The Fast, Good and Cheap Pricing Method

Fast, Good, and Cheap Pricing Method
Have you ever heard of the Fast, Good, Cheap pricing method?

The idea is that clients should only be able to choose 2 of these 3 words, and you have to keep this in mind when pricing your next job. If you don’t, your work / income / career could be suffering.

Fast, Good or Cheap — Choose Two

If you allow your clients to have fast, good, cheap work designed by yourself then most likely you are working your butt off for very little return which is why you must allow them to choose a combination of two only — either good & fast, good & cheap, fast & cheap.

Below are some explanations of why and when to use each type of pricing method along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Good + Fast = Expensive

If a client wants good, fast work then of course we can put up our prices. We must put up our prices here because we have to postpone every other job we have, cancel appointments/meetings and stay up 24+ hours to get their job done.

The advantage here is that we get quick money, however, the disadvantage is that we could possibly let other clients down by not delivering their work on time and our work could suffer. We get more stressed and if it is a major project, our sleeping pattern gets disrupted. If you are a designer you should check out this post for some specific productivity tips.

Good + Cheap = Slow

If a client wants a good, cheap piece of work then they will have to be patient to get it as they are getting a discounted price… We have other projects to work on from higher paying clients so they get more priority.

The advantage here is that we do not have to stress about tight deadlines and we can work on the project in our own time with less stress. The disadvantage however is that we get less pay even though we worked on the project over a period of time.

Fast + Cheap = Inferior

If a client wishes to have a fast and cheap job, then they should expect the result to be quite inferior. We do not have the time to make the job as good as it could be plus on top of that, we hardly get any return on the product.

The only advantage here is that we get some quick money in a short amount of time. The disadvantage is that the end result will probably be something we will want to keep hidden away under lock and key.

In this case, clients truly get what they pay for and this is the least favorable choice of the three. Try to stay away from fast, cheap labor.

How To Price Yourself

If you want some more information on how to price yourself, there are a bunch of great articles on how to do so. FreelanceSwitch has even built a nifty rate calculator.

How do you determine what you charge? Do you always come back to your hourly rate or do you take into consideration other things such as time, quality or price?


  1. says

    Awesome article that every new freelancer should read (even if they’re not designers). The key is to find a balance between all 3 (or 2 depending on the client and the work involved), and sometimes charging lower rates to get more jobs isn’t the best idea. In fact, raising your prices (not exorbitantly) can help to increase the quality of your clientele (the quality of your work is still up to you, so make sure they get what they pay for).

  2. says

    With software (and other industries as well), Fast + Cheap will almost always end up more expensive than any other option. With Fast + Cheap, the software usually isn’t anywhere near production quality. These projects are typically the ones that are rewritten a few months later.

  3. says

    There is nothing more true about rates than Good-Fast-Cheap. I don’t even see it as a method, so much as how things really are. Clients just can’t understand it sometimes. As designers, pricing is one of the trickiest aspects of our job because of how fluid it can be.

  4. says

    Nice article.. I usually try to be good and cheap. If they want fast, they pay more.. I’ve never actually looked at it laid out like this, but I guess I was aware of how to do it :)

  5. says

    Good post!

    I’ve heard this saying before and I agree that it’s generally only possible to deliver two of the three options.

    However, I do wonder about the effect on a freelancer’s reputation if they consistently accept work from clients who choose the fast and cheap (=inferior) option.

    Even though the freelancer could probably produce better work if given more time, I wonder if there’s a danger that they will be labeled as an “inferior” performer or as someone who has a limited skillset.

    In my opinion, it’s best to avoid getting a lot of clients who want fast and cheap so as not to be pigeonholed (branded) as someone who specializes in that type of work.

    Has anyone had experience with this? If you’ve accepted a lot of fast and cheap work has it affected your freelancing reputation?

  6. says

    @Laura – The tough thing for me is actually DOING inferior work. Even when clients don’t want to pay for top notch work, I find myself doing it anyway, just because I’m a perfectionist (I don’t know a single designer who isn’t).

    And I agree that it can be tough on your reputation to consistently do inferior work, even if that IS what the client is paying for.

    You hit the nail on the head. The best solution is to avoid taking on too many of those types of clients.

