Episode #135: Is a General Contractor Worth It?

Today, Elsie is sharing her first experience with hiring a general contractor: the pros, the cons, and whether it is worth it or not.

We’re also answering a listener’s question about house shopping and our unpopular opinions on blogging.


You can stream the episode here, on the blog, or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

A big thank you to our sponsors! Check out the offers from Modern Fertility, Ritual, BetterHelp, and Splendid Spoon. And, if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!

Show notes:

Listen to Episode 43: How to Be Your Own General Contractor

-Cons of hiring a general contractor: more expensive, and people listen to you a little bit less.

-Pros of hiring a general contractor: it’s more on schedule, stays on budget, it’s predictable, you don’t need to be there every day while they’re working. And, you don’t have to fire or confront anyone (and you only have to hire one person).

-Elsie mentions the interior design app Spoak to design your rooms.

-What is sparking joy for Emma: David’s Tea

-What is sparking joy for Elsie: paper collage supplies

Links: Extraordinary Things to Cut Out and Collage / Vintage Botanical Plants / The Botanist’s Sticker Anthology / The Antiquarian Sticker Book / John Derian Sticker Book / Women: A Pictorial Archive / Vintage Scrapbook Paper / A Treasury of Butterflies and Winged Insects

-Emma’s unpopular opinion on blogging: You don’t have to have tons of page views to make money.

-Elsie’s unpopular opinion: It’s easier to make money off of blogs than social media.

So, what are your thought on contractors? Leave a comment on this Instagram post and let us know!

Miss an episode? Get caught up!

Episode 135 Transcript

Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess Podcast. Today I’m sharing my first experience with hiring a general contractor, the pros and cons, and whether it’s been worth it to me or not. We’re also answering a listener question about making an initial plan for what your home needs as you’re still house shopping. I love house shopping so I’m looking forward to that. 

Emma: Okay, well, before we jump into general contractor stuff, is it worth it? Is it not worth it? Elsie’s experiences with it this time around. We want to do a little personal segment.

Elsie: Oh, this is actually really funny. Okay, so a few weeks ago or maybe, I don’t know, pretty recently, I think in a couple of podcast episodes I talked about how I love to block people. I do, which I do love it but I think I overrepresented how happy I am to block people. And now what’s funny is, our listeners are constantly saying to me on Instagram, I have this little bit of feedback. It’s like something that’s not even mean. Then they’re like, please don’t block me and I feel so bad. So I wanted to address it here and be like, okay, first of all, hardly anyone is getting blocked. I was mostly joking. People are usually mostly nice, and then every once in a while, one out of 100. There’s like that one person who definitely deserves it and they know what they did. Okay. So I’m not talking about you, if you’re giving constructive feedback, or you’re telling us something you think we could do better at like, that’s totally fine. It’s not a big deal. If you want to call us a bad mom or specifically, like point out something cruel, then yeah, you’ll probably get blocked. But if you’re not being cruel, don’t worry about it. I think it’s funny now. I think people are paranoid, you know how whenever you hear like, 10 people say something, and then you’re like, maybe hundreds of people are thinking it and not saying it. 

Emma: Yeah, don’t worry. If you’re worried about getting blocked, you’re probably not going to get blocked because I think it’s more of the people that are like, just trying to be really mean. It’s very different from just disagreeing with someone. That’s normal. That’s fine. We don’t care.

Elsie: Yeah, yeah. Disagreeing is normal, especially when it’s like, I think that parenting stuff is, it’s more like it’s don’t do it. Don’t send a parenting criticism to someone on the internet. I think that that’s bad. But when it comes to our business…

Emma: Just don’t make it personal. That’s what I say. If you’re like, oh, I disagree. I don’t think that’s a good thing to do. That’s fine. Then if you take it to a level of like, and you’re a bad person for doing, it’s like, oh, well, I don’t like you anymore. You’ve taken it to a weird place. Now. You could have just shared your opinion, but instead, you decided to make it personal. I don’t care for that. It’s like parenting, politics, a little bit religion, things about money, you can disagree, agree, whatever. These are all like hot topics. We get it. But just like don’t make it personal. Don’t name call. That’s weird. 

Elsie: Yeah, it’s all good. I honestly feel closer to our audience than ever. I feel like we’ve been having some great conversations lately and it’s been really fun. I don’t know, I feel pretty bonded. So yeah, I wanted to say that just because it’s like cracking me up that so many people think they’re gonna get blocked for doing nothing wrong. I think I like send out the wrong signals.

