Should You Hire A Professional?

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There are times in a man’s (woman’s) life when he has to set aside his pride, put down the tools a realize that he needs to hire a professional. I am not at that point just yet, but with all of the home projects we are taking on, it got me wondering if it would have been better to hire a professional to do that work vs. doing it myself. It really comes down to how much I value my time outside of work. So, I sat down and tried to think of a good formula for gauging how much my time was worth.



The Magic Formula

Here is what I came up with to decide how much my time is worth:

Hourly Wage/Hourly pay I would freelance for x Hourly Wage/Professional labor Cost x $18 + 1/64 – depreciation/net worth x 5 baseball cards + gas money/pizza + picture of me with a mullet from second grade = Time Value

After scribbling down the formula, I realized that it was a bit too complicated to really come up with a workable number, so I just decided to ask myself the question “How much would I pay someone to do a project so I can hang out with my family/friends/dog/strangers?” I’ve realized that number is actually lower than what I make at work, which is interesting to me. I also found that if I am able to do that project with my wife and kid around, the number is pretty much $0. If I can do the labor and hang out with my family at the same time, it’s a no-brainer to me.

Other Considerations

Other than what I believe my time to be worth, there are a few other considerations when deciding whether or not to hire a professional:

  1. Do you have the skills to complete the task? If you can’t find the dipstick in your car engine compartment, I would not recommend “saving money” by swapping out the head gasket in your car. You don’t have the skills required to complete the task, and will most likely end up costing yourself much more money in the long run. I do recommend educating yourself online through how-to videos and forums, but I would not tackle an advanced project without knowing and practicing the basics first. Maybe you should start with “how to check the oil in my car.”
  2. Do you have the tools? Let’s keep running with the above example; Maybe you know how to remove the intake and exhaust sides of your motor, pull off the valve cover and remove the head of your engine, scrape off the old gasket, send the block and head in to get lathed and to re-assemble the engine with a new gasket, but you don’t have the tools required to do the job. At that point, it’s simple math to figure out if it’s worth it to get the tools. Call around, get a few quotes, and then hop online to put together a list of tools you will need to do the job. If it costs more to get the tools, then maybe you should take your car to a shop instead and save some cash. The other option is to look around and see if the new tools can be used for something else. That could make them more valuable and give yourself a greater return in the long run. Maybe those tools will enable you to complete more projects and save labor costs for years down the road.
  3. Can I be using this time to make money elsewhere? More and more these days, people are building side hustle empires by working outside of their full-time jobs on their start-up company, website or part-time employment. I recommend using the hourly rate you would earn working these jobs to gauge whether to pay the cost of labor for your project or repair. If you can earn $30 an hour working on your side hustle, you might not want to pay $80 an hour for labor to do work that you can do yourself. On the other hand, if it would take you five times as long to complete the task than if you hired professional help, you are now losing out.
  4. Is it in the Budget? You knew I would bring it back to this, didn’t you? If you cannot complete the task yourself and have started looking into professional help, the be-all, end-all decider will be your budget. If this is an emergency, do you have an emergency fund in place to pay for the task? If it’s a project that you want to complete, did you set aside money in your savings bucket to pay for it? If you don’t have the money, you can’t hire someone to do it for you. Professionals don’t work for IOU’s, they want money. And if you don’t have the money, they won’t do your task for you.  As much as I would have loved to hire someone to build this stupid patio that’s taking forever, we just don’t have the money.

The Times That I Have Hired a Professional

Here’s a short list of the times that I have hired a professional, and the reasons for it:

Buying a home: We hired an awesome real estate agent, Robby Leviton (best agent in northwest Washington state, I highly recommend him if you are in the area!), to help us find and negotiate for our house. He took care of every little detail, negotiated in terms that saved us over $10,000 and was instrumental in helping teach us about home buying. I can’t say enough about how important it is to find a great agent to help you buy a home. I recommend getting a professional whenever you make a purchase of this size. (Ok, so we didn’t “hire” him and pay him money, the seller did. So this one is a no-brainer!)

Repairing my transmission: Well, I was one of those guys who figured out how to change my oil, so I thought, heck, why not replace the motor? My father-in-law had a shop and all the tools, so I printed out step-by-step instructions  on “engine removal/installation”. I did in about 2 weeks, but messed up the transmission in the process. Cost me about $600 to fix. I can do most anything on a car, but messing with automatic transmissions is not one of them.

