Making someone else, especially a stranger, do something to make your life better is the ultimate power trip. Wax the floors I will walk upon in my bare feet. Improve my automobile carriage I use to drive for pleasure. Fix the toilet throne I shall sit on daily. Of course, it comes with a price. Nobody is going to wax your floor, upgrade your car, or stop your leaking toilet without compensation. In those times, you have to decide if the problem is a do-it-yourself project or something worth hiring a professional.
It was rare as a child to see my parents hire a professional to do much of anything except help with a divorce. I’m not the lovechild of Bob Vila and Martha Stewart with a knack for doing things on my own. Areas of the home were usually just left unfunctional or dangling. My parents were far from handy. Our idea of home improvement was watching Home Improvement. My folks also didn’t have a lot of money smarts to have the available funds to hire someone to do the simplest of things; or maybe they lacked the desire.
Down 0-2 in my own life experience when it comes to hiring people or doing it myself, determining which jobs are a do-it-yourself project and which should be done by a professional comes down to a couple of simple factors I always consider.
1) Do-it-yourself project or hire a pro question: What are the odds I die doing the project?
This is always front of mind. Death is something that catches up with all of us someday. Unless you were in the Rolling Stones, it creeps up in the most unexpected of ways. If there is even a higher than 1% chance I could fall to my death or be eaten alive, the do-it-yourself project becomes something worth paying for. It’s precisely why I would never clean Armie Hammer’s chimney. Either could happen.
Jobs like this include cleaning our roof and any electrical work. Heights can be intimidating and electricity isn’t the friendliest to the inexperienced.
2) Do-it-yourself project or hire a pro question: If something goes wrong, how wrong does it go?
When Jenny and I moved into our home, we looked up the cost of hiring someone to do a couple of odd jobs. Two we knew that needed to get done were painting the bedrooms and hanging blinds. We didn’t want the neighbors to see us naked in a mint green bedroom. Two simple tasks we take for granted, the expected price was far more than we were willing to pay.
We asked ourselves: what’s the worst thing that can happen? As stressful as each were, you can always repaint. Hanging blinds might have a few more mishaps (like a drillbit getting stuck in the wall for hours) but not much will actually go wrong if the worst-case scenario erupts.
3) Do-it-yourself project or hire a pro question: How confident am I in my abilities to do it cheaply?
A big part of a do-it-yourself project is to save money. Some people get enjoyment out of it. There’s a certain satisfaction in completing a task on your own or with the help of a friend. It’s the only way to build up confidence. Whether it’s watching YouTube videos or studying articles online, the decision to hire a professional or not can sometimes come down to faith in yourself.
It’s almost always easier to finish a project on your own. If so, and disaster is unlikely to strike, it’s usually worth pumping out your chest and tackling the task with confidence.
4) Do-it-yourself project or hire a pro question: Do I even want to do it on my own?
There are some chores you may think you can do that you just don’t want to. Let’s go back to the painting as an example. There is a 100% chance I could paint our outside deck. Will I do as good of a job at it as someone with money on the line? Absolutely not.
Furthermore, do I want to spend hours outside painting only to eventually realize I’ve boxed myself into a corner? In those cases, it’s better to save up the money to pay a professional to do it. Just don’t get too lazy. It’s not a good thing to be on a first-name basis with too many handymen. At some point, you should be able to figure out a few of the tasks on your own. When the handyman starts leaving his phone charger at your house, you know it’s time to start doing more things on your own.
5) Do-it-yourself project or hire a pro question: Will it actually be enjoyable?
Finding fun in the mundane is important. Do-it-yourself projects can offer a time to do something that would otherwise be menial and turn it into something meaningful. Families on HGTV are always having fun knocking down walls. Why can’t we be the same way?
Receiving any satisfaction out of a project should automatically make it one you do yourself. I spin mowing the lawn as a time for some good outdoor exercise. I can even put in headphones, listen to some true crime podcasts, and have an excuse not to talk to neighbors. It might not be the most enjoyable task but at least I feel productive. It’s going to take two broken feet and maybe some toxic waste rainfall for me to ever pay someone to mow my lawn. I can and I will do it myself.