Emma: Nah you’re good, people are just nervous. They are like please don’t block just because I disagree. It’s like, we’re not gonna do that, you’re fine, don’t worry. You’re our friend. It’s good. You’re good. You can disagree. It’s fine. 

Elsie: Yes. Okay. So jumping into the general contractor talk. So this is actually a follow-up to our episode number 43, which is called How to Be Your Own General Contractor. In that episode, that’s one that I did with my friend, Ting and he hasn’t been on for a while, but it’s a great episode. He is the one who mentored me and taught me how to manage my own renovations, which means being your own general contractor. General contractor really means to me by definition is it’s the person who hires all of the individual tradespeople. There’s lots of different parts whenever you’re doing a room, you need a painter, you need a tile person, maybe you need someone for framing, and on and on. The person who hires all those people and manages all those people is the general contractor. 

Emma: Yeah, it’s kind of like a project manager. 

Elsie: Yes, it’s definitely a project manager and more. So after that episode, I remember I got an email. It was a really sad one. I think that for the most part, actually, like what we say on the podcast, I think very rarely gets misunderstood because people can hear, a little more, like you can hear a voice behind it. You can tell like if someone’s joking easier than on the blog, or if someone… 

Emma: really doesn’t mean it.

Elsie: Yes. They weren’t trying to be mean, like that type of thing. But somebody took it, somebody whose husband was a general contractor, took it as like I was saying in that episode, that general contractors are ripping people off. So I’ll just start off by saying that kind of exactly what I said back to her that like, I absolutely don’t think that. I think throughout this episode, you’ll really like hear that that general contractors do something that is really hard work. If you do it yourself, you’re doing that really hard work and that’s why you save a lot of money. Yes, it costs, the price difference is big, but it should be because it’s a lot of work. So yeah, just to put that out there from the beginning. I don’t think that either one, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong. It’s kind of like I think a little bit similar to when people are like, should I hire a house cleaner for my house and I think like the majority of people think I could clean my own house. I can, I’m capable of cleaning my own house. But you’re trying to weigh out, like, is it worth it to me to have either that consistency or that convenience, or to save that time so that I can do my work that week or maybe other reasons? It’s very similar to that. It’s like just deciding,

Elsie: Also, if you’re not very good at cleaning, maybe they’re gonna do a way better job than you.

Elsie: That’s definitely true for me. For me, it definitely the consistency of that core cleaning is one of my biggest appeals. Anyway, so having a general contractor, it’s kind of like that. It’s like, you know, it costs more, obviously and you know, you could do it yourself, probably, but it’s whether or not you’re willing to pay that extra money is a matter of priority. So we’ll discuss all that in this episode. And I think it’s a very interesting topic because now we’ve done it both ways.

Emma: Yeah. Since you have done it both ways. You have lots of spaces where you’ve kind of done it yourself, what are the rooms in your home so far that you worked with the general contractor on? What rooms are we talking about?

Elsie: Yes. So before this past October, every single renovation that I ever did, I was the general contractor. So I’ve never worked with one before, our whole last house, all of the renovations I always hired each tradesperson individually, myself. That was how I did it. I did it for the reason of staying on a much smaller budget. Then for this house, I wanted to try it out for the first time, because I was thinking about next year doing our kitchen renovation and so I wanted to try someone out first, like make sure we’re compatible before we commit to such a big project. There is an element of compatibility, I think that a lot of people don’t think about. Having someone in your home, like my general contractor comes to my home like two or three times a day, and I usually talk to him one or more of those times every single day. So having someone that is just like pleasant for you, that’s easy to talk to and who is respectful and listens is really important. So we did the living room where we have the teal bookshelves. We did the dining room, the library dining room. We did the front powder bathroom and then we did the entryway which was kind of like it used to be a double entryway and we sealed in the floor between the two levels so now it’s a regular size entryway, same height as the rest of the ceilings in the downstairs. Then above it is where that little hidden library is, we’re doing the hidden library right now. Then the last thing we’ve been working on is a couple of updates in my main bedroom, we wanted to panel the ceiling and we wanted to add a fake fireplace. 

Emma: Awesome. Okay, so quite a test. So it sounds like from the list you just said there’s electrical, plumbing, built-ins, a lot of shelves, and painting. Any other trades that he has been managing? Was there tile work or anything of that nature?

