Photographer

CameraLends Knows How to Outsource Tasks in a Flash

Photographer

TaskRabbit superuser Adam Derewecki knows a thing or two about the sharing economy. He built his business on the idea that every photographer (whether they’re a professional or a hobbyist) should have access to the equipment they need to get the job done. He built CameraLends, a peer-to-peer camera sharing marketplace, as an alternative to purchasing expensive camera equipment. Adam relies on TaskRabbits to help with everything from promoting his business to pranking his coworkers. He took a few minutes to tell us about CameraLends and his love of all things TaskRabbit:

What’s the mission of CameraLends?
“CameraLends is a marketplace where photographers can post their gear for others to rent out locally, and where renters have access to a wide range of high-end and specialized camera equipment. You can think of us like a tool lending library, except the inventory is distributed among people in your neighborhood.”

What made you decide to use TaskRabbit?
“I’ve been in love with the service since I first heard about it. I can ask the Internet to do things for money? Yes, please. I’ve used TaskRabbit for everything from deliveries to office pranks. In the past, I’ve used ‘outsourced personal assistant’ services, and TaskRabbit has consistently been higher quality work.”

How do TaskRabbits help out your team?
“I’ve used TaskRabbits for a variety of help, some virtual and some local. Early on, I posted tasks for: having a flyer designed, researching local photography communities to reach out to, and researching local art school lending resources. More recently, I paid a TaskRabbit to hang up 33 flyers in local coffee and camera shops. I have a current task where I’ve asked my TaskRabbit to compile a comprehensive spreadsheet of Nikon and Canon equipment, so that I can use that data to build a better tool for lenders to post gear.”

CameraLends FlyersCould you tell us about your favorite Task experience(s)?
“When I had my TaskRabbit post flyers, I asked him to take a picture to verify of each posting. Cycling through each picture in rapid succession was a very cool experience — the same flyer amongst many varieties of flyers in different settings. Cool enough to upload the pictures to a public Flickr set. A final surprise was Flickr’s map mode, which put all 33 geotagged photos on a map of the Mission — so I know exactly where each flyer went and can easily instruct future TaskRabbits where not to post.”

In addition to supporting TaskRabbit, a leader in the collaborative economy, what other ways does your company walk the walk of social responsibility?
“CameraLends is part of the ‘shareconomy,’ similar to Airbnb, GetAround, and many other services where people can post their under-utilized items in a lending marketplace and earn some money back. Photography is a natural progression for peer-to-peer marketplaces because of high value, highly specialized equipment. When you’re taking photographs diving, you need your underwater housing. The rest of the year, that pricey accessory gathers dust. Situations like that are perfect for collaborative consumption: lenders can recoup some of their sunk cost, and the renting community is provided with more access to high-end photography equipment. It’s also easier on the environment to pick up a lens or body in your neighborhood rather than ship it from across the country.”

self discipline

My Productivity Secret: Sticking to It

self discipline

Guest blogger Ethan Austin is the co-founder of GiveForward, an online fundraising network that makes it possible to raise money for loved ones with medical expenses. Follow Ethan on Twitter @ethanaustin.

Ninety-nine percent of the time the hard part isn’t knowing the right course of action. It’s having the discipline to stick to it. There are a million and one brilliant blog posts floating around the Interwebz that will tell you what you should be doing to be a more productive human being. This is not going to be one of them. And the reason why is simple: I totally suck at personal productivity so I’d be a total fraud if I gave you advice on how to be a more productive person. So instead of telling you what you should be doing, I’m going to let you in on a secret.

You can read all the blog posts in the world with ingenius plans on how to be a more productive human being, but if you can’t stick to the plan, they don’t mean a whole lot.

Seth Godin wrote a terrific post a few weeks ago called “Hooked on Hacking Life” that hit on this exact point. He wrote, “Maybe you can quote the GTD literature chapter and verse, understand lean and MVP and the modern meeting standard. Maybe you now delete your emails with a swipe. It’s possible you’ve read not just this blog but fifty others … But the question remains ‘what have you shipped?'”