  7. says

    Good article. I never thought of it in the way you laid it out. I try to be good and fast. I don’t necessarily know about being cheap as I get the feeling they are trying to get my services for cheap anyway, not that I price myself out of the market but yes I do try to maintain a certain level of pay for the services I perform.

  8. says

    I’m keeping this one for my freelance handbook. I quoted a potential client a price this afernoon and cringed 2 seconds after I opened my mouth. Sold myself short again. Oh well…she really wanted to work with me before I gave her my price, and I’m in the process of moving to another state. She indicated she would wait for me, so I’ll up my rate to a more reasonable (for me) fee and see what she says.

  9. says

    Preach on brother! Good model for businesses to follow as well.

    The only concession add might be if you’re trying to win a large amount of business with a small entry project. That’s can be a gamble though. You have to manage the client’s expectations for future work.

    “Let me knock your socks off on this initial project, quickly and for a fair rate. All consecutive work, if rushed, will carry an additional charge.”

  10. says

    @Jason Miller

    The only downside to doing that is that 99% of the time, people who say “Do this cheap to prove yourself because if it’s good, I have a lot more work for you,” never really do have more work. It’s all a scam to get you to work for less than you’re worth. The moral of the story here is don’t sell yourself short.

    Price yourself accurately and then let your work speak for itself.

  11. says

    Thank you everyone for your feedback and for your promotion of this article.

    It is interesting to see how other ways you can rephrase fast,good,cheap… ie. Quality,Speed, Price OR Time, Scope, Budget.

  12. says

    @ David Hepburn

    True. Definitely be wary if a client is trying to lure you in with a suggestion of “more work” to come.

    My comment was from a proactive approach whereby I/we seek out new business.
    An evaluation of the client and a needs assessment is done first. Then recommendations are made as to what deliverables will be produced. An initial project (or projects) may be offered at a cost (good, fast and cheap) to land the client. Later projects are budgeted, scoped and planned. Projects that are on tight deadlines would get priced accordingly.

  13. me says

    Fast + Cheap doesn’t have = inferior

    Fast + Cheap = top notch work, but a cut down version of what they would normally get at the higher price.

    So for photographers, you could give someone 10 images, where ordinarily they would get 30.

    The reason for this is that most freelancers pride themselves on their work and can’t, by nature, do an inferior job.

    Anyone else agree?

  14. me says

    @ Cedric: hmmm….guess ure right.

    Spose I’m a stickler for perfection. I’ve noticed that if u do a great job, even if ure cheap, it’s a great Free marketing tool. Those people would just be selling themselves short. Pity.

  15. says

    It’s hard to quote a big job from the beginning, as the goal posts often move from time to time. What I usually do is quote an estimate, and keep the client updated as the project progresses. If it looks like more hours would be needed, just update the client and then it’s their call to approve the added hours request.

  16. says

    I think solely basing your marketing strategy on pricing versus time is maybe a little short sighted. There are other factors including the value to the client from your work, your reputation as a designer, the quality of your work, how individual your style is (what you have that nobody else is selling), your customer service and intrapersonal skills and more.

    But I see your point. Time and Quality is money and you should be charging what you’re worth. Just don’t limit it to that. If you sell something unique or of great value to the client you deserve the income you generate.

    Just 2 cents in the crowd.

  17. says

    Nicely written, Jacob. Good way to think about things when preparing proposals.

    @Laura Spencer: I agree; if you accept too many fast+cheap projects, you’re going to build a portfolio that will show it. It’s hard to explain to a potential client that your pieces were done really fast and really cheap.

    All clients want good+fast+cheap in one package. If they see high quality work, they may be willing to pay more, but if they see slop you won’t be able to talk them up simply because you can deliver it faster.

    Not to say you shouldn’t take on fast+cheap work, but it’s worth considering carefully as you take on more projects.

  18. says

    I know an unfortunate fellow who’s charging less than his country’s minimum wage, but he’s afraid to raise his rates because he has a hard time finding clients at all.

    Perhaps you could write an article on the art of finding clients – the key to raising rates?

  19. says

    Wow – I’d never come across this pricing concept before – but it makes so much sense. Ill definitely keep this in mind when pricing my future products.