Elsie: Yeah, there’s some tile work. There’s a mason because, in our main bedroom, there’s this one little window, we had like the triangle-shaped window where there was one little window on the top and we didn’t want it there because it doesn’t really work with curtains. Yeah, I can’t think of anyone else. The main people that are at our house every day are the builders, like who build the shelves and stuff and the painting people. They do a lot more than that. They also finish the drywall. Yeah. So we’ve been working together with this General Contractor since October is when we first met and started which really doesn’t feel like that long ago. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot done in that timeframe and it’s also been really documented on Instagram. So everyone’s like seen the work. There’s been a lot of really, really good things that happened in that time. I wouldn’t say that anything was ahead of schedule. It was always behind what was told to me initially, but it still is like, really on a good schedule compared to other renovations I’ve done in the past. 

Emma: That makes sense. Yeah. So tell us generally, what would you say are your pros and cons? 

Elsie: So I’ll start off with the cons. The con, the main one, obviously, is just that it’s much more expensive. So Ting told me when I started that it would be double and I don’t know that it was double. But it’s like, it’s up there. It’s much more. I think part of it is that like when they give you the one quote, they give like a buffer in there for things going wrong and that’s a pro is that usually, it’s not as likely to go way over the budget as it is when you’re self-managing. It’s definitely more expensive. For me, I do you feel like it was worth it for the rooms I’ve done so far. Yeah, I don’t regret it at all. I’m really glad that we did all of the things that we’ve done so far. I would definitely do more in the future if they can fit into my budget. Another con is, this one’s like kind of a small one but it’s kind of, it’s something I noticed, just because in the past when I was the manager when I was when hiring people, the one directly handing them a check, they were very tuned in to what I said. I noticed now that…

Emma: You’re talking about the other, so not the general contractor, but everyone else working on things in your home?

Elsie: The individual trades, people are less responsive to me, and they listen to me a little bit less. They still know that I’m the homeowner, but I think that they feel more like they’re answering to the general contractor because he’s the one who hired them. He’s the one who’s paying them. Ultimately, he’s the one giving his stamp of approval on the projects. So like early on, we had a situation where I walked in, and they were doing the arch, they were framing out the arches for the two arch doors. And the shape was not what I wanted at all like I knew it right away and I walked right over and explained to them we need to change like this dimension and like this needs to come in. I showed them a picture of what I wanted. They said we have to ask the contractor’s name. I was like, what? Why do you have to ask him? It’s my house and I’m telling you the right way to do it. They did, they had to confirm it with him the next day. Then they started rebuilding them the other way.

Emma: That makes sense though. I mean, he is the project manager because if you were a homeowner, obviously, this isn’t you, Elsie, but if you were changing your mind every other day, and then they were kind of like adjusting each time.  I guess it swings both ways, as he’s also supposed to probably manage you, the flow of those ideas, because sometimes you do want to change your idea midstream but it’s like, that doesn’t really work. It is kind of on him to kind of fix that or let you know, we could do that but we’re gonna have to tear this down so it was gonna cost more, you know, whatever the conversation has to be. So that makes sense. 

Elsie: Exactly. Yeah. That’s really a small con. The pros far outweigh the cons. So the first one is that it’s more on schedule and more on budget and more predictable than projects I did in the past. So in the past when I was working with individual trades, sometimes the prices would be very different from what we started out with. I think that in some respects it’s like, the less expensive, like a less expensive contractor is more likely to change their price towards the end because they realize like they quoted you way too low and it like legitimately is too low. Then I think another thing is like, honestly like being a woman sometimes can have its cons when it comes to communicating with men, like not every man in the world is respectful towards women or thinks that you’re equally, like some people would you know, more easily held accountable by a man. 

Emma: Yeah, I’ve had people come to my house before and I hired them, but they’re looking around for my husband. I’ve had that happen. I understand that that can happen. Not everyone, but every once in a while it happens and you’re like, well, this is awkward. 

