DI-Why Are You Doing That?

Try as we might, we simply can't - and shouldn't - do it all ourselves.

Sep 4, 2020 10:55 AM5 Minute Read

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    You're probably sitting down, which is good because we need to have a talk. There's nothing wrong with being a go-getter and pushing our skills from time to time. That's how we grow, and if we're not growing then we're dying. But it's important to know when we've pushed ourselves too far beyond our skillsets and straight into trouble. The problem is that when we run full speed into a project, especially one where we lack expertise and fundamental training, it's far too easy to stumble over the line that separates the two. So, let's slow down a bit, explore the DIY mentality and figure out some tips for how we can save ourselves from DI-Why-Do-Overs.

    Why Do So Many Love DIY So Much?

    For some, it is purely financial - "it doesn't make sense to pay for X when I can make / do it myself for much less!" For others, it's the joy of the creative process and sense of fulfillment that comes with completing a project "with their own hands." Both of these can be healthy motivations for taking on DIY projects. However, it can be unhealthy when self-confidence and motivation is confused for what's truly ego and frugality gone too far.

    Let's take a closer look at each of these motivators.

    A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned

    A lot of DIY projects are born from the desire to save money. You've worked hard for it so why should you just hand it over to someone else for something you can seemingly do yourself? Right on! But while it's true that you'd likely never pay someone to replace a lightbulb for you, you may be highly inclined to hire an electrician to replace bad wiring in your home. If you're thinking of taking on a DIY project in an attempt to save money, ask yourself the following questions before you get started:

    • Could I do this job professionally (i.e. would an employer hire me) without first having a degree / extensive training / apprenticeship? If the answer is no, immediately question whether proceeding is a good idea. There's likely a very good reason why other people spent their own hard earned money on the required training.
    • If someone else asked me to do this project for them, would I? If so, how much would I charge them for my time, effort and materials (tangible and intangible, like your experience, ideas, etc.)? Is that total dollar amount greater than or equal to the cost of the item / project that I originally considered to be "too expensive?" You might realize that paying is the better deal.
    • Does it matter if the end result looks amateurish? You could patch your favorite dress shirt with duct tape but would you still be comfortable wearing it to a fancy restaurant?
    • Will the savings be long-term? Do I fully understand the process and truly understand the ins-and-outs of what I'm doing? For example: does it matter if your homemade toothpaste doesn't contain fluoride? Do you know what kind of ingredients could damage the irreplaceable enamel of your teeth? Is the cost savings today just setting you up for serious (and expensive) dental work in the future? Is it worth it?

    When starting a DIY project to save money, always keep the bigger picture in mind and question what the total cost would be if your DIY attempt turned into a complete failure - the answer in that case will always be more than paying for it at the start.

    Jack of All Trades, Master of None

    Saving money is great but many people simply love trying new things. You never know, trying something new might just change your entire life! But in truth, many people often check the box on their life experiences list and seldom, if ever, return to do it again. A lot of DIY can fall into this category - but how readily should you risk failure on projects like this? Before you start, ask yourself the following:

    • How much time do I have to dedicate to learning the basics required to complete this DIY? What else could I be doing with that time instead? Which do I consider to be more valuable and a better use of my time?
    • Do I need to invest in new materials / tools to complete this DIY? Are those materials / tools useful for other projects? Would that money be better spent somewhere else?
    • What is my true motivation for trying my hand at this project? Am I bored? Trying to prove a point? Just seeing if I can do it? What purpose does completing it myself serve?
    • Is this something I want to try once and be done with it or am I saddling myself with a new recurring task that will become "boring" and/or burdensome over time? Is that what I really want?
    • If I fail at this DIY now or give up on it in the future, will all of my work need to be "undone" by someone else or will I need to spend time explaining to them what I did?

    Consider this: replacing your car's oil is a low-risk task and might be satisfying the first few times you do it, but is it really something you want to do (and clean up after) every 5,000 miles when, excluding travel time, a 10 minute drive-through service station can do it all for you instead?

    A cost comparison of DIY oil changes

    DIY as a Business Owner

    Of course, we're not here to talk about electrical work, toothpaste and oil changes. We're here to talk about businesses. Fortunately, the same set of questions we've already explored are equally as applicable to businesses as they are to individuals. If you're considering taking on a new work project, make sure you reflect on each before you embark on your new journey.

    A final thought: people often ask how much it costs to have an evaluation of their operations, a consultation on how to drive innovation, a website (re)designed, a robust marketing plan developed, graphic design work completed (such as logos, business cards, brochures, email templates, social media graphics) and so on. The answer is almost always, "less than the business you're already losing without them." Whether it be in the form of time, resources or customers, business lost due to improperly executed planning, marketing and processes will always be more expensive than hiring professional help.

    Whether you decide to DIY or hire help, you've made a good decision. After all, the worst thing you can do - and the decision that will always cost you the most - is deciding to do nothing at all.

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