Bill Howard took his passion for photography to a full-time business with Thumbtack. By broadening the geographic base of his commercial photography services, he’s able to leverage multiple jobs while on the move. If you’re in a smaller town or have limited access to local customers but still want to grow, follow his tips for expanding geographically and taking your passion full-time.
When did you join Thumbtack?
I started using Thumbtack in July 2015. I saw another photographer in a social media group post a review he received from a client he picked up on Thumbtack. Right then I researched it.
How has Thumbtack helped your business?
I went full time on July 15, 2015. I could never have made it without Thumbtack. Roughly 40 to 45 percent of my work is either from being hired for a job through Thumbtack or repeat business from past hires through Thumbtack.
What’s been your biggest lesson in your first year on the site?
Simplicity works well with responses and always follow up.
How much of your current work is from Thumbtack?
This is somewhat of a tough question. Roughly 10 to 15 percent per month comes directly from Thumbtack bids. However, another 25 percent or more comes from repeat clients that I was initially introduced to through Thumbtack. The site has been a vital part of my business in building return customers.
Any suggestions for expanding business on Thumbtack?
Know what your target market is and bid accordingly. If a lead comes over that will not produce a profit, do not bid. If a lead comes over and it fits your criteria, bid quickly and confidently.
How were you able to break through and get your first reviews on Thumbtack?
I asked people that I had done work for before signing on with Thumbtack to provide honest reviews.
Now that you’re established, how do you continue to ask for reviews?
I like to set my Thumbtack request for a review for two days after I expect to finish the work. While on the job with the client, I mention to them to please offer an honest review for two reasons, 1) so I can use their information as proper feedback about my work so I can continue to meet and exceed client expectations and 2) so potential clients can have some idea of what to expect of both my work and my willingness to provide services that meet those expectations.
What’s your recipe for success when it comes to writing quotes?
Keep the quote simple while also clearly explaining what you will do. For instance, my first sentence introduces who I am and what I do. The next explains what I will do for the quoted amount. I end with my contact information. I rarely have a lead contact me this way without responding through Thumbtack initially, but I always make sure it is there.
I use the mobile app 100 percent of the time for my quotes. It’s essential in order to bid quickly. As soon as I have been notified a lead has viewed my bid, I follow up immediately asking if there are any questions regarding my bid.
Any tips for other Thumbtack photographers?
I’m a professional commercial photographer who lives in a moderate-sized town, with a population of less than 40,000 people. When I went full time I realized I would need to be willing to travel. As a result, my lead radius is wide, but I have structured my business so travel works for me.
You must know your market to determine your structure of business. Because I travel, I look at where my clients are based. I may have a shoot 50 miles away (I am in Wilson, North Carolina) but the client’s home office may be in Seattle. If I see this, I always ask if they have other work and try to turn it into an ongoing relationship. I have turned a simple single bid into as many as 12 different locations all shot within a two week period. Be attentive and ask questions.
Any other advice for other pros just getting started on Thumbtack?
Just because you are not hired out of the gate, don’t give up. I think I had quoted 10 to 15 leads before picking up my first job. I say I can land around 40 percent of the leads I bid on now. One big thing is to not overcomplicate things in your bid. I used to run out of words when quoting, and now I keep the initial contact short. The immediate follow-up is much more important. If you can get a conversation started with the lead, you have a much greater chance of landing the job. With the immediate follow-up you are catching the lead while they are still online, giving you that opportunity to start the conversation.
What other ways do you build business?
Social media is always important, as is word of mouth for local business. I have a list of my clients that I have been hired by and when I see a period on the calendar where work is not scheduled I contact them all to see if they have any work coming up. There are a few other lead sites, but I have little success compared to Thumbtack’s leads.
Do you have any Thumbtack jobs that stand out in your memory?
There are many to be honest. One of my early hires was from a Fortune 25 company nearly a year ago. In the next month coming up, I have five more jobs with the same company. I have been hired by world leaders in their fields and keep tight contact with them. In fact, one in particular I have become friends with and I have several more shoots scheduled with him. Another time I was hired by two different companies through Thumbtack to shoot their facilities, which by pure chance happened to be located side-by-side. I walked from one parking lot to the next. That is good use of your time!
Any last words of wisdom for other pros on Thumbtack?
Immediately follow-up when you see the lead has viewed your quote. You have to at least get the conversation started. If you do not get hired, you cannot show what you can do for your client, which in turn means you will not have a review of how well you performed whatever work you were hired to do.