AskCharlie and how not to make friends

by James, 15. July 2016

There is a new site offering to provide people, who looking for customers a platform on which to find them and an easy way for people looking to purchase a service to find top service providers. It is called Ask Charlie and is based here in Berlin. Great idea, but currently as about as matured as a first generation 3D printer.

The catch for the person offering their service is that in the worst case AskCharlie wants €10 for a bid on a €200 general proposal from someone maybe looking for a service provider such as a photographer. Sounds expensive for a job that may or may not be a serious offer. I can picture this being thus, as I personally like to check every offer and if it is free to get some quotes, I would. I see people do this all the time. I ask people for quotes, but am up front that I want a quote only, for a job I may want done. I try not to waste people’s time on this. With Ask Charlie I am not sure at all if I am bidding for something where someone is concretely searching or just window shopping around. Painful. If I join a site for photographers, I get to bid for free, costs me a certain amount each month,but less than 2 bids on weddings on AskCharlie and I can send out as many bids as I want.

Hmmm, something is not right there then. I called AskCharlie once I had made some bids. After my first chat with them, I think I felt like this, and I mean the man not the woman.

I am not saying they are dodgy or underhanded, just inexperienced and sometimes extremely arrogant. Their concept is great (at least in principle), something like Upwork I think but for people, who work locally, however, their pricing and implementation have been terrible so far.

AskCharlie is a service I am very happy exists. It needs some serious work, as do many other services. They also need to remember who pays their bills. My customers pay me for top quality work and I always want to exceed expectations and am not happy unless I have done so, and most importantly, and maybe the hardest rule of running a business of any scale, if you are the boss, the buck stops with you. If your customer is not happy, it is your job to fix this. With me, regardless of whether I am working on my own or engaging my team, if you see any of us, we are always courteous, friendly and doing our job to 100% of our ability. This is what I expect from others, when they want my money.

Companies take time to develop and AskCharlie is one that needs time to develop and to learn about customer service and how to keep people happy. A little respect goes a long way. If I want to be insulted, I’ll go to Karstadt or Deichmann.Benefizkonzert für Fluchtlinge

I’m happy to bid if I have more of an idea that the person is real and if the bid price is not done by category but by price range, so let us say, 1-2% of the media price for a job in the price range would be reasonable. 10% or even 5% would be too much for one bid, when I can spend €10 advertising to a clear and targeted audience. I have no problem risking €10 on bidding for a chance at a big wedding if there are 4 other possible competitors and the fee is more like around 100 times the bidding cost but for a possible €300 fee, painful.

Wachstum menschlich gestalten.... Als ob wahre Wachstum anders geht.

Even the Mayor of Berlin agrees on this.

Right now, due to a complete lack of clarity in the current Ask Charlie bidding system I am sitting on a €50 bill instead of a €20 one. I’ve said, ok, I knew the conditions, I got excited an lost track of when my paying bids kicked in, but also I was bidding on my phone and the text informing me was just below the button and while displayed on the page, I had the submit button as my lowest page point. I messed up, and they had a lousy design. Their fault for not thinking through their design, but my fault for assuming that errors like this would not happy. Summary, I bid a few more times than I intended on low price jobs with a high bidding cost and as hard as it was when I saw it to say “oops, there goes €30 for nothing”, that is the way it works sometimes. I made some lemonade out of those bitter lemons.

I called AskCharlie, asked how they intend to change this and they are switching to a credit system, where you buy credits that you use so you can bid on jobs. I’m happy about this and told them I will not use their service until this change comes about and also will suggest they reconsider their pricing structure, as certain fixed prices do not make sense and they want quality service providers to use their site. I will bid as appropriate. People live and learn. I’m looking forward to seeing how this sort of site develops here in Germany.

Regarding my situation with the company, I called them twice, and the first person I spoke to was very arrogant, a typical “sales manager”, who wanted to defend their position regardless of the cost, main thing was that he was right and so was company policy, and he alienated me. I thought it through and decided that every village has their special person and I reached him that day. The second guy listened, explained about up-coming changes. Had the second call gone as badly, I would have nothing to say about this company, but we are all arrogant and foolish on occasion, and even Ghandi was. The second call convinced me that a few problems starting up are nothing to worry about. They are committed to improving and I think they can.

For those out there wondering what this has to do with hiring me, or why I am writing about it, this time this is merely my thoughts on one of the many new and (at least for me) exciting start-ups in Berlin and the potential to bring customers together with the best service providers (such as me).

I admit, I still advertise on Ebaykleinanzeigen and on Craigslist. These are free and help you find me but try searching for a photographer and you will find everyone from the guy that advertises his services with a photo of  a sex doll (and I am not joking, I saw this twice, same guy though) to people that do some stunning imagery in every field.

The cool thing for people searching for a service provider, be it a photographer or a DJ for example, when more sites like this appear, you get to seek the person you want and have a great chance of finding them. The not so good thing for service providers right now is that if we are looking to fulfill a need for a business, this site works great, but looking to bid for a possible private customer, who may not even be sure what he wants, this is a gamble and an expensive one at that. Time will tell how things turn out, but the rise of such platforms is in Germany is good for both the end customer and the service provider.

Would you like an excellent photographer? I am excellent in what I do. I can recommend myself for weddings, events and portraits. I can do other stuff too, but these are the areas in which I excel and those are the areas I offer as my main service.

If you are looking for a photographer and my profile does not fit your bill, and Ebaykleinanzeigen and friends are not your thing, I might recommend a professional site I have finally joined, “Berufsfotografen“. As a customer you can also advertise there for free and you will get offers from the professionals only. The advantage there, it costs me €15 per month, no matter how many adverts I reply to. This means, you get the quality bids and nobody will send you a portrait of a sex doll.

For those that want to check out AskCharlie, the website is askcharlie.de

Slight update, it seems I will be trying out other similar sites, such as Fixando.de and one called Star of Service.

This is not relevant to you hiring me, but in case you are interested in comparing offers, at least you may get an honest opinion about these services from the standpoint of a photographer.

Next blog post. Camera stuff…. coming soon.