Rich O’Nyon loves the outdoors. Always has. So seven years ago, after losing his job doing inventory control in a machine shop in San Francisco he started his own landscaping and outdoor maintenance company Blue Collar Landscaping. His wife, who was sick at the time and has since passed, suggested that he work for himself in order to make time for her doctor appointments and to take care of their children.
Seven years later, Rich is so busy he is turning clients away—and he estimates up to 60 percent of that business comes from Thumbtack.
Here’s what the Top Pro told us about building his business on Thumbtack.
What have you learned since first starting on Thumbtack?
There was definitely a learning curve. It took me a few weeks to get my first couple of jobs, and everything fell into place from there. I remember that I took on seven new regular maintenance clients in one month. Now that’s a wonderful growing experience if you’re ready for it. If you’re not, it will wallop you.
I had to be practical. I asked myself: ‘Do I really have the time to commit to this job to do it right?’ If you can’t maintain a certain level of quality you will start losing clients left and right. In some ways I knew that. But making that my priority and scheduling jobs in a way that reflected that definitely took time.
Do you have any tips for staying organized?
I learned to calendar everything so that my schedule is always synced to my phone. I always know just how full I am, and if there’s something I need to add I can do so right then and there so nothing slips. My schedule is regular too: Monday through Thursday I take regular maintenance appointments and Friday I leave open for special projects.
What goes into a winning quote?
As a landscaper, you really need to know the surroundings you’re walking into because each project will be different. The more information customers provide in their request, the more detailed I can be in my quote. And I have a lot of resources to help me understand exactly which approach will be best.
If I have an irrigation issue I can’t figure out, I know some of the best irrigation specialists in the area and I know I can turn to them for advice. Same for planting questions—I work with a nursery that’s been around for 150 years. You cannot know everything in this business, period. Knowing that will make you so much better as a professional. And the more of that information and guidance you can provide in your quote, the better.
What’s your key to following up?
I always want to be able to get my eyes and boots on the physical sight. I get them on the phone as soon as I can to schedule a time for a consultation. I want to see if their irrigation is in working order, if they have an infestation, trees to cut, bushes to prune. Sometimes you go to a job and you realize that it’s beyond what you can do. If they have a tree they need cutting, I will send them to a local arborist. I don’t want to take on something beyond my skill and fail.
For example, I got an email from a client I did an irrigation repair for six months ago. When I got onsight I realized it wasn’t going to be worth what I charged in my quote. I only took $50 of the $150 originally quoted, and she hired me to come back and do ongoing repair for her backyard then and there.
After the consultation, I usually get back to the customer in the next few days and see where we want to go from there. Don’t let it go for more than two or three days because people get antsy and will start looking for someone else.
What percentage of your work comes from Thumbtack these days?
I would say 55 to 60 percent of my clients are from Thumbtack and I find that those clients tend to be more maintenance-driven than looking for a one-time fix. Before Thumbtack I was using the phone book; I actually just quit the Yellow Pages for next year.
What goes into deciding what you charge for a job?
I tell my customers flat out that the two factors that go into my pricing are time and material. If they are nearby they will get a certain price. If they’re further out my price goes up a little but I always make that clear upfront.
For the most part, I find that clients understand my value. I’ve taken classes in advanced irrigation, horticulture, soils, and equipment repair. My time and education are worth something because when I come on the job I know what I’m doing.
How do you approach asking for reviews on Thumbtack?
I’m a no-nonsense person. I want my customers to write a review: I don’t care if it’s good or bad. That’s how I learn and get better. Knowing how to get better is the first step!
What makes your profile work?
Be honest. People will see through you if you claim to offer services or experience that you don’t have. My company is called Blue Collar Landscaping because that’s how I see my life. If I can’t do an honest day’s work and make an honest living doing it, what do I have? Accountability is everything.