Water Leak in the ceiling: Water damage is something I want to avoid at all costs. I don’t know why they build homes without installing waterproof drywall

The Times That I Did It Myself

Here’s a short list of the times that I busted out my man card and took on projects myself:

Building a Fence: 7 dude, 2 days, lots of pizza and beer. Click the link to read all about it.

Building a Patio/Pergola: The never ending project. We bought used bricks, discounted lumber and paved a 14′ x 18′ brick patio ourselves. The pergola should be done this week.

Replacing our Hot Water Heater: This was one of those issues that I was sure I needed a professional to take care of. But about 5 minutes on the Google machine left me with enough know-how to tackle this myself. You can read the whole story by clicking through.

So, When Should You Hire a Professional?

As you can see, it’s really fact dependent on your situation. There is no magic formula to estimate your time value and you should evaluate each situation separately as they come up. I set my criteria (would I pay someone else? can I hang out with family while doing it?) and go through the 4 questions above every time we approach a project. So far, it’s worked out pretty well, except the time I bent the flex plate in my transmission by forcing it into the motor when it shouldn’t have fit. Lesson: if it doesn’t fit, don’t ratchet it in with a 6″ bolt.

Comments: So, what are your criteria? What is your time value? Have you ever hired a professional when you could have done something yourself for much cheaper? Or have you done something yourself, screwed it up six times and ended up hiring someone to not only do that task you were trying to complete, but also repair the damage? Also, anyone up for a picnic?

Photo Credit: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35ly48/
Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

44 thoughts on “Should You Hire A Professional?”

  1. I admit my man card doesn’t get much use when it comes to DIY stuff. I take the easy route and usually just pay a professional. When I have my own home that might change though. The extra benefit of doing stuff around the house yourself is that it can later come in handy if you decide to earn money through rental income. I might have to steal your magic formula lol, but I’d have to swap in hockey cards for those baseball cards. I think I had a mullet in 2nd grade too lmao. A blogging side hustle is tough to properly determine value though. I expect the work I do now to count a lot more down the road.

    • You’re totally right, especially how hard it is to valuate side hustles. Determining the hourly rate for something that won’t make you money today, but in 6 months, is a tough number to come up with. I would LOVE to hire out a bunch of stuff, but we just don’t have the money. Necessity has forced me to learn a bunch of these skills and attempt the projects I have taken on. I am pleasantly surprised how easy it was to learn and how well our projects are turning out. Lol at the mullet. If I had the choice, I would have cut it off…but hey, they help prevent your neck from getting sunburned 🙂

  2. We almost always hire a professional to do almost anything these days. Some things we can do ourselves, but we just don’t have the time. As long as it is financially reasonable to hire someone, we always try to!

    • I hope to get there someday. Though it has been fun working on projects this summer with my wife. First thing we’re going to hire out when we have the money is landscaping. So many weeds, so little time!

  3. We did a a LOT without hiring a professional when we were rehabbing our house and duplex. We replaced siding, did roofing, all sorts of interior work. But when it came to removing a row of trees (some pretty big) from our property – there was no way we could do it for even close to the quotes we got. After doing so much work ourselves it felt weird to pay for workers, but that was definitely well worth the $900 we paid.

  4. I’m big on hiring things out. My value on time is placed at a premium…even if it’s something I could do with the wife. I’d much rather hang out with her by going to a museum or strolling through some stores rather than laboring away all day. As long as the price isn’t some outrageous amount then I will hire things out. Frankly, I can’t wait until I can eventually pay a cleaning lady to come in once/month just as that would free up some more of our time to do other things.

    • Mrs. iHB would probably second the cleaning lady, lol! I believe that time is more valuable than money for sure, it isn’t replenishable. I just look at every project first, weigh the costs/time and see if it’s something we would enjoy doing. But mostly I just want to get to the point where I can hire most everything out and get some of my time back 🙂

  5. If we can do something ourselves, then we usually will do it. However, if we know that a professional is needed for it to be done correctly, then we hire it out.

    • Have you ever tried learning something new instead of hiring it out? You may surprise yourselves by attempting something new after learning online. Case in point: My water heater. I found a few how-to video, and looked up step-by-step instructions with a list of tools needed. Wasn’t so bad 🙂

  6. I try to do things if we can. For instance oil changes we do. Changing brakes? Hire out. I also have to factor in how klutzy I am into any formula so if it’s something I could get hurt on, I’m not going to do it.

