If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

(updated Feb. 2019 – originally posted Nov. 2011)

Can a great deal really be too good to be true?

Today, we find ourselves in the middle of a huge “get as much as you can for as little as you can “mentality. Between “buy one get one” offers, special discounted offers, membership sites (which tend to outsource work offshore), and other [very] low-cost solutions, there will always be someone looking for the next bargain deal. Many companies have been lowering fees, matching competitor pricing, and throwing in a bunch of “freebies” in order to land the deal. Sure, the economy kind of stinks right now (cough-cough) so, if you can save a few bucks, wouldn’t you want to grab that opportunity? What’s that you say?

“Yes! I want the best deal.”

Who wouldn’t? Well, I will tell you here and now, that I am one of those people who does not always look for a bargain.

Here’s the bottom line on what might be signs of a deal that is too good to be true, especially when you are paying for it:

  • Cheaper isn’t always better. Sure you will save money, but at what cost?
  • Fastest isn't foolproof. Sometimes, you have to slow down and take your time if you want to be sure you get everything right. The faster you move, the more likely you will make mistakes and miss something important.
  • Quality always matters. Period. In business, there aren't any instances I can think of when quality doesn't count.

I'm sure you've heard or seen the expression that reads something like this:

“If you want the lowest price, best service, and delivery as fast as possible, you will most likely need to sacrifice one of those things to get what you need.”

The people who guaranty they can do all three are those I run from. Why? That deal is simply too good to be true.

Some people beg to differ. Allow me to explain why something might be too good to be true.

Here is an example I will use to illustrate the problem as follows. Note: this is a hypothetical example and in no way referencing any particular client or colleague I have or do work with.

A potential client calls and wants to hire me to design their company’s website. They need it done in less than 3 weeks, which is LESS than 1/2 as long as it usually takes (from start to finish). I am asked to be available outside of regular business hours. I am also told the site should be more spectacular than anything they have ever seen.

All these requests require SPEED, SERVICE, and QUALITY.

In order to deliver that website in a short time, I need to charge additional fees in order to put my other projects on hold. It is the only way to complete the project timeframe expected.  Thus, the “rush charge”.

Realistically, how could I provide the best service, the fastest service, at the lowest cost around? Easy answer: I can’t.

If I have to stop working on other projects to attempt providing all three of these, I risk losing clients and money. I would have to work overtime, which means I have to charge more. In my experience, it is impossible to rush creative inspiration. Creating something in one half the typical time, I have no choice but to charge more and that doesn't come with a guaranty.

No matter how you look at it, it’s virtually impossible to provide the best service, for the cheapest price as fast as possible, and provide my best work. If I do, something else fails or suffers. Usually, both.

I have experienced several occasions when a prospective client calls asking for a quote. I provide one. The conversation goes something like this:

Potential client: “Oh wow, that’s a lot more expensive than the other quote I got. This other person costs less than half your fees.”

My natural response: “That sounds like a great deal, grab it. Keep in mind: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

The Results

Often, clients who choose the better cost option are sometimes the same people who call me some time down the road asking if I can help clean up the other what is now a mess. Sometimes, I am asked to finish the job because the first person did not complete the project. The reason for this?

You get what you pay for.

If you want to pay 1/3 the price, you should probably expect to receive 1/3 the service and 1/3 the quality. You simply can't have all three. Therefore, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

What has your experience been?

Did you ever find yourself the victim of grabbing a deal that you now realized was too good to be true? Have you ever opted for a much less expensive service only to end up paying much more to have the work redone or fixed?

How do you decide who to go with? Do you base your selection on price, portfolio, reviews, or perhaps go with a person you were referred to?

Leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”

  1. Love the article. All too often people take creatives for granted, not fully understanding that for quality work, for designs that are both functional and look good, these things take time.

    As a society, we’ve literally been brainwashed into thinking that cheaper, faster and better do not go hand in hand, that these things are average, and average gets us nowhere.

    If everyone took a look around and really thought about what cheaper, faster and more has done to the economy, they would stop doing it. Sadly, just a few of us understand this concept.

  2. Pretty much the way it is. Any client who wants to argue the price isn’t a client worth having. If they are willing to sacrifice quality for price it is best to let them go.

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