Airtasker and TaskRabbit Are Set to Battle for Your Freelance WorkBy Charlie Kasov September 8th, 2014
In July, I wrote an article about how TaskRabbit’s redesign was hurting freelancers. I used a romantic metaphor: TaskRabbit was like someone you were having a casual fling with who got too needy. Freelancers like myself didn’t want to be locked down, but there weren’t great alternatives for picking up gigs without strings attached.
Since then, Airtasker, an Australian competitor, has declared its intention to enter the American market and sweep us demoralized rabbits off our feet by promising the wide and weird range of services TaskRabbit used to provide. As a rule, Americans are suckers for Australian accents, which should help. But will the carrots Airtasker offers make it worthwhile for freelancers to work for them?
Nothing new down under
Airtasker isn’t revolutionizing the freelance marketplace, but that’s the point. While TaskRabbit has changed from an open marketplace to an agency model, Airtasker promises a return to the platform so many hustlers grew to love.
Airtasker co-founder Tim Fung said, “We’re taking an approach to build a ‘platform,’ a free market like eBay, Etsy, and Airbnb, rather than an ‘agency approach,’ a curated services business like Uber, Taskrabbit, Instacart, which provides more flexibility for users but is more difficult to scale.”
The difficulty scaling could explain TaskRabbit’s transformation: Once the company felt they’d become a name-brand, they switched to the more selective agency model. According to Forbes, this transformation lets TaskRabbit save on marketing costs and yields a higher-quality service to users, both of which result in higher profits.
But, if Airtasker achieves similar name-brand status, what’s to stop it from making the same switch?
The competition is healthy for everyone involved
While many rivals become indistinct from each other the longer they compete—think Coke and Pepsi, or the humans and pigs in Animal Farm—TaskRabbit and Airtasker both stand to benefit from maintaining separate business models.
As Fung explained, “We think both approaches have significant merit and will both exist in the future in the same way that…both eBay and Etsy exist as well as service verticals like Zappos and Asos.”
Regardless of whether the two services become less distinct, freelancers will likely emerge as the biggest winners from the competition.
Neither company has its workers sign a non-compete contract, and representatives from both told me they give their users the opportunity to work elsewhere. “We find that Taskers often use multiple platforms—Uber, Lyft, etc.—to make a living,” said Jamie Viggiano, Taskrabbit’s senior director of marketing.
Thus, the more Airtasker offers compared to TaskRabbit, the wider the range of opportunities freelancers have to choose from. And even if Airtasker only offered the same services as TaskRabbit, the ensuing marketing war between the two would likely drive up demand for freelance work.
Protect your rep
When dealing with these types of marketplaces, it’s important to remember good pay and a favorable work environment don’t simply fall into your lap.
Since July, I’ve successfully been able to command higher rates because I try to give each client the best possible experience and make sure they write the most florid possible review of my abilities. I also take precautions to never work with crazy people, which has helped me avoid bad reviews.
When Airtasker begins operating in America, don’t take on a ton of tasks to garner positive reviews as quickly as you can. Take your time, and be exceedingly careful. There’ll be a period when no one in your market has a solid reputation on the site, and you could easily end up working with difficult clients. Once people become familiar with the platform, the number of jobs you’ve completed will matter less than your rating and reviews.
Think about it again like dating. Plenty of people experiment until they know what they like. If TaskRabbit is too needy and you’re looking for a rebound, Airtasker could be a better fit.Image by Julie Jacobson