How does Thumbtack Work?

Austin Bob

Dec 15, 2018
What City & State do you work in?
San Antonio
Thumbtack is basically a service where consumers can find handymen to do jobs for them - usually around the house. Like maybe you need a plumber, you can find one on Thumbtack. Or maybe you need a carpenter to make some cabinets for you… you can find that on Thumbtack too.


Their slogan is, “Find local professionals for pretty much anything”. And that pretty nicely sums it up. You need a few guys to help you move? You can find that. You need someone to train your dog, you can find that too.

All in all you can find pretty decent people on it. And the people who work on the platform can do okay as well. That’s mostly because they can set their own prices.

However, the bizarre thing about Thumbtack and the thing that makes it bad for is how they charge the service providers to use the service. Unlike most services of this type they don’t charge a simple flat percentage of whatever they make on the project. No, that would be too simple and they wouldn’t make nearly as much.

I believe they have gotten incredibly greedy and they charge like this. When a customer sends in a request for a worker, each and every worker who wants to respond has to pay a flat fee to respond. And they have to pay that fee whether they get the job or not!

So, you get 20 requests a week and in order to respond, you have to pay $5 each. Can you imagine having to pay $5 before you even know if YOU want to take the job? You may want to respond to get more information from the customer before you decide to take the job – but in order to get that information, you have to pay $5! It’s pretty outrageous really, when you think about it.

But here’s another thing – their fees aren’t necessarily just $5. The fee is based on what the customer says they’re looking for. So, if the customer says they’re looking for movers, each mover might have to pay $10 or $15 just to respond to the request. It doesn’t even mean they’ll get the job. And what if they have to respond to ten requests before they get one job? They may end up paying $150 for each job they ultimately get! How crazy is that?

They’re not doing any favors at all for the workers. They make their fees absolutely as high as humanly possible. I’ve worked with Thumbtack as a service provider and I’ve been a customer on several occasions. I quit working for them pretty quickly after I started because it was really crazy paying these fees to respond and then only a few people convert into customers. I don’t know of any other company or industry that works that way. You always pay a commission on work you get to whoever brought you the work. But paying a flat fee whether you get work or not – doesn’t make any sense.

And here’s the worst part, their fees are as high as they could possibly make them. Their fee structure is such that different categories have different fees. So a mover might pay, say, $15 to respond to each and every request, while a plumber will pay, get this $140 PER REQUEST!

And that plumber fee is one I know because I just hired a plumber from Thumbtack a few weeks ago and he told me what the fee was. So it is $140 right now – at least where I am.

I mentioned that this is bad for customers too and here’s how. When I hired the plumber a few weeks ago, the one I got was actually my third choice. I wasn’t even able to speak to my first and second choices because they chose not to respond to my request. And you know why they didn’t respond? Because they had to pay $140!! And they had no idea if I was going to hire them or not.

At $140 a pop – I can’t say as I blame them. But it left me, as a customer, with a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not right when you can’t even at least talk to the person you’re interested in working with. And super not right when the reason you can’t talk to them is because the company charges them so much they can’t afford to talk to you!

I really don’t know how Thumbtack thinks this business model is sustainable in the long run. I would think after a while customers and workers both would get fed up with it and move on.