Scott Townley’s success is in tune with Thumbtack. He sources 90 percent of new leads from the site, built a client base of 2,000, and tunes on average 2 pianos per week, compared to 3 per month before joining. The father of four kids Thumbtacks to supplement his high-tech job with part-time business, AAA Piano Service . He’s free to chauffeur the kids to scouts and basketball, and set his own schedule. Replicate his pitch perfect success by boosting your income with self-employment.
When did you start tuning pianos?
I have perfect pitch, and was intrigued by my family piano tuners—the Korbs—and their diligence to pitch—but I didn’t gravitate to piano right away. I loved brass, and played trombone for the United States Navy Band while stationed in the Far East. I did sometimes play backup for the piano player though. I saw so many kinds of pianos on our travels, and often tuned or fixed them based on knowledge from watching the Korbs.
In January 1989, I settled on the West Coast and began apprenticing for piano tuner Grant Davis, a retired member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He deemed me ready at a certain point and passed me half his clientele, which I took as a great honor. Since then, I’ve been full-time or part-time in pianos and music. Grant also suggested I join the Piano Technician’s Guild. Starting in 2004, I trained for 8 years in their workshops under area masters like Steve Brady and Mike Reiter, and I recently completed some training with Dan Skelley of Skelley Pianos in Tacoma.
How did that lead to Thumbtack?
I joined Thumbtack in the summer of 2012. I was looking for a cutting edge way of advertising, of getting more business generated. At that time, most of my jobs came from the (electronic version of) the phone book and I was also doing newspaper ads—it was hard to get people to call me. I still get 10 percent of my work from those sources.
What percentage of your work is from Thumbtack?
The other 90 percent is from Thumbtack! For me it’s easy access to customers and I’m able to respond so quickly with the app. If they’re in my hometown of Kent, I get on it right away. There’s also less competition, because people aren’t searching through a list looking for a service. I changed the name of my business in 2010 from Garden Patch Music to AAA Piano Service so it would appear higher up in the Yellow Pages. I don’t have that competition with Thumbtack.
How can others expand business on Thumbtack?
- Give a fair price
- Show up on time
- Service a larger area than you initially thought possible
What are your quote writing suggestions Thumbtack pros?
Remember the exact spelling of the person you are responding to. I’ve actually spelled the person’s name wrong in a quote before. I wasn’t surprised I didn’t get the job. Now there are the templates in the app, and they auto-populate the name, so be sure to use the templates. Also, keep your prices fair.
Have you had any unique jobs as a result of Thumbtack?
I worked on a Steinway piano which had to be sold quickly by a Thumbtack customer. They were fortunate to have the piano sold on consignment as a “Scratch and Dent” category at a prominent Bellevue, Washington Steinway piano studio. The manager of the studio did this as a favor to me. After the new owner purchased the piano, I have since tuned the Steinway twice, in Port Angeles, as a return favor via the selfsame studio!
Any other advice for other professionals just getting started on Thumbtack?
If you’re serious about building a strong customer base, Thumbtack is great for that. Don’t be dismayed if you lose four or five bids early on—you will catch on and your work will produce great reviews.
Answer as many requests as possible, because all pays off in the end.
How has Thumbtack grown your business?
Phenomenally. Thumbtack is at the forefront of my business growth and development. Piano tuning clients are often for life as they need a tune-up each year. I have built my client base up to 2,000 contacts. I’m happy with tuning 2-3 pianos a week, but I generally average 1-2 week. Having the piano work, supplementing my income, it’s really great. I have a big family with 4 kids. Being able to spend time with them is a work-life balance that Thumbtack affords me. The jobs come about the right rate, I’m growing a slow, solid, client base.
What’s the key to success on Thumbtack?
Persistence! I appreciate the recognition I get for my hard work, like Top Pro status, Best of 2015 and I just received Best of 2016. I may even be the first pro with 100 5 star reviews. All this helps me measure how well I’m doing and increase my confidence to build more business, it’s self-perpetuating. My success rate at Thumbtack is about one hire for every four bids. In baseball terms that’s called batting 250 (.250). It means I’m going up against the “heavy hitters ” in my area, and succeeding. I’m happy to say I’m batting 250 in Seattle’s piano service world.