Should photographers and other businesses use “Thumbtack” for marketing?

What businesses and individuals need to know about the “Thumbtack” website?

Small businesses seem to have a love-hate relationship with the website “Thumbtack”. Some love the site, and claim that it has increased their business greatly. Others swear that they’d never use it again, and that it was a huge waste of money. This blog post attempts to give a bit of a review of their site along with some tips to vendors, as well as Thumbtack. This small business marketing site is making mistakes that shouldn’t be made by a company of this size and with this much time in business.

Businesses can think of Thumbtack as part of their marketing department. Thumbtack has figured out ways to get search engines to rank their site high when someone is looking for a wedding photographer, plumber, carpet cleaner, music teacher, etc.

Thumbtack is a website created to bring clients to businesses. It really is that simple. They make their money, by creating a shortcut from the buying public to various businesses. Clients are asked various questions to determine their needs, timetable, budget, location, etc. Once the client submits their request, various Thumbtack vendors are sent an email with the client information. The vendor can submit a bid, or pass on the potential job. ONLY the first 5 bids are accepted.

Allow me to demonstrate-

I’m going to do a sort of live review, with some previously collected information as well. Let’s say you are looking for a wedding photographer in San Jose, CA. You do a web search for “San Jose Wedding photographer”.  What appears at the top of your search page are those who are paying for their ad to be placed up top. Next are “organic” search results based on things only the Wizard of Oz knows. How many results you see is based on factors like searching in an old Yellow pages directory. More lawyers than septic tank retailers. More in Houston, TX than in Port Angeles, WA. The important part is that “Thumbtack” is in the 5th position of organic listings, ahead of about 1,440,000 search results. Very impressive.

Thumbtack results

Thumbtack results, wedding photographer, San Jose

“The Best Wedding Photographers in San Jose, CA (with Free Estimates)”

Hmmmmmm. “Best”??? How did they determine that these were the “best” wedding photographers?


Another search for a videographer in Dallas brought up this search result-

Thumbtack search, dallas videographer

Thumbtack Dallas videographer search results.

“… definitive list of Dallas’s videographers as rated by the Dallas, TX community.”

This caption opens the door to a couple questions:

1. Thumbtack policy is that only the first 5 vendors who reply are allowed to submit information to the prospective client. Not 10. The ad appears to base the photographer’s selection on quality, rather than speed.

2. “The 10 best…”  ?? How were they selected as “best”? Where are those ratings? Why not post the ratings? Those first 5 who respond might be some of the worst of the 394 videographers. Personally, I’ve gotten jobs via Thumbtack for Business headshots on location, and the client told me that photographers responded who appeared to have no experience in that field, and only showed wedding photo samples.

Clicking on the above link yielded this result-

Thumbtack videographers in Dallas


Thumbtack fees charged to vendors-

Years ago, when Thumbtack got it’s start, their fees were not in dollar amounts, but in “Credits”. The cost per credit was reasonable for many that I talked to about Thumbtack. Over the years a couple things happened, fees went up, and most recently, thy have done away with “credits” and simply charge a dollar amount. This is where it gets wacky (In my opinion). Fees are all over the map. Here are two different jobs, and the cost to the vendor is shown.

Fee is roughly 5-10 percent

Fee is roughly .5% of client budget price.

Potential for a great ROI.

Compare to this one.

Thumbtack fee is roughly 10% of client budget price for this quote.

The difference in cost between these two leads is significant!

Of course this is their business model, and they don’t have to explain it to me, but after being in business for over 25 years, I would say that this is a very unusual business plan. I’m not the only vendor who feels this way.


Some good news-

  1. Thumbtack rates high on search engine results.
  2. Some of the clients that I’ve gotten have been amazing. One Thumbtack client alone has paid me over $12,000, flown me to several locations a year, putting me up at high-end hotels. We meet soon for next year’s 3 events, one which will take place outside the US.
  3. Once you create a response for a client, you can save that response as a template. You could have several wedding photography packages saved, as well as family portrait packages, commercial, business headshots, etc. Sample photos can be included in your templates, and they can be edited.
  4. One of the best things is, that if a potential client doesn’t look at your bid within 48 hours (Pretty sure that is the timeframe), they you are refunded the fee for your quote.
  5. Thumbtack provides information to increase your chances of getting booked. Follow their advice.
  6. Since I have followers/friends who are reading this, here’s my gift to you for getting through this post. If you use this link, Thumbtack will give new vendors some credits (I get some as well).

Some not so good things-

  1. Regrettably, I’ve caught my competition using Thumbtack to determine what others provide, and at what cost.
  2. Scammers seem to target Thumbtack from time to time. When I report them, Thumbtack refunds the money spent for the quote. A finder fee or credit would be nice, hint, hint. *** If any prospective client wants to overpay you, and have you send a part of the overpayment to someone else, beware. Is someone pays you a large amount via CC, check or money order, and quickly wants you to refund the amount via wire, beware. If in doubt, always contact your bank.
  3. Most people who are looking for vendors on Thumbtack are in the middle to lower end, and some are insanely low. “No, I won’t photograph your June wedding for 10 hours, include a 24 page album, and 2nd photographer for under $400.” (Thumbtack- how about creating a pricing guide for your customers)
  4. Customers don’t know that photographers have to pay for their information. Perhaps the Jr. High girls who have a crush on a guy and are dreaming of their wedding would do their wedding research elsewhere.
  5. You have precious little time to bid on great jobs. Especially if you live in or near a large city. Have templates ready.


Copyright 2017, Richard K. Dalton

Thumbtack information used for educational purposes.

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