Let’s get straight to it. Are you bringing in enough money? Do you feel able to ask for more if you need it? Or do you feel ashamed, confused, frustrated and tired when it comes to thinking about how much money you make?
There are many things you can do to take care of yourself and you’re probably already doing a good few of them. But have you ever thought of your income as a key player in your self-care? Because it is.
Of course, you get to decide what enough actually is. This conversation isn’t about maxing out your earnings just for the sake of it. I’m a real believer in finding your sweet spot. Your time is as precious as your money, and material goods only take us so far to happiness.
There’s a lot of energy that goes into “managing” on less than you need. Workarounds. Make-do’s. Downright panics…. And, more often than not, simple, straightforward, long-arsed days of doing way too many things without enough rest in between.
In this three part guide, I’m going to help demystify the process of earning enough, so you can step off the merry-go-round of stress and overwhelm and shift into your optimum zone of functioning. Well rested. Well resourced. Thinking and doing at your best.
I’ll break down why earning is so key to your wellbeing and uncover exactly what goes into the price you command – and how you can change that for the better.
If you’re feeling stuck in an income or price bracket, and you’re not quite sure what to do to break out of it, you’ll get an armful of pointers as to what you can do, on the inside and outside, to raise your price or salary.
And if you take nothing else away from this article, I’d like you to understand that, ultimately, you have a lot more control over what you earn than you think.
What does the conversation about stress have to do with how much you get paid?
If you regularly feel overstretched, overwhelmed and overtired, you’re not alone. In a UK survey last year, 81% of Women said they had felt unable to cope in the previous 12 months. The feeling of being overstretched is a major symptom of lack – that you are not adequately supported to do what needs to be done. If you don’t feel like you have enough time. If you feel exhausted all the time. If you’re constantly compromising, firefighting and making do. These are all signs that there isn’t enough.
Stress is what happens when we are not supported to do what needs to be done.Chitra Ramaswamy
Now, I’m not reducing your wellbeing to pounds and pence (or dollars and cents). Nor am I saying that you’re only winning at life if you’re bringing in xxx amount each month. Nor am I saying that you, sweet lady, are responsible for solving all societies wrongs in the single macrocosm which is your life…. Yet. You get to decide what enough looks like. You deserve to feel supported to do the personal and professional work which goes into building a good life and making a difference.
Of course money is not at all the only resource available to you. You can and should cultivate a strong network of personal support and have a regular conversation with those wonderful resources Nature and the Divine. Nonetheless, if you’re living in the west, one major way you are going to be supported is through the use of the money that comes into your bank account. So: are you bringing enough of it in? And, crucially, is the price you put on your time, the right one?
The conversation about value, pricing, and how much you should earn is far from black and white. There’s a lot that goes into “enough”. It’s very subjective. What we’re going to do in this article is to unpick the different threads which go into that subjective decision – both on your side, and that of the buyer, customer or employer. We’ll cover the full range, from the nuts and bolts nitty gritty to the touchy-feely and intuitive – because it’s all important.
And just to say: I’m using the language of small business here, but if you’re employed, everything I have to say here is still useful. In fact, I think there is a lot to be said for the entrepreneurial approach to the workplace, something I’ll unpack in more detail elsewhere.
Revealing the Hidden Costs of Doing What You Do
In her Guardian article on the topic, Chitra Ramaswamy describes stress as “what happens when we are not supported to do what needs to be done.” We all know that women, over all, earn less than men. We are literally getting less money for doing similar work. In addition to this, though, women have an extra layer of “what needs to be done”: women are responsible for more domestics and care-giving at home. There’s evidence that women are also expected to do an extra layer of emotional and “pro-social” labour in order to stay level with their male peers. This work is largely unseen and almost always unpaid. It gets done on top of what ever actual job you get paid to do.
One major way you are going to be supported is through the use of the money that comes into your bank account.
