Time versus money versus quality content

Time versus money versus quality content

As more businesses realise the importance of quality content marketing, discussions have shifted from whether there should be a corporate blog, etc, to how much can be achieved. And then balancing the results against budget. This is throwing up new pressures and arguments, particularly as every client wants it all, now.

Unfortunately, before briefing out a project or delegating internally, there are only two factors most business clients consider: how much and how fast. It is only after the client receives the content that the typical manager completely forgets those two factors in favour of whether it is actually any good at driving results.

And so time and again, clients place pressure on content producers to deliver rushed work at low-cost. And when the results aren’t as good as the client hoped, it will be considered the content producer’s fault.

I recently appeared on a massively fun panel at the Social Media Down Under (#SMDU) event in Sydney where a question prompted me to remember this fantastic Venn diagram developed by Colin Harman a few months back. Although referring to graphic design, it actually is a pretty universal description of the expectations a client should expect when outsourcing any creative task — or indeed anything requiring some level of cognitive, and not merely mechanical, skill.

How would you like your graphic design?

It illustrates extremely well that fast, cheap and great quality do not coexist. However, in most cases it is possible to get two out of three. It is then up to the business client to look at their needs and choose the right two.

Here’s a hint. Great quality content should always be one of those two. Don’t make the mistake of so many businesses over the last ten or so years of the internet and opt for fast and cheap but ultimately uninteresting content purely because someone said more content of any kind is good for SEO. The latest Google Panda update pretty much smashed that idea. With millions of blogs and billions of pieces of content out there, anything less than ‘great’ just won’t stand out and be noticed.

So, if great quality content is one of your two elements, then the challenge is finding the best balance of budget or time. For example, if you have a big budget, you can have that industry-leading blog with multiple wonderfully written posts per week because you can pay the best writers to do so.

Hot tip: Be ready to pay journalism rates, not SEO copy rates. The best professional bloggers charge hundreds per post. To charge less, they need to turn over many more posts in a single day to make it worthwhile, and that reduces the quality. As a rule of thumb, this post is approximately 700 words and took me ninety minutes of my working day to write, check, optimise for SEO and prepare to go live. I would charge anywhere between $250-$500 for such a post, depending on the level of research required and the regularity of the work.

So it can be very expensive to compromise time if you don’t want to compromise quality. Hence why many businesses try to produce as much of the content they can in-house themselves. A cheaper alternative, as suggested by Glenn Murray (@DivineWrite) at Social Media Down Under, might be to bring in the professionals to sub-edit and polish your DIY content and blog posts for a more affordable rate.

But if like most small businesses you do not have such a large and flexible budget, it might be better to plan for fewer high quality pieces each year and schedule them for maximum impact. Instead of three expensive but great blog posts per week, release two well-written and designed ebooks per year or a carefully planned YouTube video every month or whichever way you choose to cut your cloth.

Once you adopt this pragmatic approach to your content marketing, all the questions and pressures over “how do I find the time and money to do all this content marketing stuff” falls away and you get to focus instead on developing a content strategy that is right for your business.

With a little experimentation, negotiation and trial and error, you’ll eventually find the right mix between time, money and quality that will drive the best results.


  1. Yes. That is all.

  2. Great diagram thanks Jonathan!

    On a personal note, I am never surprised when I get significantly more traction on articles where I have taken the time to write a higher quality piece. One well written blog post with 50 retweets is much better than 3 posts that no-one shares. Funny thing is they take the same time all up!

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    I love this diagram. Thanks for sharing, I missed it before. I’m going to pin it up on my office wall and point at it whenever someone says they want something ‘fast, cheap and great’.

    Sorry I couldn’t get to the social media panel you were on this week. I bet is was a LOT of fun.

  4. Thanks for the shoutout and the kind words. I appreciate you and am grateful it too could speak to your craft. Have a great one,


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