Cutting corners in the traditional sense is slimy and sometimes illegal. A construction company could cut corners by using cheap materials.
That’s really bad.
I hate the idea of lazy shortcuts. If the idea of cutting corners gives you a panic attack, I’m right there with you.
But why do people think about cutting corners in the first place?
Because most of us are under increasing pressure to do more, within the same time and budget constraints.
With more to do, but less time to do it, how do you manage to get it all done?
Where to cut corners (and where to be a perfectionist)
A simple rule of thumb:
Cut corners on items that if the client knew what we knew, they would still be proud to do business with us.
To be clear, my definition of cutting corners is different from the common definition.
When I say “cutting corners,” I mean: “What am I doing slowly with care—that if I did quickly—would be just as good?”
Usually this means cutting corners on back-of-house tasks where you could be more efficient anyway.
Where to cut corners
Cut down time and effort on the following:
Something a computer should do: If you’re manually doing something over and over, chances are a machine could do it. Look for an extension or Google Docs Add-On.
Messy notes: If it makes sense to you, don’t spend hours cleaning them up.
Inbox zero: Gives a false sense of productivity.
Back-of-napkin sketches: Use a sketch if that’s enough to get your idea across. No need to spend 2 days on a beautiful Keynote deck.
Optimizing from 97% to 99%: Getting those extra two percentage points of perfection usually takes more time than it’s worth.
“Little things” help you gain an edge
For outward-facing content, the client experience is everything.
Outward-facing material is anything that touches your clients, partners, media, and the outside world.
These “little things” are actually the only things that matter. Why? Because the “big things” (the main value proposition of your product or service) are a given. They are the price of admission. They are table stakes.
So the place you stand out is with the extras, i.e. the little things. That’s why everything client-facing has to be as tight as possible.
Sloppy work can lead to market erosion
Typos in Facebook ads…
Weird formatting halfway through an email…
Content that doesn’t load on mobile…
These are all signals about your brand. Even a few missteps add up and lead to eroding the client’s trust in your taste level as a company.
Be a perfectionist for client-facing material
For client-facing material, ask yourself:
Does it look good?
Does it represent us well?
Does it sound human?
Will the client feel seen and heard?
Will the client love us even more after this?
The answer for the above should be a confident “yes.”
The next time you’re wondering if you’re being too much of a stickler, remember:
Be a perfectionist for anything client-facing. Cut corners for tasks you’re doing slowly that would be just as good if you did them quickly.
By Wes Kao