Elsie: Yeah, I’m for sure not generalizing because it’s pretty like once in a while. It’s not consistent but when it happens, it’s really frustrating. So more pros. This is the best one, you can leave town or you can not be there every day. So you don’t have to be there all the time, checking in and doing because somebody else is doing that for you. That’s a big one. For a lot of people, when they’re doing a big renovation, they want to leave town. They like want to go on a two-week vacation, or they want to go visit family, or they feel that they have to go live somewhere else during that time. Not everyone wants to live in an Airbnb in their own neighborhood or a hotel in their own neighborhood. So yeah, it makes sense why people would want to leave, and it gives you the opportunity to do that. Whenever you’re managing, you really can’t leave for long amounts of time, because doing things through pictures just like does not work. This is probably the best one for me is you don’t have to fire anyone like several contractors got fired since October when our project started. I didn’t ever have to fire anyone, which is nice. Whenever you manage people for a living, doing it on the side for your renovation is it’s just like annoying and nobody likes firing people, it’s stressful. A lot of times people don’t agree with your decision, and it can be complicated. I also like didn’t ever even have to confront someone. It’s very common to have small changes or small tweaks or small problems that you have with the way something was done. You want to make sure they go back and get this. You think they forgot this, you know, whatever. I could just communicate all of that to one person, the general contractor and then he communicated it to each of the tradespeople for me. Once I got used to that, like started just saving my list for just him I realized it’s really nice, and just very streamlined communication. Then the best one probably, I think I said the best one of all these, but a major perk is that you don’t have to get a million quotes. You don’t have to hire a bunch of different people. You don’t hire anyone. You get one quote, it’s a bigger price tag, but it includes everything. I think for people like working moms like me or busy people, it is such a nice thing to just like not have this huge extra to-do list on top of your day. 

Emma: Sounds like a lot more pros and cons but the con is that it’s more expensive. So if you’re on a really tight budget, might not suit you but otherwise, pretty awesome.

Elsie: Yeah, and I will say like, we live in an expensive area. Where we used to live in Missouri, it wasn’t as bad. All over the country, that is why a lot of people ask me, like, will you share the exact prices of like your room renovation stuff. I know that a lot of bloggers do that. I like personally, I don’t mind sharing a price if you want to DM me and ask me I do tell people my prices like that’s fine. But I feel like to just like put it up makes it too official. It should cost this much like to have these big shelves made. It’s different everywhere, though. I personally, I kind of just don’t see the point of me telling you like what my suburban Tennessee price ranges when it could be very different. It could be way lower where you live or if it’s higher then you might be mad at me. I kind of think you should just get a few different quotes and take the best one wherever you live. That’s kind of just like the same for everyone. 

Emma: Yeah, that makes sense to me. Plus if it’s not a DIY, if you’re not just buying supplies,  it’s just gonna cost different in different areas. It’s also like, you may find the cheapest person in your town who can build cabinets, or you might find the most expensive person in your town. Depending on what you want in your home, those are going to be different prices. So why bother putting it on a website? It doesn’t, it just doesn’t really make sense. 

Elsie: Yep, yep, that’s exactly right. I also think, like, it can be sticker shock when you’re in very different parts of life.

Emma: Sure. 

Elsie: Like when you’re a suburban mom, who’s almost 40 versus when you’re 25 and it’s your very first home. Very different perceptions on what a kitchen or a bathroom should cost. I just think you should like do what’s good for you in your time in life. I think most people kind of like have an idea of what seems reasonable to them, and whatever that is, is probably good for you.

Emma: Sure. I also think it’s just better like, if I was going to get it project done in my house, like get a general contractor for four big projects or whatever. It’d be better if I just went around Springfield, Missouri, where I live, and talk to a couple of different places and get some quotes or bids and just see where that shakes out rather than go look on somebody’s blog who lives in San Francisco. I don’t know. It’s not gonna make sense. So I might as well I just do that research in my town.

Elsie: Yeah. Hopefully, you live in one of the towns where everything is surprisingly reasonable.

Emma: One can only hope. 

