It’s perhaps fair to say that there’s never been an easier time to make a living as a tradesman than right now. Obviously, that’s not to discredit the hours upon hours of hard work you’ve invested to grow your business, but rather a comment on the sheer wealth of tools you have at your disposal to help you find clients and win new projects.
CheckaTrade, My Builder, the new Amazon Selling Services, it seems you can barely turn a corner on the web without bumping into some kind of platform designed to generate leads for your business and match you with customers who need your services.
Yet with so many of them out there, how do you determine which ones are worth your time, not to mention your hard-earned money?
Recently, we updated our head-to-head comparison between two of the major players in the “find a tradesman” game, CheckaTrade and Rated People. Today, we go one step further by comparing these two well-known platforms with a host of others, helping self-employed tradesmen like you decide which one – if any – to use when it comes to getting new business.
Amazon Selling Services
As the new kid on the block, Amazon’s own platform has still yet to prove itself here in the UK.
As we mentioned in our recent article, Selling Services allows tradesmen to sell their services to Amazon’s existing customers, with the web giant taking a cut of the earnings.
Amazon Selling Services – Ease of Use
Amazon didn’t reach the level of success they enjoy today by selling shoddy stuff, which is why they’re serious about only allowing professionals onto their platform who are a cut above the rest. To that end, you’ll have a tough vetting and background checking process to go through before you’re qualified to sell your services via the site.
Once you do, however, the actual process of getting work is by far the easiest we’ve seen. Most services are sold “pre-packaged” at fixed prices, so there’s no need to go through the process of quoting and negotiating with your customers.
Instead, they add the service they need to their cart, choose the contractor they want to do the work (based on their customer reviews and other feedback) and if you’re the chosen contractor, you accept the job and get to work.
Amazon Selling Services – Cost
The new platform is free to sign up to and free to use.
When you complete a job, the customer pays Amazon, who take their commission before paying you. This commission is 20% on jobs up to £1,000 and 15% for jobs over that amount.
Is Amazon Selling Services worth it?
When Amazon first announced their new venture, we heard from some experienced tradesmen who said that the 20% commission was just too much, and could well mean that some jobs just simply wouldn’t be profitable.
However, for those new to the business, we can see how the lack of initial sign-up fees could make this an attractive proposition when it comes to finding those all-important first customers and building a reputation.
Bark.com says that buyers request 10,000 jobs every day through its website. Whilst that may sound like a blessing for go-getting tradesmen, there is one thing you need to know.
Bark isn’t exclusively for building-related services but covers almost every type of professional service you can think of.
As such, there’s likely to be just as many party caterers as there are plumbers, so whilst 10,000 may sound like a huge number of potential jobs, the actual number suited to your exact trade is likely to be much, much smaller.
Bark – Ease of Use
In our trial run, we found Bark very easy to set up and use. It took about ten minutes to go from their homepage to getting leads sent to us, though whether those leads prove to be fruitful remains to be seen.
Bark – Cost
Unlike other platforms, Bark doesn’t charge annual memberships or fixed fees. Instead, it allows you to buy credits, which will cost you £1.10 each.
When a customer needs a service like yours, they post the information to Bark, who ask the customer questions in order to gather sufficient information to help you put together an informed quote.
Details of the customers’ requirements are then passed on to you. If you want to contact that customer with a quote, you then exchange your credits for their contact details.
Bark says that most jobs will set you back anywhere from 1-20 credits, though, by most reports that we’ve seen, the average is around six or seven.
Bark – Is it Worth it?
Is it worth paying around £ 6-7 just for a lead?
So far, we’ve seen mixed opinions.
The company’s TrustPilot page reveals lots of happy customers, but far fewer happy service-providers, with the main complaint being that most of the leads they’re sent are either unqualified or simply too expensive.
On the plus side, buying leads through a platform like this rather than advertising through a standard directory does mean that there’s no chance of customers finding you online and contacting you for quotes when you already have a full workload. Instead, you can better manage how you use the site and find new clients only when it suits you.
What’s more, it turns out that £6 – £7 may actually be at the cheaper end of the scale when it comes to paying for leads through these types of sites.
One of the better-known platforms currently on the market, CheckaTrade gives you your own dedicated webpage (such as checkatrade.com/myplumbingcompany) on which you can advertise your services and show off reviews from previous customers.
Unlike Bark, in which you have to do all the hard work of chasing leads, CheckaTrade has the customers come to you. They find your profile, see what you’re about, and then make the initial contact if they’re thinking of hiring you.
CheckaTrade – Ease of Use
One thing we like about CheckaTrade is the company make sure that only reputable tradesmen can use the site. To do that, the company first ask you to fill in a simple registration form, after which they contact you by phone to interview you about your service and ask for relevant accreditations and insurance details.
Whilst this can be time-consuming, some tradesmen do prefer answering a few questions over the phone than spending hours pouring over complicated online forms.
CheckaTrade – Cost
Despite everything the company has going for it, CheckaTrade made quite a number of tradesmen very angry as of late when it hiked its prices to what many considered an excessive degree. Previously, membership used to cost anywhere from around £600 – £1,000 per year (plus VAT) depending on the membership.
