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(L)earning What I’m Worth

In the fall of 2008, when my maternity leave was over, I quit my dead-end retail job and decided to explore work of my own making. 

A few months later, I was earning about $1,200 a month as a fledgling blogger and website designer. 

Today, barely eighteen months later, my income ranges from about $4,000 to $5,000 per month; I’m booking jobs weeks in advance; and every day I take another step toward the financial security and abundance I once believed that I didn’t deserve—and might never achieve. 

From Starving to Thriving 
How did I go from making $14 an hour in retail hell to creating actual personal and professional prosperity? Believe me, I never thought I’d be the one to raise my hand and say I’d crossed the line from starving artist to thriving artist. Even now I feel nervous saying so. 

But in the last few months, I’ve had a revelation about my own worth, and the worth of my work. And because DailyWorth was part of that, thanks to its trademark “kick in the pants,” I wanted to tell you what happened. 

I’ll never forget when I was working fifty to sixty hours per week at a well-known bookstore chain, earning about $28,000 a year. 

The company justified its low wages by providing “an ideal work environment.” Being surrounded by books and cheap coffee everyday is indeed wonderful but it doesn’t pay your bills, help you realize your dreams, or bring you a deep sense of self. 

I’ve always had a high idea of my personal worth, but I didn’t put a lot of thought into the worth of my work, my innate skills or the things that I can produce. 

At one point, I said to my co-manager, “I feel like I should be making more.” And I remember feeling ashamed and embarrassed. What did I have to offer? Y’know, other than experience, passion, skills, and a knack for sales? 

I stagnated. I even started to believe that despite my education and experience I wouldn’t be able to find another job. So when my daughter was born in July 2008, I took it as an opportunity to start fresh, learning about myself as I learned about her. I quit after my maternity leave was over and never second-guessed my decision. 

I Bought a Business 
I found myself drawn to writing and to my own creativity again. I began blogging, built a web presence, and learned web design. I learned everything I could about beginning a web business and I invested more time than my husband would have liked! Exactly a year after my daughter’s birth, I bought an existing business, with a loan from our credit union and a huge leap of faith. 

I now had a huge audience to entertain, edify, and enrich. I took those responsibilities seriously, and soon several business owners started inquiring about other services I might offer: web design, coaching, development. 

You Mean I Have to Charge People? 
Then came the dreaded question: what is your fee? 

Uh ... um ... Well, I know I’m pretty good at this, but I don’t have much experience so how about twenty-five bucks an hour for me to revolutionize your business or $150 to do this whole website. Heck, $25 an hour is double what I was earning before, right? 

I certainly don’t begrudge the people that took me up on those rates. I appreciated the income and the experience. And my business grew. 

By January of this year, I had more inquiries than I could handle. I also received a link from a friend that showed I was leaving about $1,200 on the table every time I worked with a client. 

Rates-Raising Time 
What’s a girl to do who’s been reading the DailyWorth daily for eight months? I raised my rates. At first, slowly. Then, steeply. I researched what others who were doing what I do made per hour, per project, per client and I decided to charge something much closer to that. 

Guess what happened? I haven’t lost clients. My client list continues to grow, and now I’m scheduling jobs six to eight weeks ahead. Not only am I making a lot more money, I’m securing my income. I’m putting money into our savings account. I’m reinvesting in my business. 

Over at Scoutie Girl, I’ve been writing a series of posts on embracing abundance and making the “kick the door down“ decisions that create financial opportunity. I think artists and creatives (and maybe you, too?) often need that extra push. We tend to think that anyone could do what we do if they tried. We think that because what we create is often a luxury, that others won’t buy if the price tag is too high. 

I’ve even found myself worried that my colleagues and peers might resent me, that my success might be unfair to other people. There is almost a stigma around earning more. 

What I realized, through the constant prodding of DailyWorth, is that my skills are rare, and that people are willing to pay for them. My skills are valuable—in terms of the time, peace of mind, and return on investment—to business owners. What sense does it make to not charge the true worth of these services out of some unfounded idea that it’s too high or not fair? 

Despite my new and improved mindset, I still get a bit anxious telling you this story. I am proud of what I make and what I’ll be making by the end of this year but, because so many women in the creative community are mired in a scarcity mindset, I am worried that they will look at my income as “not fair” or “not justified.” I’m learning to move beyond that. And I’m also doing my best to empower the creative community to accept their own worth. 

My success is your success—and your success reminds me that my own is possible.