If you’re in the home services, trades or renovations business, you’ve probably considered listing your services on sites like Houzz, HomeAdvisor, HomeStars, Angie’s List and Jiffy on Demand. Though each of their approaches may differ, they’re all designed to play matchmaker between homeowner and professional.
For many small businesses, joining these online networks is a no-brainer. We know that 88 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and being listed on a reputable site helps you build trust without lifting a finger. Plus, if you’re just starting out, it’s a great way to earn a steady flow of jobs as you establish a name in your community.
On the other hand, there’s some skepticism in the industry around ceding control to a third party, being subject to potentially negative reviews and shelling out for memberships to some of these sites.
We’re checking in on two of these models, HomeStars and Jiffy on Demand, to find out how they work and how you can make the most of your membership.
This Canadian company has been connecting homeowners online with professional, reputable contractors and tradespeople for 10 years. Similar to American sites like Houzz and HomeAdvisor, HomeStars features project categories and publishes customer reviews of work done by the pros.
“The purpose is to ensure that homeowners can hire trustworthy contractors,” says Leslie Andrachuk, Director of Marketing. “We have a robust investigation and validation system undertaken by technology and a team of human beings who look at reviews that are flagged to ensure that the professionals and the reviewers are not threatening or bullying users online.”
For free, businesses create a profile and list their business under one category (e.g. basement renovation, heating and air conditioning, closet and storage solutions) and one geographic location. Once they’ve completed this step, they’re able to receive reviews from customers.
If you want a larger profile, there are paid options where you can choose from three marketing packages that allow professionals to be named in more than one category, expand their geographical area and have enhanced search engine optimization—among other features, including a “dedicated success coach” to help with marketing.
Whether you’re using the free service or investing in a more detailed profile, Andrachuk recommends taking the time to make a good first impression with a clear and complete profile.
“Our profile pages have a big image on the header, so make sure your image is beautiful and represents what you do.”
She also suggests being strategic about how you fill out the “More about your company” field on your profile. Fundamentals like licenses, insurance coverage, safety information and certification are what homeowners look for in their research. Be sure to include searchable keywords that relate to the work you do.
“Focus on your core skills, expertise and build your description around that,” said Andrachuk. “Include the benefits the homeowner would experience by hiring you.”
If you’re known for your attention to detail, high-quality work, dependability or responsiveness, be sure to say so in your description. “Build those key indicators into the copy so homeowners get the feeling that these guys are experts and I can trust them.”
And when it comes to your online profile, don’t overlook the power of pictures. “Take as many pictures as possible and take the time to upload them to the website,” said Andrachuk.
Andrachuk says creating a profile is a simple online exercise but there are tips and tricks to help you get noticed by homeowners.
“A clear profile is important, but responding to reviews, whether positive or negative, is really critical. It’s important for the contractor to jump in there and say thank you or respond to criticism. What we find is our homeowners look more favorably upon a contractor who fixes a problem and provides excellent customer service.”
She notes that there will always be homeowners who are permanently disgruntled but when a negative review comes in, you can turn that around by responding with an offer to make things right. HomeStars enables homeowners to post a follow-up review when an issue has been resolved.
One of the most important aspects of getting good-quality work on HomeStars is ensuring that your recommendation meter is “in the green.” The meter is one of the first things a homeowner will see on your profile. Backed by an algorithm that rates elements like responsiveness, positive recommendations and recent reviews, it’s how potential clients will assess the quality of your service before they’ve even met you.
“Homeowners are going to want to look at reviews from the past three months, so you want lots of reviews,” said Andrachuk.
Since you live and die by your reviews on sites like HomeStars, it’s important to inspire your clients to write glowing ones. A quick follow-up email through the app is the best way to ask for one. Beef up your reviews by also asking the homeowner to post pictures, which are then repurposed in HomeStar’s social media and content marketing.
With two locations—Toronto and Chicago—this new-to-market company operates more like an app than other matchmakers.
“Think of us more like Uber than a review-based site like HomeStars or Yelp,” said Co-Founder Paul Arlin.
The service instantly connects homeowners with service professionals using the same methodology that Uber uses to connect riders with drivers. Jiffy is meant for smaller jobs around the house, typically under $500.
Jiffy pre-approves professionals who provide services in categories like appliance installation/repair, plumbing, duct cleaning, painting, handyman services and more. Becoming a Jiffy member is free. There are pre-set market rates for each and every job and you’ll pay a service fee for each job you do.
For example, if you’re an electrical company on Jiffy, you’ll receive notifications on your phone from Jiffy homeowners who need an electrician. They’ll specify when they require the service (e.g. same day, same week, etc.), and you’ll choose whether to accept the job or not.
If you accept, you’ll do the job and bill your time through the Jiffy app. The homeowner will pay Jiffy by credit card and you’ll get paid directly by Jiffy. If you don’t accept the job, the notification is sent to the next highest-rated company on the Jiffy roster.
“Professionals can get a lot of jobs, pick and choose what they like to do without having to deal with phone calls, giving quotes and the back and forth that comes with running a business,” said Arlin.
Just like Uber, your customer will rate your service out of five. If you get good reviews from homeowners, you’ll get first dibs on the jobs in your area.
Jiffy is designed to complement the work professionals are already doing. “We act as a way to fill in any gaps in their schedule, whether it’s for one of their employees or an owner/operator.
“If you have a three-hour gap in the day or a last-minute cancellation that gives you a block of two hours, you can use that time to make money.”
Depending on the category, Jiffy sends out multiple job notifications every day in real-time as requests come in. For most categories, if you haven’t responded in two minutes, the alert will go to someone else. “The pro can choose to accept the job, put in a one-hour arrival window and then it’s business as usual between them and the client,” said Arlin.
An online application is the first step to becoming a Jiffy pro. You’ll be asked to upload any licenses and certification your category require, as well as insurance information. Jiffy requires all pros to have at least $2 million in liability insurance.
“We typically check out our pros online. That’s where other review sites help us. When all the background work is done, we meet with them in person. If we feel they hit all the marks of being qualified and they’re friendly and come off well, they’re in,” said Arlin.
To remain on the platform, pros must maintain a 4.5-star (out of 5 stars) rating or above. “If clients are continuously rating them 4 out of 5 stars, we would disable their account. We generally first give them the ability to get it up, but our view is that every experience should be 5/5 for these small jobs.”
Arlin says they limit the number of professionals to ensure that each company gets a “decent amount” of business from Jiffy On Demand. In Toronto, there’s a wait list for professionals in about half of the categories.
Each category has a rate card that each company has to follow. Before launching, Jiffy founders surveyed 30 companies in each category to come to an industry average rate.
In Toronto, plumbing is $90/hour with a minimum charge of $135. “If someone drops a necklace down drain and it costs 15 minutes to get it out, it’s still a $135-job. If it’s a three-hour job, the homeowner will be charged $90/hour.”
Jiffy On Demand charges professionals a 15 per cent fee for each job.
If professionals want to get five stars, Arlin says communication is key. “There can never be too much.” Friendliness, reliability and quality are also critical.
“Because we’re focusing on smaller, more binary jobs, there’s little subjectivity involved. We’re not remodelling kitchens where there are varying degrees of quality and timeliness.”
The low-complexity of the jobs mean that the differentiating factor is often communication skills, respect for the homeowner’s property “Slipcovers over boots is the easiest and cheapest way to have a client send a rave review,” said Arlin.
Jiffy On Demand debuted in Chicago in August 2016 and is gradually ramping up. They’re looking for pros in all categories.