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Here’s How Photographers Can Use Thumbtack (The Right Way)

a photo of a hand holding an iphone with a Thumbtack quote displayed on the screen

Here’s How Photographers Can Use Thumbtack (The Right Way)

This article was written to help other freelancers make well-informed decisions about online marketing with Thumbtack and is geared towards them. 

While I can be somewhat critical of  Thumbtack’s policies nowadays, it has been a very useful tool in building my business and I’ve made many wonderful clients and connections using the service.  That being said, I’d like to delve into the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to this ever-growing service web site.

If you aren’t familiar already, Thumbtack is a service web site that allows professionals — from plumbers to photographers — to bid on current open project requests submitted through Thumbtack’s interface.  Requests range from consumer services like plumbing to B2B work like commercial photography.

I wrote about Thumbtack a couple years ago, sharing my experience and success with it as well as the answer to the question many have of it being scam (it’s not).  It seemed to me then and still does that Thumbtack can be a useful asset for professionals, but one with potential issues that need to be understood.

Upon inspecting my on web site the other day, I clicked on the widget/link that years ago Thumbtack asked me to post on my web site in return for “points” (that actually amounted to nothing worth any real value).  Initially I had liked the way this badge showed off my 5-star rating from clients, so I happily placed the widget there as requested.  It didn’t occur to me at the time that this link would redirect visitors from my web site to Thumbtack, which would then promptly ask the visitor to submit their needs to Thumbtack.

While this quote is free for the consumer, responding to it is not free for the professional.  The effect is that Thumbtack charges me for a lead that I provided them.  There’s no way of knowing just how many times this re-routing happened, if at all.

a small reviews widget on thumbtack

This is the widget/badge on my site.

The idea Thumbtack had was to drive traffic from the widget-holding site to their own web site, urging visitors to place a bid on their site and collect the money from professional bidders, all while creating backlinks that drove their Search Engine Optimization up and increased their organic ranking on Google.
Following this experiment, Thumbtack was hit with a ranking penalty by Google.  Thumbtack quickly realized the mistake they made and reprimanded themselves.  I was naive for not thinking twice about the Thumbtack link I placed on my site, and the effect it might have on driving potential new clients away from me.
At this point you might be wondering why anyone including myself would continue using this service.  Well, I have my reasons.  Thumbtack has always had exceptional customer service and been pleasant to work with anytime an issue came up, whether communicating via phone or email.  Thumbtack was also my sole online marketing platform at one time, but more on that later.


 With so many frustrated and angry professionals spending their hard-earned cash and getting no results from Thumbtack, the question remains:  Is Thumbtack worth it for pros?

Here’s yet another guy who has had success with Thumbtack, telling us like it is:

As with most business investments, this one depends what you’re willing to invest – not just in money, but in gathering past reviews and writing great proposals.  As I stated in my previous articles on the matter, professionals need good leads and positive reviews to build their business.

Used properly by a strong professional, Thumbtack can generate both.

One potential issue I’ve noticed is Thumbtack’s lumping residential and commercial real estate/architectural photography into one category, providing the customer their own determination of Standard, Mid-Range, and Premium prices.

The aforementioned practice could potentially misrepresent the public about standard photography prices.  A marketing manager who is new to their job and hasn’t yet learned industry standards could be influenced to believe that the prices shown below are standard commercial rates.  This could pose a serious threat to industry standards.

a screenshot of the budget prompt in Thumbtack's request form for commercial real estate photography

Misinformation that hurts our industry.

Most real estate professionals know that residential and commercial real estate photography tend to have very different quality standards, and therefore price standards.  I believe that Thumbtack would benefit all its customers by studying these standards more carefully.
Thumbtack also tends to assume that wherever you are in the US, the above prices meet one unwavering standard.  As in all markets, prices for photography in any given geographical area can vary widely.
All this being said, here’s an effort to make a fair recommendation, distinguishing professionals who might benefit from using Thumbtack and professionals who might not.

Pros for whom Thumbtack can be an asset:

  • Established photographers who already have clients but are looking for more jobs to fill in their schedules.
  • Pros who don’t use AdWords or any other sort of advertising, or don’t plan on it.
  • Pros who are just starting their business, who are willing to invest intelligently in their marketing.

Pros for whom Thumbtack might not be a productive asset:

  • Pros who are already overwhelmed with work and don’t want to be “pinged” every 10 minutes for a notification of a job request (Thumbtack sends these out frequently.  They can become distracting).
  • Pros who are already running successful ad campaigns online (Google AdWords, Facebook, etc).
  • Pros who don’t have a marketing budget (if you don’t you better be an exceptional networker!).   Thumbtack bidding has become  expensive.  Most of the decent project bids now cost around $11-$15 but often run as high as $25.  On Google AdWords, average costs per click are much lower, often just $1-2, or more depending on industry and how high you’d like your ad to place in search results.

In regards to the frequent push notifications, they’re often comprised of irrelevant leads for specialists like me, and can become a nuisance. (Hint to Thumbtack: You could easily be separating life events from corporate event requests!)

Now here’s something that’s far from a nuisance: I calculated My ROI from Thumbtack in 2016 and it was 9X what I spent.  Not bad at all, but keep in mind results may vary.

My bottom line on Thumbtack is this:  Issues aside, over the 2.5 year using it I’ve won many wonderful and greatly appreciated clients through the service (56, to be exact).  It’s not a perfect, all-in-one marketing solution, and you need to decide if it’s fitting for your business model and/or point in your career.

Thumbtack’s usefulness is ultimately a function of good work producing good reviews, communicating properly, weeding through the requests and being able to discern the good ones from bad.

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck!  Fee free to comment below, sharing your own thoughts or experiences with Thumbtack.

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