This is the fundamental question that we all have to answer. Why is it that some of us ship and some of us don’t? We’re all reading from the same playbook. We all have the same information at our disposal. So why do some people outperform others?

It’s discipline. It’s putting in your 10,000 hours. It’s waking up at 6 am every morning to hone your craft. It’s figuring out whatever productivity plan works best for you and then sticking to it. Well that, and using Taskrabbit of course.

To be fair, discipline is something I struggle with myself. But it’s something I’m constantly working on getting better at. I can’t claim to have figured it all out yet, but I can promise you if you can figure out how to be a more disciplined person, the personal productivity plan should take care of itself.

Austin City SXSW

Five Things TaskRabbit Loves About SXSW

Austin City SXSW

We’re pretty excited about heading down to Austin this week. Leah will be giving an exciting talk about the role of social reputation and trust mechanisms in our lives, and TaskRabbits will be on the ground helping companies, brands, and attendees. Since we still have to wait another day to pull on our cowboy boots, we put together this list of the five things we’re most excited about at this year’s festival:

Panels, Talks, and Sessions
This year’s lineup of speakers is overwhelmingly awesome. We wish we could clone ourselves and soak up all the knowledge that will be doled out around town during the week. The things we’re most looking forward to? Lyft / Zimride Co-Founder John Zimmer will chat about the role of UX in peer-to-peer marketplaces. RelayRides Founder Shelby Clark will speak alongside Airbnb’s Nate Blecharczyk and Etsy’s Juliet Gorman on the power of the sharing economy. Tumblr Founder David Karp will talk about building tools for the 85 million creators on the social content platform. Productivity guru Tim Ferriss will teach us all how to learn more efficiently in his session on meta-learning. Jane Pratt, founder of Jane and Sassy magazines and editor-in-chief of XoJane.com will dole out secrets discovered from 25 years of disrupting media. And our very own Leah Busque will discuss the role of social reputation in our lives — and the future of trust in our society.

Eating Our Way Through Austin
Where do we even start? We plan to have barbecue sauce on our faces 24/7. We’ve got a handful of favorite BBQ joints, but we’re really salivating for the brown sugar & coffee rubbed brisket from Lambert’s. We also can’t wait to get our hands on the tried and true pies from Home Slice Pizza. And, of course, we plan to try as many flavors of Amy’s Ice Creams as possible while we’re in town.

Austin Beerworks & Spec’s
Sure, we’ll drink our fair share of Shiner Bock while we’re in town, but what we’re really excited about is getting our paws on some cold cans of Fire Eagle from Austin Beerworks. We’re suckers for craft beer and amazing brand design — Austin Beerworks gives us both! We plan to pick up our beverages at the very cool Spec’s — the Texas superstore with a smart looking rabbit in the logo. How can we resist?

Texas TaskRabbits!
South by Southwest pretty much runs on the friendly, reliable Austin TaskRabbits. We’re endlessly impressed by this hardworking bunch and love heading to Texas to see their smiling faces. Plus, like many conference attendees, we know we’re gonna need a hand while we’re in town. TaskRabbits can help with everything from point-to-point deliveries on the ground (iPhone chargers and coffees and umbrellas, oh my!) to supply runs for you and your team (Whole Foods, Target, whatever you need).

Hanging Out With You
Those of us heading to Austin from TaskRabbit HQ can’t wait to hang out with you! Follow @TaskRabbit and be sure your TaskRabbit iPhone App is up-to-date to get the latest on where we’ll be when.

Customer Service

Three ROI-Positive Strategies to Make Your Clients Feel Like a Million Bucks

Customer Service

As a savvy business owner, you likely have some understanding of what a customer is worth over the life of their relationship with you. Showing a little extra love now can pay off big time down the road — happy customers breed more happy customers. Here are three of the most effective (and ROI-positive) strategies to making your customers smile.

