Want to make a ton of cash through odd jobs? Are you looking to supplement your income on the side? Eric Lyons has figured out how to do exactly that.
On Sunday night I was fortunate enough to speak with Eric about his experience using TaskRabbit. For those who aren’t familiar, TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that allows users to outsource small jobs and tasks to others in their neighborhood.
During our conversation, we delved into the nuances of how Eric first learned of the site, how he signed up and became a trusted user and discussed a few of the craziest jobs he has completed. Yes, he did in fact do someone’s taxes.
Below is a record of our conversation.
How did you first learn about TaskRabbit and begin using the site? For the readers’ sake, what exactly is TaskRabbit?
I first found out about TaskRabbit by word of mouth and believe most other users did as well. It’s not a super well-known resource quite yet, but definitely is gaining traction. Every time I mention the site to someone here in LA, they are fascinated by the idea. I am constantly introducing TaskRabbit to others. TaskRabbit essentially began as an errand-running service and has now made a transformation to include handyman work, furniture building, administrative tasks and moving help, among other things. Taskers (independent contractors like myself) set their rates for various job categories and then clients can read their profiles, experience and backgrounds before hiring us for a job.
How does an individual set up a profile on TaskRabbit?
I did a virtual interview. The site poses roughly a dozen interview questions that will pop up on your screen in text form and the interviewee replies on his or her web cam, live. They then screen the answers from your video and process them. After a week or two, they officially hire you as a TaskRabbit. The site performs a background check and anyone looking to hire you will be able to see that when reading your qualifications, bio and credentials.
How do you gain traction on the site? How do you get 5 or 6 tasks and gain credibility?
I recently completed a second orientation because if you don’t use the website for over two months, you’re required to participate in a 2-hour orientation to get reacquainted with both the interface and protocol when interacting with clients. They were explaining in the orientation that a girl just starting out in her first week as a TaskRabbit made $750 in her first week. For her, it may have been more of how she worded her profile and her qualifications. It’s most likely one of those things where she really sold herself well.
People also look for great rates. As the TaskRabbit, you set your own rates. I’ll be a personal assistant for $25/hour. I’ll be your landscaper for $20/hour. I’ll do your delivery for $16/hour. Many people look for that lower rate while still wanting to hire someone who sounds qualified.
Do you have any insights into the market rates or are you setting rates blindly?
I set rates based on things that I have done in the past and jobs that have worked in the past. I gauge this based on my own experience. I haven’t done too much intensive research into what specific categories should have what the rates should be for certain things. I set the rates for a couple of things and for other categories, such as cleaning, I looked at this and thought that this is probably less than the previous thing that I set. I gauge this on my own.
Once you complete a task, are the people who paid you required to review you? Is this optional? How do you get this feedback?
You have to choose a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ no matter what. A lot of people hire you based on that. It will say 100% or whatever percentage positivity rating you have will display at the top of your profile. If you’re always getting thumbs up, thumbs up, thumbs up from everybody, you will have 100% positivity rating. This is the first thing that pops up next to your picture and your name.
You don’t have to write a review of the TaskRabbit person. I would say most people do receive ratings. If you look at my profile and see all of the reviews, most people write 2 to 3 sentences that speak to my performance, my work ethic, my friendliness, etc. They usually say something about how the service was as well.
This is also when they’re paying you – they pay you through their app. Most people download the app on their phone, attach their credit and as soon as I click ‘I’m done with this job,’ it goes through to them and they submit their payment through the app.
TaskRabbit takes a certain percentage – something like 12-15%, correct?
TaskRabbit does take a percentage. I’m not sure what the percentage is because they just started doing this recently. Two years ago they were not taking anything out. Then I didn’t use the site for a little while and I came back a few months ago and the layout of the entire site changed.
When I first signed up I used to be able to look at an entire list of available tasks that had no one assigned to them and was able to pick what I wanted to do and bid on this task myself. Now within the last 4 or 5 months, they have changed this feature. The person who needs the task completed needs to come and find me. They hire me blindly. I can’t see any list of tasks anymore. I have to instead wait for someone to hire me.
In terms of volume, is this something that you can control? You don’t necessarily know how busy your week is going to be, because they’re going to reach out to you and engage you.
You can control the volume because you can set your schedule. If you want to do a lot, you set your calendar up in advance. I set my calendar for the week and say I’m available Sunday through Saturday every hour of the day. I do this in 4-hour increments: 8am – noon, noon – 4pm and 4pm – 8pm. People looking to hire TaskRabbits will most likely be able to find me because I have all of the calendar days open. The more availability you have, the more likely you are to pop up on peoples’ pages when they’re hiring.
I’ll get a notification on my phone saying that someone is looking to hire me. I am required to respond within a half hour when I get a notification or the job goes to somebody else. If I have this button on, I have to respond within a half hour and say, ‘yes, I’ll do this.’ I have to confirm this within a half an hour.
Usually when I go to bed I turn the button off. If I’m going to work on something else or another job where I don’t have access to my phone, I’ll shut it off.
There are also times when other Task Rabbits will reject jobs or they won’t be able to do jobs for certain reasons and they will pop up on another portion of the app. I can almost steal them. Usually these types of tasks are for this day.
