Why the Shortest Route Isn’t Always the Best One

A few weeks ago, I had an appointment in another city. I plugged in my GPS, set it to find the shortest route to my destination, and I was ready to go.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, taking the “shortest” route used an extra hour. I wound up being late for my destination. My shortcut wound up being the worst way to go.

I hear about freelancers taking shortcuts all of the time. At first glance, what freelancer wouldn’t want to take a shortcut? Taking a shortcut might seem like a good idea, but unfortunately, many of those shortcuts wind up costing the freelancer.

In this post, I’ll explain what went wrong with my shortcut. I’ll also explain why freelancing shortcuts may not always work.

What Went Wrong with My Shortcut

First of all, you might be wondering why taking the shortest route didn’t work well for me. I’ll tell you the story.

When I set my GPS to find the shortest route, it looked for the route with the lowest number of miles. Theoretically, that should have also been the quickest route–but it wasn’t.

As I followed the instructions given to me by my GPS, I realized that it was taking me off the main highways. I wound up on a two-lane road with varying speed limits. Not only that, but the route took me right through the congested downtown area of several small towns.

I encountered stoplights, slow drivers, and even school zones. Needless to say, I found myself stopping often and slowing down a lot. The shortest route turned out not to be the best route.

In contrast, on the way home I took the interstate home. While the interstate route added a few extra miles to my trip, there were no stoplights, slow drivers, or school zones. The trip home was a lot easier–in fact, I saved an hour by taking the interstate.

How does this apply to freelancing shortcuts? Stay tuned…

Shortcuts Don’t Always Consider the Obstacles

It’s true, shortcuts don’t always take into consideration obstacles. Rather, they give you what might be the best route IF there was nothing else to consider.

For example, consider the shortcut route of auto following to get more social media followers. Is this a good plan? It might seem to build up your connections quickly and give you an impressive-looking fan/follower number. But is this really a helpful practice?

There are some obstacles involved in this shortcut (just like there were obstacles of stoplights, slow drivers and school zones in my shortcut).

One obstacle to auto following is that many people don’t pay any attention to who they auto follow. So, you might wind up with hundreds (or even thousands) of fans who really know nothing about you. You may even wind up with a huge number of spammers in your “connections.”

Some Shortcuts Depend on Timing

If I had driven the shortcut route in the middle of the night, I might have avoided the obstacles. There’s no traffic (to speak of) in the middle of the night, the slow drivers are at home asleep, and the school zones are turned off.

Sometimes, timing is everything. By making my journey in the middle of the day, I pretty much ensured that I would hit all of those obstacles.

Freelancing shortcuts are no different. When evaluating a freelancing shortcut consider the timing of the advice. Is this new advice, proven advice, or really old advice that’s probably out of date?

Some Shortcuts Depend on Extra Knowledge

When someone presents a shortcut, occasionally they aren’t sharing the whole picture. They may assume that you know the missing pieces, or they may intentionally withhold information so that they can sell you something.

Before deciding to take any freelancing shortcut, try to ask and get answers for as many questions as you can (especially if the shortcut involves buying something).

In my case, if I had realized that the GPS shortcut would take me right through several small towns and force me to travel on a two-lane road with lots of stoplights, I wouldn’t have chosen that route.

Your Turn

Have you ever taken a freelancing “shortcut” that turned out to be more trouble than it was worth? Share your experience in the comments below.

Image by Seth W.