    • Lol, the possibility of injury should definitely factor in. Also, if you can change your oil, I bet you can do your brake pads and save hundreds 🙂 Just google “how to change brake pads (your vehicle)”. You should get step-by-step instructions with pics, and it’s usually pretty quick (depending on the type of brakes).

      • The only issue with that is lack of tools/space to do the work in and the issue of the prior owners. For instance, our first oil change? We had to hire someone to do it. We could not get the bolt of the oil pan off. Turns out the previous owner had forced a too big bolt in there and ended up stripping it when they “tried” to do a oil change–so they just never did one which meant a rusted oil bolt. I don’t remember how the mechanic actually got it off but I remember that it wasn’t easy. And they did this with most things if they did any maintance at all.(I don’t even want to discuss the too big seat they forced into the front drivers side with a motor–you can’t move the seat up or down very quickly. I’ve stopped trying and drive with a pillow).

  7. As a “professional” I do all home repairs and building myself, but of course, I know what I’m doing. I always think it’s a great idea for people to DIY because it saves money and you’ll do it right (becuase it’s your house!)–the caveat there though is that you shoudl only DIY so long as you do your research and be sure it’s something you can actaully do. Becuase there are some things that you really don’t want to mess up on becuase it’ll be expensive in the future to fix again! Just a general tip I have, if you do decide to call a professional in, you should call at least 3 but optimally 6 and get quotes. Throw out the top and bottom ones becuase they’re ripping you off in different ways, and go with a middle-of-the-road costing professional.

    • Great tip, thanks TB! Definitely don’t go with the first professional you call. When we ordered the wood for our house, we got 3 quotes, and went with the middle one because it was higher quality, but not outrageously expensive. DIY has saved us thousands for sure, and you’re right, we get to do it EXACTLY HOW WE WANT!

    • My dad has definitely been a huge help. He helped build the fence properly and is helping us finish the gates for it in a few weeks. I think knowing people with skills is definitely a resource that should not go untapped.

  8. If it’s hammer and nail stuff, we are usually OK. Anything mechanical, gotta call someone. It also depends on the time of year. My husband teaches so has summer off. If something needs to get done it the winter, that’s another story.

    • I was fortunate enough to be taught car mechanics by my brother-in-law. I also get more and more tools every Christmas, so I have most of what I need to tackle any project.

      I am also unavailable during tax season, so I would probably hire out repairs, or put them off if possible.

  9. We had pros install our kitchen cabinets and counter tops. We did the demo ourselves obviously, but I was told by several people to leave jobs like these to the experts. I wish we could have saved the money, but hey–our cabinets are gorgeous! 🙂

    • Nice work. I haven’t done much plumbing stuff, and replacing a toilet would defintely be a chore. I, too, have amazing friends and family that have helped me tremendously. I just feed and water them, and stuff gets done 🙂 (j/k, i help too)

  10. Renovations and car repairs/maintenance are two big things that I would hire a professional for. However, I am super lucky that my bf is into renovations and maintaining cars and pretty good at it. So I get my oil changed for free. 🙂 We are currently looking for a house and if the price is right, we are aiming to get one that is of solid structure, and only needs a bit of work to it. Thus, we would be doing renovations ourselves AND spending time together. His family is into home repair as well, so we can also make it a family affair.

    • I loved doing the fence project because we invited family and friends over and made it a party. It was back breaking work, but hangout and eating together afterwards made it all worth it 🙂

      Nice work on snaggin’ a guy who can do that stuff for you 🙂

  11. I just don’t feel confident enough in my skills to get something done. And the time it would take me to LEARN something is time better spent doing something else for me like working on freelance projects. I hire almost everything out. Or flirt with my boyfriend and get him to do it. We DO still manage to clean our own house.

    • Lol @ your BF. Hey, if it works, and he’s got the skills… 🙂

      If your priorities dictate that you need your time more than your money, then go for it. Hiring out is a great way to keep your time for yourself 🙂

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  15. Having the right tools makes all the difference. I have a friend who refuses to buy more tools for a new project. I feel like we spend more time Macgyvering things than we do building. Then rolls in #3 on your list, can I be making more money doing something else? Planning is essential.

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