Task Monkeys – the ‘Trade Me of jobs’

Face it. We all occasionally need help. Maybe it’s a leaky faucet, an unpainted wall, or a car that needs to be driven across the country. There are times when we just can’t do everything ourselves. Well, there’s a website that has been built to solve that problem, connecting task-seekers with jobs of any size.

Called Task Monkeys, the service is loosely a mashup of TradeMe Jobs and LinkedIn.

Task Monkeys is the brainchild of Eric Mooij, an accomplished author and founder of DIYFather, the popular social platform designed to connect fathers who need inspiration and motivation.

Task Monkeys and DIYFather are not related ventures, although Eric encourages dads to use Task Monkeys, and admits that the wealth of experience he acquired during his time at DIYFather helped him greatly when it came to starting Task Monkeys.

It all began with an idea which came from two distinct moments of inspiration.

“A good friend of mine approached me about posting his profile online as a way to get work,” Eric recounts.

“I said, ‘like LinkedIn?’”

“‘Not quite,’ he said, ‘more like, they can book my time and services, but in a way where I can make it a full-time job.’”

“Being someone who thought on a grander scale, I replied ‘Nice idea, however I think users would like to be drawn to a solution, such as a whole volume of people available for casual, part time, and full time jobs.’”

“So that got me thinking of an online market for job seekers.”

“Then, while on a sunny ride home from work on my moped while I was going around the Wellington bays, it dawned on me to design a platform that made it easy for people to trade time and skills for money. It had to be as automated and as safe as possible, relying on community feedback – very similar to how TradeMe works around ratings and feedback – as well offering payment security, and importantly, it had to have a revenue model.”

With concept in hand, Eric began looking for a designer on freelancer.com, a platform with a similar design concept to Task Monkeys, although all jobs are digital and can be done from a computer or laptop.

After reviewing multiple applications, Eric decided on a team that had developed similar concepts in the past. Although it was originally cost-effective and seemed to be a desirable option at the time, the disadvantages of having a development team that didn’t share the vision quickly became evident.

“After 6 months of late nights interacting with the remote development group and thousands of pages of specifications and diagrams, as well as several thousand dollars of milestone payments, the end result just wasn’t up to standard.

“I decided to seek a local developer to try to fix the site that was delivered by the remote developers. Many were approached, all with a common reply, ‘There is no fixing that, better to rebuild from scratch and here is what it would cost.’

“It was at least going to be the cost of a decent sedan to as much as a small apartment to develop.

“I reached out to my contacts through Facebook, and found a very talented developer who would do it for shares. He rebuilt the site in under 2 months, with all the automated workflows built in.”

Maintaining focus and direction has also been challenging for Eric.

“As an entrepreneur, I had grand visions that far exceeded what Task Monkeys is now. These grand visions were just distractions impacting on the productivity needed to get Task Monkeys to market, not only quickly, but also so people easily understood what it was – a casual, easy to use job site.”

Task Monkey was built with New Zealanders in mind, but a quick peruse of the website shows that a sizeable portion of the activity comes from the United States. Eric attributes this to New Zealanders’ do-it-yourself attitude versus the tendencies of our counterparts of the world.

The service doesn’t deter people in different countries from posting jobs – there have been jobs posted for all around the world.

“The challenge is, if it is a physical job, there needs to be a hoard of people in that area that are not only registered on Task Monkeys, but also see the job and are interested in doing the job. That’s a lot of marketing that needs to be done in order to make the transactions happen.

Looking back, Eric says that he would do many things differently.

“I would wrap it up in this a very simplified workflow, highlighting the areas where I would do things differently.

“Finding a ‘key stakeholder’ was something that was done post-release of Task Monkeys rather then pre-development, I feel this altered the potential relationship that could have been, from a partnership relationship to a commercial relationship. More would have been gained by both organisations earlier with a partnership relationship. A year has passed and the discussions are still on-going. Without a key stakeholder to share in the costs of marketing and development, then you better have good access to funds!”

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