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Why You Can’t Have Fast, Good, and Cheap

Venn Diagram of Fast Good Cheap

Each year, Right Touch Editing receives a couple dozen requests for proposal: potential clients want to know whether we can help them with a project.

I chat with the potential client about their project: what their goals are, what kind of help they need, what a relationship with my team would look like. Some of those projects pan out and some don’t.

That’s OK.

That’s how it works in freelancing. Not every freelancer is right for every job that crosses their desk. You know your project and yourself best. If you don’t think we’re a good match, then we’re probably not. I believe there’s someone else out there who can help you.

Well, sort of.

Because, you see, some clients want the impossible. They want the whole trilogy: good, fast, and cheap.

In business, you can only pick two of those. And some clients refuse to accept this reality.

Defining Good, Fast, and Cheap

Good, though, takes time and expertise. We all want the best quality we can get, but time is money, as they say. And that expertise wasn’t quick or free to obtain. Nor is it necessarily easily available elsewhere.

If I’m offering you high quality, you’re getting the value of my team’s and my experience, which took years to collect and refine. An editor doesn’t use only lessons learned in their first year of working . We don’t use part of our brains. We bring our whole selves, all of our experience and all of our knowledge, to every project. There’s no way not to.

Equally, you’re going to benefit from better copy. The difference between mediocre and excellent copy might depend on the purpose of the copy. What value will the copy bring you, both immediately and over time? If it’s one of dozens of reports or articles, middle of the road might be just fine. But if it’s a narrative that will help you get that promotion—which will increase your income and advance your career for years to come—middle of the road might get you passed over.

Fast, too, comes at a cost. We want our projects completed as quickly as possible. We’re all overloaded and desperate to do things now, now, now. Fast, though, can mean working long hours—much longer than a typical work day. Or it could mean turning down other clients. Or it could mean rescheduling work to make space in calendar to do it all.

If I have to work late nights or weekends, giving up rest and personal time while maintaining quality, to finish a job, that costs something, too. No one can work without rest without serious consequences.

That brings us to cheap. As buyers, we want the best price we can get. The less we have to pay, the better. The flip side is we all have bills to pay and need to earn a minimum to pay them. Freelancing is a Tetris board of projects you have to fit together to fill budget lines before the projects crash around you.

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Working with a Limited Budget

But your budget is your budget. When there’s no money, there just isn’t.

And you can pay less. We often provide a lower-cost option to clients with smaller budgets. It might be doing less work, with guidance on how you can do some of the work yourself when appropriate. It might be doing the same work over a longer time to allow us to do other work around it.

It’s like choosing options on a new car. You may not be able to afford parking assist, auto-closing doors, and massaging seats, but a backup camera, regular doors, and heated seats may fit your budget. Every option has a cost related to it, and Tetrising them together takes time and effort (and often not a little bit of frustration). But putting together a combination that completes a line will increase your satisfaction with your car.

Making Choices

So which will you pick?

  • Fast and good will be the most expensive, but you’ll get the best project the soonest.
  • Good and cheap will take the most time, but you’ll get the best project on budget.
  • Fast and cheap will have the lowest quality, but you’ll get a fast project soonest.

You can always find someone to do fast and cheap for you, but depend on it: the quality will reflect that choice. If that works for your project, great! If it doesn’t, you’ll be stuck either with a crappy project or with hiring another editor to redo the work, spending more in the long run.

It’s your choice.

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