We’re all more than familiar with the DIY phenomenon. Everything from knocking out a wall to knocking up a patio has enough video, blogs and podcasts dedicated to it to keep you infotained for weeks.
You name it, you can find a ‘how-to’ produced by everyone from household names to local tradesfolk.
And our businesses have not escaped this phenomenon. There are blogs, vlogs, white papers and forums on pretty much every aspect of business you care to name.
But with business, there is one distinct difference to the home DIY market.
That difference is when it comes to business DIY, or DIO (Do It Ourselves as is more applicable to business) it’s not just the instruction that is being delivered online.
For business, more often than not, it’s the actual tools of trade that are being provided online.
Business tools on tap
There are now terabytes of quite amazing online business tools available for little more than petty cash. Some are even free.
Online calculators, legal agreement templates, book-keeping software, video editors, shared folders, calendars etc etc. You name it, if it can be made available in digital form, it’s literally at your fingertips.
Take online graphic design toolkit Canva for example.
In the past, if I required a half decent flyer, poster or Facebook cover I wouldn’t hesitate in handing it over to our fantastic outsourced graphic designers. They have always been so skilled and so fast, that I had no hope of achieving a similar result in-house.
Our modified version
But these days, there are so many fantastic artwork templates that Canva provides either free or few a dollar or two, that I can come up with a more than passable result in as little as half an hour for a simple piece of work.
So much so that some of my clients have asked me to create some of their promotional artwork!
Now, I’m not suggesting for one moment that the work I can create on Canva is anywhere near as good as that provided by a top line and qualified graphic designer.
Our modified version
I would always pay the reasonable rates my graphic designer requires because I know the quality they provide will return my investment in looking so much more professional than I or my team could muster.
But the work I can produce on Canva is certainly more than acceptable for many smaller businesses – particularly if you’ve ever seen some of the less than inspiring design that’s out there.
The shifting line
What it means is that the line between DIO and hiring a pro has shifted. In some cases significantly.
And for every Canva there is an equivalent business tool for every department within your business.
However, with this new found capability also comes a real threat.
Because whilst its possible to save significant sums by having this work done in-house, the problem is that doing so can reduce exactly what you are there for.
Maximising your billable hours.
Or in the case of product-oriented businesses, producing your core product.
Is it really a saving?
There are plenty of business analysts out there that could provide far more accurate analyses of the opportunity cost of DIO than I could hope to muster.
But it lies somewhere between the saving you make on the professional, the cost of doing it in-house and the loss of your or your staff’s time in earning capacity.
Certainly if you have staff whose hourly rate is less than your own and who have the skills to do a good job, you may well end up saving a significant sum on many tasks you once outsourced.
Some skill still required
The other caveat is that most of these tools still require some fundamental skill in that particular discipline.
Taking the Canva example, despite their awesome tools and templates, in the wrong hands an invitation to a dog show can look more like a dog’s breakfast.
But in the right hands, you may well be able to save significant sums on tasks you are currently paying through the nose for.
So, it’s really worth exploring this brave new world of online business tools to evaluate just how useful they can be to your business.
In addition to being a leading ebusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.