Sometimes You Get What You Pay For

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Some years back I worked as a project manager for a general contractor. We handled both residential and commercial work, but I spent most of my time on the residential side of the fence.

Construction is a “funny” sort of business in more ways than one. When you hire a contractor you are inviting someone into your personal life in ways you might not realize.

I have more than a few stories I could share with you about the interesting things I saw and experiences I had.

For example I could tell you about the time I was checking out a prospective client’s roof and my ladder broke. That was fun. I am on the roof looking down at a the remains of a broken ladder.

Or I could tell you about the man who let his dog defecate in the house. I told him what was going on, but he said not to worry about it.

Would You Work For Free?

None of those tales talk about the people who would walk me into the bathroom to show me a leaky faucet that they hoped I would fix right there on the spot…for free. I’ll skip over the tales of people who told me that if I needed to use the bathroom there was a gas station two blocks away and jump right into the topic of getting what you pay for.

This week I fielded multiple requests for writing and or marketing jobs from people asked me to work for free. Ok, that is an exaggeration, no one asked me to work for free but the rates they offered light years away from my normal rate.

I responded to one of the requests by suggesting that if they wanted to hire me we would need to adjust the scope of the job. It was a professional and polite response to their inquiry.

They responded by telling me that my rate is outrageous and that they can outsource the work to someone outside of the U.S. and that they will gladly work for the rate they want to pay.

I thanked them for the opportunity and explained that I didn’t think things would work out for us.

Boundaries Are Important

I haven’t any doubt they can find people to do the work they want for less but sometimes you get what you pay for. What is good isn’t cheap and what is cheap isn’t good.

You aren’t obligated to hire me and I am not obligated to become and indentured servant. My rates are competitive and reasonable. The measure of that is simple: people hire me.

Boundaries in business are important. When you take on clients both sides need to understand what responsibilities are to be assumed by each party. If this isn’t laid out in advance you are asking for trouble.

I remember a job where the customer asked if the electrician could swap out a light fixture in the dining room. At first glance it sounded like an easy thing to do, the existing fixture had to be taken down so the room could be painted.

The rub here was the customer wanted us to pick up the new fixture from a distribution center 65 miles away from the job. Not only that, but they didn’t want to pay for time, labor or gas.

I don’t fault them for asking, but I didn’t have any problem letting them know we would have to adjust the terms of the contract to do that.

She thought it was outrageous for me to say anything, but she hadn’t considered what she was asking for or maybe she didn’t care.

Do It Yourself

The DIY crowd was good for business too. I can’t tell you how many times I walked into a house where the owner discovered that laying tile and hanging drywall isn’t always as easy as it looks on television.

Some of the people doing it were pretty good, but they were slow. They hadn’t done it a million times and didn’t know all of the tricks for making it easier and faster.

And some of the people were really bad. They could have starred in comedies where the humor came from watching some guy fall off of a ladder.

Did I mention that the best project managers/contractors are good marriage counselors too?

It wasn’t unusual for me to see partners disagree and some of those were quite heated. The DIY crowd was especially good for that.

Pay for A Professional

When you pay a professional to do a job you’re buying quality of work and peace of mind. Are you paying more for their services?


But there is something to be said for knowing that the work/service you receive is done in a timely fashion and is of a certain level of quality.

Not long ago I was hired to clean up the work of someone who spoke English as a second language.  The text they put together was clean. It didn’t contain any spelling or grammatical errors, but it was lifeless and boring.

Ultimately the client ended up having to pay twice to get it done right. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

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