Fast, Good and Cheap

Over the past few months I’ve thought a lot about the triple constraint model of project management.

While being a guideline for business, I believe the TC model should also be something that is stuck firmly on the wall of every freelancer… just as a reminder not to sell yourself short.

The model goes like this:

 triple constraint model of project management

Most projects boil down to three constraints: time, cost and quality.

Projects usually have:

a time constraint – a deadline that needs to be adhered to.

a cost – a budget that the client has in mind or has written in stone. This usually boils down to what the client is willing to spend.

a perceived quality – obviously every client wants the best quality, and every freelancer wants to provide the best quality, but the scope of the project also fits here. Rather than quality, look here to what features and specifications you get for your money.

Now comes the famous bit… fast, good and cheap… pick two because you can’t have three.

If you want the project completed quickly and to a high standard it won’t be cheap. The shorter the deadline and the higher the specifications of the job the more it is likely to cost.

If you want the project of high quality and completed to a low budget, then you need to give the freelancer a nice long time frame in which to complete the work. And by cheap I don’t mean so cheap that the freelancer is living on minimum wage… by cheap I mean normal rate cheap.

Finally if you want the project done quickly and cheaply then you will not get high quality. Or to be more precise you will not get a high specification for the job; most freelancers that I know will never skimp on the quality of their work. A short time frame and a short budget will mean that the client has to compromise on what they will get for their budget.

Usually there can be some creep… the budget, time frame or scope (quality) of the project can slide when needed. For example, the deadline for a project can be extended occasionally when the scope of the project necessitates it. Likewise a budget can sometimes be extended when it becomes apparent that the project would benefit from a higher specification.

Freelancers need to keep the model in mind. As I’ve mentioned before, talking money does not come naturally to most people… it can be embarrassing, and yet it’s something we all need to live. We have to remember that we set our rates not only to fit in with market conditions, but to reflect our training and background. Time is money and it is only fair that we earn our worth. If we don’t, our business will suffer.

Clients need to bear in mind the true cost of hiring a freelancer. While the hourly rate, or project price, may seem steep to the person who deals with hiring, the true cost is often less than contracting an employee… there are no hidden overheads for the client (pension, holidays, tax, insurance, training, breaks, etc. are all covered by the freelancer).

They say you can either have it good, fast or cheap but I’ve found a way for the client to have all three… and that’s for the freelancer to sacrifice their time to allow the client to have it all. I’d like to say I’m joking but unfortunately I’m not. Occasionally, to pay the bills the freelancer can find that, unless they are really strict with themselves, while still maintaining their quality of work they end up working to quite a tight deadline and for a pitifully low rate in order to accommodate client budgets and expectations. While this is great for the client, it is one of the reasons many freelancers fail in their businesses.

Remember this next time you are asked to compromise for the sake of the client… it may sound and feel harsh, but you are in business, you are not carrying out work to ‘help people out’. Just as the client is running a business, so are you.

3 Comments on “Fast, Good and Cheap

  1. I’ve had it hung over my desk since about 1980 — ‘You can have it fast, you can have it good, you can have it cheap, but never all three.’

  2. Pingback: Avoiding The Rush Job | Northern Editorial

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