With good salaried jobs often hard to find, recent graduates, laid off workers and fledgling freelancers are often willing to work for next to nothing. At least that’s the way it seems when you log into sites like Taskarmy or Fiverr.
The latter, for instance, is a crowded marketplace for those looking to outsource small tasks – from the very useful to the simply odd – for five bucks a pop. In today’s gig economy it seems, DIY is seems to giving away to DIFM – do it for me.
But just what’s the sweet spot for deciding when to look for outside help?
Related Read: 4 Ways to Earn More Money With a Side Job>
What Can You Afford To Outsource?
If you run a business or have any serious money to work with, it clearly makes perfect sense to have an accountant, lawyer, and tax pro on your side rather than trying to master complex issues that can really cost you if things go wrong. Chances are, they make more money than you as well.
But what about all those more mundane tasks – cleaning, mowing, shovelling, painting etc. – that, while both necessary and often important, really don’t require a lot of skill or a decade in university?
Where do you draw the line? How do you value your time? Would you rather be enjoying more hours with your kids or pursuing some entrepreneurial endeavours, or is working in the yard in 30-plus heat on a Saturday your idea of a good time?
When you put it that way, it seems like a pretty easy decision. But it really isn’t – which is why so many people struggle with just when to trade the chore that they hate for the work that they love.
What Does It Really Cost?
Where I live, you can count on having to cut the lawn an average of 32 weeks per year. Most basic services include mowing, trimming, edging, providing equipment, as well as fuel, for about $40 each time.
$40 per week times 32 weeks equals $1,280 a year. Plus you don’t have the outlay of buying and maintaining equipment. You figure out how long it takes you to make that kind of money, after tax.
Hiring a lawn service seems like a luxury to some people, particularly if you can cut, trim, and clean your lawn in 30 minutes or so (that would be like making something like $65 per hour, depending on your tax rate).
But I’d say every fourth house in my neighbourhood has a truck outside most weeks – especially if you include those who get someone to move all that snow around in the winter.
Where Do You Draw The Line?
And then there are those particularly grubby tasks. Few chores are more unpleasant than cleaning dog dirt off the lawn after the melting snow reveals Fido’s leftovers. Most established lawn services refuse to cut the grass until that sort of debris is gone.
Enter Superscoopers, Poop Patrol and other rival services. From a single $30 clean-up to a twice weekly service, they’ll pick up that waste and dispose it at a sewage treatment plant. Apparently, business is booming.
There’s also The Bin Spa, a mobile pressure-washing company that uses extremely hot water and biodegradable cleaning products to wash, sanitize and deodorize dirty green bins, recycling boxes, garbage cans and composters. Available from April to October, getting rid of that rotting fruit and maggots will cost about $15 a trip.
Comparing Convenience with Cost
Is it worth it? Absolutely – at least to some people. After all, time is the most important non-renewable commodity we have. But it can still be tricky to put a dollar figure on things.
Let’s say you make $50 an hour, ignoring taxes. If it would take you five hours to clean your house, you are, in a sense, spending $250 when you put on those rubber gloves. Instead, you could spend something like $150 for a two-person cleaning crew to do the same work, probably in less time.
Outsourcing is really never a simple decision. Try this tool to figure out how you might value your time, in dollar amounts, when you’re trying to decide whether or not to bring in outside help.