So: are you bringing enough of it in? And, crucially, is the price you put on your time, the right one?
We live in a time where our sense of what it costs to make things is deeply skewed, not only by gender inequality, but by industrial production, hidden slavery and the unsustainable plundering of natural resources. Things are unnaturally cheap. We are used to picking up goods and services at ridiculously knock down prices – which simply do not take into account the real costs of production. Yet the supermarket price is so deeply ingrained, that when it comes to pricing our own work, we have wildly unrealistic expectations.
Your Hidden Costs: a Quick Checklist
The extra, unrecognised, layer of emotional and domestic work – and the culture of exploitation that drives it – creates an ingrained pattern: you’re used to discounting a portion of what you do as “unimportant” or “worthless”. This isn’t limited to domestic and emotional work – as we’ll see in a moment.
The bottom line? You should be paid for the visible and invisible labour that goes into getting the job done. And part of “getting the job done” is getting you to starting line each day: keeping your personal life running, because without that, there is no professional you. But if you’re not even aware that a portion of what you do “counts” you can’t even begin to put a price on it.
The starting point in getting the right amount of money coming in is to know what that actually is. I’ve put together a checklist of things which are costing you time, energy and money.
(Caveat: there is a start-up period for small businesses where you might not cover all of these costs. But over the long haul, they need to be taken into consideration. And you need to be aware of them at every step of the way.)
Your personal overheads: “what it costs you to get out of bed in the morning”:
Work is work and home is home…. right? Wrong. If you’ve ever had to show up for work in the midst of a house move, or been No Fixed Abode for any length of time, (I’ve done both) you’ll know that having a basic level of security is actually fundamental to doing a good job at work. Although these get accounted for separately (you wouldn’t bill your boss for your kids new shoes), they must be included in your understanding of what it takes to keep Operation You on the road – because without them, you’ll be juddering into the bushes in no time.
Before you even start to look at what the job you do is worth, you need to know: what does it actually cost to get you out of bed in the morning? How much do you need to keep the roof over your head and, well, the bed that you sleep in each night?
The Hidden Cost of Operation You:
- Basic living costs: housing, insurance, food, healthcare
- Offspring: Schooling, childcare
- Future: Savings, pension, investment for the future
- Debts: Past spending you’re still paying for
- Health and Wellbeing: The way you take care of yourself in order to be able to perform well at your work: Therapy. Down time. Supplements. Exercise. Hobbies.
The time, energy and money spent acquiring your current level of expertise:
The way you do what you do did not come out of no-where. No matter how many lucky breaks you’ve had, your personal capital – what you carry in your heart and mind – is only the result of your hard work, dedication and investment, either formally (through study) or informally (at the School of Life). While it may have been your “choice” to pursue what ever learning and development you’ve taken on, the benefits of this are being passed on to your clients or employer every single time you show up. They are part of the “true cost” of what makes you able to do your job with the finesse you do.
The Hidden Cost of Your Ninjaness:
- Knowledge: reading, study, on the job know-how
- Skill: Speed/efficiency/quality are all learned and developed over time. I know of a house painter who has refined every step of the process down to a fine art so that he is super fast and incredibly clearn.
- Sophistication: the way you make connections, your ability to come up with “just the right thing”, hire the right people, see the patterns that matter or focus on the most crucial details.
- You can include debts and fees/other costs you’ve already paid for training, development, unpaid experience etc
Your Work and Business Overheads:
Every job costs money. You have to get there. You have to get dressed. You have to prepare or buy food. You have to budget time to rest and recover afterwards. Very few people factor these things into their understanding of their salary – and a “lucrative” pay check may actually not be up to all that much when you do.
If you’re self employed, your sense of how much your time should cost is further skewed by the “hourly rate” or salary framework of being an employee – where the employing organisation is carrying the weight of many many overheads. These overheads – like office space or negotiating partnerships – all enable you to do your job, aren’t included in your salary but do represent part of the cost of “getting the job done”. When you run your own show, it’s you and only you who is responsible for finding the time and money to make these things happen.
