DIY: When Does It Make Sense?

March 27, 2015
by Vlad Labetsky, IT Outsourcing Consultant at Sibers

What brings more money: doing everything yourself or hiring outside professionals? What is more preferable for your business- reducing costs or looking for ways to increase revenues? This small article answers some of the most critical questions that each person faces looking for developing his business.

I relied on my programmer for months to create the code for my website… Now I want to learn how to do it myself and avoid paying him…

This seemingly simple statement has a big impact on most small businesses today. Indeed, saving money is an excellent goal of almost every business, especially a small or a middle-sized one. But does such mindset towards IT really lead to savings? Let’s try to think deeper.

It’s not a secret that web and mobile development is a mainstream nowadays. Internet and devices have brought a new dimension to every business, and having at least a web site is equivalent to having an office, at least in the virtual space. There is a huge number of customers out there in the Internet, and you are sure to want them to visit your office there.

This is where the first questions arise: Is it really that important for this virtual office to look good and function well? Having at your disposal all those easy-to-use web site creating tools, isn’t it possible to build and maintain a good web site without applying to any tech work addicts?

How would you answer if those questions were about a real office of yours? Obviously, you want a nice office with a good signboard to represent your business. Moreover, you want some bright-colored brochures in the office designed on demand and telling some impressive things about you. I bet you won’t “do it yourself” as you simply don’t want to look poor in the eyes of your customers.

When it comes to serious matters, it’s pretty common to work with professional builders and publishers. We are ready to pay for beautiful, professionally printed materials, but somehow we think a home-made site to be appropriate in a similar situation!

Look at the web today. Strange as it may seem, but 20 years after the Internet became a common thing many companies still have web sites presenting an image far below the quality of their expertise and marketing materials! Looking at a website is not like looking at a small ad in a paper or even a magazine, however. Your prospects or current customers visit the site with some really specific wishes and expectations. A dull or bad impression at this point might have a more lasting negative impact than a glance over several lines of an ad. Your web image should be as much attractive as your very best marketing materials, if not better!

Quality matters!

During my eight-year work in IT, I’ve seen some really impressive illustrations of how completely ineffective it can be to “do it yourself”. Customers often want to create their sites and to hire a programmer for a final software touch, to get advice or “polishing” of their work. I think there is no need to describe all the hurdles they find out down the road. Almost in every case the customers spent substantial amount of time and money, much greater than if they had simply had a programmer to do everything from scratch.

A great deal of additional time and money spent on software; paying for numerous error corrections; paying off your own slow work… If we try to count the real impact of such strategy, I’m afraid the real overall cost might be something like ten times that of just hiring a good programmer, as it has been proved.

Surprising results? No magic. A good programmer is an expert who has spent more than 5 years learning all those algorithms and doing tech widgets for real projects. His expertise did not come easily: there were times when he had to spend nights trying to crack a problem, under bid pressure of his manager or customers; it took a lot of efforts before he became able to predict problems and envision the system work in his brains before real coding. It is all his experience that pays him now. So, unless you are looking for a career change and want to become an experienced programmer in one night, it’s not wise to forgo some revenue you could get in favor of trying again this “do-it-yourself” strategy.

It’s probably hard to believe, but we know some people who were willing to lose $100 of revenue to avoid paying $50 to an expert to make some updates on their web site. Sometimes things happen. Fortunately, we are not these people, are we?

A website should be viewed as profitable investment into a business. It’s not just expenses. As with any investment, you expect certain return. “How much does it cost?” is a completely wrong question, it doesn’t fit websites or marketing principles. A more appropriate question is “How much can I expect (or know) it will make me?” Doing the design yourself would mean investing into an inexperienced person during unpredictable amount of time. A website should be viewed as a dynamic thing; it is not just a static page created once for good. You don’t want to lose the momentum that you gained with such efforts. A good website that always brings revenue is constantly under development, even if it doesn’t say that on the main page. In return for this, it can become a true “Perpetuum Mobile” for your business. The “do-it-yourself” approach may sometimes seem good for some small business. You might think this is all they can afford for a start because many small businesses usually don’t have $2000 to pay a web designer. The point is quite ambiguous. We deal with a global market, and there is a solution for every particular need and every wallet. There are a lot of people available out there, near you or far away, that can provide excellent results at a reasonable price. For X dollars per hour, say, you may find a reliable person or a company not far from you, in your city or somewhere within a driving distance. It is possible and only takes time to find one. It would be wise to get their references, have a look at their web site, and you will have a clear idea of the quality they can offer.

Another possibility is that for X/2 or even X/3 dollars you can find a good company with an offshore production center, which will be able to keep the cost lower without sacrificing the quality. You probably won’t see your developers personally, but will definitely be in touch with their managers, meet them face to face via the Internet and talk on Skype. Indeed, there is a concern that they won’t understand your needs or won’t hear you well. It is right for most offshore software development companies, but there are others whose communication is amazing and even comparable to that of the local teams. Again, it only takes time to select one having compared their track of records.

You may say you don’t want to feed alien guys while your local people don’t get their work. With all respect to your patriotic feelings, this position is not always right. If your budget can’t afford a local team or an expert, you have only 2 choices left – either “do it yourself” with all the consequences, or hire good offshore guys, give your business additional incentive and start earning enough to pay local programmers. This strategy seems sound, don’t you think so?

Let’s assume you can spend only X/10 dollars. Again, you have 2 options – either ask your relatives to do it (a student nephew or your child) or find some offshore freelancers. The apparent disadvantage is that you can not be confident about the quality and reliability of their work. Everything will totally depend on your persistence and managerial skills. However, there are some examples when people successfully managed teams of several programmers, even located on another continent.

We hope we convinced you of the lack of necessity to “do it yourself”, even if your budget is not big enough. It’s not wise to act miserly, and it’s not wise to be afraid of aliens in this global market. Outsource the work with no remorse, and you will get a high quality result freeing up your own time for other things. Cutting a long story short, don’t we all have to do too much already!? That seems to be the reality of the modern world. You already have an entire business to run and there is a huge amount of work involved. Most of it needs your first-hand attention as it’s the essence of your business and no one knows it better than you. Providing you’re running a business anywhere above the absolute minimum level, it is undoubtedly cost effective to hire a specialist, be that an accountant, a lawyer, a publisher — or a web developer.

Keep the key business factors in your hands and outsource as much as possible to experts. Free your mind and your time of the routine work, especially of that you are not so professional at. Let’s leave nothing understated – it’s only the amount of free time that defines real wealth nowadays.

Do yourself only the things that you really like to do.

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