Josh Downing always wanted to run his own business. The son of a custom home builder, he grew up in the construction industry and ran operations, construction and sales at several successful Florida companies before starting his own company, Direct Movement Group, with a partner in 2014. Since then, DMG has brought in more than $2 million in revenue from Thumbtack leads alone, which Josh credits to being extremely persistent and committed to refining how he connects with clients. The Jacksonville-based company is now expanding to Orlando and Tampa. Josh’s tips from two years of perfecting the art of the Thumbtack quote will help any professional, from a dog walker to a headshot photographer. We asked Josh to share his secrets to success in this Top Pro interview.
How did you get started on Thumbtack?
I was working at another company when I first learned about Thumbtack on Facebook. I registered that company on Thumbtack and uploaded some photos. I got lucky — the first quote I sent out turned into an active lead. It was a small job for my industry, a $6,000 kitchen remodel, but the client was great and he left me a great review. That hooked me. Before that, there was no way to get leads, which is the main concern for any business. Thumbtack took all the guesswork away and gave me to confidence to become a business owner.
What do you wish you had known when you first started?
Getting the client to respond is the magical key. I’ve bid on more than 200 requests, and I hear back from only one in every eight or nine. But, among those responses, my close rate is good: 78%. Just like with anything in life, you have to refine your process. I started asking myself, Should I add more information? Less information? Should I be more formal? Less formal? I finally got to a template that started to work. I focus on getting the client to respond because once they respond, I know I can get the job.
How do you write a winning quote?
Respond quickly and think from the standpoint of the client. What would they want to see? Read their request carefully. For example, if someone says they want new construction, I’ll send a plan of new construction we’ve done, or photos of a construction home we’ve done in the past.
Once they respond, it’s usually because of something I included in the body of work. Most people want to talk on the phone, so I give them a number they can call or text directly. It helps them put a face and name to the person who owns Direct Movement Group and will handle their remodel. Then I say send me pictures, sketches, things you’ve liked on Pinterest and why you like that. It’s about starting a discussion.
What makes you the right pro for your clients?
A lot of clients have told us, “I loved your website,” so I started including that link in my quotes. People really love the videos on our website that talk about our company, why we’d be a good fit for clients, our backgrounds, and our families. It really relates to our client base, showing them what we’re about, our energy and our passion beyond the pictures. We also give back every year and share videos about those experiences. We’ve been blessed, so we want to never take that for granted.
Have you had any particularly rewarding jobs from Thumbtack?
The clientele who come to Thumbtack are so knowledgeable. When you get a response, most often it’s not a one-and-done — these are clients for life. I always tell people to leverage the contacts. When you get that lead, close it, do good work, and then ask the client to keep you in the loop.
I’ve worked with leads as small as $6,000 and as high as $900,000, with an average job size of $100,000. You don’t know how successful you can be until you start bidding and talk to the clients. For every Thumbtack lead I’ve booked, I’ve gotten at least three or four referrals from word-of-mouth. I’ve gotten about $2 million worth of additional work from Thumbtack clients who told their friends. I had one client who told her mom, who then told her cousin, who then told friends at church.
What are your top tips for success on Thumbtack?
Even if you’re in an area with a lot of competition as a dog walker, photographer, personal trainer, you can get jobs. If your competition has more reviews than you, come at your quote from a different angle. Be open with them that they’ll probably hear from people with more reviews and ask for an opportunity to earn their business by offering a free session.
We’ve been successful because when things weren’t working, I kept pointing the finger back at me and not at other people. That’s when I started to hunker down, figure out how to connect with the client.
Understand that though the process will be long, the end result will outweigh the hassle. If building a business was an easy road, everyone would do it. It’s not easy, but Thumbtack is giving you a quicker, smoother path to it. Today, I’m in Orlando, setting up appointments in Jacksonville from my phone. You can’t put a price on that freedom Thumbtack gives you.
Josh Downing is one of Thumbtack’s first million dollar pros and was recently featured by Entrepreneur for his success.
Are you a million-dollar pro on Thumbtack? We’d love to hear from you.