Don't chase tradies: Let them come to you
MANY of us have used aggregator websites like wotif.com for comparing and booking travel deals, or drivenow .com.au for car hire - but how about using the same idea to find yourself a tradie?
Sure, there are listings of tradespeople which you can scroll through and make multiple phone calls trying to find the right one (if they are available).
But when you're pressed for time (or you just hate the phone) it's an attractive idea to just fill in an online form and have a selection of qualified tradespeople come looking for you, rather than vice versa.
We take a look at four Australian sites offering to do the hard yards for you.
Servicecentral.com.au is the oldest of these four, with a wide range of services (more than 100 categories) from your usual tradie jobs through to marketing and website design - even law.
They've been in business more than 10 years, with particular focus on regional Australia.
Over that time they say more than 400,000 jobs have been listed - and they've won a few business awards.
Service Central has more than 70,000 registered businesses and and has a process to certify them so you know your tradies (or your solicitors) are qualified - they block non-compliant businesses.
The web interface is simple, direct and easy to follow. There's no smartphone app like the three younger sites, but the site is designed for smartphone users (it actually looks better on a phone than on a big screen).
You tell them what you need done (on the site or with one phone call) and they organise three quotes from certified businesses.
A services directory is also available, but trolling through that defeats the purpose of getting someone else to do your grunt work.
They have a helpful article archive which is regularly updated and includes fun items as well as advice and ideas.
Homeimprovementpages.com.au, founded in 2004 and in the online quote business since 2012, is more focused on tradie work - no writing or accounting here, although it does have a category for feng shui.
The site boasts more than 50,000 qualified tradies in 1300 categories and claims there's a job filled every 45 seconds.
It says you'll get three quotes (though it won't let you opt for email-only contact, just phones).
The support team actively follows up with emails as quotes come in.
The web interface is less friendly - our test job of home data cabling fell at the first hurdle.
You have to know what sort of tradie you need and select that from a dropdown list: Did we need a computer tech, a networking expert or an electrician?
Apple and Android apps are available.
The site has featured articles and pics on home improvement.
Serviceseeking.com.au, launched in 2007, boasts more than 116,000 associated businesses of all sorts from traditional tradies through dressmaking to legals, accounting, writing and editing.
As with each of these sites, there's no obligation on you as an end customer. But this one claims a 15% saving on a typical job compared to hiring businesses via Google or an online directory.
After you describe your job online or by phone, you get an email promising 1-4 quotes from certified businesses (we got one).
Apple and Android apps are available.
The site has a simple interface - despite its annoying and irrelevant banner ads for external sites - and you can opt for phone or email communications.
There's a chat panel, but it's automated, not human and not particularly helpful.
Like the others, the service is free - but if you want to keep your phone number to yourself (or the job is urgent, or you want it to be prominent), that will cost you.
Oneflare.com.au - a relative newcomer - launched in 2011 and follows a similar pattern. It boasts more than 60,000 businesses, with verification and a wide range, even wedding celebrants.
Oneflare's point of difference is its home care guarantee, promising up to $500 cover for negligence or intentional damage, and an on-time guarantee - $50 if your guy doesn't show.
The site's interface is simple - though again you need to know who you're looking for - and it leads you through the info it needs, promising up to five quotes (we got one response).
The site has an online chat with a quick and friendly human response.
But if you don't have a mobile, forget it: Oneflare does not cater for fixed-line phones.