What DIYing my deck taught me about business
Doing your business tasks DIY can save you money, but is it really a good idea? And what key ingredients do you need to ensure your DIY business ideas are a success?
Let me tell you a story about my back deck.
Our veranda had become a dumping ground for garden tools and drying laundry. It needed a major makeover. So, I started flicking through glossy lifestyle magazines, dreaming of a sophisticated outdoor room.
After getting quotes to do it all up, however, it fast became clear that my longed for outdoor room was not going to happen if I paid professionals to do it for me.
So I decided to DIY.
"We small business owners are constantly facing this dilemma: we want to grow our business but we don’t have any money."
I set about learning what I needed to do in order to get the job done. And then I set to work.
Now I guess you’re wondering, what the heck does this have to do with anything?
Well, we small business owners are constantly facing this dilemma: we want to grow our business but we don’t have any money.
We need all the things and we need them now, but unless we’re willing to sell our first-born child or a kidney, we’ve got zero chance of covering costs.
(Take my child, my kidneys aren’t what they were.)
Often we’re forced into either cutting corners or seeking out cheapy cheap options in the hope that we’re the lucky one that finds a bargain. Some get lucky, most don’t.
So, what’s the alternative? How can we get the things, without paying the big bucks?
We have to take the DIY route – something that is the very soul of solopreneurism.
We learn the thing, then do the thing; be it coding a website, balancing our books, or hand drawing and felt tip penning 100 flyers.
As a huge advocate for DIY Search Engine Optimisation over the last five years, I’ve learned a thing or two about how easy it is to take on complex tasks yourself. So, today I’m going to share what I think are the key ingredients for turning your DIY business ideas into a successful DIY Business project.
1. The right teacher
The first thing you need is someone to learn from. Ideally someone with a sockful of experience, a great reputation and a proven methodology.
For my deck project I wasted an inordinate amount of time reading random articles and watching videos. What I needed was a simple step-by-step guide; a complete start to finish program that took me through everything.
Thankfully my Dad came to the rescue with a checklist of tasks. Thanks Mr Toon.
Key takeaway: While it’s possible to pick up bits and bobs of information by reading gazillions of articles, nothing beats having a guided program to learn from.
2. The right tools
I’m such a regular at my DIY store they gave me a free succulent last week. Why? Because I’m a huge buyer of tools and not just any tool but the right tool.
(Try drilling a hole in a stone wall with a non hammer head drill and you’ll understand why the right tools matter.)
But having the tool and knowing how to use the tool are also two very different things.
Key takeaway: Some jobs are impossible without investing in tools, and this is where you have to weigh up the value of doing it yourself. The professional already has all the tools; that’s part of what you’re paying for. They also have years of experience using the tools, so what takes you a day to achieve could take them 30 minutes.
3. Lotsa time
A swift professional could have sorted my veranda out in a matter of days. It took me four solid weekends of hard slog.
When it comes to DIY, you will be spending serious amounts of time in order to save your money.
Personally, I loved doing my deck. Listening to the Flying Solo podcast while applying a second coat of stain is my idea of heaven. But is it yours?
Key takeaway: Few skills worth having can be acquired quickly and you need to decide how much time you’re going to invest. If you’re truely interested – the time will fly. If it’s something you’re going to do again and again it’s worth the effort. But spending a week mastering Adobe Illustrator to design one logo might not be a great idea.
4. Common sense
There were many things on the deck job I actually couldn’t do. I’m not a qualified electrician and no amount of money saving was going to see me fiddling about with wires. So, I paid a professional. There were also some water pipes that needed fixing and I left that to a professional plumber as well.
Key takeaway: Knowing your limitations is important. If you start to feel unsure about what you’re doing, it’s important to stop, take stock and call an expert – before you cause irrevocable damage.
5. Ongoing support
Learning a new skill isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just shove and instruction manual into someone’s hands and expect them to have at it.
We need to double check our thinking and have someone to turn to when things don’t quite work out as we’d planned.
While working on my deck I had my Dad on speed dial, so I could get support when I needed it. Thankfully my Dad kind of has to be there for me FOREVER – while that online course you just purchased might not work quite the same way.
Key takeaway: Having someone to ask questions of is a key part of DIY business success. A teacher can give you support, motivation, keep you accountable and help you cope with overwhelm.
For many, employing businesses to do the thing is a luxury they can’t currently afford, so DIY is the only option.
I’m a firm believer that ANY skill can be learned with enough time and determination, but it’s also really important to look at what you enjoy doing and how you want to spend your time.
Have you attempted a DIY business project or tried to learn a new business skill that was out of your comfort zone? What are your top tips to boost your successfulness? Please share your DIY business ideas in the comments below.