Do you know your own Value?

written by Bari Tessler March 7, 2013

I’ll gently and lovingly ask that again…

Do you know your own value?

How’s that for a loaded question?

Know Thy Own Value. Whoa.

Value is paradoxical, subjective and ever-changing.

How much do you value yourself? How do we ask to be compensated for our “value”? How do we even dare to put an amount to our value?

Many of us stumble into these questions, in a particularly tender way, when trying to determine our fees or earn more money. I work with a lot of people who would like to earn more money, or who feel confused about how much they should charge for their work.

I have personally worked these questions inside and out since I first had a job, and significantly more so since working for myself over the past 11 years. I’ve raised my rates, lowered my rates, changed my business model several times . . . and everything in between. It’s been a fascinating process with surprises, disappointments, and big wins.

Ultimately, we could never put a number on our intrinsic value. Ever. Our value and worth as human beings has nothing to do with how much or little money we have. At the same time, we need to ‘monetize’ our value to meet our survival needs and lifestyle desires. We want to be in alignment here. We want to learn how to create, do our good soulful work in the world and be paid well. We are striving to feel our value inside and create a container for our work, a framework, a business model . . . that works for our whole life, including our financial life.

Growing our Value . . .

When I say “grow our value”, I mean:

  • feel our value and experience our sense of worth . . . .
  • cultivate our value…
  • step more fully into our value…
  • and own our value over time.

What does this look like for us? It is time to grow our value, from this inside and the outside.

As usual, it starts with inner work. Life experiences. Stumbling. Big-time learning from mistakes, challenges, or even “failures.” Knowing our strengths and what we suck at. Being comfortable in our own skin. Knowing our true purpose for whatever phase of life we are in (including the not-so-popular “I am in the dissolving, falling apart phase of life”. . . .)

We all seem to grow into our maturity + our strengths on a different time frame, and there is some natural order or wisdom to this, which I trust.

What does “knowing your value” mean to you?

Meaningful relationships and community? Knowing you can create (art, income, service) in this world? Knowing your vulnerability as a strength? Knowing your ‘soul-purpose’?

8 Mini Exercises to Help you Line Up Your Value & Fees for this phase of your life.

I like to hit complex topics like this from several different angles. I encourage you to take the pieces that feel accessible and right, and leave the rest. Make your own combo platter of the suggestions below, or choose one or two to experiment with.

1. Do the simple body-gut check in and see what number you “get” for your hourly fee…

Now, explore how that number feels. Fantasize about charging that rate. Wrestle with your inner de-valuer. Try asking for that fee. Try stretching it a little bit higher. Experiment here.

It may be helpful to do some work with a therapist or a dear friend who can support and challenge you here, bringing you deeper into your own truth.

Listen closely for some kind of whispering, or clear answer, a number that comes from somewhere deep inside.

Note: I don’t subscribe to the common entrepreneurial mantra to simple double or triple your fees just because “YOU are WORTH it”. This feels disconnected to me, and most people don’t create that way. It’s more complex and beautiful that that line of thinking, in my opinion.

You can always revisit your rates – in 3 months, 6 months or a year (in fact, I recommend you do). Notice a different response and change your fees accordingly. This is not a static thing. Our rate grows and changes as we do.

2. Determine your monthly and yearly nut.

Do the math on what your (or your family’s) current lifestyle costs, on a monthly or yearly basis.

What’s the number?

You may want to calculate this number at a few different levels — your basic survival needs, your “comfortable” lifestyle, and even your “ultimate” lifestyle.

Once you know this information and you have clarity here, you are much better suited to craft your fees, negotiate your salary and create your best business model.

Knowing what you need and want financially is a very important step in your ability to ask for it.

3. Research other colleagues in your field.

Peek around at the other people in the mix, doing something similar to what you do — look at those “at your level”, a bit “ahead” of you, a bit “behind” you.

What is happening in your market and where do you want to fit in relation to your colleagues? For years, my private fees were at the very high end of the scale in the therapy world, lower end of the scale in the coaching world and in the middle to lower end of the scale for the accounting-consultant world.

