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Hire a Professional or Do-It-Yourself?

FileMaker is famous for being easy to use. That reputation is well-deserved. You can certainly create your own applications to solve business problems, or use one of the Starter Solutions out of the box. If you can use Excel, you can use FileMaker too.

On the other hand, at some point you might find it useful to hire a professional developer or consultant to help build your solution.

For instance, years ago, I always painted the walls in our apartment when it needed it. I was young, and had more time than money. Then I got married, bought a house, had kids, and life got busier–a lot busier! Empty weekend afternoons became a thing of the past.

At some point, after years of looking at a big scratch in our hallway, I realized that I was never going to get around to painting it myself. I was just too busy doing other things. I called a professional house painter and they had the job done in less time than it would have taken me to organize myself, gather my supplies and get the paint from the store. Not only did they do a great job, but I worked while they painted so I didn’t have to take time away from my regular work or family activities to get the job done.

Maybe you’ve had a project you started, devoted a significant amount of time to, and then realized it was too big or complex to finish on your own. Or, you never started it in the first place because it seemed too daunting.

Here’s how to tell whether you should do it yourself, or hire a professional to do it for you.

You should do it yourself if:

• You have the time available
• You enjoy the activity
• The goal of the project is clear and modest (achievable) given your level of skill
• You already have at least some of the skills required, and/or an interest in learning the subject area
• You have a clear plan of the steps needed to complete the project
• You will apply the skills you learn to future projects
• You have someone knowledgeable you can ask if you run into issues
• The time spent does not take you away from other, more important (and lucrative!) things you could be doing

You should hire a professional if:

• The project requires specialized skills you don’t currently have, and which you aren’t interested in learning
• You encounter a problem and you don’t really have the skills required in order to fix it, or the time to devote to learning what you need to know
• You realize partway through that the project is more complex than you originally anticipated
• The amount of time you have spent on the project is cutting into time you would normally spend doing other, especially paid, work, and you have not achieved the goal

If you do it yourself, then you’ll always have those skills in the future. If it’s something you enjoy doing, even better! In this case, you still might look to a professional developer for help troubleshooting, and who can help you build on your base, and learn what you need to know to achieve your goal.

Don’t forget, though, that your time is valuable. If you feel like you’re running into trouble, cut your losses early. It’s better to hire someone before you spend a lot of time on something, become frustrated with the project, and give up on it altogether. Then not only will you have pulled time away from more productive activities, but also not achieved whatever the project’s goals were.

If it’s something that will take more than a few hours, your time could be better spent in planning the project and then handing it off to someone knowledgeable, while you do your other work.

A professional developer will know how to structure the data, how to create navigation that makes sense, and many other tricks to help make your solution successful. And they can do it in a fraction of the time it would take to do yourself.

Doing things yourself can be great. You learn new things and expand your horizons. It can be enjoyable, as long as you’re happy with your progress. Learning to recognize the point at which you’re no longer progressing is the key to knowing when you’ve stretched a bit too far.

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