Back when I was a marketer, every business had to be in the Yellow Pages. It was probably the number one place we all turned to to find a tradesperson or a business service. In fact I spent many hours laboriously writing the Yellow Pages ads for our law firm! Today, with everything online, you have a wealth of services to choose from - all at your fingertips.
But how do you pick the right one for you when there's so much choice?
I recently discovered Bidvine which is a free to use website specially designed to help you hire local professionals in your area.
You simply select the type of service you are looking for and enter your postcode - for example you could search for decorators, music teachers, children's entertainers, photographers etc. My search was for Family Portrait Photography.
Where will the photos be taken?
What style of imagery I was looking for - again with a drop down box and a choice of Candid, Artistic, Traditional etc.
Whether I have a specific theme in mind? (This is optional though)
What format I want the photos in - e.g. album, on a CD.
What is my budget (anywhere from £100 up to £1000)
Whether I want to travel to the photographer and the distance I am prepared to travel or whether I want the photographer to come to me (which in this instance I do)
My timescale - days / weeks etc - your request can be flagged as urgent.
Any other information I want to pass on to the photographer
How I'd like to receive quotes - email is the default setting but you can also opt to receive telephone or text quotes too.
Then you simply hit "Get Quotes" and wait for these to hit your inbox. I made my request on a Sunday and was told to expect quotes by the Wednesday.
So how did I get on?
Bidvine say you will receive up to 5 requests per project which is a sensible amount because otherwise choosing becomes a little overwhelming.
But I actually created two requests (or projects as Bidvine calls them) as I only received one quote for Family Portrait Photography (my first request).
My second request was for the more general search term of Family Photography and I received three quotes for that.
The reasons for this, I suspect, are that I live just outside Cardiff and asked for the photographer to travel to me and I had been quite specific in my requests.
Nevertheless, making the request via Bidvine was incredibly simple and relatively quick. You may just find that you need to be a little more flexible to find the service professional you need.
Once you have chosen your professional, your contract is with them and you pay them directly. Businesses who list on Bidvine have to buy Bidvine credits and then 'pay' to send quotes and personal messages by using these credits. This is a good way of making sure that customers receive a considered, properly structured quote that addresses their requirements fully.
I received my quotes via email but you can also view them on Bidvine in the file that the system creates for each of your projects. The main benefit of this is that you can read any customer reviews that have been published for your service professional.
The fees quoted ranged from £450 to £700, but the latter was higher due to travel expenses from the West of England.
I liked Bidvine and can see that it will further develop into a valuable resource for time-strapped parents. I would still suggest creating a checklist of your requirements beforehand so that you can assess each of your quotes on an equal basis, simply because there is quite a bit of variation in what you get for your money.
A quote is, of course, just a guide and by having your requirements to hand (perhaps in a written list) you can have an open and constructive conversation with the service professionals you choose to contact and make sure everything is covered - and that the final price is acceptable to you both.