Costs of Being Self-Employed: a Maker’s View

I want to take this moment and invest in what can never be returned, defective or not: my customers.

Hi, I’m Ryan.

Please read this slowly and digest it. I promise, it will somehow be good for your wallet. Shoppers, I got your back, but I’m not infallible; I’m a customer, too. I’m not Superman, I’m no magician, nor am I a miracle worker, but I promise to always give my best.

Whether you are a service provider, a retailer, an observer, and/or a customer or client, I compiled this message for you based on my 15 years being a self-employed, small business owner/operator; a provider of residential, quality-of-life home enhancements and improvements (yes, 15 years, I have my own pens now, woohoo!). I hear some of ya, “he’s still just a baby.”

Okay, okay, let me get down to it. When you go shopping, whether at a brick-and-mortar storefront, or on your laptop, iPad, or Android device, there is a world beyond what you see. Obviously, what you see is the product or the service or the result that you desire, to possess and to use, that lighted image passing through your cornea to your retina through your eye socket to tickle your brain waves. This world is the world of the makers.

Now, the makers, for all intents and purposes, are responsible for ensuring the quality of your purchase. The quality is determined by a combination of attributes, but I will reserve that for another message. I hear ya, that doesn’t always happen. Indeed, I have have my fair share of soggy crunchy tacos and short-lived lithium ion batteries. For the most part, however, even the assembly line cogmaker is proud of their work and production on the mastery level, mistakes and sliders notwithstanding.

The questions beckon, what makes products or services so different that the prices vary at scattered levels?  What is the difference between this custom maker or that custom maker? Why is the price so high?

There are a wide variety of answers ranging from experience to collegiate. Mine comes from both. In short form, it’s because a custom maker is no comparison to a large, highly capitalized, supercenter, like Walmart or Home Depot (to say nothing of its employees). To answer respectfully, in limited format, some of those answers follow. 

Operational costs (computers and software, machinery, tooling, bits and blades, that type stuff); maintenance, hazards and insurance; vehicle use and, the favorite, gas. Conduct some independent research and quickly find an opinion that suits your agreement as to why custom pricing seems high. Locale, skill, experience, knowledge.  Report upon report educate us if we can make it through to the end of the report. Commentaries, summaries, public experiments and social opinions range from support to trash talk to back and forth badger and banter.

Every professional, every retailer, every shop owner is different. I am not the first to say that to guesstimate the time that the tasks of each job will take to complete (every single time) are always estimated lower than the actual time it takes to complete. Costs are never the same. Somebody has to pay for everything, and I mean everything. You do, I do, but as for where the money comes from, that somebody is the customer and is always (in caps) the customer. As the customer, you get to determine your desired price and the quality you expect to recieve, but you don’t always get to have the same in one. The old saying remains, you get what you pay for. Read the reviews; they are the “three references.” BBB is still legit, and Angie’s List reviews are written by real people.

It is important to get several estimates, ensuring apples-to-apples comparisons as best as possibility will allow. There are other craftsmen around, but to get to them, persistence is key. Look at portfolios and images of professionals you wish to hire. Keep in mind, professionals have families and other ongoing projects and cannot always fit everyone in, right anyway. Professionals also must maintain their own homes and lives so they can continue to deliver what you want. That means you either wait in line or move on to find another professional to meet your specifications. No harm, no foul, no hard feelings.

Project completion is relative to mutual agreement and understanding. Differentiation is based on your personal confidence, who you trust most for the price you are willing to pay. Payment is not one-way, however, but an exchange of value for value and again, based on agreement. As for quality, well, time is not cheap. I know what my time, my services and my products are worth. I know the time required to make it happen, whether manually of mechically. I know of of the buildup, the quality of life enhancement at the moment of acquire, and the relaxation of enjoyment when something new gets old. You, too, have a glimpse.

I didn’t forget to mention materials. Gotta consider all of the above before materials. What materials? What accounts will materials be ordered from? What if the parts are no longer available?

Safety is paramount. Only have ten eyes and two fingers. Gotcha there, didn’t I. Could you live without yours? I risk mine everyday for your dime?

Ah, and what of strategic packery? You mean you can’t just stuff it in an envelope and drop or in the mail?

Value, price, worth is all determined by how deep in its ocean you wish to dive. The deeper you go, the higher the expenses necessary to get you there and get what you want, when you want it.

Thanks for the read.

*Good read if you have eyes to see it. Scroll down a bit to understand how we see. There is even a listen button. How We See

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