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Classic Thumbtack: Quote A Lot – Close A Little – Here’s The Story

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DISCLAIMER: This is all from a photographers perspective. It may be completely different for a plumber, handyman, house cleaner, landscaper and more. So feel free to take it all with a grain of salt.

I first learned about Thumbtack from a headshot client in early 2014. I saw it then as I see it now which is just another way to reach potential clients. However, Thumbtack can be EXTREMELY frustrating.

In my opinion, I feel the majority of people on Thumbtack are looking for a super deal. I'm not just talking about a fair market rate. I'm talking about cut throat pricing. That's part of the frustration. I'm not in my building portfolio, getting exposure phase which means I'm not willing to work for peanuts. But I have to go through the quoting process and pay money not knowing the clients budget in many cases which is just part of being in business.

Even when potential clients do give a budget range, I believe that some of them expect far too much in return for what they are willing to pay. Don't get me wrong, I'm not target about gouging anyone. I'm simply saying a fair market value that it NOT based on Thumbtack's average which is typically lower than the market rate. One reason that I think the average is lower on Thumbtack is because of new or less experienced photographers who price themselves lower than the market rate.

Although I don't do weddings, I see some of the wedding requests come through my event feed. When I see things like $250 for 8 hours of services as a budget for a wedding photographer, it's actually an insult to the photography industry in my opinion which is partially because of digital technology and wannabee photographers who don't have a clue how to really use their gear.

I know that some people just don't have the money and need a deal. I get that. But this type of request is ridiculous. Would you hire an attorney for $50 an hour? Probably not. I know that I wouldn't when the rate in the Raleigh market seems to be $200 an hour and up. Does the bride to be expect excellent results from a photographer willing to shoot a wedding for $30 an hour? Yes is probably the answer, but whether that is the reality remains to be seen. In this case, it's both the brides fault for asking for so much for so little and the photographers faults (usually a newbie) that is willing to shoot for this rate.

I guess my philosophy should be that you get what you pay for. If the people shopping cut throat rates get something less than professional, should I be concerned?

5 Quotes And No Communication

Here's the real issue that I personally have with Thumbtack, but I accept it as part of the game. As long as other business professionals know about it going in, it may be something he or she can live with. Let's explore getting a quote for a headshot...

1) The possible client can receive 5 maximum quotes from photographers who pay about $3 each for a headshot request. That means that Thumbtack gets up to $15 in this example based on 5 photographers x $3 each (all rough numbers). Rates vary depending on the service and how Thumbtack has it set up. For example, architectural, which rarely shows up on Thumbtack anyway, is about $10 to quote.

2) My experience has been that a HUGE number of folks requesting a headshot quote do TWO THINGS that are irritating: 1) They only view the quote and do not view my profile. If someone truly wants to hire a photographer, it makes sense to view his or her portfolio. But the price quote, which by the way is competitive for the Raleigh market in general but not so much on CUT THROAT THUMBTACK, may be what causes someone not to view my portfolio. 2) They DO NOT give the photographer the professional courtesy of a reply. That means most people on Thumbtack almost NEVER communicate back with me. Not so much as a THANKS!

3) Continuing from number 2 above .... Photographer Quotes, Potential Client Views Quote, Potential Client DOES NOT Communicate Most Of The Time, Repeat The Process, Over And Over And Over, Oh, And Finally Close One.

So at the end of the day, a headshot didn't cost the photographer $3 to get. The headshot may have taken 5 completely different quotes at $3 each for a total out of pocket of $15 to the photographer before one closes. Therefore, the photographer has to decide if a 1 in 5, 1 in 6, 1 in 7 closing ratio is worth it. Also, the photographer has to decide if he or she is willing to put up with the frustration of the potential client ONLY viewing the quote and the potential client communication being virtually ZERO. It can make you feel at times like money is being thrown in the black hole. It makes me wonder two key things: 1) Was it a legit request or is something funny going on (FYI, fake request to generate revenue for Thumbtack)? Hmmm...maybe, maybe not 2) Was it a competitor shopping market pricing? Highly likely possibility but wastes my money.


Yes, Thumbtack is frustrating. But it's a numbers game that each person has to decide whether it's right for their business. It takes both TIME and MONEY to be active on Thumbtack. At the end of the day, the goal is for the profits to exceed the TIME and MONEY invested. Whether it's Thumbtack or something else, it's about whether it's profitable at the end of the day. Only time will tell.

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David Williams

Short Bio About The Author: I'm David Williams a professional commercial photographer focusing on corporate and business clients with some personal branding, lifestyle photography in the mix. My love for photography began in late 1981 while still in High School. I started making money with his camera in 1982. Brenda, my wife, and I started working together in photography in 1988 shortly after we met. Brenda and I married in 1989 and have two adult daughters. Please be sure to get a quote for services if needed. Call or Text: 919.723.8453. Please reach out to connect with me on LinkedIn.