DIY or DFM? Knowing when to hire a professional

Cecily Kellogg

For today’s small business owner, efficient allocation of resources is an essential skill. Some tasks and projects you can handle in-house, while others require the assistance of an outside professional. When it comes to graphic and web design, it can be tempting to say, “I can do that myself.” And while a do-it-yourself approach may cut costs in the short term, it may not always be the most effective long-term solution for your business. But how do you know when it’s time to say, “I need this done for me”?

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Here we’ll help you sort out the Do-it-yourself (DIY) vs. Do-it-for-me (DFM) dilemma, and help you know when bringing in an outside pro is the best choice for your small business.

Your Time is Valuable—Use it Wisely As a small-business owner, your time is your greatest resource. How you use it may make the difference between success and failure. So when approaching a new task or project, one of the first questions you’ll need to ask yourself is, “How much time am I willing to commit to this?” The answer will help you decide whether to take a DIY or a DFM approach.

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For example, if designing and building a website for your business is something you feel skilled enough to do, but doing so would take time away from other essential tasks such as sales, new product launches, and customer service, it may be time to bring in a pro. Similarly, if you’ve sketched out some ideas for a new brand logo but don’t have the time needed to bring them to life—or id you just want a fresh perspective on the project—it might be best to contact a designer with both the experience and time to devote to the task. Yes, hiring a pro will cost money, but the time you save has value too, and your time might best be spent on other aspects of your business.

Experience Matters Nobody likes to admit being out of their depth, least of all entrepreneurs. We like to believe that given the time we can accomplish anything. And to an extent that’s true. But it is also true that there is no substitute for experience. When you bring in an outside designer, you also bring in that person’s experience and the experience of their team. So if completing the task or project at hand means a steep learning curve, the cost-efficient answer may be to hire a pro.

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Experience matters. You may run the risk of getting a cluttered and stock-like design like the image on the right rather than a high quality and sleek design like the image on the left without an experienced graphic designer.

Chances are that an outside designer has worked on projects like yours before, which means he or she can anticipate some of the pitfalls that might catch you by surprise. They will also be well-versed in the tools and techniques the job requires. For example, the time to realize you need to make some costly software purchases is not when you’re halfway through a job. Unanticipated expenses can swallow up any savings that a DIY approach may have yielded.

Always Appear Professional In today’s competitive business environment, it’s essential to project an image of confidence, competence, skill, and professionalism. If you see graphic or web design that looks like a home brew, it probably is, and in most cases that’s a big caution to consumers. Even if your brand isn’t the largest in your field, chances are you want it to be—and that means having a visual presence that’s on par with the best in the business. When potential customers see your logo or visit your site for the first time, you want them to have complete confidence in your brand. So unless you have the design experience, skill, tools, and time to create that a completely professional web presence, it may be time to bring in a pro.

Be Consistent If there’s one cardinal rule in branding it is to remain consistent. As the public face of your business, your brand must be recognizable, unique, and consistent in whatever forum or format it appears—whether it’s on a billboard, on a laptop, or on the small screen of a smartphone. An outside designer can provide that sort of consistent brand presence. Experienced designers understand the value in maintaining a brand’s image and have the time to devote to details—like ensuring your brands color scheme is reflected everywhere it appears and that the tone and persona of your brand speak to the strengths of your business. Working with a pro can take some major stress off your shoulders when trying to maintain your brand’s consistency on a range of platforms.

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Brand identity pack design by nnorth; check out the full contest here

Handling Social Media and SEO These days, staying competitive means staying connected with customers in ways that are unique to the online environment. Having content that ranks highly in search engines and a strong presence in social media can be invaluable to reaching and maintaining customers. Before you take this on yourself, determine whether you have the time and marketing expertise to do it. If not, you may want to bring in a pro, at least to optimize your web copy, maintain your social media presence, and to drive traffic to your site.

Keep it Fresh If you do work with a web or graphic designer, be sure they are clear about what it will take to maintain your site. For example, find out who will make software updates, add new products, update images, monitor time-sensitive special offers, and gauge customer response. Can that be done in-house? Or will regular tune-ups from an outside pro be necessary? Knowing in advance how your site (and brand) will adapt to changes in the marketplace can allow you to anticipate those changes and act accordingly. Most web and graphic designers are glad to work with clients to help your in-house webmaster maintain and update a site, so you’ll fully understand the tasks for which you’re responsible and can allot the appropriate amount of time and resources to them.

A Quick Checklist If you’re wondering whether to take on a design task or project yourself or to bring in an outside pro, here are a few questions you may want to ask:

1. Do I have the time to do this myself?
2. Do I have the expertise needed to do the job well?
3. What’s the best way to put forward a professional appearance?
4. Do I want to be solely responsible for maintaining brand consistency?
5. Will delegating SEO and Social Media tasks to a professional help my brand?
6. Can I maintain and refresh my brand presence myself?

The author

Cecily Kellogg
Cecily Kellogg

Cecily Kellogg became an accidental designer when she worked at a short-handed non-profit and although she now prefers designing with words, the lessons she learned from doing graphic design make her work in content development more well-rounded. She writes about the intersection of family, technology, and social media for Babble Tech and runs her own web content business. She is also known for her raw tone and humor on various social media platforms including her own blog, Uppercase Woman. Cecily lives in the Philadelphia area, is happily married, is mom to a fierce and amazing daughter, and has occasionally been called a bad ass.

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