There’s an old adage when choosing a product that you get three options: Good, Cheap or Fast. And you get to pick two.

The thing is, that also applies to how you position your services as a consultancy or freelancer. Trying to pull off good, fast and cheap is a recipe for burnout, flameouts and general disaster.

It’s an impossible and wholly unsustainable goal to try to hit all three. You’ll be working your ass off and wasting your considerable talent for pennies on the dollar.

And, when you pare the options down to two out of three, one of them doesn’t work if freelancing or consulting is your only income.

Good and cheap — but, by implication, slow — means you’re still not going to have a lot of money coming in. Projects take a long time, and you’re still not being paid all that well. I’ve found that as a side job — freelancing on nights, weekends and the like — this approach can work. But, really, at that point, you’re not going after full-time income, but beer and pizza money (or, in my case, gadget money).

So, that leaves you with two viable options:

  • Cheap and Fast: I suspect most starting out land in this bucket. You’re young, still learning the ropes and kinda scared to charge a lot anyway. Your work might not be fantastic, but you get a lot of it because you crank out throughput and your price is low enough that it attracts customers. Mind you, I wouldn’t recommend staying here for long. After all, you’re gradually going to get good at what you do … And when that happens, the cheap can (and should) go away.

  • Good and Fast: This is where you ultimately want to be. Good enough and fast enough to attract clients, but expensive enough to drive off the jokers and ensure that you can do the work you want to do — not the work you have to do. This is the goal and where you want to strive for.

And if you want some advice on getting there (or at least getting off the “cheap” train), I’d recommend taking a look at some of the work Brennan Dunn is doing, especially his “Double Your Freelancing Rate” product.