  20. Loony says

    Hi there,
    I think the article is quite contradictory. The first statement is that Good + FAST is expensive and the third one is that FAST + Cheap is inferior because ‘We do not have the time to make the job … good’. But the first statement says that Fast is good. However you still don’t have the time. It doesn’t make any sense.
    The real statement here should be Cheap + Fast = Good ; this is what everybody would want to do. Wouldn’t you want to please as many people as possible? When you call a plumber wouldn’t you want him to do his job fast, reasonnably priced and for a good result?

  21. says

    While everyone wants their project done fast, cheap, and good, the idea behind this pricing method (from the providers point of view) is that there has to be a balance. If you are going to work faster on a specific project, then either the quality, or your other work/time is going to suffer (more time and focus on one project means less time for other work), and you need to balance this by charging more (to make up for other lost work/time).

    Personally for me as a freelancer, if I’m going to work faster on your project, then it’s going to require personal time from me (outside of normal business/work hours) to complete your project, and I believe that it is fair to require additional compensation.

  22. says

    @Loony: The point of the good/fast/cheap argument is that you can only give two to come out ahead. You cannot give good and fast and cheap because you would end up running yourself ragged and not making any profit. If you let the client choose only two, you can:

    Make it fast and good but not cheap (the undivided attention required won’t allow you to work on anything else)
    Make it fast and cheap but not good (quality either takes time or else undivided attention)
    Make it good and cheap but not fast (to allow yourself room to take on higher dollar clients)

    Does that make any better sense? Of course you would ideally offer all three, but who has the resources? Would you ever make any decent money? Also, you would be inviting your worst type of client (the pushy, picky cheapskate) to own every moment of your work day. I have worked with hundreds of clients and the worst kind to work with are the ones that want it good, cheap, and now. They are the quickest to anger, the ones that call you constantly, the ones who revise your work to no end – and in the end they are the ones who end up owning all of your time, revising away the quality and creativity, and then not wanting to pay you for all of your time.

  23. Loony says

    Thanks Vincent. The 3rd paragraph of your argument makes a lot more sense. It feeds my rational sense with a real good example: ‘…the ones that want it good, cheap, and now. They are the quickest to anger, the ones that call you constantly, the ones who revise your work to no end – and in the end they are the ones who end up owning all of your time, revising away the quality and creativity…’.

  24. says

    Another aspect You may think of, is: If You are too cheap – although doing a good job – clients sometimes think, that combination is impossible and give away the job to expensive rivals. So we should also be regarding this, don’t we?

  25. says

    With a great proposal, and detailed layout of an itemised account, the designer can always be one step ahead.

    The aim is to know the effort that will be involved – and how long it takes and to take action.

    This method can be classified as abit unreasonable – and may confuse the client. From experience, clients like the fact that you deliver what is promised – and usually know how long and what stage the process is at.

    Keeping this communication effective eliminates problems – and questions.

    Plan and process, giving specific time of delivery on time if not sooner.

    The Marketing Manager

  26. says

    Sorry for the huge review, but I’m really loving the new Zune, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

  27. says

    Great stuff. Being a local web designer I usually take each project on a case by case price. Way to many variables to give out an exact quote until I hear out my potential clients design questions.



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  2. […] The Fast, Good and Cheap Pricing Method | Freelance Folder | The Blog For Freelancers And Web-Worker… Your Freelance Pricing Rates Need Help? This is for you! (tags: tips productivity freelancer pricing rates articles programming business freelancing marketing article freelance entrepreneurship clients work ruby price smallbusiness consulting webmarketing) […]

  3. […] Here’s the thing, though…I’m sick and tired of seeing posts for “rockstar coder,” “kickass designer,” “short timeline,” and my personal favorite—“top quality, cheap designer, must deliver within next 24 hours!” Has NO ONE heard the old adage: “fast, good, cheap, pick two”? For the uninitiated, I’ve attached  links: Freelance Folder, The fast, good and cheap pricing method […]

  4. […] A handy phrase that I use when asked to lower the price is “As I can not lower the quality of my work, unfortunately I can not lower the prices.” Using this phrase shows that you are proud of the work you produce and want to produce the best quality of work possible. NB: See the Fast, Good, Cheap Pricing Method. […]

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