Secrets of Success: How I Learned to Make What I Was Really Worth

Jill Beirne Davi

Jill Beirne DaviIn our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one entrepreneur talks about what it was like to start a new business—and subsequently overcome a fear of charging fair prices for her services. The experience taught her an invaluable lesson about not underestimating her professional self-worth.

When I launched a side business about five years ago coaching people about their finances, I enjoyed it so much that I barely charged—if I charged at all—for my services. Many of the people I was helping were in the hole—and desperately trying to get out. Plus, I loved talking to them about their money, so it didn’t feel like an even exchange. I felt ashamed asking them to pay me.

After all, I had been deep in debt once, too, so I knew what it felt like to struggle to keep costs down. In fact, it was my own experiences that led me to become a money coach. As I began to share my success story, friends and friends of friends asked me to hold workshops, and pulled me aside for private advice.

I realized that there was a demand for money coaching, so I began doing it during my free time, while keeping my day job in market research. But when I first set out to offer my services, I charged nothing. I was caught up in the classic belief that if you loved what you did, you didn’t have to get paid for it.

Work, by nature, had to be hard—or so I thought. And if it wasn’t hard, then you were pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. So I did a lot of free sessions, irrationally hoping that someone would be so thrilled with what they were getting that they’d donate some money. Of course, that’s not how things work.

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  • Gylliayn

    Thank You for being so open about your journey! As an artist it is always a game on what to charge- you have seen it- ” How can THAT be $1000.00?” Trying to stay within what we think it is worth is a bad trade off. What we think something is worth is based on fear and like you said, when doing something you love- where is the cap on price? I mean, it is something you do for free so where is the value? I have been there- I have told my self the value is my DNA. Only I can do this work- I mean, we value our selves enough to respect who and what we are , so why not our craft. Why throw that under the bus? It is a relationship with our selves that ppl will see right through. If we do not value our selves, then neither will anyone else.

  • Robin

    This is actually something that most artists in the industry deal with. Being artists working freelance in an internet age we are told that our work should be free (both by what they see other artists charge and from people bluntly telling us). Most artists start learning how to become artists before they even learn math, so if you calculate in that effort than most artists school themselves in color, composition, line, motion, for 20+ years before they even start asking themselves what they should charge. It took me a long time as an artist to realize I have a right to defend myself to clients about my prices. It took getting a job where I got an hourly wage working in art and design that I realized how much I was worth. But I still have that “inn critic” when it comes to doing freelance work online. It doesn’t help that in my industry you have companies emailing professional artists with families and kids and jobs and expenses and trying to coerce them into working for free and “exposure.” It is not only insulting but hammers into artists over and over and over again that they are worthless. We are anything but worthless. It is a daily struggle that doesn’t just effect students.

  • Kim “Kimmay” Caldwell

    WOW! This is so insightful. I love this line “I wish I could say that realizing my worth was a one-time event, but it wasn’t. It’s a journey.” I’m just about to start my own client based business and I was unsure what to charge and a mentor suggested $100 an hour and to see how it goes. I was fearful that I’d be exposed as selfish or an amateur. But I’m also taking Marie Forleo’s B-School and she told me to stop being an amateur and go pro NOW, not to wait. As soon as I start treating myself like a professional and start behaving like one, it will be a reality and others will respond. Great article! -Kim Kimmay Caldwell

  • Stephanie

    I am so glad I’m not the only one that feels this way! I paint furniture and have only been doing it professionally for a year but my prices have changed dramatically since the beginning. I was barely charging because I felt like work should be hard and I shouldn’t necessarily enjoy it. I’m still dealing with those fears but I’m charging three times as much now. I’m hoping to be able to thrive off of this business some day. This article has been very helpful for my optimism!