The Hidden Costs of your Professional Operation:
- Networking and Relationship Building: it takes energy to build your network. Sometimes there is an “access cost” like an event or course fee. Always there is the time getting to know people, building a relationship and staying available.
- Work you do for Free: Whether it’s to build relationships, get access to a new network, or as part of your social responsibility/giving back, this takes time and energy, and needs to be accounted for.
- Wardrobe: because you can’t show up in your pyjamas all the time!
- Travel: Time, fuel, tickets getting to the client or place of work
- Ongoing Learning and Development: I know I mentioned this earlier. Here I’m talking about the ongoing learning you need to do to stay current and up to date. Courses, Coaching, Publications, Books etc
- Visibility: AKA Making Yourself Easy to Find. This is actually part of your service. Without this your clients/people literally wouldn’t know you existed! Think of the old mobile shops (grocery stores in the back of a van). If they didn’t do the rounds, they’re customers couldn’t buy food! This includes being seen in the right places: conferences, parties, publications, meetings etc; working out what the “right places” are and gaining access. Time taken to think about your “brand story” (what you’re saying about yourself). And all the work that goes into good old fashioned marketing and PR.
- Administration and Financial Management: this includes the time it takes you to put appointments in your calendar, send out payment details, and keep on top of all the housekeeping. Keeping the gym ball you sit on to work topped up with air? Buying a new wireless keyboard? Somebody’s got to do that stuff and it all needs accounting for.
- Hardware and Subscriptions: computer, web hosting etc
- Professional Associations and Insurance: Membership of your licencing body; Public Liability insurance etc
- Space Hire: Money you need to spend (or favours you need to pull, which have a social/emotional cost attached to them) to set up events, meetings, client sessions and so on.
>> Take Action:
PHEW! We’ve covered a lot. Time to take a deep breath! If what you’ve read here is resonating, you might want to take some time to inventory your own costs. This doesn’t have to be a full-on, five day exercise. The key here is awareness. Here’s what to do:
>>>> Of the three categories above, which are you discounting most?
It’s the invisible costs that cause us the most trouble – where you’re haemorrhaging financial and energetic resources without even realising. Identify your biggest blind spots and see if you can put an approximate (or precise) numerical value on each one.
>>> Have you been unconsciously “anchoring” your price to a perceived value, or a “should” price?
An example of this would be an artist maker producing handmade items (like a purse, handbag or vase), versions of which you “can” buy in the supermarket for very little. The two products aren’t actually comparable though: they have been made in completely different ways with totally different cost models. Or you’re watching a particular individual and thinking that’s what you “should” be earning/charging? Or you don’t feel able to go above what your peers are currently bringing in? The key here is understanding your unique situation, position and cost picture and letting go of external standards about how your life needs to look.
>>> How does your pricing/salary need to change to genuinely take into consideration the true cost of doing what you do?
Do some sums. What would you actually need to be charging to reflect the true cost of getting out of bed and doing what you do?
How does it feel to look at this new pricing range? Scary? Exciting? Intimidating? A relief? There’s no need to do anything just yet. Just notice.
You can journal or draw your feelings and thoughts, or, if you have an accountability buddy or listening partner, you can take some time to share how this is with them.
Understanding your “Value”
So now you have some tools to understand how much you need to be “supported to do what you do”.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment: what about your customers? How do you find a price which isn’t going to frighten them away? Are you even good enough to charge what you need to stay afloat?
In Part Two I’ll be unpicking what allows you to charge what you need to; understanding value from the customer’s point of view; we’ll go more into how this impacts your marketing and how to level with the competition.
Over to You
Was this helpful? Did I miss anything out? What tools do you use to make sure you’re bringing enough in? Leave me a comment and if you loved this, pass it on to someone you know needs it.
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