Ricky Godoy was doing office maintenance work for a small nonprofit in New Jersey when the CEO announced that they were in need of a photo and video editor. Stat. Within seconds, Ricky claimed the position—then ran home to teach himself how to do it. Three years later Ricky is building a little media empire of his own, offering quality photography, videography and web design services across the Tri-State area. At just over six-figures, business couldn’t be doing better, and according to Ricky, 99 percent of that business comes from Thumbtack. Here’s what the Top Pro-turned-blossoming-media-magnate recommends for building a business from scratch on Thumbtack.
How did you decide to start your business?
I was working as a maintenance person at a local nonprofit when one day they announced that they needed a video and photo editor to start right away. I took pictures and did some photo editing for fun when I was in high school, and I was sick of working in maintenance. So I said that I’d give it a try then I went home and taught myself how. None of my overtime counted and the hours were grueling but I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could.
Eventually, my body gave in under the stress of it all. I was exhausted, overworked, stressed about finances. The timing was bad—I was basically fired from my hospital bed. They told me to get better and then they left me hanging. Eventually, I realized my time working for them was over.
I spent four months trying to figure out what was next. I was tired of the daily grind and I thought: I just have to do something. That’s when I found Thumbtack. I set up Yo Dog Media from my bedroom and Thumbtack was my sole way of finding customers while I got it off the ground. Today, it’s my full-time job and I’m making over $100k doing it.
What percentage of your business comes from Thumbtack?
I credit everything to Thumbtack. The only other way I find customers is by word of mouth and all of my referrals come from clients I connected to on Thumbtack. It’s easily 99% of my business.
What goes into a great Thumbtack profile?
You need to have a genuine bio on your profile. If you’re a horrible writer you need to bring someone in to write it for you. It’s that important. When people read bad copy they assume that your services are as good as your worst word choice.
When I started this company I was running it out of my bedroom, but based on what I presented the customers there would be no way for them to know that. Everything on your profile has to suggest that you know what you’re doing, down to the links. That’s why having a website is a such huge advantage. It’s a second source of legitimacy when customers are deciding.
How would you rank each part of the profile in importance?
I would say that reviews are number one. When customers read your reviews, they’re filtering everything else you’ve presented through that. Then I would say your description, event pictures and videos. I want to show the best of my services in my profile so I tend to change things up pretty often.
My profile image is a headshot for a reason. Building trust face-to-face is so important, especially when you’re just starting out. These days I have a team and we’re growing, but from the beginning what I’ve been selling is me, my own brand.
What goes into setting your price on Thumbtack?
When I give a price I include everything: transportation, materials and duration. I provide a firm price and stick to it because I want to be their friend and I want them to hire me again. That’s the psychology, you want to get everything in front of them right away.
What makes a great quote?
Good quotes are all about being personal and transparent. Customers want to know who you are—even more than they care about what you’re offering. Always include the customer’s first name (you should do this if you have Instant Match turned on too) so they know you’re talking directly to them. Keep it personal and keep it short. When you’re dealing with the twitter world, you need to cover everything in the first three sentences. Everything else is the cherry on top.
I am always working on my quotes and making changes to make everything better. I recently added pictures into my quotes and it has helped me so much.
Do you have any plans to grow your business?
Our photo booths require a lot of gear and that’s expensive. I’m paying everything off right now so we can own everything outright. Things are getting wild and I’m booked back-to-back these days. I have a number of contract workers right now but to do everything efficiently I have to bring someone else on full-time. It’s inevitable.
Do you ever think what you’d been doing if you hadn’t found Thumbtack?
Thumbtack has helped me get beyond the boundaries that might have kept me back without a college degree. I’m young but my work is good, and on Thumbtack I’m able to put the quality of my work front and center. It’s been the perfect place for me to thrive.
Do you have any tips for pros who are new on Thumbtack?
Stay professional and, no matter what, be polite. Negative news travels much faster than positive news. I’ve been hired many times because customers think another pro was rude or unprofessional.
Have integrity. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. That’s what will set you apart as you build your network. Do what you say you’re going to do and care more about the work than the money.
Did anyone in your family own a small business before you?
I’ve never thought about it, really. But I guess I am the first. My family was so scared when I was hospitalized, that they were ready to support me in whatever came next. They told me that if this was what I was going to do I should really go for it.
Do you have a favorite Thumbtack story?
The first event I ever shot was just so incredible. It was a small rooftop party just off Time Square. I charged a really low fee for four hours of photography. The woman running the event loved the pictures and when I left she gave me twice as much as I quoted.
When I gave her the final images she sent me an email saying “I just want you to know, I didn’t hire you because your prices were low. I hired you because I think you’re very talented.” She wrote me a five-star review. In that moment I thought: I’m not just a guy with a camera. I can really do this. I don’t think many things have impacted me as much as that experience.