If I hear Mika Brzezinski say “Knot Your Value” one more time, I’m gonna scream. But, Mika has a point. Most of us need to value ourselves more. The world spends years bringing us down exposing our weaknesses; even emphasizing them, as expressed in Pink Floyd’s album The Wall. I was inexplicably mesmerized by the album even before I realized it was the tale of a man’s life when I saw the film. This man was told he was less than by the world and only cherished by his mother, who smothered him. He built up a wall to keep himself safe from the world only to eventually realize the wall turned out to be a prison and he had to become his true self.
I’m always learning. I’ve always got my eye out for life’s next lesson. This week, I got a lesson about valuing myself.
We are often told the thing that comes easiest to us, the thing we are most passionate about, is of no value when it comes to “making a living”. So, we shut it down and we learn something “practical”. We try to find something the world will pay us to do. We suck it up. We are miserable and we soldier on because it’s just the way of the world.
I’ve always known I am a teacher. It’s in my blood. My grandfather was a pastor. Both his parents were pastors. My uncles, my brother, many of my family feel called to write and to teach. But, being a doctor was more highly valued. And, that’s what my mother wanted me to be. My compromise was Chemical Engineer. It was almost as tough as being a doctor. And it stretched my intellectual abilities to their limits. I got my BS in Chemical Engineering in 1982. I haven’t worked a single day as a Chemical Engineer since. I tortured myself for four years taking the hardest courses I could imagine and I’ve never used that degree.
I found an opportunity in sales. I knew could make a lot of money in sales. So, I did. I immediately doubled my income from my previous engineering job. For over 20 years I was a professional salesperson making more money than I ever dreamed I’d make when I was an engineer. But, I knew that wasn’t right for me long term. I wanted to do my own thing.
After years, I transitioned out of that. I started my own company, as a side gig, in 2002. Shayna was just two years old. I grew it from a side gig into my full-time employment. For 19 years that company has provided the bulk of our income. But, it doesn’t bring me joy. It’s not my passion. Working for myself lights me up. But, schlepping hair care products, not so much.
Two years ago, four years after Shayna’s passing, I decided to become a life coach. “Life coach? What is that?” I had thought for years. When my friend Kat suggested I take a life coaching course, I was puzzled. Then, I realized I was already doing the job, only for free. I made it official. I got my certification, wrote my book, and hung up my shingle.
But, would people actually pay just to talk to me? How was I to determine the value for that work? How much do I charge? I’m not a licensed therapist after all. I’m just a guy who has lived almost 60 years of life, gone through a divorce, been married 30 years, taught premarital courses, survived multiple career changes, run a successful internet business for two decades, raised two daughters, had a daughter transition, escaped toxic religion, developed a spiritual path over the course of a few decades, and become an expert in the afterlife. Would people find value in talking to me?
Due to my lack of confidence, I set my rate low, ridiculously low. I set it at less than half the price that others in the field were charging. My intent was to raise my rate after I felt more confident and I got some testimonials to convince others I was worth it. Once I got some validation, I’d raise my rate.
Two years went by in the blink of an eye. Two years, and I had not raised my rate. Two years, and I still wasn’t valuing myself. I’m still running the internet company I started in 2002. I hire myself out as a part-time business consultant. I switch between jobs two or three times a day. I write an email for Treasured Locks, pack some orders. I make sales calls for the software company that’s hired me part-time. And, when I can, I squeeze in time for my passion, my coaching/teaching business. It’s my side gig.
Even with that, I don’t value my skills. I’m doing a complex project for a client now, a project her regular consultant told her could not be done. It’s taken a lot of working around several obstacles but we’re making it happen. Not many people could do this. But, I always think my skills are something anybody can do. Anything I can do can’t be worth that much.
Last weekend, I decided to invest in myself. I took a class on being a “lightworker”. Finally, I gave myself permission to consider raising my rates. I looked at the industry average for what I do and was shocked. I was barely above a quarter of what the industry average is. I went into this as a part-time thing. But, I want it to be full time and for that to happen, I have to charge full-time rates. The introductory rate period lasted two years, probably a year and a half too long.
There is a fine line when it comes to pricing your goods and services. Price them too low and people will think they’re getting what they pay for, garbage. If you set your prices higher than some people can afford, you can afford to discount for those people and to give back in other ways.
After taking the class, I still felt leery about raising my rates. What if I drove off the clients I’ve worked so hard to get? I sought the advice of some fellow coaches. I was charging less than half what any of them were charging. They all encouraged me to at least double my rates. These are people I met that first year, in a master heart group, they encouraged me then about my unique skill set. They are the ones who gave me the confidence to launch this at all. And they encouraged me again.
I gritted my teeth and I did it. I pulled the trigger. I raised my rates. I emailed all of my clients, individually, to let them know. I grandfathered them in under the old rates, for a period of time. I am offering them a discounted rate through the end of the year to make the increase not as sudden and severe.
Then, I sat and I waited for the backlash. But, I told them in the email if I tell them to value themselves, I need to value myself as well. I don’t know if I will lose any clients over the increase. I have only heard from three clients. All three, I heard back from both congratulated me. In fact, one said:
I am so relieved to hear that you’re raising your rates! I’ve been anticipating this and it’s no problem for us. Congratulations!
I’ve purchased 3 sessions so, after those, we will go to your full rate.
Know that we’re very supportive.
She wants to pay the full rate even though I’m offering a discount to existing clients for the next nine months.
Then, just to validate my decision, even more, yesterday I was interviewing a fellow life coach. She told me that when she started, she charged only $100 per session. That’s $40 more than I was charging two days ago. Now, she is charging $800 and working 2-3 days per week. $800 is fifteen times what I was charging. She might be better than I am. But, she ain’t fifteen times better.
I’m still a bargain, even at my new rate! And, with this new rate, I am one step closer to making this my full-time gig and dropping the side hustles.