[Story Sells] Why Steve Jobs shelled out $100,000 to a freelancer for 14 days of work

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The STORY

After Steve Jobs got canned from Apple in the late 1980s, he was licking his wounds, deciding what to sink his fortune in.

After buying a small computer division from Lucasfilm (called Pixar), Jobs focuses on his real business: He would build a new computer company called NeXT.

Eventually, he produced a groundbreaking but expensive computer. It never caught on, though academics loved it. (Legend has it that Tim Berners Lee used a NeXT machine to help create the World Wide Web.)

But the business wasn’t a complete bust – eventually NeXT was bought by Apple, bringing Steve Jobs back into the orchard where he would later bear some very profitable fruit: iPod, iPhone, iTcetera.

But before that could happen, the man faced a problem with NeXT.

How to get instant name brand recognition to launch the company as fast as possible? He decided he needed a logo with instant status of an icon. So he hired a freelancer.

A fella named Paul Rand, who had been inking logos for over fifty years.

Now, if you know anything about Steve Jobs, you know he could be a tyrant with impossible expectations. It was his way or the highway.

But when Jobs began listing his demands for the design to Paul Rand, asking for more than one design option, Paul Rand cut him off abruptly. He said “NO.”

“I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.”

He out-Jobsed Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs blinked, and said OK. He agreed to pay the $100,000 for a design he hadn’t seen, for a computer that hadn’t even been produced.

Paul Rand delivered it in two weeks. (Drool over your calculator figuring the hourly wage on that fee.)

Why am I telling you this story?

Well, for one thing, this story became part of the legend of Paul Rand. (You can see Steve Jobs tell the story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb8idEf-Iak).

Although Rand already had a sterling pedigree as a designer, this story illustrated how he worked and what you could expect. Perhaps it helped him avoid fielding calls from the wrong kind of client.

It’s a good example of a Disqualification Story.

Some stories invite you in. They’re inclusive, striking a chord of cosmic harmony. Kumbaya-tastic.

But others shut you out. Tell you that you don’t belong.

Might seem harsh, but it can be better for everyone to know there’s no fit at the beginning of a project, rather than midway when a divorce will really hurt.

So you may want to tell a Disqualification Story like this the next time a client hassles you about price or how to do your job. Either tell it to yourself OR directly to the client, depending on the size of the stick you carry (i.e. how competent you are).

Ben Settle wallows in this attitude with his “antipreneur” positioning in his Email Players pitches. He practically dares you to join … just so he can tell you “no thanks.”

And Dan Kennedy seems to think this kind of approach works to help him bill seven figures per year for his copywriting services.

The MORAL

Especially when you’re facing price objection, consider telling a Disqualification Story to weed out the wrong kind of clients.

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Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry is a direct response copywriter who specializes in telling stories. You can contact Scott and learn more about using the power of stories in marketing at marketingwithstory.com.
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