When Should You Hire an Expert? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself.

When should you hire an expert?

I think I about this question often. We outsource many things in our life – cooking, cleaning, home repairs, car repairs, grocery shopping, yard maintenance, driving, and more. There are great benefits to outsourcing.

Every time I face a home repair, I think, “I should learn how to do this. Everyone else is really handy.” But, after thinking about it more, most of the time, I decide to hire my handyperson. 

There are many reasons for it. Let’s explore a framework for how to decide when you should hire an expert. 

When I think about whether to hire an expert, I frame it through the questions below. 

  1. Is it time-consuming? 
  2. Is the potential for errors costly? 
  3. Can you hire someone for less than your personal hourly rate? 
  4. Do you want to do it? 

Let’s discuss each one in more detail using a real-life example. Earlier this year, my shower had a slow drip. I needed to replace the temperature mixer and pressure balancing unit. I’ll go through each question to demonstrate how I thought about it, and the mistakes I made along the way. 

Is it Time-Consuming?

There is more baked into this question than meets the eye. 

Is it time-consuming? Do you know how to do it? If not, how long will it take you to learn? How many trips to the home repair store will it take? How many trips will it really take? Will you need to call a friend or family member to help walk you through it? 

“Is it time-consuming?” is a difficult question to answer. 

In my case, I knew changing the shower temperature mixer would be time-consuming. I had never done it, which meant watching a YouTube video to show how to do it. After watching a video, it did not look that hard. I should have known better.  

The instructions seemed easy: turn off water, open faucets on lower levels, take off the faceplate, pop it out, pop new one back in, turn the water back on and test it. The video looked really simple. They did it in five minutes. 

Watching it, I knew that wouldn’t be my experience. I have as close to zero handy skills as one can get. I’ve hammered nails, done a little painting, and used a drill here and there, but I really don’t know what I am doing. 

Despite this, I wanted to attempt it. It looked easy. Plus, having two other bathrooms, it seemed likely the others would need replacing at some point, so I tried to rationalize it by telling myself it’s a skill I could use in the future. 

I ordered the part and got to work. I turned off the water and opened the lower-level faucets. “Great!”, I thought. So far, so good. 

Except, occasionally some water would still trickle out of the upper faucet. “Why did it do that?”, I wondered. 

I popped off the faceplate of the shower, which took additional time viewing videos because I had an older faceplate. After watching a few videos, I found one that was similar. 

At this point, I’ve watched the temperature mixer video multiple times to ensure I don’t miss a step and the faceplate one a few times. 

I get the faceplate off and start to remove the temperature mixer. I get it off and there is still water coming down from the piping. It’s not a rush of water, but there is a good amount. I quickly wipe it up with a towel and put the temperature mixer back on. 

What step did I miss? 

I followed the video exactly. After weighing whether to try again, watching the video many more times, I decided to call it quits.

I was all into the project for a few hours at this point. I had better things to do with my time, and I was frustrated. It was turning into a time-consuming project. I had been taking more time than I anticipated.

The dripping was driving me bonkers, but my handyperson could come later in the week. I could survive a few more nights of it. 


Because I knew the potential cost if I messed it up. 

Is the Potential for Errors Costly?

As I weighed whether to continue, I thought about the question, “Is the potential for errors costly?”

The answer is a resounding yes. 

If the water isn’t turned off all the way or I don’t tighten a screw and it leaks, I could have significant water damage. 

Based on the home repair stories I’ve heard over the years, I knew that water damage was costly. I shuddered at the thought of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in damage. 

Since one small mistake could lead not only to a huge repair bill, but also to needing to hire many people, I thought I better stop. 

In fact, I felt foolish for even trying. The constant “drip. drip. drip. drip. drip.” had gotten to me, but thankfully the possible repair bills brought me back into alignment. 

Can You Hire an Expert for Less Than Your Hourly Rate?

First, what is your hourly rate? This is a tough question for many people. 

If you don’t work in a career where you bill hourly, you may not know. For an attorney who charges $400 an hour, it’s an easy question. 

For others, you’ll need to calculate it. If you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, that is 2,080 hours per year. For an easy-to-remember number, I use 2,000. We are getting an estimate here – not an exact figure. 

If you normally work 50 hours a week, that is roughly 2,600 hours per year. 

Now, determine your annual salary and divide by the number of hours worked. For example, if you make $50,000 per year and work 2,000 hours in a year (roughly 40 hours a week), your hourly rate is approximately $25. If you make $100,000 per year, your hourly rate is approximately $50. 

Then, decide if you can hire someone for less than your hourly rate. For instance, if your hourly rate is $50 per hour and you can hire someone to clean your house for $40 per hour, it makes sense to consider hiring someone and outsource the cleaning. 

