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Getting Over $$ Shame

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

"I'd like THAT one please," my 5-year-old self said shyly, pointing to the sprawling toy colonial manse with electric lights (which was pretty high-tech for the 1960s). It was probably about $100 at FAO Schwarz -- a lot of money in that era.

My father had taken me shopping in NYC for a special gift -- my first dollhouse! I had looked forward to that dad/daughter moment for weeks.

"I can't afford that right now," he replied. "How about one without lights?"

A rush of shame washed over me. After all, I had asked for something I clearly didn't deserve.

That's obviously not the case, but I thought of that moment when I was asked to write a blog this month around SOS's themes of "negotiating your worth and financial power."

We all have moments in our pasts -- professional and personal -- that inform our relationship with money and asking for things we really want.

Show me the money!

During the 1980s and 1990s, I worked for major corporate brands. I learned how to craft compelling presentations around the budget season, making a case for investment dollars.

The competition was often stiff for marketing funds, but my storytelling and graphic skills came into play. By showing a solid ROI (which, as an English and Psychology major I had to learn to spell when I entered corporate life), I had a good shot at getting money to spend on campaigns and talent.

But I was always nervous when I made my presentations (usually to older white dudes).

That little voice in my head still said, "You're asking for too much." When my budgets were cut due to company-wide belt-tightening, I still took the decisions a little too personally.

Fast-forward to 2003.

I had left corporate life (where I was making a very good salary plus a bonus) and started my own consulting firm.

I noticed that when I was asked what I charged for my services, I often hesitated. I observed that other women entrepreneurs would look up at the ceiling and say, "Ummm..." when asked about their pricing.

Despite my years of corporate experience and deep/broad marketing expertise, I still hadn't quite come to terms with my worth and what I deserved.

I've spent the past 19 years getting over that stuff.

In fact, when someone now says to me, "That's a lot" when I quote my $350/hour rate or my $500 flat fee for a blog post, I have new ways of responding.

"Then I may not be the right choice for you."
"How much does your attorney or accountant charge? Isn't marketing just as worthwhile as those skills?"
"What's the skill set of the people or company you're comparing me to?"
"I see that you're at the early stages of your business and on a tight budget. Perhaps we can work together at some point in the future."

I am not defensive or apologetic. Just straightforward and factual and empathetic. After 60 years, I've finally learned my worth and I refuse to cut my fee or apologize.

With the right training and support, you won't have to wait nearly that long.

(And I can now afford to buy myself that dollhouse, but this time it had better come with a Ring doorbell and Nest thermostat!)

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