We had a mold problem.

Twice a year, usually in the spring and again in the fall, our basement gets wet. Not flooded out wet. But the kind of wet where the 150 year old stone walls start to seep moisture and the old wood sills get swollen, and the dehumidifier can’t keep up.

This had been happening over the 150 years that the house has been standing, and all that moisture has led to the basement being a moldy mess. We can’t store anything down there. It exacerbates our allergies.

We called a mold abatement guy to come and look at it. Nice, nice guy.

“Yeah,” he said. “I can clean this up for you.” I can do it in a about a day. And then I’ll leave 3 of my industrial-size dehumidifiers down here running nonstop for 4 days to really dry it out for you. Then, you’ll need to go get yourself a large-capacity dehumidifier and set it up down here. If you don’t the mold will come back in a year or two.”

“Ok,” We said. “Let’s do it.”

“That’ll be $2000,” he said.

We said, “Ok. When can you come?”

We didn’t ask him for his hourly rate instead of the $2000 job he quoted us. We didn’t complain that if we didn’t invest in maintaining the basement’s dryness the mold we’d paid for him to clean up would come back. We didn’t ask him to give us one of his professional dehumidifiers to keep as part of the job.

We also didn’t:

  • Try to do it ourselves.
  • Ask him to give us an itemized list of every step in his cleaning process, how long he estimated each step would take, and the brand-names of the equipment he uses.
  • Tell him that we’d go with him if he’d knock $1000 of the price and use the little rinky-dink power washer we have in our garage instead of his equipment.
  • Ask the 14-year old kid next door to come over to do the job for $10/hour.
  • Go on Craigslist or Fiver to see if we could find someone who would do it for $50 or $500 instead.

I suppose we could have done any of the above. But I’m pretty sure we’d be out or $50 or $500 and we’d still have a mold problem.

What we did do, before he even got there, was:

  • We asked our friends and neighbors who they recommended to take care of a mold problem.
  • We found another contractor who had done some work on other parts of the house for us whether he thought this mold guy was any good.

We had a mold problem. And because of our mold problem we had a storage problem. And an allergy problem. If we were looking to sell the house, we’d also have a property value problem.

So we said, “When can you come?”

Let’s say you have a website problem.

And because you have a website problem you also have:

  1. A mailing list problem,
  2. A donations problem,
  3. A staff efficiency problem,
  4. A social media problem,
  5. A public relations problem,
  6. An events management problem, and
  7. An organizational mission problem.

Sure, you can go on uDesk or eLance or Craigslist or Thumbtack and find someone who will “fix” your website for $50 or $500. Or you could get your neighbor’s 14 year old who’s good at video games to mess with it. Or you could do it yourself.

Or you could ask people you know, who have had the same problems you have. Who has solved their problems?

Then you could ask other people who do similar stuff whether the people you have recommendations for are really any good.

Because, let’s face it. If I start telling you I recommend using hosting with at least PHP version 5.5, SSL and a CDN, and I use such and such a plugin and minify all the css and js and use Git for version control. And if I tell you you need to invest in a site maintenance plan so that your site won’t get hacked (again!?) when I’m done fixing it…

Will you really be able to tell what any of that is? Or will you try to tell me to skip the staging server testing to save $1000 on the project? Or tell me I should absorb your ongoing maintenance costs for the next 5 years as part of the deal?

If I share my professional opinion, and give you an estimate for the job…

[tweet “Do you really care what my hourly rate is?”]

Or do you want your website problem solved? How many donations are you willing to lose, and how much staff aggrevation are you willing to tolerate, and how much public relations damage are you willing to sustain while the neighbor kid plays video games with your website?

At some point you just have to decide, just like we did with our moldy basement —

[tweet “Is your website really a problem worth fixing?”]

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360