I told myself, “If other women can figure out how to make money working from home, then surely I can, too.”
It was the summer of 2008. Two days before this realization, I received a phone call that made my blood boil. Just days before giving birth to a tiny baby girl, I was told someone else got the promotion and raise at the bookstore I’d managed for five years.
When my fury subsided, I sat down at the kitchen table and started making a plan to earn money on the side while I was busy learning how to be a mom. My goal was to add a few hundred dollars to the family accounts each month working from home.
After all, I had just decided to quit a job that was paying $28,000 per year where I worked 50-hour weeks, managed 40 employees, and oversaw $5 million in annual sales. My expectations were not high.
Today, I own a business training company, have self-published four books, and I speak globally on entrepreneurship and marketing. My company generates over 17x what I used to make in a year working at the bookstore.
So what changed? My money mindset.
Raising the bar on my financial expectations
The bookstore I worked for 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.
While I’ve always had a high sense of personal worth, I had resigned myself to a low net worth backed by a degree in religious studies and a value for loving my work more than getting rich.
After struggling to balance rent and a car payment without eating ramen every day, I said to my co-manager, “I feel like I should be making more.” And I remember feeling ashamed and embarrassed. Who was I to want more? What did I have to offer?
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 used it as an opportunity to start fresh and learn about myself.
I started my first website in January 2009, and a few months later, I was making a small amount of money every month selling advertising and teaching social media skills.
I was pretty happy with the way things were. After all, I’d already met that goal of adding a few hundred dollars per month to my family’s income.
Still, I thought about my future, my daughter’s future, and the wealth that, just maybe, even I could be building. I dreamed of flexibility, satisfying work, and the chance to build something I could pass on to those I loved.
Little by little, I started to realize that more than I had ever dreamed of was possible, but I had to change my approach to money and the value of my own work.
I kept blogging, built a web presence and brand and learned web design. Exactly a year after my daughter’s birth, I bought an existing business with a loan from my 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.
Growth and answering the hard questions
Then came the dreaded question: What is your fee?
I seriously had no idea what I was doing. All my life I had been told I was worth between $8-14 per hour. So when I quoted $25 per hour for those first jobs, I felt like a rockstar.
It only took a few of those jobs to realize that that rate wasn’t sustainable. But more importantly, it only took a few of those jobs to realize that the value of what I was delivering was so much more than a few hundred dollars.
I channeled everything I was learning from friends and colleagues, and then I started adjusting my rates upward. At first, slowly. Then, steeply. I researched what others who were doing what I do made per hour, per project, per client.
Then a funny thing happened. As my rates increased, so did my profile. I worked with higher performing clients, and I was able to focus on the projects I liked best. Ultimately, I was able to turn my service into a profitable training program.
‘I didn’t get lucky. I created this.’
Looking back, I didn’t expect to be where I am today. I couldn’t have even imagined what it would be like to buy a beautiful home, support my partner in pursuing his passion, and love my work every single day.
I didn’t get lucky. I created this success little bit by little bit by realizing the value of the work I do, translating that into easy-to-buy offers, and setting prices that allow my business to grow.
Many entrepreneurs are in a unique position to take advantage of similar opportunities I have over the years. You’re likely already thinking critically about what you have to offer others and how those skills or ideas could save them time, money or inconvenience. You’re tired of being taken advantage of or seen as just another cog in the wheel.
Don’t let your own self-imposed earning ceilings get in the way of thinking creatively about what you can accomplish and how much you can earn.
Tara McMullin is the creator of Quiet Power StrategyTM and the host of the podcast What Works.
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