Running An Online Business Is Like Renovating A House

I’ve completed various renovation projects around the home and garden: painting & decorating, building shelves, wall repairs, wood restorations, concrete work, landscaping — that sort of thing. As a result I’ve established myself as something of a “DIY guy” among my friends.

As weird as it sounds, I think there’s a lot of similarities between making those home improvements and growing a business. Both require immense effort, pride, skill, outside assistance and cost management.

So allow me to explain my ludicrous sounding comparison.

Work Ethic

I don’t enjoy every DIY task I do. They rarely run smoothly, and nothing is as easy as it looks on a YouTube tutorial. It can be an extremely frustrating process.

But I persevere with those tasks because I love reaching the end result. And to get there I’m happy to invest a lot of time and energy. The phrases “no pain, no gain” and “nothing worth having comes easy” spring to mind.

The same principle applies to running a business. You’re never going to enjoy every aspect of what you do for a living, or who you have to deal with. Work can be stressful, boring, and extremely challenging. But you do it because it produces a product, and generates a living — the end result you can enjoy.

I’ve explored this subject in more detail in my post Do I Need To Enjoy What I Do For Work?

Ownership Pride

Renovating your own home is not the same as renovating someone else’s. A task on your own home is never a simple case of “get the job done”. Rather it’s “get the job done well“.

This is precisely why I’m so hesitant to hire a handyman. Truth be told, I usually do the job better. Not because I’m more skilled — but because I care more. A handyman has no attachment to the property itself, and their time is valuable. So they’re never going to invest the level of time and pride that I would.

Ownership pride exists in online business, too. As entrepreneurs we’re so heavily invested in our businesses that don’t want to just “get a job done”. We expect more than that: a job has to be done properly.

Like with your home renovations, part of the challenge in running a business is finding individuals that value upholding same standards you do, and share the same passion for a common goal. Your job is to instill that work pride into them though motivation; financial or otherwise.

I’ve never believed that the solution to a high workload is as simple as “outsourcing”. Like with the slap-dash handymen of this world, a poor job is merely a job that has be done twice. Being selective with who you work with is key.

Hiring Specialists

Leading on from my previous point is that there’s a need to hire specialists for jobs that you do not have the required skills to complete.

In the case of home renovations, there’s certain jobs I wouldn’t entertain trying. For example: fitting carpets, replacing a bathroom suite, knocking down walls, or replacing the roof. These are jobs for experts.

In your online business, there comes times where you may need a graphic designer, SEO specialist, programmer, or content writer. Much like sourcing the carpenter or builder for the home renovation, you’ve got to verify that the specialist has the required experience needed to do exactly what you want.

To identify high quality freelancers, go on a recommendation from a reliable source or use Upwork to check reviews. In many ways, this is the ‘Check A Trade’ of the online business world.

Keeping Costs Down

One of the mysteries surrounding home renovations is the huge disparity between costs. While one trader asks for £500, another requests £1,000 for the same job. To tackle this problem, the solution is simple: “get as many quotes as possible”.

The same holds true in online business: you need to shop around. The pricing for people and services is not consistent. This is partly due to globalisation, where local (UK in my case) freelancers are likely to charge a lot more than those living abroad in country with a much lower average salary.

And like in the building trade, some people/services hold their price and justify their value with experience and quality. But only you can decide whether that makes them worth it.

However, worth noting is that I’ve encountered many instances where online services (e.g. logo design, web development, programming) are vastly overpriced, and appear to prey on non-techy business owners. The moral here is that, like with home renovations, it’s advantageous to educate yourself at least a little about what’s involved in the job you’re about to pay for. This leads me onto my final point.

Developing Skills

I might be considered a DIY guy, but I’m nothing compared to my nextdoor neighbour: a house-proud 64-year-old who boasts that he hasn’t employed a single tradesman since 1984. He’s taught himself the skills to handle just about everything around the home — and he’s good at it.

I’ll never develop as many physical skills as he has. But there is certainly something, aside from saving on costs, to be said for being able to deal with any situation that arises:

  • Leaky roof? — get me the ladder.
  • Kitchen needs installing? — give me two days.
  • Lack of storage space? — I’ll build a cupboard.

Knowledge is power. Learning new skills will help to make you more responsive, and able to make effective changes without complete dependence on other people/services. This goes for anything.

Consider the skills required for running your online business. Do you have, at least, a basic understanding of the jobs and technologies that hold it together?

You don’t want to be the DIY equivalent of the guy that can’t change a light bulb without calling “the guy” to sort it.

Ultimately you need to decide — considering time and costs as well as your personal strengths — what aspects of the business to keep control of, and what you delegate to others.


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