There is another consideration in your hourly rate and that is how much you value our time outside of working hours. For instance, before I quit my most recent job, I valued my time outside of work at a much higher rate than the hourly rate I calculated for myself because I had very little free time outside of work. 

For example, my hourly rate was nowhere close to $300 an hour when I used my annual salary and number of hours worked per year, but I arbitrarily valued my time around that number because I did not have much downtime. 

Theoretically, if I could make additional money or save money at a rate of $150 an hour, it would make sense to try to make that money or save money, but even at $150 an hour, it did not feel worthwhile when I was already trading my time for money. In those cases, I arbitrarily decided if I could make or save money at $300 an hour, it felt worthwhile. 

It’s okay to value your time at a rate higher than your calculated hourly rate. It doesn’t mean you should outsource everything below your arbitrary rate, but you can use it as a guide knowing your free time is limited and outsourcing something with a higher hourly rate is okay. 

Remember, your time is limited. After a certain point, your time is worth more than the money. 

Do You Want to Do It?

The last question you want to consider is, “Do you want to do it?” When I wanted to install a shelf in my closet, I wanted to do it. Although I had never installed something like it, I wanted to try it. 

In the case of the temperature mixer, I was lukewarm. I wanted to do it because it did not look that hard, and wanted the dripping sound to stop sooner. I didn’t actually want to do it and had someone magically appeared before me I could pay, I would have chosen not to do it. 

The reason for wanting to do it does not matter much. You could want to learn a new skill, feel the pride of contributing to your living environment, or it could be a good excuse to catch up on a podcast. 

If you don’t want to do something, it’s usually a good candidate for outsourcing. 

Why I Hired an Expert

In the end, I hired my handyperson. I wanted to from the start, but more than anything, I wanted the dripping sound to stop as soon as possible. 

How did my decision-making fit within the questions? 

  • It was time consuming. I already had spent a few hours on the project, and it was going to be more if I tried it again. 
  • The potential for errors was costly. 
  • I couldn’t necessarily hire my handyperson for less than my actual hourly rate, but I could for my arbitrary rate in how I valued my own time. 
  • I did not want to do it. 

I should have gone with my gut from the beginning. My handyperson turned off the water, opened the faucets, and popped off the faceplate. After taking out the old temperature mixer, some water still came out, but he knew why, and said it was normal. 

Then, he installed the new one and tested it.

It took him about 30 minutes from start to finish. It was not time-consuming for him. 

It was a good reminder that certain experts should be hired from the outset. I first wasted the better part of a morning and early afternoon worrying about it and trying to do it myself when I could have initially paid someone to do it in no time. 

How Can You Apply This in Your Own Life?

I’m often surprised by how few people outsource certain activities. One of my greatest discoveries was hiring a house cleaner a few times a year to do a deeper clean. 

I thought about the amount of time I would need to spend doing it and how inexpensive it was compared to the time involved. It was a no-brainer. 

How do you apply this to your own life? 

I would start with the things you despise doing. For me, it was deeper housecleaning. What things do you hate doing? Is it laundry? Grocery shopping? Cleaning? Home maintenance? 

Whatever it is, consider outsourcing it at least once to see how it goes. Take back some of your time and use it to relax or do anything else you want. Don’t forget to use savings buckets to plan in advance to hire experts.

Once you identify a few things, ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Is it time consuming? 
  2. Is the potential for errors costly?
  3. Can you hire someone for less than your hourly rate (actual or arbitrary/how you value your time)? 
  4. Do you want to do it? 

You don’t need to answer yes to one through three and no on four to outsource. You could have one yes or even just a “no” to question four to hire an expert. 

I’m only providing these questions as a framework if you are considering hiring an expert or if you think you may benefit from hiring an expert more often. I think more people would be better served by hiring specialists to take care of certain chores in their own life. 

Summary – Final Thoughts

Hiring an expert can feel like a luxury, but it does not need to be. It could be hiring a house cleaner once a year. It could be taking a sleeping bag to a dry cleaner instead of washing it yourself. It could be hiring a handyperson to fix your temperature mixing valve instead of trying it yourself. 

I knew someone once who said he did not own a ladder because then he wouldn’t be tempted to go on it and break a bone by accident. He forced himself to outsource and hire experts for certain tasks to protect his health. 

Experts are good to hire. Whether it is for health, time savings, or other reasons. 

As you think about your own life, where would you be well served to hire an expert?

Once you identify those areas, ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Is it time-consuming? 
  2. Is the potential for errors costly? 
  3. Can you hire someone for less than your personal hourly rate? 
  4. Do you want to do it? 

I wish you the best in deciding whether to hire an expert. 

Disclaimer: This article is for general information and educational purposes only and should not be considered investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. It is not a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security or investment advisory services. Please consult your own legal, financial, and other professionals to determine what may be appropriate for you. Opinions expressed are as of the date of publication, and such opinions are subject to change. Click for Full Disclaimer