Make it right.
Understand that things will go wrong from time to time, but bending over backward to make it right inspires loyalty. Know what would resolve the customer’s issue, and then do a little more to wow them. If complaints aren’t common then the money you spend will preserve, and possibly boost, the lifetime value of that customer. Even in cases where you spend more than the customer is worth, you maintain a happy customer that doesn’t slam you on social networks or declare loudly to everyone in earshot that they shouldn’t bring business to you. Going above and beyond for customers can turn them into advocates for your business — leading to glowing recommendations and more customers. I once had a negative experience with REI, and they went above and beyond to make it up to me. Since then, I’ve recommended them to everyone I know who’s looking for outdoor equipment. Spending money to make customers very happy will yield more customers in the long run, even if you spend more than the unhappy customer is worth in revenue to you.

Help them with EVERYTHING.
When speaking with customers, ask them if there’s anything you can do for them — and then help them with whatever it is they need. A customer service representative from the online shoe retailer Zappos once helped a customer track down pizza restaurants that were open late at night. They once also found a pair of shoes from a competitor for a gentleman that needed shoes urgently and had them delivered to his hotel. I’m not suggesting you turn your business into a full service concierge, but strange requests are the exception. But they’re exceptions that offer you the opportunity to create a stellar reputation that stands out from the pack. Going above and beyond will turn your customers into megaphones for your amazing service.

Call them.
Don’t make the kinds of calls you get from annoying survey organizations, but call and thank them for their business. Make that the subject of your call. Don’t put a hard sell on for anything, just be gracious and thankful for their business. Ask them if there’s anything they need that you can do for them (see above), but if not, bid them farewell with another emphatic thank you. Leave a voicemail if need be, again emphasizing your gratitude for their business, and leave a phone number (one that reaches an actual human being). The amount of time you spend per call pales in comparison to the immediate business you could generate and the advocacy you will inspire.

Victor Echevarria is the Head of Business Development at TaskRabbit. Follow him on Twitter @etxeba.

HBO Girls SXSW Austin

TaskRabbits and the Urgent Content’s Activation for Girls SXSW 2012

HBO Girls SXSW Austin

The incredible companies that depended on TaskRabbits to fuel their 2012 South by Southwest experiences inspired us so much, we built a swanky dedicated tool in honor of them. The dedicated SXSW portal makes it easier than ever for brands to hire TaskRabbits for all their Austin needs. With all the talk of Austin in the air, we decided to check in with Staci Perkins — one of our favorite TaskPosters from last year’s festival. Staci was the Project Manager for “Urgent Content’s Activation for Girls SXSW,” a very cool social media initiative to raise awareness of the hit new HBO show, Girls.

Could you tell me a bit about the Urgent Content Activation for Girls SXSW?
“At SXSW 2012, we ran a social media scavenger hunt to promote Girls, a new show from HBO. People followed, tweeted, and retweeted for free food and drink, eventually earning the show nearly five thousand followers in less than a week. Within two weeks of its premiere, Girls was renewed for a second season.” [pullshow]

What was the vision for the project? 
“Our objective for launching HBO’s campaign for Girls was to engage the crowds at SXSW 2012 by utilizing the show’s Twitter handle @girlsHBO. We partnered with local Austin vendors to give away free food and drinks to festival attendees who followed @girlsHBO on Twitter. Since Girls had not premiered prior to SXSW, it was an exciting opportunity for us to introduce the brand’s voice and charm to potential fans and advocates. At its core our promotion aimed to capture the spirit of the show, engage with the show’s target audience, and ultimately create a base for future promotions.”

What made you decide to use TaskRabbits?
“I already had a great relationship with the TR team and had used TaskRabbits several times for events I was producing in New York for Eventbrite. They told me they were launching the Austin market at SXSW and I thought ‘what a perfect fit.'”

