Before Kingsley Onyemali joined TaskRabbit in March 2020, he held six jobs.
Better than the alternative: In 2018, the mover was homeless in Austin, Texas, two years after moving to Oklahoma City with his family from Nigeria. He was trying to save up money for an apartment so his family, still in Oklahoma, could make the 360-mile trek south to join him.
But he had to hurry: Onyemali had a full-time job at a Lexus dealership, ran a small garage organization company, and worked sporadically on gigs with Uber, Amazon, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Along the way, he’s amassed enough money to afford housing: first an apartment in 2019 and then a house in 2020. Even then, he still had to work multiple jobs — until last year, he earned $108,592 as a mover and furniture assembler earned on TaskRabbit, according to documents verified by CNBC Make It.
Business hasn’t stopped since then. “During this inflationary season, work doesn’t slow down,” Onyemali, 40, tells CNBC Make It. “I’m not scared when I have nothing to do because I was able to save up for the rainy day.”
But there’s a cost: Onyemali says he works 50 to 60 hours a week to make that six-figure amount. Here’s how he built his TaskRabbit business from the ground up.
Make a career as a mover
Onyemali said he had never worked with his hands before immigrating to the United States. As a certified accountant, he was responsible for brand and image development for a Nigerian mayor.
In Oklahoma, he reshaped himself as a furniture mover. He switched careers partly because it meant spending more time with family and partly because it was readily available work.
“The grades and the school made me feel like I never needed it [physical] Skills – but when I came here the game was different,” says Onyemali. “I didn’t imagine working for anyone or being in the corporate world. I wanted to have time with my family.”
After hitting a few local gigs, a string of job leads took him to Austin, where he stayed with one employer for two weeks and saved $2,300 to buy a used Nissan Ultima. But Austin — where the average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment is $4,649, according to Apartments.com — wasn’t affordable at first.
Sometimes Onyemali slept in hotels or crashed with friends. On days when he wasn’t working, he slept in the car.
“This is America. Nobody puts you on their couch forever,” he says.
Striving for an American Dream
In 2018 Onyemali founded his own workshop organization company. Business was slow at first, so he worked as an Uber driver and delivery man for Amazon, DoorDash and Grubhub. Combined with his job at the Lexus dealership, those gigs earned him about $60,000 a year, he says.
By December 2018, he had cobbled together enough to rent an apartment for himself and his family. But renting wasn’t the goal, so Onyemali kept working multiple jobs to save for a house. It took about a year: In January 2020 he finished a newly built house.
Joining TaskRabbit two months later didn’t pay off immediately. Onyemali made just $37,000 from the platform in his first year. But he picked up manual skills on the job that eventually helped him get more clients and charge higher prices – prompting him to quit his other jobs in October 2020.
“Before I started TaskRabbit, I had never assembled a TV,” he says. “Now I can assemble 10 in an hour. Many of the services I offer started out as skills I picked up on various TaskRabbit jobs.”
Use reputation to charge “premium prices”.
Onyemali says he takes on about 60 projects per month on TaskRabbit, and his five-star reputation on the platform allows him to charge “premium pricing” starting at $70 an hour.
He recently suffered from an algorithm change, he says: TaskRabbit used to sort its search results by highest rating, but now it ranks them by lowest price. “Now you have to go to a third page to even find me,” he says. “But I understand that I also have a choice to lower my prices to get more jobs.”
A TaskRabbit spokesperson confirmed the algorithm change in an email exchange with CNBC Make It.
“Overall, we’re working to provide the best possible match between Taskers looking for work and customers looking for help,” the spokesperson wrote. “We do this by ensuring that tasks are distributed effectively across our Tasker community, matching our customers with a Tasker who can get the job done for a reasonable price and giving more Taskers more opportunities to make money. “
In the first eight months of 2022, Onyemali still made almost $60,000 from TaskRabbit. He reinvests most of his money back into his garage organization business, largely because he doesn’t have to spend on TaskRabbit marketing and advertising, he says.
“Before TaskRabbit, I made just enough to keep things going, but not enough to save or invest,” says Onyemali. He hopes to spend more time scaling the garage business in 2023.
Looking ahead, Onyemali says he wants to start integrating his TaskRabbit skills with the type of work he used to do in Nigeria. Ideally, he would like to make money by helping people understand how to operate new technologies that might replace manual labor, he says.
“This morning I helped someone replace a window screen,” says Onyemali. “Even if a machine could eventually do this job, you still need a human to set up the machine.”
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