TaskRabbit: Putting Americans Back to Work, One Odd Job at a Time

Users post tasks they need help with, bidders respond to make fast cash.

ByABC News
September 28, 2011, 3:43 PM

Sept. 29, 2011— -- One young woman, an experienced advertising director, stands in her kitchen preparing dinner for some college students.

Meanwhile, a young man, who works as a professional construction worker, is hanging pictures on a wall for someone who is disabled.

Another woman, who works in sales and merchandising for major sporting events, is zipping across town to deliver four dozen cupcakes to a birthday party.

They could be anybody: lawyers, doctors, police officers. What do they all have in common? They're all TaskRabbits.

TaskRabbit, based in San Francisco, is a sort of a eBay for odd jobs. Here's how it works: You have an errand you need to run but you don't have time to do it, so you go on TaskRabbit.com, post the task and post the amount you'd be willing to pay for it. Once it's up there, a band of carefully vetted TaskRabbits bid on the task.

Generally, the lowest bidder wins. TaskRabbit gets a cut of the transaction, but the bidder gets that extra bit of cash in his or her pocket. And, in this economy, that little bit goes quite a long way.

Since its inception in 2008, at the start of the recession, there have been more than 2,000 TaskRabbit "runners." Since then they have expanded to six different cities: New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago and Orange County in California.

At the height of the recession, 70 percent of the runners were mostly unemployed or underemployed. By the company's estimates,TaskRabbits have altogether earned $10.5 million in the past three years. No drop in the bucket for folks struggling to make ends meet.

"I had lawyers coming to the site and applying to be a TaskRabbit because they were in between work," CEO and founder Leah Busque said. "Really amazing, highly skilled, quality people that had just been laid off."

People such as Michele Ahouse, who got laid off from her high-powered advertising job and found she was pregnant all in the same week.

"It was definitely a little overwhelming," she said. "My company was great in terms of how they handled the whole thing but it was still, you know, what was I going to do?"

She signed up to be a TaskRabbit.

"It was partially for the money," Ahouse said. "It was for my own peace of mind, too, knowing that I was earning some money."

The company makes people undergo a rigorous process to become a TaskRabbit, including a video interview, federal background check, Social Security number trace and, lastly, a test to see if applicants have what it takes.

"We'd really like to think that you know more about your TaskRabbit runner than you do about your pizza delivery guy," Busque said.

ABC News' Chris Cuomo met up with Diane Hohen, a 47-year-old single mother from Billerica, Mass., to see first-hand how the concept works.

Hohen has been a self-employed subcontractor selling T-shirts at football games and concert venues. She started noticing in 2009 that fewer and fewer people were buying T-shirts.

"Well, the economy kind of tanked, and I worked solely on commission," she said. "Because people don't really have money, they don't buy T-shirts or merchandise or trinkets at either football games or concerts."

Before 2009, her earnings added up to about $40,000.

"When the economy went downhill, I think I made about 25 grand," she said.

Hohen started getting worried. To top it all off, her daughter announced she was getting married.

"I basically needed a way to make more money to pay my mortgage and to let my daughter have a beautiful wedding," she said.