Good, Fast Or Cheap: Which Two Do You Value Most?

Bryan Collins

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Before your next purchase, investment or business project, ask yourself which two of these three traits is most important: good, fast or cheap?

A purchase or investment can only possess two of three of these traits, at best. Although it’d be great to have all three, that’s a utopia. I learnt about this model for making more effective decisions and planning projects the hard way.

1. Cheap and Fast

Several years ago, I wrote my first book. It was all about productivity for writers and I decided to self-publish it.

Every self-published book needs an editor and a good book cover. After editing, I’d no money left to spend. Well, almost none.

So, I used Fiverr to hire a designer for five dollars. I got what I wanted after a few hours. But, the result contained typos, ugly fonts and the wrong colours.

This discount book cover was a classic example of something that was fast and cheap, but certainly not good.

I knew I couldn’t use it to sell copies of my book, but I could hardly expect much from a designer who was working for just five dollars. He was relying on a simple template.

If you value cheap and fast, expect to compromise on quality. That can feel disappointing if it’s a creative project you’re excited about. Or it could turn into a cause of frustration later on. For example, those budget flights you saved a few hundred dollars on could mean uncomfortable seats or a long layover.

American basketball player and coach John Wooden offered this example:

“A meal you order at a drive-though window may be cheap, it may be quick, it may even be tasty. But is it a great dining experience?”

2. Good and Cheap

While working on this book, I’d also completed a beginner’s course in how to use Photoshop and Illustrator.

I knew I could design a better cover, so I set aside an hour each evening to work on it. It took about two weeks.

The result was better than what I’d gotten on Fiverr. I was happier with the font choice and colours and able to make tweaks to the title.

My cover, although hardly on par with what a professional could create, was good enough for self-publishing a book. I could use it until I earned enough money to hire a professional designer. And it didn’t cost me much.

Unfortunately, I’d lost two weeks designing my book cover. I could have spent that time rewriting some of the book and turning it into a better product. Or I could have contacted early readers and asked for feedback. When you make something like a book, your work is never really done.

If you value good and cheap, expect the project or investment to take longer than usual. For example, with a little experience, you can probably cook a healthier meal at home compared to ordering takeout.

3. Fast and Good

I used my book cover to publish the book and sell a several dozen early copies. After I earned a little money and got a few royalty payouts from Amazon, I invested in a better looking professional book cover. My reasoning was an even better cover would attract the attention of more readers and help me increase sales.

All I had to do was sacrifice cheap.

This new book cover cost me several hundred dollars. However, it was relatively fast in that the designer only needed a clear brief from me and a few days to work. The result was also good in that he respected my font and colour choices and also avoided typos, while giving me the source file in case I need to change the cover later on (something I could do quickly enough in Photoshop).

If you value fast and good, expect to set aside a larger budget. For example, an iPhone will cost you well over a thousand dollars during its lifetime, but you can expect a fast and quality smartphone.

How To Apply The Good, Fast or Cheap Concept

These days, even though I can afford a book cover designer, I still use the good, fast or cheap concept to decide when to work on something for my business versus outsourcing it, and I usually avoid cheap and fast.

A few months ago, a marketing agency contacted me suggesting that they could optimise my site for customer conversions.

Their contract was for six months and cost ten thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money for a small business to invest. I tried a few basic customer rate optimisation tests myself beforehand so I could understand their proposal.

I discovered if your website attracts a decent amount of traffic, these tests can prove highly profitable. However, they’re also complex and time-consuming.

Time is my biggest constraint, followed by costs. So, I explained to the agency my concerns about the cost and they offered a 30-day refund policy if I was unhappy.

I knew I was about to make a decision that could cost me several thousand dollars. However, I reasoned the time it’d take to run these tests myself was a bigger risk, in that I’d have to pause a number of other projects I’d been working on for weeks.

Thankfully, the results ended up more than paying for the cost of their service and increased sales on my website.

So, whatever stage your business is at, consider your budget and what constitutes cheap versus expensive. Next up, evaluate what success or good looks like. And finally, ask yourself if time is an issue.

The good, fast, cheap model is a fantastic way of making better decisions about how to spend your valuable time or money.

Use it wisely.

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Bryan Collins is an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work

Ireland, IN
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