About ten years ago, I worked for a non-profit organization in Memphis, and we contracted with a local ad agency to produce some brochures for a new fundraising campaign. The agency, the name of which I have regrettably forgotten, was generously donating some time and services to us, and so I spent a lot of time running back and forth between its office and my own, as we developed the brochures.
One day, I noticed a sign hanging above the desk of the graphic designer. It read “Fast. Good. Cheap. Pick two.”
In other words, you can get good work done fast, but it’s going to cost you. You can get good work done cheaply, but it sure isn’t going to happen quickly. Or you can go the fast and cheap route, but the finished result probably won’t win any awards.
I recently started thinking about that sign when I started looking for additional freelance work. There are a lot of prospective employers who seem to want it all; they want fast, good and cheap. The thing is, it doesn’t really work that way in advertising, and it doesn’t really work that way when it comes to good writing, either.
Now, I know the scary economy may be temporarily altering that reality. Some people–fine, established writers–have decided to work for less money because they really, really need whatever money they can bring in right now. They have to pay the mortgage. They have to pay for health insurance. And they have to use what skills they have to keep themselves afloat. Along the same lines, many companies are struggling, too. Their budgets are being slashed, and they’re having to lay off employees. Some employers genuinely can’t pay high fees right now.
But generally speaking, you get what you pay for. And I think some people may not have fully grasped that concept. If someone is being realistic, they should realize that getting two out of three is pretty darn reasonable. Fast, good, cheap. Pick two. Maybe it’s not always the same two every time you pick two of the three, but still. You should have to pick two.