Saul Bass on design fees

I just graduated and started doing freelance design. I’m having a lot of trouble getting paid enough. How do you explain what you do so that people are willing to pay a decent fee?

Saul Bass: I know what you mean, you can’t afford to turn it down, and you can’t afford to take it on! Well, part of the trick is to be able to explain what you do in terms that your mother can understand. No jargon. Seriously, though, there probably isn’t a straight answer. Some people want a low price and don’t care if the work is bad. Forget them. Some want good work, and they are just trying to see how low you’ll go. The only power you have in a professional relationship is the power to withhold your talent—to say “No!” They’ll let you turn down the job and hang up or walk away, but if they are convinced you are in demand, and you seem enthusiastic about their project, maybe they’ll call you back the next day. You have to decide in your mind how much—or how little—the job is worth, and stick to it. If you let them know you really need the work, you are done for. If you convince them you do great work and are confident about your prices, you are more likely to get a fair value. Every creative person, if they are blessed, finds a few clients who believe in them so fully they they give their designer extraordinary freedom. You have to earn that trust.