From filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy and living paycheck to paycheck to finding Thumbtack and starting his dog training business, Eric Pliner of Dog Training with Eric in Englewood, Colorado now earns a six-figure income doing what he loves. The Thumbtack Top Pro has been hired over 350 times and boasts over 160 five star reviews. Learn how he maximizes his templates, set up a visually informative profile to better educate potential customers, and is able to request reviews that help sell his service.
Sounds like Thumbtack has changed your life. How did it happen?
Thumbtack truly saved my life. I had six nightclubs in North Carolina. Five of them were successful, but one was not and it took my entire life savings. I moved to Denver, Colorado and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy—the big one. I was 48, I’d lost my life savings, and what I knew was the restaurant business so I was waiting tables, barely making ends meet.
I had trained dogs as a favor for friends, but never considered it a job until I saw a Thumbtack ad on Facebook looking for dog trainers. I clicked and signed up. Within a week I had two clients. Within six months, half of my income was dog training through Thumbtack and half from waiting tables. After one year, I was supporting myself solely through Thumbtack.
Thumbtack allowed me the freedom to figure out—at a low price—how to make this business happen. I’m telling you, seeing that ad was a very lucky moment. It was a blessing. Working with Thumbtack is a true partnership. Now my referrals have picked up, but Thumbtack still represents 65% of my business and I still respond to every job request I get.
You’ve been hired nearly 350 times on Thumbtack, how did you make your profile?
I chose my photos and content so potential clients would see the different styles of dog training I provide. There are pics of me teaching dogs to swim, teaching a big group of dogs, teaching indoors, teaching outdoors, training different breeds of dogs, teaching a dog how to ride on leash next to her owner’s bicycle. I show my style through my photos and reviews. Then, I have a link back to my website where there is even more information about my dog training. On my website, I also have a link to my Thumbtack page, so it improves the SEO of each site. If you Google me, and you’ll not only get my 36 reviews that are on Google, but also my 163 reviews from Thumbtack.
You have over 160 five star reviews. How did you get your first ones?
I’ve worked diligently on getting good, quality reviews. My first two reviews were from clients prior to Thumbtack, but the site allows you to import reviews from other sources. Building the business I took every opportunity I could to talk to people. Even if it didn’t seem like the job was up my alley, I made myself available and let the client make the decision. The other thing was, I did not limit my availability. I drove a little farther, just to promote business. Pursuing every business lead in the beginning gave me a chance to build clients and ask for reviews. Here’s how I request reviews:
- Make sure the client is happy. If I do a great job and make sure they have their needs met, they’ll be willing to write a review.
- I ask them to be very detailed about their experience. Every dog is different and every human experience is different. When people provide details, it may be an opportunity for someone to relate to the dog training help they’re looking for.
Have you ever had a bad review? How did you deal with it?
I have had one bad review. I didn’t even train the person’s dog, the review was due to a miscommunication and me missing the appointment. The moment I saw the review I responded to it. Not in a way that was negative, but in a positive way that explained the situation.
How do you write winning quotes?
I’m always tweaking the templates, trying to get the most amount of information in the least amount of words. The truth of the matter is you can’t tell customers everything you do in your quote, but you gotta use it to get them to bite. Use the message to have them look at your reviews and read more. And be personable.
I’ve written 30 different templates so I am ready with a customized message for any dog training scenario. I have templates for puppies, dogs lunging on leash, dogs who are scared of cars, fighting in the pack, peeing in the house—you name it. I can answer literally 40 requests a day if I want, even though I’m a mobile dog trainer on the road all day. I can answer with a specific template, letting them know how I can help. That’s another thing I love about Thumbtack, it allows me to be my own office manager, I don’t even need one.
How do you calculate your Thumbtack ROI?
I’ve never seen returns like I get from Thumbtack. I use Quickbooks and each month I look at my profit and loss statement. I can easily track the cost of Thumbtack versus my Thumbtack income. Currently, 65 percent of my business comes from Thumbtack.
Have you changed your profile preferences over your three years on Thumbtack?
As my business and reputation have grown, I have scaled down my geographic services. When I started my range was 30 miles, now it’s 20 miles.
Any advice for other dog trainers?
Be clear and upfront about your style of dog training. Don’t try to please the customer, be true to who you are. Not every trainer is right for every customer, and that’s okay. Don’t try to sell yourself, instead believe in yourself.
Do you have a Thumbtack job that’s special to you?
Two years ago a lady contacted me for help training the rescue dog she had got for her 14-year-old son. They’d had the dog one day before they reached out to me. The dog was lovable, but too high energy. Turns out, three months earlier the husband and father had committed suicide—the family was in distress. They had brought the dog in as a healing mechanism. The dog was lovable, but crazy, so they were all anxious. I worked with both the son and the mom and, thank God they had that dog, because it challenged them to concentrate and get out of bed every morning and walk and exercise. The training gave the son new confidence. That dog gave them an opportunity to love something again and allowed the family to rally around something again. Three months ago she called me to tell me her son is a senior now and the dog and the boy are doing great. There were days when they didn’t want to get out of bed, and the dog helped them move on. It doesn’t get any better than that.
[Photos via Eric Pliner]