Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two (You Can’t Have all Three)


The title of this post is something I’ve often been told — but only recently started using as part my regular discussions with clients and business partners.

I find myself most often invoking this principle when dealing with clients who can’t afford (or don’t want) to pay quality prices, yet want blockbuster work on a tight timeframe.

I used to take these clients in the hope that my work would be rewarded with future business. There used to be part of me that thought the goodwill that came from doing quality work on the cheap would pay off with a long-term business relationship, good public relations, or other fairytale promises.

I’ve been wrong every time.  This is reason why I’ve learned to (and strongly suggest other entrepreneurs learn how to) say “No” more often.

Here are three reasons entrepreneurs need to learn to tell clients to pick good and fast; fast and cheap; or, good and cheap (but not all three):

It Devalues Your Work

Even at a low cost (which I don’t necessarily recommend), anyone can do good work if given the time to scale it out on the backburner while you tend to more pressing, priority (higher-paying) projects.

But asking for that good, low-cost work to be finished on a tight timeframe usually requires other work to be pushed aside. Corners are cut; quality suffers.

Putting out a quality product reflects badly on your company (even if it’s the fault of the client). The clients’ mistakes don’t outweigh your biggest mistake: Taking the job in the first place.

If you do quality work, only do it at a premium.

It Can Destroy Relationships

If a client (or potential client) wants something good, fast and cheap — it usually means they’re under the gun and in crisis mode. By taking the project — their crisis becomes you’re emergency. This is never a good thing.

In my experience, it usually leads to short fuses and hurt relationships between you and the (now former) client.

It’s not your fault the client is facing a crisis and needs something done quickly and cheaply (and good). Don’t feel the need to help them out. It won’t end well.

It’s Not Fair to Your Other Clients

What about your clients who are paying a premium for quality work? Pushing them aside to do a rush job for a few shekels isn’t fair to them.

Do you really want to lose a long-term $10 client to do crappy work for a $2 client that will be gone tomorrow?

Serve the clients who value you — to show them that you value them. Those are the types of relationships on which you need to focus.




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