7 questions to ask yourself before taking on a project
Everyone loves a good do-it-yourself project, and we live in a time when we can find out how to create anything we want in a matter of minutes.
There’s a plethora of step-by-step videos and articles to choose from. I swear, as I was writing this post, I received an email from a graphic design software I often use with a tutorial on how to “make a DIY coloring book.” A DIY for a DIY? This might be getting out of hand.
Whether we find instructions on a Pinterest board or watch an HGTV host redo her entire kitchen or deck, transforming those neglected parts of a house looks as easy as 1-2-3.
But is the DIY route right for everyone? Well, it depends on a lot of things.
Then how do you decide which projects make the cut?
Like I said, it depends. For example, let’s look at interior design projects, which are basically the backbone of all DIY websites. While much of the attention that goes into interior design is focused on the end product or the resulting look, any self-respecting interior designer would tell you that there is a lot of time and knowledge that goes into any type of makeover. This includes a substantial amount of practical know-how, clear knowledge on how to make space function better, and most importantly, good problem-solving and project management skills.
When we’re talking about your business, choosing to take the DIY route is a decision that’s worth weighing carefully. Some projects can’t afford to replace a professional with an online tool.
I don’t know about you, but if my car broke down, even if I have tutorial videos, my home toolbox, and some of the basic how-to, I’d rather take it to a professional who has the right tools, knowledge, and experience to fix it and leave it running like new.
Same goes when I get sick. I could look up my symptoms online, and would probably find something over the counter to treat the symptoms, but that’s not something anyone would recommend. I’d rather visit my doctor than only treat the symptoms and scare myself with an online diagnosis.
We understand that taking the DIY approach has its benefits. These projects can be cheap and creative—not to mention rewarding—but it’s important to keep in mind that they are also riddled with potential pitfalls, especially if you do not possess the skills needed to complete them. This can lead to more serious problems, which in turn result in much larger expenses. There’s a saying in that goes “Lo barato sale caro,” meaning that cheap things may ultimately prove costly.
This is why you should first take into consideration the potential consequences of a DIY project. Here are 7 questions to help you decide if a DIY route is right for the project you have in mind.
How complex is your project?
Define the scope of the project and its complexity through research—lots and lots of research. For example, if you’re looking to build a new website or update your existing one, you have to know what goes into building one from scratch. Should you use a website builder, like the ones on those TV ads, Weebly and Wix? Or a more powerful system like WordPress?
You need to know your project inside and out to know if you should tackle it yourself or hire a pro to help you. Don’t get into it thinking, “Oh I’ll just Google it, it’ll be super easy.”
Are there risks involved?
Let’s follow the example of DIY website builders. They are popular choices and offer some of the easiest and least expensive paths to creating an online presence. But keep in mind that generally, website builders are far less powerful systems. Granted they are easier to use, but there are some potential problems that could happen when using a DIY website builder.
The guys from Awesomely Techie reported that “Google is not a fan of Wix,” and a year later, Search Engine Land reported the same thing, saying how “Wix Web pages have been dropping out of the Google index.” Google has a hard time crawling through websites created with a DIY builder, meaning the website will not rank well and people are gonna have a hard time finding it.
Do you have the necessary tools and experience?
DIY projects are usually the “resulting look,” the end product of someone who has already invested a lot of time, energy, and knowledge into building something and now wants to share it with the world. But if it’s something you’ve definitely never done before, choose your project wisely.
I don’t mean to dissuade you from being a DIYer—instead I want to encourage you. If you have no experience with these projects, try to get more practice. Visit workshops, shadow a more knowledgeable friend, or start by trying smaller projects. Always keep in mind the tools or equipment you will need, and the additional cost of buying or renting them.
What are your expectations of the project’s outcome?
Thanks to the internet, we have a universe of resources and creative marketing strategies and projects literally at our fingertips. This is all a great source for inspiration, but it also means that we set a certain standard for the projects we pick for ourselves that only a professional could achieve. After all, there’s just no comparison between a product made by a professional and one made by a DIYer.
Are you okay redoing the project if needed?
“A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional,” said James Joyce, famous novelist and poet. “Mistakes are the portal of discoveries.”
Even brilliant people make mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and use them as decision points, to change what went wrong and redo it. But sometimes that’s the problem—it can be time and resource consuming. Figure out a project management schedule, stick to it, and more importantly, be able to do the work.
Is it worth your time?
What’s your time worth? Can you put it in dollars? Now put a price on the project, and try to estimate the time it’ll take you to finish it. How much is that?
Entrepreneurs and small business owners have a different perspective of time, and they understand the importance of managing time unlike anyone else. The whole nine to five work day doesn’t really apply to SBOs—it’s just impossible. According to Inc.com, most small business owners work at least 50 hours per week, far more than the national average of 34.4 weekly hours reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A recent study conducted by the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) has shown that the average small business owner estimates one hour of their time is worth is $170. Now, can you afford it?
Are you going to enjoy the process?
Have you ever been to a restaurant where your waiter has the brightest smile, and somehow he’s always there if you need him, but he’s not bothering you at every minute of your dinner? How about when you’re at a clothing store at the mall? There are two types of employees: those who “stalk” you around the store, and those that are able to notice if you need help and come to you. That’s the difference between someone just doing their job, what they’re told, and someone who is actually enjoying it. People notice this.
If you’re considering tackling a project with some DIY ideas, like creating your own website, for example, ask yourself if it’s something you will enjoy. Your market audience or customers will be able to tell the difference between a job well done by someone who enjoyed the process, and a job that’s done by someone who just wants to finish the task at hand.
Most people decide not to tackle a DIY project because of the time it could end up consuming. To them I repeat what Amy Richman, Senior Consultant at WFD, a workplace consulting firm, once said:
“Finding meaning in what you do is one of the most important dimensions of resilience. People who own their own businesses, more than others, are able to find meaning in what they do.”
If you’re still on the fence, I’d recommend starting with a “low-impact” project and gauging how much you like the creativity and challenges inherent to DIY projects. This month we provided tons of resources to help develop your marketing skills and tackle some DIY projects, but we understand that sometimes, at the end of day, you just need someone you can call to take care of it for you.
8 Signal—Your marketing department, without the overhead.