It seems like it never fails that most of us go looking for help too late. If this is you, you’re not alone. I think this is due to a couple of reasons. One, when something is not in our area of expertise, we grossly underestimate how much time it will take. Check out this previous blog to learn more about this (it’s called the Dunning Kruger effect). And two, we tend to be overly optimistic about timelines, or we’re just too darn busy and don’t allow enough time—or don’t have enough time—to adequately plan. Fortunately, with a few changes, you can be better equipped to know when to hire an expert.
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How do you know when to hire an expert?
Timing is tricky. And you may have experienced that everything—especially new things—takes way longer than expected (there’s even a scientific law about it called Hofstadter’s law). This definitely holds true when it comes to hiring experts.
The whole point of getting someone to help is so that you can execute at a higher level and have it use fewer of your resources. The other hard truth is, when it comes to places where we need to hire an expert, we’re usually suffering from the “we don’t know what we didn’t know” effect. And where the Dunning Kruger effect meets Hofstadter’s law, time feels like it’s never on our side.
Clearly, timing varies with the area of expertise, the type of project, the other resources available, and of course, any deadlines that have been handed to you. Let’s look at a real-life example of figuring out when to hire an expert.
Another agency we consult with does presentation design for large multinational corporations. And people are desperate for their services. But this agency almost never gets hired for the first project they propose with a new client. When we dug a little bit deeper, we found the issue wasn’t that the clients didn’t see the value. The issue really was that these prospective clients were reaching out just two to three weeks before the presentation needed to be given.
We all understand that presentations are high-visibility events. Sure, some have lower stakes, such as internal team gatherings or quarterly team updates. But many have very high stakes, including executive pitches or investor relations presentations. In these cases, there’s pretty much zero chance you’re going to choose a new agency to design your slides three weeks before you have to present. That feels like a huge risk, even if you hate your slides and are pretty sure the whole thing sucks.
And why does it feel like such a huge risk? I suspect it has something to do with designers having a reputation for not delivering on time, needing lots of time or revisions to deliver to an expectation, or not delivering to expectations at all. Or even worse, they can just disappear. Certainly, this isn’t the case for every designer or design agency, but we are all haunted by poor experiences when the stakes get high.
Once the owner of this agency understood the context of his potential client, he could then help his prospective clients get a better experience by showing them when to engage a new presentation agency. Most of the people he talked to were dissatisfied with their current agency, but we’re still planning to use them anyhow. And in a high-visibility and high-stakes scenario, that makes sense, because even if you don’t love the outcome, you at least know what to expect.
The Key: Plan Early
When you have a project, task, new software implementation, or other large undertaking looming, always start as soon as possible when your goal is to hire an expert to help. Even if you start the conversations many months before you’re ready to start the work, you can at least be confident in whom you’re hiring and have them help you structure the process so that you have adequate time to execute.
Yes, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but now I’ve given you all the reasons and an example.
And I know, getting started early can be seriously challenging when you have tons of competing priorities. One way to address this is to create schedules for upcoming projects. Someone on your team, or outside your team, can be looking 6 to 12 months ahead. They can be creating recommended kickoff dates that can help you get the most value out of any external agencies you’re working with.
The Goal of Hiring an Expert
Deadline crunches and out-of-timeness are self-perpetuating, vicious cycles that lock you into constant panic. To break the cycle means taking the uncomfortable step of carving out time to be strategic and/or time to engage with external resources. But the payoff when you hire an expert is not being in constant panic and feeling confident that the plans and capacity are in place to handle the tasks at hand.
Hiring experts isn’t a silver bullet. The next blog is all about when NOT to hire an expert. You don’t want to miss it.
Wondering when is the right time to hire an expert? At FieryFX, we’re experts in strategy, websites, analytics, smart business, and technology. Plus, we know a thing or two about getting the most from working with experts. Find out what you might gain when you hire an expert by booking a consult with us.