4. Which community do you want to be serving?

Are you fine if your services are priced in a way that only higher income earning folks can purchase? Do you want to have a few tiers of pricing options, to accommodate a few different income brackets? Or, do you feel drawn to working with a lower-income community?

For years I chose to serve the middle bracket with my fees and services. I have thought long and hard about this. My community are people that are committed to living a ‘conscious’ life and this includes people who are bringing in anywhere from $30K to $1 million of revenue per year and everywhere in between.

5. How does the “economy” influence your rate, if at all?

Over the past several years, there is a big dialogue around the “economy” and the “recession”. I have seen many people having huge financial challenges right now and I have seen many others that are continuing to do well and some who are thriving in this economy.

Back in 2009, my team and I asked ourselves: “Do we want to change our fees due to what is happening to many people in the economy?” For me at that time, I did decide to decrease the fee for my group course, in hopes that more people could register and benefit from it. It “worked” — I had more registrations, was able to serve more people, and ended up increasing my profit for that course at the time. Lowering my rate was a win-win for everyone in this situation!

At the same time, I increased my private Financial Therapy fee because my individual time was even more precious since having my son and devoting so much time and energy to being a mother.

Do you see how so many factors come into play here, and that there are no right or wrong answers?

6. Notice and heal your thoughts, habits, and patterns around value.

Watch yourself in all of the little moments. Are there times when you feel solid and confident in your value, and other times when you are downright mean and de-valuing yourself? When/how/why does this shift for you? Watch this, learn from this.

If you have a “De-valuer” voice inside you: listen to it with gentleness and curiosity . . . while kindly asking it to step aside so that you can do great work in the world.

Leading up to my first public speaking gig many years ago, I had a few months of my intense inner voice screaming negative, limited, mean thoughts: “I have nothing to say, I’m not smart, I’m not articulate,” and on and on and on. etc. etc. For months, my practice was to simply hit the delete button on those thoughts and beliefs. Even if I felt like I was faking it, I told myself that it wasn’t true anymore and then I would replace it with, “I am smart, I am articulate, I am clear.”

By the time I presented, I had basically destroyed the old stuff and was determined and ready for the new, embracing how much I had to offer the world and that it was time! Now, public speaking has become one of my most favorite things to do and one of my best skills.

To summarize, notice whether your thoughts/habits/patterns around your value are serving you. If they are not, be both gentle and daring with yourself! Experiment. Stop being mean to yourself. Open to your true value and allow it to come forth.

7. What is the right business model for you at this time?

There is no one “right” way to make money and do your work in the world. There are so many options, as unique as each human being. Allow yourself to think outside of the ‘box’ and craft a business model that is just-right for you at this phase in your life and work.

I have changed my biz model several times based on what I am inspired to offer, what is happening with my family + personal life (i.e. having a child!). You need to look at the whole picture.

For example, will you only work one-on-one? Will you do groups? Will you offer an online program? How many hours would you like to work each week?

Next, go back to the information you gathered in #2 above, and get out your calculator. In order to make the amount of money you need, or want, what would your hourly rate be in order to meet that? What would it be if you were working 40 hours per week? How about 25?

Mix it all around and feel into the best model for you — and don’t be afraid to shift your business as your life shifts.

8. Do you have “income ceiling”?

Look at your numbers over the past months and years. Is there a number you simply haven’t been able to move beyond? How do you feel about this?

What would it be like to raise your income ceiling and break through your own self-imposed boundary? It can be very powerful to simply identify your income ceiling and come up with creative solutions to move past it.

Two personal examples of this:

Years ago I took an extra job doing overnight Hospice, simply because and I wanted and needed to break through my ceiling at the time.

Recently I changed up my business model from higher price point/lower registrations/shorter time frame offerings . . . to a year long program at the lowest price point I have ever offered. I got a huge response which has taken my capacity to serve and my business to a whole new level. And, simultaneously, I was able to break through another income ceiling in a really beautiful way. Voila.

It may be that this article has raised more questions than answers, at least in the short term. I consider this a good thing.

Let us not be trapped in a simple, limited understanding of value, income, and self-worth. It’s a beautiful and complex web, ripe for our exploration.

After reading all the way to here, take a big deep breath. Now, what is the one sentence, tip, or suggestion that feels like your next baby step?

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