What specific Tasks did TaskRabbits do for you?
“[pullthis]Our TaskRabbits worked with us for six days to complete the activation. They helped run our pop-up coffee shop, hang signs, promote our giveaways, manage the giveaways at different venues, and refill our coffee supply each hour.[/pullthis] I’m sure I’m missing other things, but they definitely made a ton happen and their local knowledge of Austin was clutch.”

What would your experience have been like without the TaskRabbits?
“I honestly don’t want to think about it! We would likely have had to use Craigslist to find staff, and gone into the whole thing blindly. Not something you want to do when your client is HBO.”

Do Less Be More Productivity

My Productivity Secret: Do Less

Do Less Be More Productivity

Guest blogger Sam Hodges is the co-founder of Endurance Lending Network, a web-based lending platform that connects small businesses looking for $50-500K of debt capital with non-traditional lending sources. Follow Sam on Twitter @HodgesSam.

An irony of this blog entry is that I’m writing it a week later than I’d hoped — it’s been a busy week as we accelerate into the New Year at Endurance (a lender to small businesses in the U.S.). Endurance is the second company I’ve co-founded; my experience here (and in a variety of other managerial and investment-oriented roles over the past decade), has helped me define a set of productivity rules I try, not always faithfully, to live by:

1. Triage, triage, triage
Some people call this the “80:20” principle — my experience is that ratio is misleading (and a bit trite), so I prefer to think of this as “triage” (what an admissions team at an ER does with incoming patients: they focus first on the ones where time is of the essence). For example, at Endurance our team sorts tasks by two factors: “importance” and “urgency.” One can only get a pretty small number of tasks done in any day; especially in the context of a start-up, where it pays to be nimble. Constantly re-evaluating what is important and what is urgent (not the same thing) keeps your team focused on stuff that’s mission critical. If you find your To-Do list cluttered with a bunch of medium-importance, low-urgency items it probably means you’ve let your eye off the ball in other areas. A lot of success is in consistently hitting medium-importance, high-urgency goals.

2. Make fewer decisions – focus on those
This may be in response to my own cognitive limitations, but I can only make a few good decisions every day. I find that the more I standardize certain things (how I dress for work, what I have for breakfast, what my workout is in the morning, etc.) the more capacity I have to deeply weigh the important stuff. It’s easy to get hung up on the litany of decisions required just to get through life — the less time I spend on those, the less time I waste on “friction-full” low value things which I can free up to be productive where it matters.

3. Outsource as much as you can
I’m just not very good at many things; moreover, time is of the essence. For a company or in your personal life, determine the areas that actually create value — for a company it may be operational excellence; for an individual it may be cooking dinner for your family every night — and focus on those. There are myriad services, TaskRabbit being a great example, that allow you to handle many non-core needs.

4. Have more than one option
Getting to a good decision usually requires some sort of preparatory process: it could be in research, prototype development, candidate development, etc. Generally, I’ve found that rather than focusing this prep process on “the answer,” it’s more productive to focus on developing a few options. That way, if for whatever reason your first choice doesn’t work you’ve already done the thinking necessary to go onto option two and you don’t have to duplicate your initial effort. To bastardize an old adage: plans are nothing, contingency planning is everything.

5. Close your email and leave devices out of meetings; keep meetings short
Some people are good at multi-tasking, but the most brilliant and effective multi-taskers I know are even better when they focus. Sometimes distraction and chaos are unavoidable. Two tactical suggestions for limiting this effect? 1. Limit meeting time. I personally think there should be no meetings longer than thirty minutes (though sometimes brainstorming or planning sessions do need more time than that); and 2. Tell people to close their email (if they must use their laptops in a meeting) and leave their other devices at their desks. Doing so will have the added boon that people will want the meeting to end quickly — a good thing!

6. Close your email and browser
A corollary to #5: if you’re working on something that requires extended focus (e.g. coding, financial modeling, document preparation), turn off your email and close your browser! Facebook and detail work do not mix.

Hope these ideas are helpful, and that you’re more successful living them than I am at times!