Google the phrase “Good Fast Cheap Pick Two” and you get over 78 million search results. There are only 1.7 million for “Fountain of Youth.” Apparently people desire good, fast and cheap more than they do the secret to staying young. At the risk of spilling more e-ink on this topic, it seems that there are more and more requests like this. Is it the economy? Is there a growing sense of entitlement? Or is it more benign than that—people don’t realize that a request for good, fast and cheap are not useful descriptors in seeking what they need?

Removing the yuck factor of entitlement, there is a real need behind this request. But it will be overlooked by the people most likely to help you…and do it right. Who would buy a car, build a bridge, hire an electrician or find a mate with these three criteria? Not many.

When you only get two:

Fast and Cheap. With this option, high-quality is likely to suffer in the form of creative output, research time, accuracy, and ability to test and consider options. Make sure you are comfortable accepting some or all of these. Ask questions. See below for defining good.

Good and Fast. To get these, extra time beyond the normal work hours is involved. For a designer, this means nights or weekends which usually carry a rush fee. For a printing company, it might mean paying a premium to bump another job.

Good and Cheap. A designer or printing company reduces a rate for a charity in need. Or it might be a pro bono project. But in order to do good work and keep costs down, this project can’t be made a high priority. It will most likely be done only after commitments to normal-fee jobs are met.

Be wary of those who jump to fulfill a request like good, fast and cheap. If you leave your criteria as open ended as this, you’ll be unhappy with the results. Only through communicating what good, fast and cheap means to you will you get the results you are looking for.

Here are better approaches:

Define good.
Develop the ability to evaluate or describe the good you need. This way, you don’t waste your time or that of another, or worse, find out that your visions of good don’t match after you’ve already invested time. Share printed samples or website links if you’re trying to express your idea of good to a designer. Similarly, request samples if you’re looking for a printing company. Use meaningful, unambiguous words most likely to paint the right picture for the other party. A good printer to one might mean flawless ink coverage, but to another, good means the pages are merely in the right order.

This is so often overlooked it needs to be included, even if it is obvious. We need fast when we don’t plan or we are surprised by an opportunity that we want to seize. Transferring our lack of planning onto another party is uncool, but it does happen. Many designers and printers will bend over backwards. Cherish (and reward) that person who is willing to dig you out of your hole. This can be in the form of patience, money, loyalty, appreciation or creative freedom. Or all of the above!

Have a budget.
Second only to planning, budgets are often absent. What many don’t realize is that everyone wants affordable—no matter the actual available funds or the size and caliber of the company. Affordable is meaningless because one person’s affordable is another’s too expensive. The desire for cheap, without definition, leaves you too vulnerable to a mishap. Instead, strive for value—the specific benefit you receive at the specific price you pay.

The more well defined and specific these requirements, the more likely you will end up with a timely and cost-effective end product whose quality you are happy with.