What is Thumbtack?
I actually really love the idea of Thumbtack. It is in business with a very simple idea: Connect people with the service providers they're looking for.
The hunt is almost harder than the work sometimes... so this sounds like a dream for freelancers. I suppose it could be if you were just starting out, but it was not for me. I monitored the system for about 6 months before bailing. Spent $120 on credits and didn't get any work out of it. I feel it is not the right tool for my industry. Perhaps finding a plumber or a painter is a little more appropriate from within Thumbtack.
Issue 1 - The Credits System
To start, you pay for credits up front and this credits system is clunky to manage. Credits are used to be allowed to respond to a potential clients request. The issue is that you could answer 50 requests and never hear back and also not really know how much you've spent trying to get a response. Each request can use a different amount of credits, so it is fairly unpredictable. Also, the can only answer a limited number of responses also, so that goes against the clients best interest and it makes all the freelancers rush to make the cut. So it isn't aligned with the interests of the freelancer or the client. The only people this system benefits seems to be Thumbtack. Zing.
Issue 2 - Devalued Pricing
This problem is not new. It is a prolific problem that stems from ignorance of how challenging things can actually be. I found a request just yesterday that someone wanted imagery for "food packaging" that would've required fluid simulation, subsurface scattering and a ton of tweak time to make it look good, and the job was offered for $250. I'd be unsure of the feasibility of it even if you add another 0 to that. In fact, most requests up there are so undervalued I can't believe people answer them. $50 to do a "creative 4.5 minute music video".... where they reference the quality of a professional video that too a whole team about a month to complete. Every day I would log in and read requests that filled my criteria and I would still end up laughing at them because of how unrealistic the terms were. This leads into the next issue.
Issue 3 - Industry Incompatibility
It was clear the people looking for assistance were unfamiliar with what the work involves. This is frustrating because the system doesn't allow for a place to help guide and educate a client either, so it is just sustaining the issue. In short, Thumbtack just doesn't really seem to be compatible with the CG or creative industries in general. I've written their support team to ask that 3D Animation and CG Visualization be added to their request list but they said there wasn't enough demand for it. So most the time I sort through the list of jobs manually trying to find what is relevant. Most frequently CAD work and Architectural planning appear... mainly because the keywords overlap with "3D" I suppose. This seems to be a more appropriate marketplace for labor like electricians or plumbers where requests are more standardized. Creative requests seem to be much more volatile in this system.
Issue 4 - Lack of Information
Based of the vague requests most people have you can conclude that animation and advertising industry professionals don't seem to be using this system at all to find freelancers. You could receive a request that says "animation needed" In the description it says, "1 minute long"... and that's all. Why would you ever respond to a request like this? And yet, 50% of the requests are like this. Frankly, there is almost never enough information to build a legitimate estimate with. So the client is left with choosing the cheapest people based on no information. Who is this helping?
The Alternative - Upwork
I turned to Upwork. Upwork has a much more logical system of credits. These credits are free each month and you get a sufficient amount (80 a month). Really, they are in place to prevent spammers. You answer requests with only 2 credits each and all of the information is available to you up-front. This makes it easier to bid. Requests often have sufficient information to make a proper proposals as well. It was clear early-on that Upwork was much more appropriate for creative freelancers as the people requesting seemed knowledgeable on what information to include. It also feels like the level of expectation is more professional in Upwork. There is still the issue of undervalued requests at times, but they are not as pervasive as in Thumbtack. The fee in Upwork may seem steep, 20% of a job cost, but you are getting value for your money. They handle billing the client as part of that fee, so there is a consistent system for you to get paid which even has some assurances if a difficult client refuses to pay you. For creatives, Upwork is a better choice that it gets you value for your money.
What has your experience with these providers been like?