Monday, May 12, 2008

Good, Fast, and Cheap - Pick Two

I was doing my weekend read of the tree-killing newsprint that arrived soggy on my doorstep today, and ran across a quote that spurred this piece. It's from Wal-Mart's chief operating officer, when asked about it's competitors offering free generic drugs, he responded:

"Free is a price that is not a long-term sustainable position."
Enter a few interesting insights that came this way from the Flickr forums, and Craigslist:
(Continued after the Jump)

Over in the Flickr Forum (where I visit far too infrequently!), is a post - Email I got ... business related....help!, which includes, in part:
We have a cool opportunity for a photographer who wants to make some great marketing contacts....This is our First Annual Golf Classic fund raiser, so we need someone who’s going to do an exceptional job, yet can give us very competitive pricing (since money for luxuries like photographers is sparing)... [we] would like to own the photos after the event......We would also like to be able to provide high quality photos...to the guests throughout the day...To let you know what you’re quoting: I have received many, many responses, some of which are offering to do it for FREE just for the contacts; yet, we are willing to pay something, looking for a premium photographer, so please at least make your quotes competitive."
Zing! They're asking for all three -good - "need someone who’s going to do an exceptional job", cheap - "many responses, some of which are offering to do it for FREE", and fast "provide high quality photos...to the guests throughout the day".

Next up is this zinger from bottom-dwelling Craigslist - "6/24: CELEBRITIES IN BOSTON - WE NEED A PHOTOGRAPHER - HIGH PAY! (BOSTON)":
The photos to be taken are unexpected by the person/persons that you are taking the photos of. The person/persons have a celebrity status and the photos taken will be used in a magazine (both print and online). There may be high traffic with other photographers present on this day and time so we ask the following of you if you are interested in this assignment:..You must be experienced...You must have your own equipment/supplies and staff...This is great experience for you as a photographer. You will have the right to use these photos for your own personal use including your portfolio, but you will not be able to sell or transfer the photos to any other source...We are willing to pay no less than $100.00 per photo and up to $150.00 per photo...The photos must each be unique in settings, backgrounds, and pose...All photos will remain your property until we select the photos we would like to puchase...Once the photos are taken you can upload them to a common public server / hosting website, we would prefer you to upload them to photobucket.com.
There seems to be no end to these "opportunities", and no end to suckers lining up to take them.

There's something called the "Project Triangle", and it helps people think through their end-goals. Also of interest is the notion of "project scope", where the area of the triangle inside it is considered the "scope", i.e. "I can do one portrait for the good-fast-cheap" you're looking for, but if you want 10, well, the scope is too big for the same figures to apply. Author James Lewis calls this the PCTS relationship, for "Performance, Cost, Time, Scope." So, perhaps for the fees and turnaround needed, to produce one quality portrait I can do it. But if you want four portraits, the fee and time needed will have to change relative to the scope you've expanded this project to.

It can be light-hearted from time to time, when encountering a prospective client who cites price, to say to this person "I can give the images to you good, fast, or cheap - pick two." Heck, you'll likely not do the assignment anyways, but you can enjoy the conversation none-the-less. And maybe, if you send your estimates for "good and fast", they might just go with you.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

12 comments:

Steven Pam said...

John,

Funny you should post this. I have had a sign above my desk for about three years now, which says "Speed, Quality, Price. Pick any two"... and I'm still broke :-)

Cheers,
Steven

Walter Rowe said...

I love how insulting they are in the Craig's List advertisement. "HIGH PAY" of "no less than $100" for what are essentially paparazzi images.

You know these will get published in hundreds of thousands of copies of a trashy gossip rag, and likely online for all the world to see.

Tammy Cravit said...

I go a little further, both in my nascent photography business and in the other business I run: I tell clients that the triangle is "fast, good, cheap: pick two, and one of the two has to be 'good'".

I don't want to do the jobs that are fast, cheap and low-quality, because producing work for cheap that falls below my personal minimum quality standard is both demoralizing and damaging to my reputation. Luckily, I'm in a spot where my other business will pay the bills for the foreseeable future, allowing me to gradually build a photo client base that is willing to pay for the quality I deliver. But I think that those who are willing to do the "fast and cheap" work are ultimately hurting themselves in ways that they won't appreciate until it's too late.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the phones will be ringing off the hook to do these "jobs".

One man's garbage is another man's gold.

Sorry folks I'm just calling this the way it will be. We continue to think that our colleagues might see that there truly is no silver lining here but someone will do these "jobs".

Jonathan Camere said...

John,

I know you will be NOT surprised to hear this.. but the "cool GOLF opportunity" email was from a reply to a craigslist ad as well. I got it and didn't like the tone or what they said but none the less I quoted them for what I think is a good price, not expensive for a 9 hour event but that would meet my day rate. I did say: "I won't be the least expensive" or something to that effect. I don't expect to hear from them. So, I'll keep looking for other assignments. BTW, Your book is like my everyday guide. Thanks for putting it together.

That Blogger Guy said...

This is the perfect post! I've tried to describe this (to no avail) to clients before and i get the "are you crazy?" looks. I've posted about this on my blogs:

1lens2many.com
ocdesignguy.com
bighdesign.com

I had to get this out there! PERFECT!

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adf said...

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花蓮民宿 said...

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