For example, today I saw that someone who needed moving help and they needed it done in the next hour, but Sally couldn’t do it. I then swooped in and told the individual, ‘Perfect, I’ll do this task.’
There are at least 20 categories. I have built grills for people. I painted somebody’s garage. I did landscaping – hedge trimming, lawn mowing and raking. I built an Ikea dresser. I helped someone move their office furniture. I have done people’s resumes. I have done peoples’ taxes.
What’s the craziest job you have had? Doing someone’s taxes sounds pretty nuts!
I did do another crazy job recently. There’s an app coming out called Minibar – they deliver beer, wine and liquor to your house from the local liquor store. The people that created the Minibar app in San Francisco logged into TaskRabbit and needed somebody to go to a local liquor store in Culver City and take an entire inventory of an Excel spreadsheet of everything on the shelf. I did an inventory and had to get the name of the alcohol, the size of the bottle and the price. The job took the owner of the store and I 5.5 or 6 hours to do the entire inventory. There was wine, liquor, beer…everything you could imagine. I was there from 6:30pm to midnight.
Another crazy job I did, I had to go to a woman’s house. She lives in kind of a sketchy neighborhood. She had boxes upon boxes of old magazines in her backyard between her house and her garage. She wanted me to sort the magazines from the 80’s, the 90’s and 2000’s and use paper to tally which ones are from these different years. She wanted me to tally all of the years and then organize the magazines by type and year. This took me at least four hours to do.
I’m sure there are new categories that have sprung up on TaskRabbit since you first started using the site two years ago.
Absolutely. I’m looking at the site right now. Someone just hired me to valet park a party in Beverly Hills. Another individual hired me to clean and serve at a dinner party for Passover. She needs a professional looking wait staff. I’m doing that job in April.
If you click on ‘Your Performance’ on the site, this tab tells you your task acceptance rate during the last 30 days. This calculates how many jobs you have accepted out of 25 task invitations. You’re supposed to accept 75% of the tasks that you’re hired for. Your completion rate and response rate both have to be over 85%. This tells you your average response time, total hours worked and total money earned during the past 30 days.
That’s great to have this in your back pocket, as an influx of cash. If you really need it, you can get aggressive at certain times.
I’m currently in-between shows and freelancing in my industry right now and I need money to pay rent and extra money. People are dropping tasks left and right that I can swoop in and pick up.
The site is pretty strict. They want to make sure you are professional and polite. They send you a t-shirt, which you’re supposed to wear when you’re doing your tasks. They have everything buttoned up and they want you to respond to things in such a manner that it doesn’t make them look bad.
They want to make sure you understand all of the policies. You’re not supposed to drop jobs that you’re hired for. If you say that you’re available and you set your rate for a certain category and you’re available for that day, you are pretty much 100% of the time are supposed to be able to work that job. There have been times where someone hired me for a job and I forgot to change my calendar and I already had prior engagements. I have to respond, “I’m so sorry, I had a prior engagement and I forgot to change my calendar. Do you mind dropping me from this task and hiring someone else.” You have to apologize. Usually the client is totally fine with it, as long as they get their job done.
Do you know how many users are on TaskRabbit? Or how many people you are competing with in your local market (LA)?
That’s a good question. I have no idea. I know there’s a ton of people. When I did my orientation, there was a pretty good amount of people in the virtual orientation. There had to have been at least 50 people and that was just one of many orientations that they hosted.
I have even used TaskRabbit to hire people. TaskRabbit is definitely gaining traction.
One of the last jobs that I did was I went to a woman’s house to help her around the house. She was old and had a broken arm and couldn’t do normal cleaning type of work. When I arrived, I soon discovered that she had a cat and I’m allergic to cats. I had to help her on her computer to find a new person to switch out with me. She gave me a really positive review and said that I was super friendly and helpful. In that case, people can give you positive reviews.
Do you get picked up by the same person multiple times, where you have this relationship where that person goes, ‘I know Eric and I am going to grab him again?’
I just had a landscaping job yesterday where I landscaped for this guy before. He sought me out on the app and made sure that he found me again and saw that I was available. I received his message and recognized his name and his address immediately. I gladly accepted the job. He’s one of the people who I have worked with multiple times. People will look for you again if they like you.
I highly recommend TaskRabbit to anyone who is looking to make extra cash, because 4-5 hours of work can get you $100.
I just worked for an older gentleman in the Beverly Hills area last week on a job where I had to hose down his patio and scrub mold off of the patio with a bristle brush. I was thinking, ‘Here’s a guy who is older but he is definitely able bodied and he looked like he would be able to handle doing some of his yard work by himself.’ In the back of my head, I was thinking ‘Why would he need help with this?’
I found out from his wife (or his friend) that he was in a helicopter in Brazil and the helicopter crashed and fell 24 stories. Everybody in the helicopter lived. All six of the individuals lived but every one of them broke their backs. I guess he’s a priest and is originally from South Africa and on the way down he prayed to God, ‘Please spare my life.’ Everybody lived.
Clearly I will help you with whatever you need done, sir. You meet people and learn their stories. This guy had traveled all over the world and was in the military. You talk with people who you would never have met otherwise.