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My Annual Rant About Do-It-Yourselfers

Jeff Brown
6 min read

At 58 I’ve yet to decide if those insisting on always doing things themselves are deluded, arrogant beyond understanding, or so much brighter than I am, I’m doomed to forever walk in their shadow. The unrelenting confidence oozing from the pores of Do-It-Yourselfers irritate thinking folk, even if only on principle. 🙂 How many times do they hafta reinvent the wheel — reborn as an utterly magnificent octagon — before discovering the problem is them? There are usually so many questions they don’t even know to ask — their ignorance basks in the glow of never ending faux bliss. Wanna know the problem with ignorance? Ya never know how much you don’t know. Why? Often cuz you’re a Do-It-Yourselfer. Today I’m speaking mostly to real estate investors and agents, but the principles apply to any job. As an agent your bottom line job description ain’t rocket science. You’re either finding property for someone or selling/exchanging it for them — both in a timely and professional manner. As simple as that is to state, we all know from experience that’s a bunch of overflowing plates on our daily table. All the skill sets required to become expert in those two jobs can be daunting when one wishes to actually, you know, be an expert. Those skill sets are learned. Mentors, company training programs, blogs, seminars/conferences, webinars, and even books are some of the vehicles carrying agents and real estate investors to the legitimate status of expert — combined of course with endless hours of repetitive study and practice. Yet how many times do we see a so-called expert, often self-proclaimed, wanting us to believe they did it all themselves? They end up with brown eyes eventually, cuz spewing that BS long enough eventually turns ’em that way. You’re not an expert in online technology. You’re not an SEO expert. (Though you and I may be the only ones online who don’t claim that these days.) You’re not a marketing expert in any way, shape, or form.

That includes both online marketing and DinosaurMarketing.

Allow me to tell on myself.

Back in the mid-80’s I thought since I was a hot shot real estate investor/Broker, (A hot shot in my mind only, btw.) I could write a letter designed to bring in new potential clients, whose patronage I could then earn. Oh, I could write beautiful letters alright. But my phone remained eerily silent, except for those calling to keep them off my list. 🙂 Then I called the guy — who proceeded to make endless hilarious fun of my efforts.

I hated what he wrote, and told him so. He said, and I quote: “I do this for a living. After reading what you’ve come up with, I’m surprised you can even spell Direct Mail Marketing.” Oh. Never mind.

From 1987-2003 or so, I was phenomenally successful using Direct Mail to narrowly targeted markets. Though I gave my new ghost writer input when he asked, I learned early on to shut up in order to avoid embarrassment — and keep the stellar results comin’.

Let’s not be ambiguous here, OK? In the years mentioned above I never made less than six figures as an absolutely empirical result of my Direct Mail efforts. In fact, three of those letters produced six figures by themselves.

Let’s look at an incomplete list of related areas of expertise for which Do-It-Yourselfers fail miserably while belligerently maintaining they’ve mastered them. What a crock. Using the web via blogs/websites to sell/list, invest in, or locate super-motivated sellers of distressed property. Successfully employing SEO principles online. Using ‘social media’ in general. Drip email programs. Direct mail marketing. Postcard marketing. There’s plenty more we could put on that list if we put our heads together, right?

Here’s how Do-It-Yourselfers convince themselves of their superior expertise. They compare their results to other Do-It-Yourselfers. Agents and investors do this incessantly on blogs and at conferences, seminars, and REbarcamps. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be at least entertaining. Don’t misunderstand me — this isn’t a blanket indictment of those media — but seriously, the person on the stage or blogging is often the one who’s merely a few chapters ahead of everyone else in the book.

In my time I’ve been a competitive bodybuilder, a marathoner, and an NCAA umpire, including post season. Was I a Do-It-Yourselfer?

No, as I had more respect for those who were — in fact — experts in those three fields than to demean their expertise that way. In the gym I was trained by a world champion one on one. When a runner, San Diego was blessed with numerous long distance experts who were nationally and sometimes even world famous. As an up and coming umpire, former major league umps and several with NCAA World Series experience trained me on the diamond, hands on.

The arrogance demonstrated by Do-It-Yourselfers who think they’re at levels they can’t even see, much less execute, is maybe exceeded only by the difference between what they think they know and reality. Or worse, by making less money than could if they actually were at the level they claim. The irony, of course, is that they don’t know their income is only 25-60% of what it could be. How could they know? Duh

This isn’t to say I don’t understand economic realities — or the difference between skill sets needed for hobbies vs skill sets needed to make a living. Of course, that last one depends upon whether or not ya wanna make a living or a LIVING. Some are actually happier making less than they could, but being able to say they Did It Themselves. WooptyDo.

Frankly, I found making six figures in a month occasionally was more exciting than when I made six figures in a year. Wonders never cease. 🙂 Again — much thanks to The Guy.

Something is better than nothing, and OK for now can become much improved over time. I get it. I’m not endorsing the typical agent or real estate investor who’s forever getting ready to do something — just prior to throwing in the towel. We all do what needs to be done if we’re serious. But when there’s a choice, please, stop with the I can do-it-myself as well as the expert, cuz you can’t — and besides, you’re embarrassing yourself.

If you studied what a real expert does for six months you probably still wouldn’t know what they’ve forgotten.

Harsh? Not really. The word expert has been bastardized second only to the word ‘great’ in sports. Though a pretty decent umpire, on my best day I wasn’t within shouting distance of Hall of Famer Doug Harvey, a slam dunk expert, who was one of the best Major League umps who ever blessed a diamond with his presence. I learned to train and run ever improving marathons, but was never on ESPN. Heck, with one exception, I never finished in the top 10 WOMEN in my age division in any race. (Was 3rd woman in a 15K) 🙂 I competed in bodybuilding, once placing 7th in what I think was called Mr. Teenage So. California. Don’t be impressed though, as compared to the top three, my name could credibly have been Debbie. Though I was trained by an expert for two years, they’d been trained by experts for 8-10 years. The winner went on to have quite a career, making several magazine covers. Talk about perception meeting reality. Crestfallen doesn’t cover it. 🙂 Embarrassing? Lookin’ back, just my presence on the same stage was an insult to them.

Then why did I do it? You mean besides being the typically know-it-all, arrogant teenager? I was comparing myself to the local wannabes in my gym. They were a buncha Do-It-Yourselfer pretenders. Who wouldn’t look great next to those posers?

So can we please temper the Do-It-Yourselfer mania? It’s gettin’ on my last raw nerve. My son makes the argument the Do-It-Yourselfers in real estate related skill sets have been slowly fading for the last year or two. He bases that on the observation that he doesn’t read any more about agents/investors ‘…lying naked on the beach while the money pours in from leads generated from their miracle website/mailer, designed and engineered/written by them alone.’ Gotta love the way he puts things. 🙂 He further notes that those who’ve survived this latest cleansing have, to the extent affordable, ‘called the guy’ whenever possible. I pray he’s right, but fear he’s not.

Calling the Guy has been my M.O. since forever. I’m a real estate investment expert, but only a pretender when it comes to CRM, various forms of DinosaurMarketing, internet technology, and the like. Those thinking they’ve effectively mastered those skill sets are either kiddin’ themselves, or truly are way smarter than the rest of us. Still, it’s amazing how many answers I get to questions I never knew to even ask when talking with a real life expert. Why would anyone want less than the best results possible? What say you?

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.