Elsie: Okay, so I kind of just wanted to share a little bit about my experience now that I’ve been through a whole process almost. Then kind of like, what I would do in the future and is it worth, I guess this is the is it worth it part. So I would say for the living room, and the bedroom and the dining room like it was all so worth it. It was so worth it. I think that I definitely went a little bit over the budget that I had planned because I did keep adding things on the entire time. I was like, oh, and what about this little fireplace and I like just keep adding things. But it didn’t go much over what I was originally told, other than things I added on. I originally wasn’t necessarily going to do the bathroom and then I was like, well, might as well you’re already here. So in those rooms, I would say it was very, super worth it. But the thing that I realized recently that’s tricky about quantifying the price is that all of those rooms had the floors already done. So it’s like we already had brand new wood floors done and paid for and like that wasn’t factored into the price. So like when I think like, oh, this is really, really reasonable. It’s like, well, it’s kind of hard when you do like a whole floor of floors at a time to divide up what each room costs and I’m not really interested in doing that. But it is much more expensive if we were to be like, and we need new floors with each of the rooms that we had been contracting. So, yeah, so here’s where it got tricky. So it got tricky when it came to bathrooms when it’s like new everything. Because the floors are like they’re gonna take down the tile and then a lot of times, they’re gonna switch things out. In our main bathroom, we wanted to reconfigure it a little bit. It has kind of a weird, I don’t know what the right word is for the layout, kind of a squirrely layout and we wanted to give it like that’s the word a little bit of a nicer layout. When I got those quotes back, it wasn’t like the quotes with the living room and the dining room where it was like, oh, this is a little expensive, but I really want it and it feels worth it to me and I value these things. It was more like, I’m gonna barf. This price is like so like just so much. So that’s where I got hung up on the whole general contractor is it worth it thing is like, I just don’t know for bathrooms when it is definitely like more than double. For any bathroom what I would think it would normally be even on a nice budget, it’ll be double that when I get the quote back. Like I said before, we do live in an expensive area. It was like the saddest day ever, when I got our main bathroom quote, and I just realized, it just can’t be done. It’s just like this is not going to work and I love the contractor. I would love to keep working with him and do every single room with him but now I have to get more quotes. So that is probably the one thing is that you have to I mean you don’t have to, you can do whatever you want but I have to stay true to my overall budget. I had already expanded it as much as I was comfortable with so that’s the whole thing. It’s like you can’t be expanded any more than that without me feeling like it’s not super responsible or the right choice for this house. So yeah, so I’ll get a couple more, and hopefully, we will find a general contractor situation that fits within our budget. If we don’t, I feel grateful that I already have my experience of managing my own renovation, and I can maybe do a hybrid approach or just like take on a lot and have like a bad season and do it if that’s what it takes. So yeah. Do you feel like it that’s like, thumbs up, thumbs down, medium thumbs, right?

Emma: Yeah, I thought that sounded good. Real review.

Elsie: Yeah, the truth of the truth. So yeah, I would love to hear everyone’s, I’ll put something on Instagram today where we can make it like a chat. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on if a general contractor is so worth it to you or not because I think that that’s what’s interesting is it is a really polarizing subject. If you’re used to doing the management yourself, I think a lot of people are like, definitely, I don’t even mind it. I like having control over every detail and I’m fine with that. If you’re not used to it, it’s just so much easier having so. 

Emma: That makes sense. 

Elsie: Yeah. Okay, let’s move on. So we have next a sparks joy. So this is our little segment where we share something that is inexpensive, that is bringing us exponential joy in our lives.

Emma: Yes. So yes, just a little thing. Mine’s just a little thing this time. It is definitely inexpensive, I would say. So it’s been cold. We had a lot of snow days last month and so I’ve been drinking tea every day. I mean, I drink tea generally, but I’m like going ham because it’s like my main hydration and if I’m not careful, I’ll just drink hot coffee all day but then you can tell because I start to go crazy and I have a lot of ideas. if I have too much coffee, then it’s no good. It’s not a good look for me so I need other hot beverages. So I’m going crazy on the tea. Even today I order, so I have a tea drawer. I feel like I’ve talked about this before. I have a drawer in my kitchen that is dedicated to just tea. It has a couple of little these like kind of like plastic dividers so you can organize the little tea sachets, little bags of tea. I have loose tea as well because I also will do that. But today I just bought a whole bunch more David’s Tea one of my all-time favorite brands. I was mostly getting fruity ones because I want to pretend like it’s warming up even though it’s not yet. That’s one of my favorites. I have a lot of favorite tea brands, but that’s one of my top and I hadn’t bought any since before Christmas. I got there like tea advent for Christmas and I hadn’t bought any since then. So today I was ordering some more and I was like this sparks joy.

Elsie: Mm-hmm. I love that. I also have the wooden little tea dividers for the tea bags and then yeah, like some other stuff. I love tea. I think that it’s such a good habit. When I’m out of the habit I’m like eww, but then when I get into it, it’s like you can just drink so many cups of tea in a day. I think that’s what’s wonderful about it is it’s like kind of unlimited and I have the same thing with coffee. I can only, really I can have like two or three cups of coffee in the morning and then that is it for the day. For sure, not more than that. 

