Mark Simpson was a disability claims processor with an ethical dilemma when he discovered Thumbtack. “I was part-time with my photography, but knew I needed to go out on my own—I couldn’t stay with the insurance company because my ethics didn’t line up with their business practices. I had a good support system, and photographer friends who threw some jobs my way, but it can be crazy to go from a full-time job to freelance when you are married and have two girls to support.” Three years later, Mark’s Thumbtack photography business is thriving. We caught up with Mark to learn his best tips for creating quality templates and landing clients you want.
How did you build your profile?
As a photographer, a solid photo portfolio is important. Since I target primarily corporate events, weddings, and headshots on Thumbtack I felt it was important to showcase a mix of all three while also showing consistency in my style.
My advice to newcomers would be to be honest and showcase work that represents who you are as a business.
You’ve been on Thumbtack 3 years now, how has your business grown?
I’m still getting the same number of responses and jobs, but now I quote and get higher paying jobs. When I first started, I wasn’t zeroing in on the wedding area, I was just beginning and wanted to get my name out there. I answered every bid, trying to build my business. Now that I have reviews and credibility, I can be a bit more choosy. I’m able to get those higher end requests that come in.
How were you able get your first reviews?
At that time, Thumbtack was sending out prompts reminding people to write reviews. I also reached out to former clients and asked them if I could import their reviews from other sites onto my Thumbtack profile. Now, most of my clients are happy to write me a review. I usually ask after I’ve delivered a final product. I really stress that as a small business, client reviews are essential to getting new business.
What’s been your learning curve with writing quotes?
I built templates that I use for my quotes, but they are only starting points. I try and personalize each quote to include any details that might be left out the template as well as answering any questions they might have. I came from a sales background, so I have a good idea of what people are looking for.
I have three target areas: weddings, headshots and events. For each area, I have two or three templates that address any requests I might get in that category. I like to keep it short and simple.
Do you follow up when you receive notification that a customer has viewed your quote?
I wait from four hours to a day to follow up, depending on the type of job and the timeframe that they’re looking to have the job completed.
How do you close those higher-end clients?
As a photographer, I always try to have an in-person meeting, especially for weddings. I feel that in the wedding industry building a rapport is extremely important since I will be with them for hours on one of the most important days of their live.
What percentage of your business is from Thumbtack?
I would say over fifty percent of my business has come from Thumbtack. I try and budget myself on the amount of responses that I give in a month, but I have always found that my ROI is great.
If you see a wedding for $600 to $800 dollars that you think is too low, don’t respond. Wait and make it work for you. Think about your overall profit margin. I’ve spent around $3,000 on requests, but I’ve brought in around $50,000. I gauge the value of each quote to see if it’s a fit for me. In the beginning, I was building a business and less choosy, now I’m more selective.
Do you have a rewarding Thumbtack job to share?
Last year, I was hired to be the sole photographer on an international oil and natural gas company’s media tour of the Pittsburgh area. I was with them for two days as they toured Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Since then, my photography work has been published in major newspapers in Scotland and the United Kingdom.
[Photos via Mark Simpson]