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Ten Urgent Lessons Women Need to Learn About Making Money—Without Apology

In: Money Talk

So, clearly we are all aware that at present, I’m on a sliiiiiiiightly obsessive-compulsive crusade to help women make MORE MONEY, because THIS.

(That said, I am also on a slightly obsessive-compulsive crusade to eat as much buffalo sauce as I can find and Insta-story the entire fucking city of Philadelphia, so, I mean, choose your own adventure?)

The next couple of weeks, all we’re going to talk about is money. Making it. Making more of it. Keeping it. And not apologizing for any of it. Because sisters, we’ve got a real inferiority complex around this—*waves hands*—vaginal area. (Obviously that’s the money chakra, y’all. If I’ve got to keep hearing that word, I’m going to make it work for me.) And you know what? That attitude is not going to fly anymore. I won’t let it. It’s certainly not helping you, which we already know, but I’ll take it a step further and remind you that it’s not helping your clients, either. And. Here. Is. Why. They’re telling themselves a story about what they’re buying from you. And if the story they’re telling themselves is: “I’m buying cheap, replaceable labor because this way, I relieve the pressure off of myself from having to actually take this seriously,” then they don’t take it seriously. And they don’t get results. And your work becomes second-rate because you need your clients on board just as much as they need you to be on board.

In other words, you need your clients to invest in your ideas, because it helps them invest in their own.

Which means that you aren’t just a copywriter. You aren’t just a photographer. You aren’t just a monkey baboon ass cleaner. You’re in the very special position of helping to shepherd a person’s dreams and goals from Point A to Point B, no matter what medium you use. And that is a grand honor. Bottom line?

You owe it to your clients to charge the kind of money they’ll respect.

So without further ado, allow me to share ten things I (really!) wish I knew about making money when I first started my own business. In the name of making more of it. In the name of making more with it. And in the name of slaying it for YOURSELF.