This was already at the higher-end of the price scale for these types of platforms, but recently, those prices skyrocketed. One reader of our recent Rated People vs. CheckaTrade review had this to say:
“So, last year we paid £756 for the year (£52.50 + VAT per month). Been advised our renewal price will be £2160 (£150 + VAT per month). How can any company justify that sort of hike in price?! Who increases costs with such a high percentage? What’s even more unbelievable is that we have been members of CheckaTrade for several years, this is not the way to treat loyalty! If we were a new member, the cost would be £1007.86 (£69.99 + vat per month) – so that’s an additional £80.01 per month for loyalty as opposed to a new member – this is scandalous and totally unfair!”
Other customers were equally as angry, with some quoting an increase in membership costs of as much as £1,000.
Is CheckaTrade worth it?
Whilst the price hikes had many tradesmen vowing not to renew their memberships, the company does have brand recognition as an industry leader that few other platforms can match.
As a tradesman looking to grow your business, that brand recognition can mean more eyeballs on your services than you’d receive with other platforms, and that can only be a good thing when it comes to attracting leads.
In January 2018, My Builder was featured in a BBC article which revealed that a reporter was able to set a professional profile up on the site despite having no experience, accreditations, or insurance. What’s more, he was also able to leave himself a host of fake five-star reviews.
What this means is that tradesman using the platform could have found themselves competing against cowboys and chancers who were able to set up shop on the site despite being far from legitimate.
Still, whilst My Builder may have been caught out for allowing fake profiles through the cracks, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the only platform out there on which this is happening.
So, let’s consider the other relevant factors too, shall we?
My Builder – Ease of Use
My Builder’s sign-up process is tedious, to say the least.
After submitting all the basic information about who you are and what you do, the company challenges you to prove you’re up to scratch by having you fill in a lengthy and time-consuming questionnaire.
When we set up a test account as a generic handyman, for example, we were forced to answer questions such as:
“Customer reports air trapped in a radiator, but the bleed valve is blocked. What might have caused the blocked valve, and how might you unblock it?”
To be fair, it’s easy enough just to Google the answer and get a pass, but again that only proves that any chancer could set up a profile if they so wished to.
Overall, this is a laborious process which could be made much simpler.
My Builder – Cost
Like Bark, My Builder charges you for leads.
When a customer posts a job in your area, you can express an interest in that job to let the customer know that you want it. The customer then takes a look at your profile, and if they like what they see, they can shortlist you along with other tradesmen.
When they shortlist you, My Builder sends you their phone number and charges you a shortlist fee, which can cost anywhere from £2 to £35.
On the company’s own website, they say:
“Winning your first few jobs on MyBuilder can take time and effort. Most tradesmen win their first job after being shortlisted between 4 and 8 times.”
In other words, you could potentially find yourself paying out £140 – £280 (based on a maximum shortlist fee of £35) just to win one job.
Is My Builder worth it?
All of our research seems to show that My Builder doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation among tradesmen and customers alike. That said, we have found some tradesmen who claim to be making a good living from it, so they must be doing something right.
Again, the lead-buying approach does help tradesmen manage their workloads better, as they don’t have to spend time managing calls from potential clients who find their profile but can instead choose to express an interest in work only when needed.
All in all then, this might be a better option as a back-up for when things are quiet than then as the main source of lead generation.
Last but by no means least we come to Rated People, the other major industry player that gives the likes of Checkatrade a serious run for their money.
Along with My Builder, Rated People was also featured in that BBC article that allowed a non-professional to easily set up a profile and promote himself as a tradesman.
The company seem to have tightened things up a little bit since, and remain one of the most popular platforms of their type, particularly among consumers.
Rated People – Ease of Use
Ranking up there as by far one of the easiest platforms to sign up to, Rated People asks you to fill in a simple form that takes about 30 seconds to fill in, then they call you back to go through the vetting and application process.
Once you’re on board, you create your own Rated People profile, and that’s when the fun starts.
The site is a combination of CheckaTrade and sites like Bark, in that you have to be proactive about responding to potential leads and expressing an interest in the work, rather than letting customers contact you directly if they’re interested in your services.
Rated People – Cost
Signing up to Rated People comes with a standard monthly subscription of £20 + VAT per month.
At first, this sounds great, especially compared to CheckaTrade’s £1,000+ fees, but then comes the fact that, on top of this, you also have to pay for individual leads which cost an average of £15 + VAT, again with no guarantee that the customer will use you.
Having said that, Rated People do promote a member benefits package which they say could save you £800 per year.
Is Rated People worth it?
Despite the negatives, the site’s TrustPilot page is packed with glowing reviews from customers who are happy with the service, which shows that there is a large number of people out there who are using it to find tradesmen.
That said, paying £20 + VAT per month just for the opportunity to then pay an average of £15 for a lead that might not pay off may not be ideal for every tradesman’s budget.
As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to using all of the more popular tradesman platforms, with no one company standing head and shoulders above the rest as the absolute winner.
Whereas CheckaTrade has a name value that few can match, it also has prices that few can afford, and whilst paying for leads on sites like My Builder and Bark might not be for everyone, it can be a useful and affordable way to generate new business for those just starting out on their self-employed journey.
Weigh up the pros and cons for yourself and, in the meantime, don’t forget about all the other useful tools you have to help you get work, such as Facebook and building your own dedicated website.
Do you use platforms like CheckaTrade and Rated People? If so, how did you decide which one to sign up to? As always, share your views with us in the comments below, or get involved in the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.