The site is really simple to use, and actually allows you to find out if they have what you want before you even log in. The UK is split into local areas, with most of the UK population covered by the 75 areas currently shown.
Bidvine list absolutely tons of different professions - from Accounting to Asbestos Removal, Zumba Lessons to Mobile Petting Zoos. The autocomplete gives you a clue as to what you can choose from, although you may find there aren't actually so many of the more obscure...
For my review I chose Family Photographers in the Manchester area, adding a random postcode fairly near to me for the purpose of the review. Then I was asked a series of quick questions to find out more precisely what I wanted - indoor or outdoor? Studio or home? How many people will be in the photos? etc. These are the questions I'd have to answer each time if I was ringing round for quotes.
The questions only took a couple of minutes to answer, and obviously you have the chance and time to word any unusual requests carefully. If you decide against getting a quote or have already received one from elsewhere that you are happy with, you can cancel with a click, and all requests are shown in your personal dashboard.
And then you wait for the quotes...
Bidvine don't actually vet the professionals who sign up to their service, they are merely a way to bring the customers together with people who say they can do the work. It saves time and effort all round, not to mention cost. The customer need only say what they need once, and the professionals aren't paying for advertising that won't be seen by the right people.
The service worked very well indeed. If I'd Googled for suitable photographers I'd have easily spent all afternoon searching and ringing or emailing to ask about suitability, availability and price. Instead I spent 3 minutes answering a few questions and got 3 responses quite quickly.
My replies were very different. One was incredibly formal, one was very informal, and one gave a lot of background information about his services and reputation. One had a flat fee, one a list of prices, and one an idea of a total. I'd have been happy to discuss the job further with any of them, but their messages gave me an insight into who they were and how they're likely to work. I actually felt quite guilty that this is a review and I'm not actually hiring!
Partly bearing my hyperactive 6 year old in mind, my favourite was the most informal, Manchester photographer Wez Wilson. I liked his friendly approach, and immediately liked his style. I am not a fan of flat staged photographs. His price was also below my given top budget. I definitely felt I found exactly what suited me using Bidvine, and it cost me nothing - including time.
I've tried Bidvine, and I can't actually find fault with it. Even if there isn't anyone to fit your request, you find out within a few hours, so you can revert to more traditional methods. It'll certainly be my first port of call if I need any local professionals or tradespeople. The only downside I can see is that everyone isn't using it yet, so you may not yet find what you want, especially in rural areas or areas with a smaller population. For the main city areas though, it certainly seems to offer a very quick and handy solution.
Bidvine is free to use for customers, and the number of professionals joining is growing all of the time. It's incredibly simple, and incredibly useful, and I know I would definitely use it again. I'm no fan of spending all afternoon Googling and ringing people who aren't interested, I'd much rather pop out a request and see if anyone appropriate is available. As a bonus, it also gives you a good idea of whether or not you are expecting too much for your money without causing any embarrassment to anyone.
Special thanks to the other Family Portrait Photographers who responded to my job request - AA photographic and John Hollingsworth.
I was reimbursed for the time taken to conduct this review.