Emma: No, it’s not good for me. I can’t sleep at night. It’s too much. Gotta have the noncaffeine teas. Okay, what’s your sparks joy?

Elsie: So mine is my paper collage supplies. So I have been just like so into this random little hobby. I can’t remember, I think it was like right before Christmas, I started ordering like a couple of little like, just like paper collage books, and they just have kind of like, little clipart type of little images that you can cut out and you can make your own collages. I have all different ones. I’m going to link them in the show notes. But some of them are like actually sticker books where you just like take the sticker out and use it and some of them you cut. A lot of them are like botanical or trees or nature, things like that. I just think it’s so cute. I’m having a lot of fun making my own stationery. I’ve used it on a lot of gift wrap recently. I think it just gives this really cute personal touch to things. So yeah, I will link to them in the show notes but it’s definitely sparking a lot of joy for me. 

Emma: Love it. 

Elsie: Okay, so next is the voicemail question.

Voicemail: Hi, Elsie and Emma. Love your podcast. Anyway, my name is Tracy Parker and I have an idea for you all. I’ve been crazy watching Zillow, I’m buying a new house. I’m looking at condos, looking at things like that and all the pictures, and then I’m thinking I need new lighting. I hate those nipple lamps, I hate anything. But I thought I wish that I could have Emma and Elsie take a look at it and just give me recommendations. How you rough draft or draw for your contractors with like your adorable one with your fireplace and your whole renovation. Anyway, I think that would be a great business for you all is to, you don’t have to come to anybody’s house, but just do videos and pictures like Zillow. You can just draw, maybe make an app for yourself. I don’t know, but I would love to have your vision or just be able to say, what would you put here? What would you do here? What would Emma do? What would Elsie do? It would just be so helpful. Thank you. Bye.

Elsie: Hi, Tracy. Okay, I actually have a really good solution for you. We’re not going to make this app for sure because we just make photo apps and we love our photo apps. That’s like what we know but I have been using this program, it’s a computer app. It’s a subscription. You log in, I think you pay by the year I think. It’s called Spoak, S, P, O, A, K, and you can design rooms in it. You can also design floor plans. So I used it to design my own floor plan. You just have to get the measurements and then they make it really easy because if you know the measurements for like, say your bathroom, then this website will have in there like little toilets that are to scale and bathtubs that are to scale and showers and it’ll just show you very easily. Then each size of rug is in there and you can kind of just lay it all out. I actually heard about it from our friend Carson, who’s Cullen’s wife. Cullen was my assistant before, and she uses it like crazy. She designs all kinds of cool things with it. All of her rooms that she designs like before, they just did their kitchen, and she like laid out how the tile and the shelves and all the countertop was gonna look together. So I think that it is very user-friendly. I think this is definitely a good solution for people who don’t want to learn a whole new software that’s advanced because they have more like a 30 minute YouTube video where you can learn to use it. So yeah, highly recommend it. 

Emma: Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay. We also wanted to put it out there if you want to leave us a voicemail with a question for an upcoming episode. You can call our hotline the ABM podcast hotline is 417-893-0011. So do it because we want voicemails.

Elsie: I love the voicemails. Yeah. Okay, so da da da, it’s time for unpopular opinions. So last time, we did parenting stuff, which was so fun, but also like, kind of a minefield type of subject. So this time we’re doing it…

Emma: I think we knew it going in and some of the comments got weird.

Elsie: I think this time, so we’re gonna do unpopular opinions about blogging. This is a great subject because there is no one and I mean, no one who knows more about being a blogger than me and Emma. I’m joking but we have done it for so long. 

Emma: We have done it a long time. That’s true. 

Elsie: It’s something we know a lot about. So anyway, you can go first, because I have to hear what you’re gonna say, to decide what I’m going to say. 

Emma: I guess I took this as like things that I hear people say a lot, and I very much disagree. 

Elsie: Yeah, that’s what an unpopular opinion is. 

Emma: Okay, that’s what I thought, but I’m just like, I don’t know. I feel like last time, what I shared was, I was like, here’s this thing that I like, and I know a lot of people are going to disagree, you know what I mean? So I feel like I’m kind of doing the opposite. Anyway, mine is when people say if you’re not huge, so if you don’t have tons and tons of page views, then you can’t make any money and I just disagree. You can serve a specific community, you can teach about something very specific, and have a relatively small site, but still make lots of money. There’s also like, lots of ways to monetize if you’re a blogger. So I just don’t think that and I feel like people say it as a way to kind of give up on it when they’re maybe like kind of wanting to get into it. Don’t do that. 

