Listen to the audio version of this post here.


You see this all the time in those neighborhood groups online. Maybe you’ve posted something like this yourself.

    • Can you recommend a low-cost lawn service?
    • Need a kitchen remodeler who won’t break the budget.
    • Hello, everyone, is there a reasonable electrician in the area?

It goes on and on. People looking for painters, plumbers, and handymen with a focus on keeping costs down. It’s understandable when you think about it. Nobody likes to pay more than they have to—for anything.

And, I’m saying the relentless focus on cost carries a cost of its own.

It’s the same thing in the business world, isn’t it?

Professionals scout for web site designers, bookkeepers, and copywriters, always with at least one eye on the budget.

Companies bring in graphic designers, marketers, and (as I well know) speakers, while trying desperately to keep their cost down in the process.

Heck, whole websites serve as matchmakers connecting those who need a new logo, video, or blog post with people all over the world who will produce those very things, often at an extremely low cost.

What about the age-old wisdom that you get what you pay for?

I’ve been learning that lesson the hard way as we remodel our first-floor bathroom. Gutted the whole thing and started from scratch, getting rid of ‘80s floor tile and beige fixtures in the process. Thank goodness that’s all gone.

In its place: sparkling white porcelain, a fabulous Mission style vanity, and a gorgeous glass-tiled shower.

The shower is the problem. In fact, the shower is so many problems, it looks like we’re going to have to start from scratch and redo it.

The contractor seems to have skipped some steps. Used the wrong tool to cut the tile, chipping corners in the process. And mixed the grout badly so bubbles have appeared. And burst. Leaving little holes between those beautiful tiles.

There’s more, but you get the idea. We hired a guy who hired a guy who clearly was not an expert on shower installation.

And it shows. In a big way.

So, we’re starting over, this time with an actual tile expert to install the tile. He’s trained and certified. Experienced. And he seems a little bit anal. That attention to detail is just what you want in a tile installer, right?

His vehicle, the way he dresses, his website—it all says he’s serious about his work.

You won’t be surprised to hear that our new tile installer also charges more than the guy-who-hired-a-guy. I’m willing, even happy, to pay it, to get the results I want.

This has implications for all of us.

What are we really looking for when we hire a photographer, accountant, or someone to manage our social media?

Do we want good-enough-to-get-by (or not even!)?

Or are we willing to pay a real professional who’s studied and practiced and perfected their craft? Who has a track record of success? A list of happy clients, and testimonials to go with it?

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for THAT person. Of course, I don’t have a lot of extra cash to throw around. Maybe I have to wait a bit. Or break the project into stages. Or economize on something else. When the task at hand is important, isn’t it worth paying the person who will do it well?

Maybe you’re the person.

No, I’m not asking you to fix my shower. What I mean is, when we set our own fees, how do we position ourselves?

Do I want to be the low-cost option? The amateur pretending to be a pro? The cut-rate handyman who mangles beautiful glass tile and puts air pockets in the grout?

I don’t. And I don’t think that’s what you want, either.

This is worth pondering, probably for most of us.

    • How good is my work, really?
    • How does it stack up against others in my field?
    • In my heart of hearts, do I believe my work is valuable to the people I serve?

And if it is:

    • How do I set my fees, so they say I’m an expert?
    • So they reflect the real value of my work?
    • So people know when they engage me, they’ll be happy with the results?

I wish I could answer those questions for you. I’m still working on answering them for myself!

I’m curious, though, about what bubbles to the surface when you consider the professionals you hire…and the ones who hire you. And I look forward to your comment below.