I have been meaning to write this for a while.
This week I had a couple of conversations both online and in real life, which finally gave me the impetus to write it
I have 4 hats: doula, antenatal and postnatal educator, babywearing instructor and healer, and therefore interact with a lot of people in these fields.
Every single of these professions involves nurturing others.
Many of my colleagues find it difficult to charge for what their services are worth.
I see a lot of guilt around money, I see people not valueing themselves and the amazing work they do.
So if you’re a doula, a babywearing instructor, an antenatal or postnatal educator, a healer, or work in a profession that involves giving a lot of yourself and you find it hard to charge for your services, please read on, because this is important.
First I would like you to ask yourself: why am I doing this?
Set some time aside and really think about what motivates you to do this, what is the drive behind your decision to pursue this job.
Chances is you aren’t in it to make big bucks, but because you care deeply about people and you want to help change the world.
I find that most people who choose this field don’t usually do it because of the earning potential! (and I should know because I left a prestigious and lucrative 20 years long career in scientific research to do this myself and I sure as hell didn’t do it for the money).
But there is a sneaky, underlying unspoken implication somewhere that if you have a job that you love and that you find completely fulfilling, somehow it’s not OK to earn money from it.
This is just wrong.
To make an analogy, my brother is a professional musician. Artists often gets asked to do things for free, or for “the exposure” or because people don’t see their work as “work” they think they are just having fun so shouldn’t expect to be paid for it. This is bullshit. This article explains it well
Next, I would also like to invite you to think deeply about the underlying reasons behind why you feel that you can’t charge a decent amount for your work.
I can’t answer for everybody because it’s a very individual thing.
What I can tell you is that I consider myself to have fairly good self esteem , but when I started as a babywearing instructor 7 years ago, I had massive impostor syndrome (I’ve blogged about this topic here ), and even though I had spent quite a lot of time and money training and buying equipment, I still felt embarrassed to ask for money for my work.
When you think about it, it is ridiculous.
I had spent well over £1500 on training, equipment and insurance (I since went on 2 more training courses, and bought many many other slings and dolls but that’s another story), and many hours reading and researching stuff, and yet there I was thinking I was a fraud.
It really does add up, by the way, I invite you to sit down and do the sums for yourself too, because it helped me value what I did more.
You may find that deep down, the issue is that you don’t value yourself and what you do enough (the impostor syndrome again), and that this is a major block to feeling that your services aren’t worth anything.
I haven’t got a magic bullet answer to this, but I found that writing down what I do when I support people helped me realise that I do A LOT, including things that I didn’t even realised I did, because when you’re good at something, you just do it and find it easy and don’t tend to even realise that it’s a skill and you are doing it, and doing it well at that.
I also found asking for feedback from clients went a long way to help me realise the value of what I do. I keep a file in which I copy and paste ALL the positive feedback I get from clients (and yes I ask for feedback and testimonials because most of the time I wouldn’t get it otherwise). Reading the file really lifts me up when I’m low or doubting myself!
Finally, comparing your prices to local practitioners offering similar services (say, bodyworkers like massage therapists or osteopaths), also goes a long way in realising that many of us do not charge enough money for what we do.
But that’s not the most important message here. This is:
Why do you owe it to yourself and your community to earn a decent living out of your passion?
So, and keeping your “why” in mind, I would like to invite you to think about what’s going to happen if you can’t support yourself and your family and earn a living out of it.
Ultimately, if you can’t afford to earn a living out of your craft, chances are, you won’t be able to keep doing it.
So your amazing service may disappear, and you won’t be able to serve your community anymore.
If you think about it this way: charging a reasonable fee isn’t selfish, it is something you owe it to your community so you can keep doing it.
Finally, and we’re coming back to the “artists shouldn’t do it for free” topic-if you don’t charge for your work, you are also doing other workers in your community a disservice because you are contributing to the idea that this service should be available for free.
Most of the professions I’m in at quite new, in the sense that few people have heard of them (this is particularly true for babywearing, which didn’t exist as a formal profession in the UK until 2011).
So whilst people expect to pay a hairdresser or a plumber (because these are recognised professions and people know their value), they can be puzzled at having to pay for something they haven’t heard about, and therefore do not know of its value.
By charging a reasonable price for your work, you are also helping the community value your work and build up its reputation, because people tend to value more what they pay for. I really like this article by Selena Rezvani, and these quotes in particular:
” As women, whether entrepreneurs, corporettes, or community leaders, we often expect our fellow sisters to do a task for some unclear or nonexistent future benefit.”
“Whatever the reason, if you are asked to pitch in your research, skills, or accumulated experience without some type of compensation now or in the future, I hope you will consider the request very carefully, with a bent toward saying “no.”
“If you have a problem asking for compensation, realize that the effect of not getting paid extends beyond you. If I give a speech to a student-run college club of women for example, and I tell them my expertise costs nothing, what am I teaching them about themselves? What am I saying about how they should conduct themselves in the future or estimate their own worth? Of course, I’m not talking about charity and pro bono type work, which is an exception; I am talking about freely giving away our expertise that we’ve worked hard to build. “
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with volunteering by the way, because drop-ins do amazing work in the community, and I also believe that the people who cannot afford support services often need it the most.
But I have also seen too many of my colleagues giving discounts to people who earn way more than they do, and that’s just wrong (interestingly it is rarely the people who can’t afford services who haggle prices down).
I’m also not saying that you can’t offer your services for a discount or even for free when someone cannot afford it and you feel drawn to helping them. I also love skills swaps and bartering.
But by all means, make sure you do it for the right reasons and not at the expense of your wellbeing.
I’ve heard people say “I feel I can charge for my one to one work because I volunteer at this free drop-in”.
You don’t have to justify your prices. It’s OK to charge AND it’s OK to volunteer. But you don’t HAVE to volunteer in order to charge for your work.
You owe it to both yourself and your community to charge a decent price for the amazing supportive, life saving, community building work that you do.