Stand In Your Value Or Bad Asses Don’t Work for Free

Since you read this blog, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’re awesome. That means a few things: (1) you would never think of sh*tting where you eat; (2) you would never think of doing less than your best for your clients; and (3) you would never think of undervaluing your work.

That last one is really important. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

But there’s a big difference between not knowing your value and being afraid to stand in your value.

What’s the difference?

I was recently watching an episode of Shark Tank where the panel of sharks told an entrepreneur that she (of course, this is a story about a ‘she’) should be charging twice what she’s charging for her food service product.

The entrepreneur was new to her business. She started selling her unique baked goods online after some of her friends encouraged her to do it. As with anything else that’s new, when you’re new to business there’s a steep learning curve. If you are lucky and smart, the decisions you make on day one will be very different from the decisions you make on day 364. And the decisions you make on day 364 will be very different from the decisions you make on day 7,299. It’s just part of the process.

So, not charging enough for baked goods you make in your kitchen after you get home from your day job is not necessarily a sign that you are afraid to stand in your value. It’s a sign that you don’t know your value. However, being afraid to quit that day job when it’s making you miserable and all signs are pointing to your baking business being successful, if you could just stop treating it like a hobby, is a sign that you are afraid to stand in your value.

That’s what the sharks were really worried about with this entrepreneur. It’s easy to raise your prices, but it’s hard to learn to trust yourself enough to believe you’re worth the money. Standing in your value is more about trusting yourself. And if you don’t trust yourself enough to stand in your value, how can you convince clients that you bring value?

Knowing what you’re worth, so you can learn to trust yourself.

Speaking of decisions I made on day one (okay, more like day 24) and at the risk of sh*tting where I eat, I’m going to do a post-mortem on a trade deal I did. Early on, I decided to trade creative work for some help with my website. Really smart people practically shouted from the rooftops and hired skywriters to get the message to me that I was undervaluing my work.

Is trading work a definite sign that you’re undervaluing your own talents? I don’t think so. If there’s real value in what you’re getting in the trade, then it can be a good idea. But you definitely have to be careful about the logistics.

Looking back, in my case though, I think the critics were right. I was undervaluing my work. I was (and still am) very new to the game and I didn’t have any clients paying me anything close to the hourly rate I had set as my goal. And making even small changes to my website was driving me mad. So, I made the decision, yes, from a place of fear, to trade writing for website maintenance.

I didn’t listen when my super smart business coach told me not to trade. But, fortunately, I did listen when she told me if I was going to trade, I needed a contract just as if this were a paying gig. I was locked into this deal for three months. At the end, when there was discussion about content for the following month, I stood my ground, pointed to the contract and stated my full rate.

At that time, I was too expensive for the client and we parted ways amicably. Fast-forward to today, less than two weeks into the new month, and guess who has come back to me? We negotiated a new contract and this time Emily is getting paid.

Don’t read this as a ringing endorsement for trading work here. Things turned out okay here, though not as well as I was envisioning when I first made the trade deal.

Still, as the title says: Bad Asses Don’t Work for Free. I believe that wholeheartedly. And unless you are some kind of super smart sales genius (and if you are, want to trade?), you’re probably going to at least feel like you are working for free when you do a trade. Without seeing that green in the hand, it’s just psychologically hard not to look at a trade in this way. And this is reason enough not to do it in most cases.

Do I regret the trade I made? Nah. It was a good learning experience and the work came back after all, so it’s hard to regret it. But it has made me ask myself some hard questions:

  • How do I make clients see the value in my work without going through this “absence makes the heart grow fonder” stage?
  • How hard am I willing to work to convert clients who are probably just not a good fit for me in the end?
  • What can I do to treat my own business as my client?

Final thought: There’s a quote that I’ve seen on various motivational memes lately that says: “If you’re not failing, you probably aren’t trying as hard as you could be.” Here’s a motivational story to go along with this quote (don’t say I never gave you anything). When things get tough, it is comforting to know that mistakes only happen when you’re pushing yourself. I’m learning more about running this business everyday and I’m also learning more about how to trust myself.

Do you have a writing project you need help with? Are you ready to work with me? I guarantee that you won’t regret it! Contact me.

Photo credit: bakhtiarzein / 123RF Stock Photo