Elsie: I completely agree with you. I hear people say that a lot. It’s like, if I can’t have millions of page views per month, then I’m not even going to start a blog. And it’s like, well, you probably can’t if you’re already thinking that way from the beginning. But tell us like some examples of sites with a smaller concept, maybe and they maybe don’t have like, a million pageviews, maybe they have 100,000 or maybe they have 50,000 pageviews a month. Who’s making money who is small?

Emma: I actually don’t know, do you have examples? I don’t know what other bloggers make. I don’t generally like, if I did I wouldn’t share it just to be really honest. So I just know, you don’t have to have millions of page views to make some money. I just don’t think that’s true at all because there’s so many ways to do it. 

Elsie: I think a good example would be people who go really hard on affiliate stuff and people who go really hard on selling their own courses. They’re both like ways you can be in the six-figure category without having that many pageviews

Emma: Yeah, or really any product generally, like digital products obviously has an advantage in some ways. But yeah, selling your own products. Yep, for sure. Then I think another one kind of along these lines is I know people sometimes when they reach out, they want us to say do these steps and you’ll be making part-time money in three months and full-time money in six months or whatever. Because I know that there’s other people who teach blog and they do kind of make promises like that at times or things along those lines. But I just don’t think that’s really true. I think if you’re starting a blog, and you haven’t even written anything yet, and you’re just thinking about how much money you can make in the shortest amount of time, I get your ambition. But I just don’t know if it’s gonna work out because there is a lot of groundwork that you have to lay before you can really monetize a thing like a blog. There’s other things like where you can get a job and start getting paid immediately. I’m not like trying to be like, you can’t make money at anything. No, no, but I just think blogging is kind of a thing where you should probably be somewhat passionate about it if you get into it, or whatever subject you’re going to be blogging about, there should be some passion there. Because you are going to need to kind of lay a good six months to a year of groundwork, at least before you’re probably going to be able to monetize in a way that makes you happy, maybe even not a full-time job, that may not even ever happen for you, depending on how much income you’re needing for that. It’s not an overnight thing. So when people seem like, they really want that, and they really want us to say that I’m like, I’m sorry, but that’s just not, I’m not saying no one’s ever done it, there probably is someone who has, but like, I just don’t think it’s realistic. So it’s not the thing that I would want to give advice on.

Elsie: Yeah, okay, I’m gonna piggyback off of that for mine because these go really well together. So for mine, I think that a lot of people’s popular opinion would be that it’s easier to make money on social media than it is on blogs. Here’s my example, okay, so if you have zero followers on, let’s just say Instagram, it can be Tik Tok, whatever, I don’t care, but it’s like you have zero followers on social media app, and you have zero pageviews on your blog. You’re starting from zero either way, which is what most people start from, then to be able to make money on Instagram,  say, you think, okay, I need to have this many followers, that’s probably going to take me six months at least maybe a year. For a lot of people, it can take much longer than that. Obviously, it’s kind of the same thing for a blog. It’s like whichever one you do, you have to put in a lot of groundwork. And unless you can be one of those like, you usually have to be an early adopter, or just like really lucky person who gets a lot of followers from doing hardly anything. That’s pretty rare. Unless you’re one of those people, you’re going to have to put in the groundwork somewhere. So my case for why blogging is a better place to put in groundwork and I’m not saying social media is not worth it, because we definitely do both. But my case for why blogging is better, and it’s also just really underrated now because a lot of people are skipping it completely, is that, yes, you have to put in this large amount of groundwork but on A Beautiful Mess, we’re still making money from blog posts that we wrote seven years ago, like today, this month. That’s something that you can’t do on social media. I don’t know anywhere else, you can do it. You can’t do it on podcast yet. I hope eventually. Nowhere on social media do I see people making this like nice long term money, but on A Beautiful Mess, we’re building something that’s growing, a lot of times it’s growing on its own, or it’s growing in a way that’s like pretty low maintenance like we’re pinning our posts from the last few years over and over and over again. That means that they keep getting traffic. I think that that part of it is just so strong and so compelling I wish more people knew. One of Emma and mine retirement plans is like maybe when we’re in our 50s or whenever, at the moment we feel like we could blog forever, but at the point when we don’t want to blog anymore, we will still make a full-time income for it for many years after we write our last post. You can’t say that about any other type of social media. So that’s, well, maybe YouTube actually, but blogging and YouTube. That’s why I would like give them, a super thumbs up. If you’re going to already be building one of these platforms, like say an Instagram or Tiktok just think about how you could make that a two for one and use that same content to build a blog. I just feel sad, like I want to help all of my like 10 years younger sisters and I just see a lot of people growing really big social media followings, but completely quitting or ghosting their blogs. I just like want them to get that long-term money too.

