TaskRabbit: What it is and how it could affect small businesses

TaskRabbit is an online marketplace that matches users with local labour. Is it a useful platform for small businesses and sole traders or will it undercut tradesmen?

TaskRabbit: Boon or bane for sole traders?

If you’ve been anywhere near the London Underground or seen the side of a bus recently you will almost certainly have come across adverts for something called TaskRabbit. “We’ll do DIY” the ads proclaim, “You live life.”

But that’s not all the online marketplace can do. Domestic chores, deliveries and even moving house - TaskRabbit is offering to help with them all.

What is Taskrabbit?

At its core, TaskRabbit is an online marketplace where users can be matched with local labour - known as Taskers - in order to receive immediate help with everyday tasks. Users simply log on to the app or the website, select the task they need help with, and are matched with a tasker who will arrive to complete the task.

On the flipside, TaskRabbit is a way for sole traders to quickly and easily find work. The program allows taskers to set their own rates and well as create a flexible schedule that suits their needs. On the surface it seems like a great idea, but how exactly does the whole process work?

TaskRabbit: how it works if you need a job done

If you’re looking to order a Tasker, the process is fairly simple. When you open the app or website you’re greeted with the most commonly requested tasks - cleaning, delivery and shopping, handyman, moving and lifting and general help.

Once you’ve selected your service and given your location, you’ll see a range of Taskers who’re available, their hourly rate, and approximately how long it will take for them to arrive. Much like Uber you need to enter your card details, but after that you’re free to start requesting Taskers.

TaskRabbit: how it works if you’re providing a service

From the other end things are a little more complicated. The TaskRabbit website details a two step process: sign up and then attend ‘orientation’, where you will learn about the company, client experience, and how the Tasker app works.

However, a number of people who have become Taskers describe the process rather differently. It can take a number of weeks for your registration to be processed, and some Taskers have claimed they had to pay out of pocket for a background check. After the registration is approved - if it is approved - there could then be up to three interviews, one over the phone, one in London and one via Google hangouts with TaskRabbit HQ in the US.

Once you’re ready to go, you set your own hourly rate and then decide which tasks you want to take on as they pop up on your app. Many tasks are labelled ‘now’, which means the customer is seeking immediate help. If you agree to take on the work, you can then chat with the client via the app to ensure you are both on the same page.

Once you’ve completed the task you submit an invoice and the client will pay via the app. TaskRabbit takes 30% of the total paid, though this can be reduced to 15% for anyone who secures repeat clients. A few years ago one Tasker claimed that the company was taking as much as 70% of their earnings, but such claims have not been verified.

TaskRabbit for business

So is TaskRabbit the way forwards for sole traders? It has never before been so easy for those with the requisite skills to find demand for their work, and the app works for any number of professions - handymen, groundworkers, cleaners, removals specialists, even personal and administrative assistants. TaskRabbit claims to be flexible, able to meet a variety of work schedule needs, as well as allowing taskers to set their own rate.

Unfortunately, there are some pitfalls to this system as well as positives. In a post-Uber world, users want to be able to order immediate help directly from their phone, so the supposedly flexible schedule of a Tasker depends on if and when people wish to order the services they provide. Of course, as the service grows there will be more and more opportunities, and being short of tasks to complete will hopefully be less of a problem.

Will TaskRabbit Taskers undercut tradespeople?

There’s also something of an issue with who the app appeals to. The testimonials on the website are from people who want extra work to fit around their burgeoning music careers or being a full time mother. This may well cause people to set rates that are lower than a professional would charge. The client end of the TaskRabbit app offers gardening work from £13 an hour and ‘heavy lifting’ from £15 an hour, which worked out at £9.10/hour and £10.50/hour respectively after TaskRabbit has taken its 30% cut.

TaskRabbit promotes itself as a ‘cashless’ platform, and uses this as a reason to actively discourage tipping on its website as it does not have a feature on its platform for clients to leave a tip.

TaskRabbit ready for take-off?

Whatever your opinion of TaskRabbit, after the success of Uber and AirBnB it’s clear the sharing economy is here to stay. TaskRabbit has already seen wild success in London, the only UK city where it is currently available - the number of users over here grew three times faster than when it launched in New York and San Francisco. The number of people who used TaskRabbit more than once jumped right in at 50 percent higher than in America, and the amount customers spent on tasks doubled.

While Uber and AirBnB are already negatively impacting the taxi and hotel industry respectively, it remains to be seen how TaskRabbit and similar programs will change the game for sole traders.

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