What Steve Jobs and Soggy Fries Reveal about Smart Freelance Pricing

Austin L. Church
5 min readJun 17, 2021

I once got a spam text about a $9.99 logo, complete with a 100% satisfaction and money-back guarantee. Though I doubt that a $10 logo and “satisfaction” go hand in hand, the text proves an important point for freelancers.

Freelance services have no set prices. There are no hard and fast rules. You can pay $10, $100, $1,000, $10,000, $100,000, or far more for a logo.

$100,000 may sound like hyperbole until you learn about Steve Jobs and Paul Rand’s deal in 1986. After resigning from Apple the previous year, Steve Jobs needed a corporate identity for his new venture, NeXT, Inc. An employee gave Jobs books and articles by modernist designer Paul Rand who had created identities for some of the most iconic brands of his era, including Ford, UPS, ABC, IBM, and Westinghouse.

Jobs approached Rand about the project, and Rand named his price: $100,000 (or around $250,000 at today’s value).

Like copywriting, code, and strategy, identity design is worth what a client will pay. What a client will pay goes up based on perceived value. Perceived value goes up with perceived authority.

Jobs later commented on Rand’s approach in an interview: “I asked him (Paul Rand) if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you. And you will pay me.’”

1993 Interview with Steve Jobs

Though Rand’s bluntness makes the polite Southerner in me cringe, I admire his confidence. Paul Rand was no fool. He had already worked with many high-profile brands with opinionated CEOs at the helm. Jobs’s casual request for more options was not casual at all.

What was really at stake was leadership of the project. Either Rand would pull the strings, or Jobs would.

Many experiences with clients have taught me that being too polite, too agreeable, early on creates problems. Opinionated but uninformed clients who insist on being the pilot will drive the project straight into the ground.

We pay must close attention to the interlinked relationships among pricing, client…

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Austin L. Church

Writer, Brand Consultant, Freelance Coach | I teach freelancers how to stack up specific advantages for more income, free time, fun 🌴 FreelanceCake.com