Emma: Yeah, I think it’s a worthwhile thing if you want to do it. I mean, obviously, blogging is not for everyone, but if you feel like it is for you then I think it’s extremely worthwhile. It’s a bummer when you see people feel like it’s over or like well, I have to have millions and millions of page views or it won’t matter and it’s like Nah, that’s not true. 

Elsie: Yeah, it’s definitely not true. If you want to be any kind of an influencer, this is the last thing I’m saying, start a blog or website for it and an email list at the beginning. If I could have done my email list from the beginning, like, I would totally send that time machine message to myself if I could. That would have been awesome but we didn’t start ours until way later. So hopefully, if anyone’s starting now you can use that advice. I promise you, they’re nuggets of gold. Fun. Okay. Thank you so much for listening this week. Thank you for everyone who is sharing our podcast on Instagram. That means a lot to us. Every single Monday, we see you and we appreciate you. If you want to send us a question, just email us at podcast@abeautifulmess.com You can send us any type of question you want. We get them every week and it’s so much fun. We love answering your questions. If you prefer to do it as a voice message, then we might use your voicemail on a future podcast episode. The number for that is 417-893-0011. Also, all the links we shared in today’s episode will be up on our show notes today at abeautifulmess.com/podcast All right, be back next week. 

Emma: Bye.

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  • You can’t beat references and reviews when screening contractors. Two good sites for researching contractors are Houzz.com and nextdoor.com. Good luck!

  • We have done projects in the past without a general contractor and it’s been fine. We are currently adding a huge addition to our house. We have a 1,000 square foot house and we are almost doubling the size. So it’s pretty expensive to do that and we ended up getting a construction loan to do it. The bank required us to hire a general contractor to do this. We have always paid out of pocket for house projects in the past. But this was more like buying a house price vs remodeling a bathroom price.

    Anyhow, that might be a consideration for larger projects, if you have a loan, you might be required to hire a GC.

    On the price shock, I will say that some part of that might just be the current very high price of basically everything. Everything is in short supply and much more expensive than it was even a year ago. Labor is a lot higher.

    It was difficult to even find a GC willing to do a project this “small.” People are booked out for many months in advance. We could tell that for some that we talked to, it just wasn’t worth it for them. But rather than turning us down, they gave extremely high estimates. Like one contractor gave us a price 3x higher than the one we went with.

    It is also very difficult to hire subcontractors right now. They are booked solid and not even picking up the phone right now. Many of them are only going through GCs because there is just so much work right now. They aren’t worried about missing out on business. So this is a good time to hire a GC bc hopefully they have good relationships with subcontractors and can get them to come out.

  • Thank you for your insights. One frustration I have when people talk about making money is . . . How much do you have to make before you are ‘making money’? Seems like that would be different for everybody. One person might be happy making 30K and working mostly alone, while someone else won’t be satisfied making ten times that amount. Also, it seems like those goals will require very different strategies. Do you guys have any opinions on things like Patreon and Substack?

  • When I saw this episode I had to google what a general contractor was, haha. In Norway where I live there are so many regulations on building houses or doing bigger renovations, so it basically means you have to hire a trained professional to do it. Which, in one way is great, because it’s done properly, but it also means it’s more expensive.

    In a way it’s a shame we can’t do more ourselves, as my parents built their own house I’d always imagine myself doing the same, but I think renovating will give us enough choice to make it our own! Maybe too many choices!!

    • I loved this week’s episode and the discussion on blogging! My question is, do you think it’s possible to grow a successful, income-producing blog without also doing social media? I’ve had some experience blogging and growing an Instagram audience over the past 10 years. I love blogging, but actually stopped doing Instagram because I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. Is IG necessary or could I stick to blogging/Pinterest and still have success?

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