When Should You Do it Yourself?
April 6, 2009
My dad is by far the best do it yourself-er that I know. Not only is he good at fixing things (home repairs, car repairs, fixing lawnmowers, bikes, etc) he’s also good at figuring out do it yourself systems and solutions.
For example, he started his own one-man medical practice a few years ago and assembled the hardware, software, and processes for his own office automation systems that allow him and my mom to run a “digital practice” with no staff and low overhead.
He’s taught me everything I know about DIY, which is why I wasn’t surprised to see his email response to my recent post on getting things done by hiring others. Here’s what he had to say:
“A couple of my reflections, from a dyed-in-the-wool DIYer. I think you are right about finding a professional. Some jobs are difficult and if you don’t know anything about it, you’ll not only spend a lot of time learning how to do it but you may make expensive errors and end up having to pay more to have it re-done than it would have cost originally. And of course there are jobs which are dirty, messy, and physically painful or dangerous and are better done by someone else.
But sometimes, you come on a challenge that you would LIKE to know more about: maybe it comes up often, or maybe you learn a new skill that you can use in other areas of your life.
Or maybe it will save you a lot of frustration down the line to know more about a function/repair and the time spent up front will pay off in spades down the line when you can handle that or similar problems more quickly and easily.
Finally, there is just the challenge of overcoming adversity. Whether it’s a hard problem to solve (maybe where parts are not available so a novel fix is called for) or maybe just a tough diagnosis, there is value is overcoming tough problems. My two cents worth.”
What’s the Cost of Do It Yourself?
I think a big part of the decision to outsource tasks depends on what your goals are in life. Our time in this world is finite so we have to spend it wisely. For example, if one of your goals is to become a home repairs guru then tackle your leaky roof yourself.
But if one of your primary goals is to create a global charitable foundation or to start your own software company, the time you spend working on the roof is time you’re taking away from accomplishing your big goals. So the cost of doing it yourself is an opportunity cost for your life goals.
Of course if the task builds skills and knowledge that you can apply to your goals the opportunity cost isn’t as high but for me it’s hard to find applicable skills in a task like mowing the grass or painting a fence.
Goals vs. Reality
Of course practicality and reality play a major role as well. The leaky roof is going to cause water damage every time it rains so if you don’t have the money to pay someone to fix your roof you’ll either have to borrow the money or do it yourself.
Especially in tough economic times, many people will choose to go with the lowest cost method and figure things out themselves. However, the bad economy potentially presents an opportunity for outsourcing. With so many unemployed people looking for work, or even employed people looking for side jobs, chances are you can hire someone to help you out for reasonable rates.
All posts by Ben Edwards