  1. Lesson #1: Don’t decide what other people can afford.
    How many times have you thought to do something, but backed off, because you thought that nobody could really afford it? That’s not true—you’re projecting. Maybe you remember when you couldn’t afford it. (You darling bleeding heart.) Or maybe you still can’t afford it. Or maybe one time, an eccentric lady named Barb wrote you an email and told you that you were FUCKING DAYDREAMING. But you are not Barb (thank god), and you are also not your client. There are people in this world who can afford pretty much anything—and who, in fact, won’t buy something unless it’s expensive. A better question to ask is not, “what can they afford?” but rather, “what kind of impact will this have, and how much is it worth?” These are two very different metrics.
  2. Lesson #2: The right people have the money.
    There are plenty of people who can’t afford it—but that doesn’t mean that you are wrong. It also doesn’t mean that you’re overpriced, greedy, or delirious. It simply means that they can’t afford it yet. The same way that you might not be able to afford a forty-gazillion carat diamond from Tiffany’s yet. Tiffany’s doesn’t discount their diamonds to make it more comfortable for you and “meet you halfway.” They keep their price points at a level that makes the right people comfortable. Anything less, and it takes away the story of buying a Tiffany’s diamond. And that’s what they’re really buying. So what story do you want to tell?
  3. Lesson #3: You’re undercharging for your services and overcharging for your products.
    Maybe you don’t have a product, I don’t know. But this is a recurring theme I’ve found with business owners, and the reason is two-fold. First, everyone—and I mean everyone—wildly underestimates how much time a project will take. And thus, they also wildly underestimate how much they should charge. The bigger conundrum happens, however, because they don’t want to seem unprofessional / unreliable / untrustworthy by then going back to the client and saying, “Whoops, this project is more involved than I originally anticipated—we may need to discuss an adjustment.” So they suffffferrrrrrr! And die by their sworrrrrddddd! And then they end up earning net $2/hour! This is not a good plan. (For the record, you should always have an “additional hourly rate” quoted in your client contract for any work that goes over, especially if the client requests it. If you don’t have that, don’t worry—we’re going to talk about every money policy you need to have in your business this coming week.) The second part of this, however, has to do with products. People tend to do the opposite with them, and charge too much. Why? Because they spent so much time making it already. The majority of the work happens in advance, before you sell it—not after, like with services. So you feel the pain more. You feel how long something took you. And you try to recoup that investment too quickly, by charging too much, right out of the gate. Which, of course, ends up resulting in less sales, and defeating the entire purpose in the first place.
  4. Lesson #4: The best way to make more money is by making more suggestions.
    Most freelancers are scared of their clients—FACT. Not scared in a Boogie Man kind of way, but scared in a “You are my master, I must obey” kind of way. So most freelancers only do the things they are assigned. The line of thinking, of course, is that’s what they’re getting paid for—no more, no less. BUT—you’re forgetting that if you can find ways to provide value, you can and should–and you should also charge the appropriate rate for it, too, once your client approves. Remember, advisors get paid much better than order takers. Don’t merely do what you’re asked to: look for ways in which you can help even more, and then go forth and propose it. “I noticed X needs fixing. Want me to handle it for you? It’ll fall under my standard hourly rate, but I think I can get this knocked out in a matter of a couple of hours.”
  5. Lesson #5: If you don’t have enough clients, it’s because you aren’t leading enough.
    The best way to get noticed is to do something worth noticing. The fact that you have set up shop is not, unfortunately, newsworthy. The fact that you have put up a website is not, unfortunately, newsworthy. The fact that, holy shit, YOU HAVE REAL AND ACTUAL BUSINESS CARDS is not, unfortunately, newsworthy. What is newsworthy, however, is a well-thought-out mission. And I don’t mean the kind of fluffy mission where you’re all, “I want to help women be empowered!” Because it’s tired and trite and vague and far too broad. I mean the kind of mission that could make a newspaper headline. “Local business sets out to build 100 websites for single moms.” Now you have something to talk about. And now everybody else does, too. Clients flow from commotion.
  6. Lesson #6: The more organized you are, the more money you’ll make.
    You need a process. Clients will feel much more comfortable paying you the money you are asking if you are clear about what happens first, second, third and fourth, all the way through. None of this, “Okay, I’ll get back to you sometime next week.” When next week? By what date? With what? And then what happens next? How does this whole thing shake down? That’s THE WORST feeling, feeling like you’ve just given money to some kid who’s going to dick around. Put together a process and explain it to clients up front, so they can feel comfortable giving you the big bucks.
  7. Lesson #7: You’ll make more money if you charge in phases.
    Sometimes you might require payment in full before you begin work. I’ve done that before for certain things, depending. If you’re doing an hour-long consulting call, of course! And actually, if you’re doing anything—even a big project—it’s fine if you decide that that’s your business policy. (Again, we are going to crush these next week.) The benefits, of course, are upfront cash flow for you, and a reduced risk that the client’s going to stiff you. However, the downside is that you will almost always make less money overall. Recently a friend was quoted $15,000 for a project, and payment in full was due up front. She didn’t feel comfortable paying that amount up front, sight-unseen, without having even so much as worked with this person before. However, she would have paid the $15K if it were broken up into phases. Instead, she negotiated a smaller scope for a smaller project for $5,000. Will she purchase more later? Maybe. Maybe not. But the money hasn’t been committed and that’s a problem.
  8. Lesson #8: Nobody is giving you money by accident.
    I hear a lot of women feeling badly for taking money—as if they are swindling the entire population. Much of this comes from imposter syndrome, which has everybody convinced they know nothing. But I want you to take comfort in something, and that is the fact that nobody is giving you money by accident. They’re not. They have assessed your abilities and they have decided that you are worth paying. You didn’t hold them up at gunpoint. They’ve made that decision as logical, intelligent human beings who want what you have. Be thrilled about that! You can absolve yourself of guilt. It is not your decision. All you are responsible for is doing great work, once that decision has been made.
  9. Lesson #9: You don’t make money. You make yourself happy—and money is a byproduct of that.
    I think the strategy many of us went with when we were young was, “what job is going to make me a lot of money?” Which, we all know now, is a stupid strategy. It completely ignores what really matters. And yet, we’re still feeling the after effects of that logic. We still choose based on “what’s going to generate more revenue,” which is okay when you’re already doing what you love. But when you’re not? And when you’re basing your every next move on this one simple metric? It’s always going to ring hollow. Ironically, by choosing based on money, you end up making less, because your heart’s not in it. AND THIS MATTERS. Your heart has got to be in it, folks. Do not waste your time doing anything else. The money that you hope to earn comes when you’re doing something you’re crazy about, and you’ve learned how to layer sound business principles on top. It’s not one or the other.
    You can! Something I’ve recently realized is that the fear of success is real. Success implies responsibility. It feels biiiiiig. It means that we’ll have to figure out what to do with it all—and money is no exception. Subconsciously it’s possible you’ve been cock blocking yourself because you don’t think you’re a person who can be trusted with money. You feel irresponsible with a hundred bucks, let alone a hundred thousand or more. And it makes you shrink away from it. Because of course it does. Making money means all sorts of other scary things, like investing and using it wisely and not squandering it all or being a total jackass. But I promise you are far more capable than you’ve EVER given yourself credit for. You are smart. You are good. You will rise to the occasion. You will always rise to the occasion. Trust in that. Trust in yourself. Trust that you will know what to do next, and even if you don’t, you will figure it out. Do the biggest, brightest thing you can think of, and know that doing so will always put you in a better position. You can do this. I trust you to do this. And I don’t trust just any boob off the street, you know.

This is only the beginning, my friends. There are sooooo many things we still need to talk about on this hot button of a topic, including my IRON-CLAD, UNFUCKWITHABLE RULES AROUND TAKING MONEY. Which we'll do as we continue on throughout next week. Because as beautiful as money is, it can also be complicated.

And as much as I hate most rules?

Sometimes they actually mean freedom.

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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