How HGTV Helps You Be a Better Developer

Property BrothersThere is a right way to do webdev stuff – usually several “right ways” – and many more wrong ways. Knowing the difference between the two is what separates the newbies and the seasoned veterans and why experience commands a higher price.

A reader left this comment on the article above a couple of months ago to illustrate this point:

Back in the 80’s in New York this building had a huge steam plant that was failing every day. The new college educated “engineers” could not get a handle on it. So, in desperation they finally called the retired plumber who was there when it was installed and had maintained it for 30 years, never having a problem with it, ever. He comes in takes a look at it and leaves.

Ten minutes later he comes back with a hammer. Looks at it again then wails the crap out of it with one hit. The plant comes to life and runs like new. He whips out his billing book and gives the new guys a bill for $1000.00 dollars. The kid is like, “wow that’s a little high for 15 minutes of work.”

The old man takes the bill back and then gives it back. This time itemized, $10 for the hammer and $990 for knowing where to use it.

So, in the spirit of being that retired plumber who know where to use his hammer, let’s look at two things HGTV has taught me about bidding/quoting.

Look in the attic before you tear stuff up

How many times have we seen Hillary on Love It Or List It want to tear down walls or re-do a basement only to have Fergis or Eddie tell her there is a load-bearing wall or utilities running down the wall that need to be re-routed. I get so frustrated for the homeowners when she does that.

When I am asked to make page templates or add a slider (basically things that are more than CSS edits), I ask for a login to the dashboard and FTP to “take a look in the attic.” Sometimes I’ll find that there are 40 plugins running or there’s no custom post type (CPT) for things that should be, so they’re instead using multiple categories per post to use as a filter for content in various locations.

The bigger the mess, the higher the cost. If the budget is immovable, then something has to go or we have to wait until there’s enough budget. I have a “do no harm” policy, so I don’t just head in and cram a square peg in a round hole just to make it work for the time-being. It gets done right or it gets done less or it gets done later.

Leave contingency room in your budget

What we like about Jonathan Scott in Property Brothers in our house is that we’ve never seen him go over budget. He does a good job with the inspection and prices everything out carefully as “the dev” in his contractor world of wood and construction materials.

If a project looks like it should be a market price of $350, plan on some issues. Don’t leave yourself doing $500 worth of work for $350 and don’t you dare do all of the work and then send an invoice for $500 without discussing it first. Personally, I don’t bump my budget once progress has started unless it’s a huge deal that is generally wrapped around a scope change.

So, if you think it’s going to be $350, then budget it at $500. If it takes less time and it was truly a fair market price at $500, that’s gravy. If it was due to contingency room and it went so smooth it would be debatable in your own mind if it’s worth $500, then discount it. That way, you don’t lose anything and they win a better price and a better image of you. It’s called win-win-win.

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Comments

  1. says

    I dread those kind of projects where you’re asked to make modifications to a site built by someone else. It’s really difficult to quote, because you never know what may break when you start adding your code.
    How do you tell the client it all has to be redone…

    • says

      Gently, bluntly, and reasonably. Make a list of unnecessary plugins, use a webpagetest.org result to show it loading 7MB and 85 objects and taking 12 seconds to load.

      Often, they aren’t using a framework and the entire system is incompatible with WP core now and it’s just time to face the facts that they’re diving a Model T now.

      I’d estimate that 70% of those who are in that situation end up seeing it for the disaster it’s become and agree to get on my schedule if I can put a quick band-aid on the thing that caused them to seek help.

  2. says

    The main lesson I’ve learned from HGTV? The pros *always* make it look easier than it is.

    Seriously. Watch a team hang and finish a room full of drywall. Now go try to tape and mud one wall yourself. It’s gonna take you 10x longer to do half as good a job. In fact, doing it yourself is usually a really good way to gain an appreciation of someone else’s craft *really* quickly :D

    (“HGTV lies!” may or may not have been the battle cry of my last remodeling project, lol!)

    • says

      I can’t argue with that. The pros make everything look easier… every pro in every field. We’ve got new construction (5yo now), so we get the itchy finger to want to do some home renovations.

      Instead, I just remodel our websites as the pro in the house. ;-)