That great piece of advice you’ve heard at conferences before? “Charge what you’re worth!”


Useless. How do you know your worth?


There’s no worth appreciation agent who could appraise your worth.


What I found is people can’t estimate their worth until they know they have it. For the most part people confuse worth and cost and as a result they feel “greedy,” “inadequate” or “unreasonable” when they charge more than average.


So today I’ll be taking you deeper on how to identify your worth so you feel good about charging what you think you’re worth.


Worth vs. Cost Confusion



George Pappas: The, uh, illustrations are hand tipped.

Joe Fox (looking at an old book): And that’s why it costs so much?

George Pappas: No, that’s why it’s WORTH so much.

You’ve Got Mail, 1988.


When did this confusion between cost and worth come about?


Cost is a price tag, a number. Think of the last thing you bought that you really wanted. Was the cost a factor? Did it prevent you from buying the product/service?


Cost might be high or low, but when we want something, cost becomes irrelevant. We find a way to afford it.


You buy this product or service regardless of its cost and because of its worth.


When the demand gets high, some shrewder people create an opportunity to make a lot of money off of this product/service, and they turn it into a commodity. They say,


“Wouldn’t it be great if we put all of these teachers/freelancers/designers/writers on one website so customers can choose based on price?”


This is how large marketplaces come about. And this is where, in my opinion, the confusion between worth and cost is born. Because marketplaces aren’t created with the worth in mind. They are created for the consumer who doesn’t care about a brand.   


Marketplaces make anything a commodity which means price tag is the only thing that matters, and the person who charges less will win the game.


So if you’re “branding yourself” on the marketplace you will soon find that “standing out” is extremely challenging.


It is possible if you find loyal clients, but in the long run this strategy doesn’t help you build a brand and it doesn’t allow you to charge what you’re worth.


For the record: I don’t think that marketplaces are evil. A lot of people (myself included) have used them to some degree. They’re a great short-term strategy, but they can leave you feeling like there’s no options. But you can opt out.



#Entrepreneurs: what does it mean to charge what you're worth? Check out this guide.Click To Tweet



What does “worth” mean?


Worth as authenticity


I will be talking about worth following Brene Brown’s guideposts outlined in The Gifts of Imperfection. Her books and talks have changed my life both as an individual and an entrepreneur, and I highly recommend them.


I would say that your worth is your authenticity. It’s the courage to be who you are, despite what others say you’re supposed to be. Cultivating authenticity is a daily exercise, and it’s not easy, especially when someone tells you repeatedly, “Nope! Can’t charge that!”


Being authentic means being vulnerable. It means not always having it all together. We shy away from vulnerability because we think it may make us weak. But when you’re vulnerable you’re authentic.


Worth Means Caring for Yourself over Others… What?


If you provide services online, you’d classify yourself as “the one who cares.” I hear you talk about caring to make a difference in your clients’ lives. You want to help your clients become more successful.


What I found ironic, is most of these entrepreneurs have felt at some point that they were undercharging for the excellent services they provided. Sometimes they sounded bitter and exhausted.


You can’t help people when you’re bitter or exhausted. You have to take care of yourself first.


The help-yourself-first mindset has nothing to do with narcissism or self-absorption. It’s your first step to recognizing your worth. You make that step consciously knowing that by helping yourself you can be of better service to others.


In the small business world, helping yourself means charging enough to help you run your business and support your life goals. You can’t live in the margin and help people. However, if you choose to live in the margin, then you shouldn’t feel bitter about it.


“You can only love others as much as you love yourself.” Brene Brown.



Worth Means Setting Boundaries


“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” ~ Brene Brown


Setting boundaries is a daily exercise. For me, establishing boundaries happens when I take the time to get to know myself, distill the message I want my business to contribute to the world, and the promise I want to give, and stick to what I believe in.


How can I make myself more effective and helpful? Here’re some examples of boundaries I’ve been setting up for my business:


  • Work within my niche.
  • Coach clients who sync with my message.
  • Turn down some requests when the collaboration isn’t a good fit.
  • Unplug my computer and turn my phone off once a week.
  • Choose not to “get together on skype to talk about XYZ.” Usually a 15-minute chat turns into a 50-minute free coaching session. And no, 95% of these people never become clients.
  • Busyness doesn’t define me. I’m glad not to work 9-5.


Now these may sound cruel, but I believe in order to provide our best services we need to define how far we can go. I used to think that the client was always right, and that philosophy made me miserable. Can I be the best coach when I feel miserable?


“My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? … You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?”  ~ Apostle James, the Message.


So I’ve decided to bring my best self to the people who want a transformative experience. For that I need to weed out situations that make me feel less than best. It’s fair for me, and it’s fair for my clients.


Before charging what you're worth you must discover what your worth means. Thank you, @brenebrownClick To Tweet


Worth Means Letting Go of What Others Think


“I can’t charge that much. What will people think?”


Let’s look at what people we are talking about.


Price tags won’t sway your ideal clients. They respect your boundaries and pricing, and they will pay the listed price.


Less-than-ideal clients? Eventually, you’ll weed them out anyway.


Your competition? They will be mad and upset, but only because they wish they could do the same.


Letting go of what others think is an act of courage. Courage isn’t some super-hero super-power. It’s the small things we do every day that tell the world who we really are, not who the world thinks we should be.


The only people whose advice you should heed are those people who earn the right to be heard.


Quoting Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena speech, Brene Brown notes that the people worth listening are those who are in the arena, whose faces are, like yours, “marred by dust and sweat and blood,” and who know what triumph and failure feels like, yet they show up anyway, daring greatly.


Last but not least, the harshest person who says you must never rock the boat because people will think you’re greedy, prideful, salesy, not-XYZ enough, is your inner critic. Listen to him – and you lose. And the world will never know how brave you are.


Take a brave step to build a small and smart business with the skills you have. Join my Smart Teacher’s Library for growth, counsel and support.


Your Action Plan:


This isn’t your typical “charge-what-you’re-worth” post. Instead of giving you a price calculation chart, I wanted you to think deeper about your worth.


One final thing to remember is you’re worthy now. Not when you have a degree or so many years of experience, or a brand-new website, or 6 figures, or a flawless series of videos, or 5 e-books. Unless you realize that you’re worth now, you can’t charge what you’re worth.


So here’re your top takeaways:


  • Practice authenticity. What are some “shoulds” that you hold on to just because some guru said you should? Take time daily to be quiet and get to know your real self, not the “supposed-to-be” self.
  • Take care of yourself. There’s nothing glamorous about working 80 hours a week or eating junk every day just to complete your projects. Go to the gym. Take a walk outside. Read a book while sipping on a coffee. Do some gardening. Sleep.


“We’ve got so much to do and so little time that the idea of spending time doing anything unrelated to the to-do list actually creates stress. … We even convince ourselves that sleep is a terrible use of our time.” Brene Brown.


  • Set boundaries. I have listed some of mine for your inspiration. It wasn’t easy to set them (or share them!), but once I did I felt empowered. Need help with it? Please join my Smart Teacher’s Library for support and counsel.
  • Let go of what others think. The hardest “other one” to shut up is your critic, but you’re not alone. All creatives learn to silence their inner critics so their beautiful work can be seen.


If this is the first time you’ve heard of Brene Brown, I’m excited for you. Yes, I’m excited because your life is about to change in a dramatic way. Please read her books, watch her talks, take her courses.


This post was updated in March, 2021.

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