Avoid the tendency to undervalue yourself
For the last three years, I have been living full-time in the world of make-believe, tantrums, chaos, laughter, spilt milk and unconditional love. All of this I expected. What I did not expect to discover throughout this time at home was my own business ambition, along with an entire network of mompreneurs. All of us trying to find the balance between work and play. Each trying to pursue something that we love while working around our family schedule.
For many of us, motherhood is what sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in the first place. Discovering that you do not want to go back to work after maternity leave certainly has the ability to kick a business plan into high gear. And as a new business owner, it is difficult to strike the balance between building a clientèle and earning a living reflective of one’s time and financial investment. On the one hand, you do not want to charge too much for your service because you are just starting out. On the other hand, undervaluing your worth will not help you succeed.
Many years ago, as an undergraduate of English Literature, I offered my services as a tutor to high school students. Wanting to become an educator at the time, I was determined to gain some experience before applying to teacher’s college. I had never tutored anybody before so figured I would offer my services free-of-charge in order to build a client-base. After distributing some posters, I received a call from a mother who wanted a tutor for her son. She sounded impressed with my educational background but shifted her tone immediately when I told her there would be no fee. As a mother now, I can understand why she would have become suspicious but at the time I was surprised to learn that once I undervalued myself, she lost all confidence in my ability. I was not hired and thus ended by hunt to become a tutor.
Fast-forward ten years and that lesson still applies today in a more grown-up world of business. It is important to conduct an analysis of the market before pricing your services. If you are new, you may not want to value yourself so high that you turn people away; however, you do not want to price yourself too low either.
Even if you manage to gain clients initially despite a very low price (there is always someone looking for the absolute lowest price), you risk getting stuck in a vicious cycle of new clients insisting on the lower price granted to old clients. You decide to honour that agreement because you want the business, thereby creating a loop of referrals and low fees.
There is the argument that more clients, even if at a decreased payout, are better than less clients – but I tend to disagree. Wouldn’t you prefer to work less and make more?
And what about the rest who work for somebody else, whether in the private or public sector. How do they get caught in the trap of undervaluing themselves? By agreeing to work overtime without being compensated (either financially or in time). Sometimes they do not even realize how much overtime they are actually working. How often are you working on your BlackBerry during the bus or train ride home – or worse, at the dinner table? Think about how much you are cheating yourself.
Remember, you teach others how to treat you. Value yourself!