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Boss Mindset: What Is My Work Worth?

entrepreneur money strategy Dec 01, 2023

When you work for others, you have the luxury (or crutch) of only having compensation conversations with your boss.

Independent workers have to own their worth in a way that people who “work for the man” never have to. Without a corporate “safety net,” solopreneurs must take full ownership of their work and their value in the marketplace. When you’re 100% in charge of the money that facilitates your life and the time it takes to make it, you are forced to think about it differently.

When you are the sole architect of your financial destiny, your relationship with money undergoes a profound shift. Independent workers have to adopt a different mindset that constantly evaluates the intrinsic value of their skills, time, and expertise. As an entrepreneur, finances are not just an aspect of running a business but a central component of a broader, self-directed enterprise that defines and reinforces your worth.

This paradigm shift requires independent workers to approach money strategically and proactively. They must engage in continuous self-assessment, skill development, and market awareness to ensure that they not only get paid what they deserve but are constantly evaluating what they need and their intrinsic value. You have to constantly adjust your pricing strategies to be one step ahead of where you are—driving constant improvement.

Unlike those lulled into complacency by the myth of the stability of a traditional job, independent workers navigate the ebb and flow of market demands, placing a premium on adaptability, innovation, and a nuanced understanding of their value proposition.

The free agency that comes with being an independent worker creates a unique relationship with money – one that demands a heightened awareness of personal worth, a strategic approach to financial negotiations, and an ongoing commitment to professional development. In this ever-evolving landscape, the ability to navigate the intersection of passion, skill, and economic viability becomes a requisite and a defining characteristic of the independent worker's journey.

This is the second blog in a three-part series about Boss Mindset – how to own our work, worth, and wisdom.

Let’s talk about what your work is worth.

Act Like a Business, Price Like a Business

When you work for someone else, you might not even know what they’re actually charging for the end product and how your time fits into it. The larger structure dilutes your time and effort. 

As a business owner, you have to understand everything that goes into running your business and delivering value for your clients. This constantly balances what you need, what you charge, and the overhead that makes your business run.  

Just because you’re a free agent doesn’t mean that you don’t need and deserve the same things that “normal” employees get. When building your pricing structure, you need to consider taxes, insurance, paid time off, and retirement savings. These are not luxuries; they are necessities, and now you’re in charge of making sure you get them because that nice HR lady doesn’t have your back anymore. You might have much lower overhead than a larger company, and so you justify hourly rates that don’t include the costs it takes to run your business of one. A business of one is still a business – your clients need to be paying you like a business.  

A professional business also has overhead. As a solopreneur, your overhead is likely pretty low, but you have to plan for and strategically invest in the infrastructure needed to run a business. Clients can tell when you’re holding everything together with duct tape and bubble gum. This may mean you need to ditch the free Zoom account, the Gmail address, and the Facebook page that serves as your website.

Your infrastructure should always be one step ahead of you in terms of professionalism (a.k.a. dress for the job you want, not the job you have). The trick here is focusing on the pieces necessary to your work and how you need to come off to clients. I’m not saying you overspend on a fancy website if most clients find you through referrals. Still, if your business revolves around Zoom calls and you always have to end at the 45-minute mark because your free account is running out, that doesn’t signal to clients that you're worth professional-level pricing.  

The Rising Tide

Our society has created a stigma around talking openly about money and compensation. That reinforces power structures where people get paid less than they deserve. One stark example is the massive gender pay gap for independent workers.

Your worth is about so much more than money. It comes down to what you need and what the market will give you. You must always balance being fair, competitive in the market, and getting paid top rates for your expertise. That balance isn’t always easy.

Doing your research is the only way to know what your skills are worth.

  • Reach out to other freelancers and ask what they charge. Let me repeat — ASK what they charge, just ask. The worst they can do is not share their pricing.
  • Reference research so you can back up your anecdotal evidence with real numbers.
  • In addition to talking to people in similar roles, find people who hire/manage people in similar positions — this will give you insight into what people are willing to pay, not just what other freelancers are asking for.

Once you know what the market pays for your skillset, check your assumptions about your value. You might be leaning toward asking for less to be competitive, but you should be in line with or ahead of your peers and competitors for two reasons.

  1. If you come in drastically lower, that might raise doubts about the quality of your work.
  2. Determining your worth as a freelancer is not just about putting a price tag on your services; it is about paving the way for every freelancer who comes after you to ask for more…and get it.

Owning your worth as an independent worker is bigger than just your pricing; it is about raising the bar for independent talent.

Money is the Least of It

Freelancing, like life, is a series of thresholds. When you first start, you have to prove to yourself that it can work, and to a certain extent, you haven’t fully committed until you start to see some success.

Once you cross that threshold, you realize that more is possible; whatever your initial reasons for going out on your own, you now know that working for yourself checks many more boxes than just money. Freelancing becomes priceless, not only because there is no longer a limit to the amount of money you can make if you’re willing to work for it, but there’s also no one limiting your freedom to choose what you do, who you do it for, how you do it, where you do it, when you do it…the list goes on and one.

The thresholds from there only lead to progressively higher levels of freedom. When you have your work dialed in, your business infrastructure supporting you, and the data + confidence needed to charge like a business, your clients won’t blink an eye when you charge them top rates. In fact, the best ones will be telling you to charge more.

At that point, there’s nothing anyone could offer you to return to a “normal job” because the possibilities for your personal, professional, and financial growth are endless.

Solopreneurs at this level neither fear nor worship money. In a world that wants us to define our worth solely in financial terms but not talk about money explicitly, we jailbreak wealth; we take back the power to define it for ourselves, demand it, and work relentlessly toward it.

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