When Should You DIY and When Should You Hire?

fffIn recent years it’s become cool to be handsy – as in creating something yourself. Pinterest has literally exploded with neat pictures and step-by-step instructions for everything from knitted scarves to industrial light fixtures.  It’s seems to be a period of renaissance for creative people who now have easier and cheaper access to materials and the wherewithal to get their hands dirty.

That’s awesome.  Sometimes. Sometimes, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  Like in your business, for example.

If you run a small business it’s likely that you are or have experienced budget issues.  Spending money isn’t nearly as fun as it looks, and when you’re pressed for cash it can seem mighty simple to just dabble in something rather than hiring a professional.

But beware, business owner, because your tendency to DIY might be damaging to your business.

Some food for thought: What’s your title?  As the owner of the business, you probably call yourself Owner, President, Principal, Creative Director…and so on.  That means your job is to run the business – so if you’re not

  • Bringing in new customers, then who is?
  • Serving your clientele, who is?
  • Planning for the future, who is?

Most “DIY” projects can be classified as minutiae; things that affect your business but aren’t black and white necessities (website updates, writing newsletters, posting to social media, bookkeeping…).  By giving your focus to these elements instead of the bigger picture, you are limiting your potential growth and success.

Another thing to consider: Unless you are an expert on the subject, you are not an expert on the subject.  You wouldn’t pay an amateur to work for your business, so why would you pay yourself?  Oh, you’re not paying yourself for it?  Well that’s a whole other problem…

Okay, okay.  I know it’s not always an option to hire someone.  But between virtual assistants, consultants, programmers and the like (not to mention internship programs and plenty of people looking for work), you can find a lot of good help these days.

Here is when you should DIY:

1. When you can do it better, faster or cheaper than a professional.

Better  – something requires your unique touch and nobody else can do it quite like you (ps, emails don’t count. someone else can do that better). 

Faster – something you understand and can do quickly, but it might take someone else a while to figure out or get it right (though developing a system would be helpful for this).

Cheaper – calculate your hourly rate by the amount of time it would take you to do this effectively, and compare it to the rateXefficiency or cost of having someone else do it.

2. When you can leverage it.

You create something once – a program, a book, a video…and sell it many times.  Or you give presentations, workshops or group coaching and make several sales in a single span of time.

3. When it’s a skill you want to learn, that will ultimately make you better, faster or cheaper than a professional.

If none of these apply, do your business a favor and look for some assistance.

Hiring something out forces you to be really clear on what you want and what your expectations are.  It’s an investment of money and a little bit of time, but it’s a completely necessary step in the growth of your business.

Linsi BrownsonLinsi Brownson is a brand and business strategist for small businesses.  Her company, Spark Collaborative helps people truly understand who they are and who they serve, building companies that shine.
Image courtesy DonkeyHotey

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  1. Great food for thought. As a small business owner I need to ask myself these questions. As a virtual administrative assistant it helps me think about services I can offer and why they are valuable to other business owners.

  2. Hi Linsi. This is really a thought provoking article. I work for a payroll company. We get calls weekly from small and medium business owners who tried to take care of payroll in house and received penalties for incorrect filing or missing the file date. These errors can be very expensive. This could have been prevented if they had been able to read your post. I’m definitely going to have to share this on our FB page.

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