Balancing speed, cost, and quality in graphic design

58642708_8f6fa1a233“Choose the best two out of three.” That’s the advice I frequently give my clients. On almost a daily basis I deal with clients who want high quality work done “as soon as possible” and “for cheap”. Unfortunately finding a perfect balance of speed, quality and cost in graphic design is virtually impossible. Let me explain:

Speed and low costs mean the quality will suffer

This is the most frequent request I get as a graphic designer. “Can we have it quickly and at a low cost?” Many times I try to assure them I can work quickly and economically but I try to explain that the quality of the design will suffer because of it.  Solution? I tell my clients that with sufficient time and funds, I can produce superior work.

Check out our most recent podcast episode:

Speed & Quality means you pay more

The second most frequent request I get goes something like this: “It’s got to be fast and it’s got to be great!” My response is usually an optimistic one becuase I explain to them that in order to have it both quickly and top-notch quality, I will need to charge them more.

Demanding quality and low costs means it takes more time

The truth of the matter is, a client can certainly have great work for little money. The only problem is, his job is likely to take low priority on my list.

My advice to clients? Choose two.  Decide which of the three options are most important to you. Is money an issue? Then sacrifice a little time or quality.  Is quality most important? Then be prepared to pay more money or allow more time to finish. Lastly, if time is of the essence, realize you may have to sacrifice quality or cost-effectiveness to get the job done on schedule.

Sidenote: It's 2019! Trade some of your worst clients for the best companies in the world with SolidGigs, our premium weekly freelance job list & course library. This is the year you level up your freelancing. Join in January & save 30% with promo code Jan30.

tweet share share pin email

Keep the conversation going...

Have a question or something to add?

Over 5,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group—and we'd love to see you there. Join us!

About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.


  1. This is not only for graphic design, it is applicable for any type of commissioned work, including software development, web design, photography, copywriting, etc.

  2. Great post Preston! So true.

  3. It’s a lot like the Project Management Triangle: Time vs. Budget vs. Scope. (Strictly speaking Scope is more about feature set than quality, but quality comes into it.)

  4. I really like this post, and a similar type of thing can be applied to all sorts of commissioned work as Tang Li said in a comment, but other things as well.

    For example – Purchasing a car. Power, Build Quality, Price – pick any two.
    You can get a powerful car at a cheap price – but it’s won’t be a quality vehicle.
    A Powerful, well built car – won’t be cheap.
    A high quality build car, that’s cheap – won’t be very powerful.
    All these are true because in the end something has to give!

  5. This is the exact rule-of-thumb that my graphic design teacher in school used to use. These are very sound words of wisdom indeed that all clients working with a firm or independent artist should understand!

  6. Great advice. There is so much competition outhere that everyone seens to be under selling themselves now days.


  1. […] This post was Twitted by prestondlee […]

  2. […] heard this saying in the design community and it’s also on wikipedia. You can pick 2 of the 3: quality, speed and […]

  3. […] Balancing Speed, Cost, and Quality in Design […]

  4. […] Balancing Speed, Cost, and Quality in Design […]


Need more clients?

Download our free guide:
25 Top Freelance Job Sites for Real Clients with Big Budgets