What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to Be Your Own Project Manager

February 17, 2021

3 key tips for reaping the benefits of DIY project management

We live in the YouTube How-To Age, in which mastering any task seems just a five-minute explainer video away. Indeed, when it comes to activities like exercise, cooking, and cleaning, the internet has obviated the need for spending lots of money on professionals.

But what about a task several orders of magnitude more complicated, like project management? Can the web’s democratized content get the passionate DIY-er through it successfully? Or is it still necessary to hire a pro?

Well, it’s complicated. 

In terms of safety and security, it often makes sense to hire a project manager. Whether you’re retiling a room or adding an extension to your home, they’ve probably been through it multiple times already, meaning they’ve survived many rounds of trial and error and understand how to avoid common pitfalls. They will also be able to expedite the process, shaving a couple weeks (or even months, depending on the scope of your project) off the timeline.

But hiring a project manager is also the priciest way to go. For sufficiently complex, time-consuming, and risky projects, the extra cost may well be justifiable. But for projects more limited in scope, it’s at very least worth considering whether being your own project manager is the better way to go. 

Beyond saving money (experts estimate savings of between 10% and 20% of the total project cost), being your own project manager also gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you had a direct impact on your home’s improvement. Most of us spend the most valuable moments of our lives at home. Having had a direct impact on this precious space’s quality is immensely fulfilling.

For those of you considering acting as your own project managers, Bidmii is here to help. In this article, we’ve assembled a few of the most important tips to consider as you embark on this process. From our rating and comparison systems to our in-depth project guides, we pride ourselves on taking much of the stress out of DIY project management. 

Happy renovating!

Tip #1: Adjust Your Expectations

Before you start planning the specifics of your project or talking to subcontractors (let alone hiring them), it’s important to have a realistic sense of what you’re in for. Acting as your own project manager, especially for the first time, means that you don’t know what you don’t know, and in turn, that you’re probably going to make a few mistakes along the way.

Fortunately, that’s natural, and if you adjust your expectations upfront, you can minimize the consequences of these roadblocks. Before you begin, think about:

  • Time. Learn to love the “slow and steady wins the race” philosophy. It’s going to take more time than you think to complete this project. Expect to draw up a timeline with plenty of wiggle room so that you can address challenges as they arise.
  • Effort. Acting as your own project manager will be a hands-on experience. Expect to be heavily involved in the process, doing things like obtaining permits, inspection scheduling, personnel hiring, material storage, space maintenance, and possibly more, depending on your project.
  • Consultants. Seasoned project managers know all the ins and outs, so they’re generally not in need of additional consultation. If you’re new to project management, you will need advice, so expect to think of your subcontractors as consultants as well as laborers. Plan to ask their advice on factors like cost and timeline, and to listen carefully.

Perception is reality. Adjusting your expectations upfront will make natural pain points less painful, because you saw them coming. If you need additional tips on how to plan out specific projects, check out Bidmii’s Project Guides.

Tip #2: Take the Reins — and Use Them Wisely

One of the major benefits of being your own project manager is that you have the power of control over every detail of the process. You get to choose all the members of your team, you get to get to decide what materials and designs are used, and you get to have some say over total project cost. In arranging for all of this effectively, proactivity is of the essence. 

If your project includes demolition, don’t just go with the first team that you hear about. Shop around. Know how to make apples-to-apples comparisons, get multiple quotes, and be very intentional about who you hire and why. If you can, get referrals — being certain that your hires are reliable will take a ton of stress out of the process. We’ve designed Bidmii to help with this; our ratings system functions as a stand-in for referrals if you don’t happen to be personally connected to many subcontractors.

As you hire people, remember that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, and that if they annoy you upfront, they’re going to annoy you throughout the project. Having personal chemistry with your subcontractors is just as important as ensuring that they’re capable of high-quality work. 

If you’re taking the DIY project management road, you understand that you’re going to be heavily involved in all decision-making processes. Take advantage of your executive role, and look for subcontractors who are fairly priced, have good reputations, and are compatible with your work style and needs.

Tip #3: Plan Effectively

As we said in Tip #1, it’s useful for DIY project managers to think of their subcontractors as consultants in addition to laborers. This is when that paradigm comes into play. In the last step before your project begins, be sure to nail down the details of:

  • Timeline. You may think it will only take a day to retile your home, but remember, this is a new process for you, and there may be unforeseen obstacles along the way. Determine every stage of the process, make conservative length estimates, and install buffers to account for hidden hurdles.
  • Order of Operations. Make sure your various subcontractors are coming at the right stages of the process. You won’t want your reflooring people to come a week before your demolition team, right? That’s an obvious one — but what about sequencing walling people, HVAC people, and electrical/plumbing people? Less obvious. Take your time, do your research, and seek advice on how to order your subcontractors’ work.

May the Force Be With You

By this stage, you’ll have set the proper expectations, developed a sound budget and timeline, hired the right people, and established a sensible, detailed plan. Once you set the gears in motion, you’ll have given yourself the best chance for the project to run smoothly. Even if there are challenges along the way, you knew that was going to happen, and so you’ve given yourself enough time and headspace to address them.

Of course, there are unknowns at every stage of the project management process, and we understand that those can be intimidating to first-time DIY-ers. That’s why we’ve designed Bidmii to be a referral source, an evaluator, and a how-to guide all rolled into one. 

There’s truly no more satisfying feeling than looking at a successful project and knowing you made it happen. We wish you the best of luck with all your home improvement projects!