Homeowner home improvements cost money

I’ve never said to a contractor I’m trying to hire for a project on my house, “I don’t really have the money to do this, can you do it anyway?” Or, “your prices seems very reasonable, can you come down 30%?” And certainly not, “well if you do this project for free, I’ll for sure make it worth your while down the road.” 

One of the best deterrents for me in offering to do projects at painfully low budgets has been owning a home. An older, 1940s home at that. When working with housing contractors you learn real quick that everything costs money. And more times than not, a lot of money. There’s labor, materials, removal, etc. And sometimes there are those “oh wait, we discovered this and it’s bad and it will cost you this quite a bit larger fee” moments.

I design for a living. I have the materials I use (computer, monitor, software printer, Internet, etc). I have opportunity costs (if I’m working on your project, I’m not working on someone else’s). There’s labor (my time, the developer’s time, the photographer’s time, etc). And there’s all I’ve learned in my career that I will apply to the next design project I take on.

I do agree, that what I do, it’s true, I love it. Making something new, solving a problem, finding opportunities. Even amidst the uncertainty, the stress, the overwhelming feelings, I still love it. But it is work. A professional career with skill, talent, hard work, education, and so on, all built into the path of where I’ve arrived at. But I didn’t arrive here to do work on the cheap. Certainly not for free. And not with people who do not value design and what it can do.

If I really want a contractor to work on a project I have, I’ve never said, “well I need it done this week.” And I’ve never said halfway through the project, “I’d also like this, this, and that for the same price.” Now, unlike my contractor experiences, I tend to respond to clients when I say I will and complete projects on deadline, which is another post altogether. Anyway, I digress.

Whether working on houses or designing brands, there are some similarities and there are differences. One difference I’ve noticed over the years is that there’s no weird, hidden expectation that people who work on houses should be okay with doing work faster or cheaper. I’ve experienced quite a bit of the view that design can always be faster or cheaper. I don’t really know why, but I know I’m partly to blame. And it’s something I fully intend to get better at moving forward in 2016. Design is important, it’s done by experts for a reason, it costs this much, and will take this long. I know that there are people out there who value this view. I’ve worked with many of them. And I plan to work with many more.