Good Fast Cheap — pick two
It’s a theory attributed to the American film director and screenwriter, Jim Jarmusch when he was talking about service.
The theory is probably best illustrated by this handy Venn diagram.
Jarmusch said you can never have all three, because if it’s:
- Good and Fast, it will be expensive
- Fast and Cheap, the quality will suffer
- Cheap and Good, it can’t be done quickly.
But was he right?
Because I certainly have a few doubts.
Let’s apply this theory to copywriting
For the theory to be correct, we need to make some reasonable presumptions about what Good, Fast and Cheap actually mean. So, here goes…
What do we mean by Good, Fast and Cheap?
What do we mean by Good?
Good is subjective because it means different things to different people.
For example, the copywriter could produce exactly what the client has asked for and the client would think it was Good. But it might not be Good in terms of the results it gets.
For the purposes of this article, let’s presume a Good copywriter:
- Is experienced and charges a rate commensurate with that experience
- Has the necessary skills and level of expertise to do the work required
- Does the necessary in-depth research and background work
- Has a proven track record in getting good results.
And we could reasonably presume that Good copywriting:
- Is thoroughly researched and based on real data
- Has good spelling, grammar and punctuation
- Communicates the message effectively
- Gets results for the client.
What do we mean by Fast?
In copywriting, Fast would mean a rush job with a much tighter deadline than would normally be required to complete the project.
What do we mean by Cheap?
Cheap is also subjective because, like Good, it means different things to different people.
For example, an uninformed prospect might think all a copywriter does is sit down at a computer and type, so they think a copywriting service should be Fast and Cheap. But an informed prospect might see AI as a Cheap, and vastly inferior alternative, to a human.
For the purposes of this article, let’s presume Cheap is at the lowest end of the scale of what a human copywriter could charge you.
Is the Good Fast Cheap theory right?
Now we understand what we mean by each word, let’s see how those propositions measure up.
Good and Fast = not Cheap
Can it be Good and Fast?
- The copywriter is working with an existing client
- The copywriter knows the brand, audience and product/service inside out
- The brief is simple and doesn’t require new research or a new idea.
Otherwise, I’d say you can’t guarantee the copy will be as Good as it could be.
Good copywriting needs Good research
Good copywriting requires a lot of research. In fact, it’s typically 70-80% research and only 20-30% writing, which some people find surprising.
The research is important because it informs what the copy should contain and how it should be written. Needless to say, that takes time and is not something that can be done thoroughly enough and quickly.
Without thorough research, your copy won’t have the strong foundation it needs. If it’s all guesswork it won’t be effective — which means it won’t be Good.
Good copywriting needs Good ideas
Good ideas take time to brew. Copywriters need to digest, process and assimilate all the information. Then we need to sit on it for a while.
The best ideas tend to come from our subconscious brain. They spark when we’re doing other things — like walking the dog or taking a shower. Then we need to develop, distill and refine them.
Good ideas are less likely to come to us when we’re hunched over the keyboard, watching the minutes tick by and praying for inspiration.
If an idea is forced out to meet a deadline, it will never be as developed, refined or Good as it could be.
Good copywriting needs Good finishing
By Good finishing, I mean all the final processes we go through before we send the project out. Things like editing, proofreading and checking.
The editing stage, in particular, is so important for trimming excess words and extraneous details, tightening up the copy, and clarifying the message.
Even when I’ve written something I feel happy with, I can come back to it the next day and make all kinds of improvements. But on a tight deadline, we don’t always get enough distance from our copy to look at it with fresh eyes.
The processes that happen at the end of the project are the most likely to be rushed or skipped completely. This, again, means the copy won’t be as Good as it could be.
Why won’t it be Cheap?
Most copywriters charge a rush fee for projects that are needed at short notice.
This is because taking on the project might be an inconvenience that disrupts our work and means we have to rearrange our schedule. It might also require us to work extra/unsociable hours.
The extra money we charge is compensation for this inconvenience.
Fast and Cheap = not Good
Can it be Fast and Cheap?
Maybe… if you find a freelance copywriter who charges exceptionally low rates, who doesn’t charge a premium for rush jobs, and who isn’t busy.
But, to be more realistic, even the cheaper copywriters you find on sites like Fiverr are charging a premium for completing work in a shorter time-frame.
Why won’t it be Good?
If it’s Fast, chances are it won’t have been researched properly and the ideas will be rough. And if there’s been no time for editing or finishing, it could be wordy and contain errors.
If it’s Cheap, it’s likely the copywriter is working on volume rather than value. This means their priorities will be taking on as many projects as they can and turning them around as fast as they can. Writing copy that’s Good and effective, not so much.
Cheap and Good = not Fast
Can it be Good and Cheap?
Maybe… if you happen to find a Good copywriter who doesn’t know their worth and will put in all that work for a pittance.
Or a Good copywriter who’ll keep your project on indefinite hold until the day they’re desperate enough to do it. And by that, I’m talking no work, no hope of getting any work, and half a stale cracker in their food cupboard.
Why won’t it be Fast?
The research, ideas and finishing involved in Good copywriting all take time. If your copywriter takes the time to do them all properly and thoroughly — with the appropriate downtime, breaks and distance in-between — it means your copy won’t be Fast.
The Good Fast Cheap theory can apply to many services, but copywriting isn’t a great example.
I’d be inclined to argue that those three combinations don’t even exist.
Fast copy only has a shot at being Good in certain circumstances, no matter how much it costs.
Cheap copy is never likely to be Good, no matter how long it takes.
And Fast and Cheap copy could be:
- Poorly researched
- Badly written
- Littered with errors
- Ultimately ineffective.
But who wants that — and what’s the point?
Good should be obligatory
The Good side of the Good Fast Cheap triangle should be non-negotiable. Especially when it comes to a service like copywriting, which can do so much for your business.
It beats me why anyone would pay for copy and not care whether it’s Good or whether it will do its job properly.
But they do.
Clients who prioritise Fast and Cheap are often desperate for the copy because it’s an afterthought. Like, their designer has asked for it at the last minute and they’ve realised they don’t have it.
And they’re often just looking for words to fill a space. Because they don’t understand the value of good copy or appreciate that it’s written to get results.
Good Appropriate Fair is better
By that I mean Good copy, delivered in an Appropriate amount of time, for a Fair price. It might not have the same ring to it, but it’s better because you can have all three without having to compromise anything and without anyone losing out.
That’s how I prefer to work.
About the author
I’m Jenny Lucas, a freelance copywriter and content writer, based in Leicester UK.
I spent much of my employed career working in high-pressure jobs where everything was last-minute. Nobody ever seemed to plan anything — and they never had any concept of what they were asking for, what was involved in its creation or how long it would take.
Consequently, I produced a lot of work that I felt was sub-standard and didn’t make me proud.
As a freelancer, I do things differently. I offer high-value services and I avoid rush jobs wherever I can so I can give each project the time and attention it deserves.
You can find out more about me and the services I offer on my main website.