Project bidding sites such as Bark and AirTasker may seem like an attractive way to find new bookkeeping clients, but who really wins—you or the middle man?
Project bidding sites provide an online platform for service providers to quote for contracting projects. The customer then narrows down their choices to a short list and selects a final winner. In theory this may sound like a sure-fire, low-risk way to get leads for your Xero bookkeeping business. However, if you’re planning on putting all of your marketing eggs in one Bark-set, be prepared to lower your expectations.
Bark—How Does It Work?
Bark promotes your bookkeeping services to business owners who need your skills and expertise.
They earn their income by sending you enquiries from potential clients and taking a lead generation fee. Although they have the marketing budget to advertise heavily and attract more customers, it’s important to note that you are only one of MANY Xero Bookkeepers that they have listed on their site.
The leads you receive are NOT based on a detailed analysis of the customer’s needs. Instead, customers check out your profile, reviews and website, and choose their preferred supplier from the list.
After the work is completed they are encouraged to leave you a review, which is intended to help you to attract more customers.
Pros and Cons—Is Their Bark Worse Than Their Bite?
There are several pros and cons for listing your Xero bookkeeping services on Bark. Ultimately, you need to decide if the cost and effort is worth it. To help you decide, we’ve done some research and compiled a list of the most common advantages and disadvantages:
- Exposure. Due to their huge marketing budget, a Bark listing can get your bookkeeping services in front of a large volume audience, however with so many bookkeepers to choose from, it’s less likely that you will be noticed and selected for your unique skills. A Google My Business listing will give you more control over your digital marketing strategy with better results.
- Get leads in your local area. This might be useful if you want to do face-to-face training and tutoring, however if most of your work is conducted virtually, this could be a limiting factor. You could be missing out on jobs that are better matched to your ‘ideal client’ profile.
- Flexibility of working hours. In theory, you get to choose your own jobs and work as much or as little as you want, however there is no guarantee of frequency or volume. This makes it exceedingly difficult to predict and generate a stable income.
- Customer reviews. Accumulating customer reviews will assist you in acquiring more bookkeeping jobs, but you’ll need to be patient. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. You need jobs to get reviews, but you can’t get reviews unless you get jobs. The other issue is that the reviews are Bark reviews rather than Google or Facebook Reviews that EVERYONE can see.
Bark vs. Airtasker
Both of these sites are about building their own platform and marketplace. They are in business to make themselves a profit, not you. That means that they need to acquire the cheapest labour and sell it at the highest price.
Here are the key differences between them:
- Bark is relatively new to Australia and launched their service in 2020.
- You get leads for free but you have to PAY to contact potential customers.
- They encourage you to contact the customer directly by providing their phone number and email address. Essentially, they are getting paid to perform the same function as a Google search.
- As a contractor, you review the available jobs, make an offer (via the platform), do the task and get paid. Airtasker takes a percentage of the sale value, so you pay a service fee when you complete the job.
- You can ONLY communicate with the contractor via the Airtasker internal messaging system.
- The bidding process keeps your earning low. Rather than bidding what you are worth, you are bidding to beat other bookkeepers.
- As customer payments are secured upfront, a benefit is that you do not have to chase customers for payment.
- There is limited information about the contractors on the site, making it difficult for customers to assess the quality of your work. You are unable to list your own website or business information.
- Customers know the price they’ll pay from the outset, and they can see a few of your reviews , however they can’t actually speak directly to you directly offline.
Who owns Bark and Airtasker?
Bark is privately owned in the UK and Airtasker is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange – so you can buy shares in them.
The Airtasker share price has performed horribly since listing and a Yahoo article revealed that the company is majority owned by company insiders.
Bookkeeping Customers—Who’s Barking?
In our research Business owners seeking bookkeeping services through Bark typically fit the following profile:
- They are looking for cheap, once-off or ad hoc labour. e.g. only required annually.
- They are a sole trader with no expectation of hiring any employees.
- They are unlikely to be interested in developing a relationship that leads to regular ongoing work with a bookkeeper.
- They have an urgent requirement to ensure compliance with the ATO.
- They are not interested in training. They simply want to ‘get in and get out’ as fast as possible with the minimum effort and cost.
This type of client is NOT an ideal prospect. You will spend a lot of time and energy for little gain, and it is unlikely that there will be any long-term potential for your bookkeeping business.
Summary – Better than Bark or Airtask is Build your own Brand
Our recommendation is to use services like this ONLY to learn and to acquire a few client reviews. First and foremost, you should build your own brand and stop competing for clients with other Bark members.
Build a variety of lead generation channels for your Xero bookkeeping business:
- Create your own WordPress website and publish a blog using Mailchimp.
- Set up a Google My Business account and run a few Google Ads to improve your search engine ranking.
- Place an ad on Gumtree.
- Create a social media page to attract a following.
- Get reviews on sites like Facebook or Google
- Connect with industry professionals on LinkedIn
Instead of relying exclusively on a project bidding sites such as Bark, retain control of your business growth by spreading your marketing efforts across multiple channels and learn how to reach the clients that will value your skills and expertise.
Gig is BIG for jobs and NOT just about Airtasker
The way people work is changing rapidly in a shift from the traditional 9-to-5 PAYG “jobs for life” to consultancy and contract gigs.
For the last couple of years workforce trends have shown that freelance workers are being given more roles and responsibilities, and the reasons for starting a small business are stronger than ever.
Project Bidding Sites – Are You Barking Up The Wrong Tree Just To Help Them Grow?
A lot of attention is being given to middle man companies that connect customers to contracting services and Bark is a relative newcomer who has a lot of money to spend on advertising to get your business!