Tackle Your `To-do’ List

Shortly before the birth of her second baby, Julie Stanford was juggling the remodel of her home, running her technology design business and being mom to her 3-year-old son.


She needed help assembling new kitchen cabinets, so she turned to TaskRabbit, a startup that connects busy people with “runners” who run errands and take care of other odds and ends. Stanford, who lives in Mountain View, posted the task on Taskrabbit’s website, received offers from local runners and picked one. A few days later, her kitchen cabinets were assembled. Instead of spending hours doing it herself, she spent quality time with her son, something she cherished because she knew she would be even more time-pressed once the baby came.


“I can focus on things I want to spend time on,” says Stanford, now the mother of two. “I didn’t want to assemble cabinets. I wanted to go to the park with my son.”


For parents who need an extra hand around the house – and really, who doesn’t? – new websites are making it easier to get things done. From locating a plumber to fix a leaky faucet to dropping off that box of unused clothing to Goodwill, they can help you find a person for the job.


In the past, people could post a request on craigslist.org, but it wasn’t always reliable. How do you learn more about the person you’re hiring? How do you know the person is dependable? Using social networking tools, these new sites add a layer of security.


Here are three sites that help you tackle your to-do list.


Etsy Alchemy



Etsy has become known as an online marketplace to buy and sell handcrafted items, such as knitted scarves and scented soap. For busy parents, it can also be a place to commission something they don’t have time to make themselves or can’t find readily in stores.  


How It Works: You post your request on the site, along with how much you’re willing to pay and when you need it done. Requests have included custom Halloween costumes, a wooden dollhouse and accessories for a child’s Zhu Zhu Pet.


Once you submit your request, crafty Etsy sellers respond with a bid. You can check out other items they’ve made and their reviews, as well as message them for more details. Once you select the one that best suits your needs, you pay for the item and wait for it to be shipped.





Redbeacon makes it easier to find local services, such as hiring an electrician or a tree trimmer. CEO Ethan Anderson, a former Google product manager, says the site was born out of frustration when he had to call around to find a team of movers. Some were too expensive; some weren’t available on the right day. Instead of just an online directory of local services and their reviews, Redbeacon goes one step further and has potential businesses come to you.


How It Works: You post your request, selecting from about 230 different types of jobs, such as gardener and dog walker. You also post a detailed description of what you need done, from fixing the lighting in your bathroom to moving a piano to its new home.


Then you sit back and receive offers from local professionals and businesses, including an estimate of how much they will charge for the job and when they’re available. Most requests receive at least three bids, Anderson says. 


How do you know they’re reliable? You can read their online reviews and ratings, ask your friends on Facebook for advice and see if they are members of professional organizations.


From there, you book an appointment. You don’t have to call around for quotes and availability, and you can take care of it at any hour of the day – like when the kids are asleep.





Leah Busque founded TaskRabbit after nearly running out of dog food for her Labrador retriever. She realized that there had be someone in her neighborhood she could hire to pick up the food. She created TaskRabbit as a platform to connect people who need help with people who offer help.


“It begs the question, ‘What is their time worth?’” Busque says. “If they can get that hour back in the day, what would they outsource? What would they pay?”


How It Works: You post your request and how much you’re willing to pay. Jobs have ranged from holding a spot at a popular lawn concert to picking up groceries to assembling Ikea furniture. People have paid from $15 for a simple task to more than $100 for something more involved and time-consuming.


Local, pre-approved runners who have gone through a background check bid on your task. The runners include other parents who have some spare time to those who are temporarily between jobs. You can read individual profiles and expertise, reviews, and past accomplished tasks. 


Once you pick a runner and the task is done, you pay online. You don’t have to worry about having the right amount of cash on hand, or even be there in person if your runner is dropping off something. It also removes the risk of paying up front and not having the job completed to your satisfaction.


Ellen Lee covers family technology for Bay Area Parent.
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