Chris Grimes believes that all good work can be boiled down to two things: integrity and trust. It’s no shock that he’s brought these values with him in building a business on Thumbtack. As Chris’s Multitask Services, Chris prides himself on offering quality services without unnecessary expenses or hidden fees. With over 46 Thumbtack reviews, it’s clear to see how well these values have worked. We talked to Chris about what it takes to start a successful painting and general contracting business on Thumbtack, and why integrity and trust are core to being a Top Pro.
How did you get started on Thumbtack?
Two years ago I was doing construction work for a hotel chain and my wife was working for a general contractor. Our daughter was two and my wife wanted to stay home with her full-time. As a skilled tradesman, I knew that I could make as much or more working for myself.
I was picking up side jobs on the weekends when my wife found Thumbtack. She created my profile and business picked up right away.
What role did Thumbtack play in starting your business?
I had to go through the process of learning how to run a business when I started on Thumbtack. When you work for someone else, you get a paycheck and nothing else matters beyond that. When you own your own business, you have to think about everything that goes into that paycheck.
Within six months, I had enough clients to keep me busy full-time. Back then, 100 percent of that business was from Thumbtack. After two years on Thumbtack that number is closer to 90 percent.
One of the main reasons that I chose Thumbtack is that there was no cost for joining. Now I spend hundreds of dollars in credits, but when I started and was unsure I didn’t have to make a blind investment. And Thumbtack notes whether professionals are accredited, which is so important for your credibility.
Thumbtack helped me get job leads right away. I have a constant stream of requests to choose from. My phone beeps with new jobs leads and I can cherry-pick what I want.
As I get more work, my business is starting to become more word of mouth and referral-based, at around 10 percent. We never would have gotten to this point without Thumbtack. All of those first customers had to be found somewhere.
I take pride in the integrity of my work. In a perfect world, 100 percent of my business would be referrals.
Thumbtack has helped me expand the kinds of jobs I specialize in. Around a year ago, I was contacted by someone in Ontario who wanted to repaint their house. When I came for a consultation, I realized that it was technically a historical home. The family didn’t even know! It was an early 20th century Victorian, and there are historical society regulations for what kinds of paint you can and can’t use. I had to teach the customer about the rules protecting their house. Now I list historical homes as one of my specialties and I’ve done about seven houses throughout Riverside and Ontario in the last year.
What do you suggest for people just getting started on Thumbtack?
Starting a business takes patience and understanding. The same goes for starting on Thumbtack. It takes time to learn how to use Thumbtack and you need to take it all in stride. It really is the best available source for finding new job leads.
It took me time to learn how to manage my credits. I was starting from the ground level. It’s important to peel back the layers of the onion to really know what goes into sending quotes that will work for your business. I turned to the Thumbtack Help Center a lot and found a lot of the information that Thumbtack sends really useful.
How do you evaluate job requests?
When I first started on Thumbtack my radius was set way too wide, and I kept taking jobs that were really far away. I live just outside of Los Angeles, and traffic can end up costing you a lot of money. In the beginning you take what you can to build your business. Eventually you start to fine tune your radius and set limits for how far you’ll go.
I learned a lot about quoting and setting the right radius from the Thumbtack Help Center and customer support. They’ve been a really helpful resource.
Do you use the Thumbtack mobile app?
I use Thumbtack on my computer when I can, but I travel around a lot on the job and the mobile app is really great for that. I never miss a request.
Any tips or secrets when it comes to asking for reviews?
In the last six months I started asking clients to make sure they mark me as hired on Thumbtack. When they mark me as hired they get a message asking them to write me a review, and most of the time they will. It’s been really helpful for building up my reviews. At the end of a job, I always ask.
I wasn’t as concerned with getting reviews in my first year and I lost out on a lot of business because of it. People were happy with my work but I wasn’t asking them for reviews. It’s such a waste. Think about reviews starting on day one.
Do you have any advice about buying credits on Thumbtack and managing them?
I only work with one person at a time and I buy credits the same way. I purchase the 50 credit package and invest in a new one when I’m ready to line up new jobs.
My wife and I had the experience of having to wait on home improvement work. The contractors started the job and got halfway through before stopping to work on something new. Nobody likes to be left waiting. I tell my customers that they’re my only job and I’ll work nine to five until it’s done. It’s a matter of integrity and honesty.
I send around 100 quotes a month, and sometimes more. The scale of jobs really varies, so the number of quotes I send does too. In most months, I’ll take on between 5 to 10 jobs. Some will be week long projects and others will be single day painting jobs.
What’s the secret to sending the perfect quote?
I recently adjusted my quotes because I was losing business. These days, I mainly do painting so I focus most on that. I used to give a straight price on quotes. Now I give a specific range, and tell customers exactly what’s included in the price of the job: paint, materials, nails.
A lot of my customers tell me they chose me because of how specific I am in my quote. Other pros send a flat number and tell customers to call them for more information. I think that’s asking for a lot from a busy customer.
Once we talk over the phone, I tell customers that my prices are based on square footage. I’m careful to pick a price that makes sense and once I have I really stick to what I quote. I’m experienced enough at this point to really know what I’m walking into.
What’s the key to being a Top Pro on Thumbtack?
Getting good reviews is so important. I got one bad review a few months ago and it took me 15 good reviews to balance it out. I sat down and did the math, and I realized how much the negative will hurt you. People look for reviews first, so you should meet them there with your best foot forward.
In terms of the work itself, if I see a small fix while on a job, I’ll offer to do the work for free. I want to make the customer happy, and people get upset if you don’t warn them about what else you see. I believe in looking out for the future of the work rather than just getting the job done.
Is there anything that Thumbtack helped you be the first to do?
A lot of my clients tell me that I’m the first person to bring a human perspective to my industry. A lot of people get burned by their painters and contractors. Our industry has developed a reputation for it. As a painter, I do what I can to make my clients’ lives better. I try to understand their vision and get that done in the most cost effective way.
One woman was so happy with my work that she went out of her way to buy my daughter a gift. It’s those moments of real human connection that make this job great, and that makes the work mean more than just getting the job done and getting out.
Do you have any tips on what customers should be looking for when they’re hiring a pro on Thumbtack?
Customers in my industry do their homework ahead of time. So for the most part it comes down to whether or not a customers feels like you’re the right person to get the job done. It’s about being trustworthy, and that’s a hard thing to fake. It’s something that comes from doing your best job every time.
Any advice for other pros on Thumbtack?
Be patient. Painting work ebbs and flows, and so does construction.
Always have integrity. If you can go to bed at night knowing you did your best, that’s enough. You can’t please everybody all the time. But doing a good job speaks for itself. The rest will follow.
If you’re just looking to get a paycheck and do the bare minimum Thumbtack probably isn’t for you. The biggest thing you can ever do is your best. And you should be doing it all the time.