information. If I am going to go to an office and set up lights and a backdrop, it makes a big difference whether there are 5 people to be photographed or 500. There’s even a big difference between 5 and 50. It all adds up to time spent and, as we all know, time is money, Jack. So, really, not an inappropriate question at all as it would give me an idea how much time it would take to shoot and edit/prepare and therefore would help determine my price. Of course, in typical Thumbtack style, my question was deleted for being inappropriate. The email telling me this invited me to respond if I had questions. I basically said, “what up?” This is where I mention that I had seen other photographers ask this question many times before, and had it answered. (If you get a lead, you will also get public asked and answered questions when the client answers them.) Thumbtack responded, after about 5 days, with some lame form letter sounding bull about maintaining the best quality of the site and that the client is given the chance to answer that question when they first fill out the form. Um, OKAY? Well the client did not answer that question in the first place, so it needed to be answered; even a range such as 30-40 would have been fine. Then? Less than two weeks later, I get another email of a publicly answered question… you guessed it, the question was “how many people?” (Editing to add that my friend who submitted the request for work said that the form did NOT ask specifically “how many people.” So I was flat out lied to by the Thumbtack employee. The form basically had a spot for “anything else you want to add.”)
In reading other people’s accounts of their experience with Thumbtack and questions being deleted or edited, it seems that a lot of questions that might have answers that lead you to realize a lead is fake are the ones targeted.
I know that a friend of mine has gotten some actual jobs from Thumbtack, so I know it can’t be all fake. But I feel like I have been taken. I am not laying blame of course, but I joined and spent my money because my friend was getting actual jobs. So then it begs the question, why can’t I? Are all the real people who want quotes really that cheap? I do have to say that one of the responses I got to a quote on a wedding sounded hopeful; they were asking me questions and what not, then suddenly, they told me thanks for my time but they’d decided to go with someone who was “portfolio building” AKA free.
I am done with that site until they can make some changes to better the service and prove that the leads are not fake, such as providing the professional with the client’s info like email address, phone number, etc., so the professional can really follow up with a quote they have sent in.