Is Bark good for buying/selling creative services?
Bark is an online service that generates leads for businesses and finds suppliers for clients. We spent several months thoroughly testing the service to see how well it works for both buyers and sellers. (See their website)
On the surface, it seems like a good idea, but it wasn’t long until cracks started to appear.
Update: Bark’s response to our review can be found at the end of the article or you can jump to it here.
*Note: that we only base this review on creative/marketing services. Bark provides leads on many services, the efficacy of which we cannot fairly assess.
Leads must come from somewhere, and they often come with a cost. Many designers and developers will spend money on advertising to generate leads.
The theory behind Bark is connecting suppliers with people who are interested in buying their services. It costs sellers a fee every time you contact a potential buyer.
The Quality of the Leads
Lead quality is extremely important. Poor quality leads are usually characterised as projects with very low budgets or clients with only a vague interest in actually commissioning work.
Unfortunately, Bark has a couple of fatal flaws which result in an inferior quality of lead.
Businesses that use AdWords will be familiar with negative keywords. Negative keywords are specified when you don’t want your ad to appear. For example, a typical negative keyword is ‘cheap’, so someone offering a high standard of logo design wouldn’t want to pay for clicks from people searching for ‘cheap logo design’.
Bark doesn’t apply these standards to generating its leads.
Vague Briefs & No Option to Specify a Budget
Buyers can only provide a very succinct brief, but more importantly, they are not given the option to specify a budget. As a result, sellers have no idea whether their level of service is a match with potential buyers.
Bark does inform both the potential buyer and seller of the “estimated” cost of the services they are looking for, and those estimates are pretty low and wildly speculative given the limited brief.
This is the basic details sellers receive. Note the absence of a budget.
Worthless Review System
As a test, we added some legitimate reviews from customers and found that there was absolutely no validation process to the review system. If they wanted to, a seller could just leave countless illegitimate reviews for their own services.
As a bare minimum, most review sites will send an email to the address that a reviewer provides, and the review won’t be published until a link is clicked within the confirmation email. Other more established sites, such a Trust Pilot will flag reviews that come from the same IP address. Bark’s failure to do any of this makes the review system pointless and potentially misleading to potential buyers.
While we’re on the subject of fake reviews, Bark paid Nick Hewer (of The Apprentice and Countdown) to do a promotional video for their site. They then took a line of his script and posted it on their homepage like it was a testimonial! (Note – since writing this review both the videos and the testimonials from Nick Hewer have been removed from the site).
The “Premium” Package
Bark charges sellers to contact potential buyers using a credits system. In addition to this, they also have something they call their ‘Elite Pro’ package which, at the time of writing, is £239 per year.
It’s not unusual for a service like Bark to have a premium echelon for sellers, but the way that they sell it is dishonest to both buyers and sellers.
There is no qualification required to become an “elite seller”, yet the web states “The Elite profile has been specially designed to show our users you’re one of the best professionals on Bark.” In reality, the only thing it actually shows potential buyers is that you used to have £239!
A system like should be reserved for sellers who have multiple confirmed and successful tenders via the platform.
The Redeeming Features
The Bark.com website is well designed and makes the process of posting tenders and responding to them easy for buyers and sellers respectively.
As mentioned earlier, we primarily tested the platform for design and marketing services. In all likelihood, the Bark.com may work well for other industries.
What would it take to fix Bark?
- Legitimise the review system
- Reserve the “Elite” system for supplier with a proven record of accomplishment on the platform
- Improve the quality of the leads
- Allow buyers to specify a budget
Should you use Bark.com?
In its present state, Bark currently has little use for designers and developers who wish to target mid to upper-level projects/clients.
From a seller’s point of view, it might be suited to students and fledgeling suppliers looking to get their foot on the design ladder.
From a buyer’s perspective, it could suit those looking for help with a low-budget project, but even then, they would be better off doing their due diligence via other channels, such a Google search.
Response from Bark
Bark have asked us to include the following response to our review:
At Bark, we pride ourselves in finding service providers for all Buyers, regardless of their budget.
Some of our campaigns are geared towards customers looking for a value service and some more towards those looking for a premium one.
Some Buyers will be looking for a great value service and others will want a more premium offering. We have experimented with asking Buyers their budget and found this problematic for 2 reasons:
1. Many Buyers don’t know how much things should cost, leading to a mismatch between what the Buyer says and the Seller’s pricing
2. When presented with a choice of budgets, many Buyers will choose the cheapest option, even if they’re willing to pay more. This too can be an issue as the Buyer get no response and Sellers see all Buyers looking for cheap pricing.
We give all Buyers the chance to provide additional details, which can include their budget and we share the Buyer’s requirements without charge. This is so the Seller can make up their own mind, before they pay to respond.
In some categories, including digital marketing, we do ask the Buyer’s budget and this is a factor in setting the price of the job.
In terms of our estimates, they are always based on previous actual quotes to similar enquiries where our data shows this is accurate.
The example given on your review is from Web Design where we don’t provide an estimate as they vary too much from job to job. Looking at Graphic Design around 60% of quotes received are within the boundaries suggested as “most customers pay”.
With any automated system though there is the potential for unusual enquiries to miss the mark and this does happen on occasion. We are always clear with the Buyer that the numbers given are a guideline only and most will compare prices based on the actual prices they receive.
We recognise that budget is a key factor for Sellers to know if the Bark is one for them and will be looking at ways to better capture this information in the coming months.
We welcome feedback on our extensive review system, which is there to help Buyers make an informed decision.
The system is designed so that reviews are simple to request and post, so Seller’s can benefit right away from reviews left by their previous customers. We also have a widget, similar to TripAdvisor’s, that showcases a Seller’s reviews on their own website helping their own conversion too.
Clearly, we do not condone any Seller posting non-legitimate reviews and, where this is observed, the reviews are removed by our Team.
That said, Buyers need to be able to have faith in our review system and have plans to overhaul it in the future.
The Elite package is designed to help Sellers achieve more with Bark by having an enhanced profile and support from a dedicated account manager.
The support that comes from being an Elite Pro means they’re currently 67% more likely to get hired. We want to help new Sellers achieve success right away, which is why we don’t impose any minimum term on becoming an Elite.