When productivity trumps quality

There’s a lot to be said about people who are successful in their given field. I was recently watching an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchens From Hell, and I was reminded of this as I watched a belligerent backwater chef go off on a rant about how Ramsay is a hack chef who is only popular with a certain group of people. A group which he was most certainly not a part of. And while there is a kernel of truth to his tirade, you have to look at the fact that Mr. Backwater Chef was just that, while Mr. Ramsay is a multi-million dollar chef with a brand behind his name and a worldwide enterprise.

How did he get to be successful? By learning his trade inside and out, learning when to cut corners, when to spend extra time finessing something, when to streamline and the best methods for him to produce high quality food at a level which also maintains a good influx of cash.

But when does spending extra time on something actually hurt your bottom line?

Using the chef/cook analogy, there are times when it is more important to pay attention to mass production than it is to whether the item in question is cooked to perfection. Let’s say it is  the dinner rush, and you see that your shepherd’s pie has become the most popular item of the evening. Suddenly you need several pounds of potatoes cooked. Now, you could spend a lot of time ensuring that they are cooked to absolute perfect tenderness and then whipped or mashed to the perfect consistency, but a smart chef knows that in a case like this, it is more important to simply get them as close to perfection as possible without spending an inordinate amount of time on absolute perfection. When combined with all the other ingredients, everything will taste like pure bliss and no one will be the wiser.

Quality is important. But it does pay, in some instances, to focus more on production than absolute perfection. It is a fine line to traverse, however, and not every writer is cut out to make the call. But for those who can, there is an opportunity to make significant amounts of money using the content mill strategy that myself and others employ in between traditional clients.

Now, before you put words in my mouth, I am not saying that quality is irrelevant, nor am I advocating a complete divergence from writing quality. But I often see some writers complaining that they cannot work with the content mill writing models because they “can’t possibly write a 400-500 McArticle” and be profitable at it. I’ve seen some people saying that they can’t write a 500 word article in less than 2 hours, because it takes them that long to compile the research, write the material, and then edit it. My opinion is that such writers are focused too much on the quality and are missing an opportunity to push production. They are spending too much time cooking each individual potato when they could be simply dumping them all in a pot and boiling several pounds of them at a time.

One could argue that a gourmet dish takes time to prepare, but for those of you who have ever watched Gordon Ramsay or other shows, you understand that in a dinner setting where the restaurant is filling up with people, if you take too long to prepare the food, customers will start leaving because you aren’t up to the challenge of handling production. Food critics will complain that if your kitchen can’t handle the load, you shouldn’t be in business.

Gourmet or not, occasionally you will come across projects that are more about production than they are about quality. And while you can stick to your guns and continue to cook each potato individually, eventually you are going to come across customers and critics who will tell you that if you can’t handle a little heat from time to time you should find a different career path.

If you are someone who spends 2 hours writing a 500 word article, and you refuse to take less time or are incapable of taking less time…content writing is not for you. But if you are someone who knows when loading a few pounds of potatoes into the pot is more important than spending hours focused on a single potato…there is a significant amount of cash to be made through content mills and other places where quantity trumps quality.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

Posted in Freelance Writing Tips Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
2 comments on “When productivity trumps quality
  1. Marky says:

    I see quantity trumping quality in more and more places.

  2. I think it depends on the market. But it certainly seems to be more important in most areas these days, because people want to remain competitive in the global age of SEO and Google rankings, and while quality may have been the key back in the days of print, a lot of work these days is keyed towards cranking out quantity that remains quality-oriented. If you are a slow typer, you are out in the wind in a lot of cases.

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