Why Charging What You’re Worth Isn’t the Answer to Earning More

A few years ago, when my business and DailyWorth were both in the toddler phase of development, I wrote an article on this site about learning how to charge vastly more for the work I did. That article was the most widely read article on the site that year.

I felt like a poster child for empowered female business owners.

Women would write to me after reading the article. “I’m going to charge what I’m worth from now on!” they’d say. At first, I celebrated with them. “That’s right, sister! Go get ‘em,” I’d reply.

But then I started to feel a bit uneasy about the whole thing. The emphasis these women seemed to be putting on their rates was less on understanding the value of their work and more on trying to put a number on their own personal transformation. From a business perspective, that’s a mistake.

There are two serious problems with the “Charge What You’re Worth" mantra:

1) You are priceless. Your work is not.
There’s really no way to quantify what “you’re worth” because you can’t measure the value of your precious life. However, skills, products, and services are quantifiable. There’s a going rate. And there is also the ability to raise or lower the going rate depending on how you position those skills, products or services.

When you’re focused on your internal worth instead of the quantifiable worth of your work, you miss an opportunity to get clearer about the results of your work, who it’s for, and why it’s needed. 

2) You’ve made the transaction about you.
Commerce is an exchange. It’s every bit about the person buying as the person selling. How much is a doctor worth without patients? How much is a house worth if no one will buy it? How much is a company worth if the investors all bail? What you make or offer has no value until a customer is willing to purchase it.

How to Shift Your Perspective and Earn More
First, learn about the market — and don’t stop with the parts that make your comfortable. The market in any field is vast. There are always bargain basement options and luxury options. Your work can fall anywhere in that spectrum but you need to really understand what that spectrum is.

What makes the jewelry that sells in high-end boutiques different from the jewelry that sells at Macy’s? What makes the life coaches who charge $10,000 a day different from those who charge $50 per hour? 

It’s not just quality. There are many conscious choices that make up those differences. And depending on the business model, there’s an opportunity to earn a good living all over the full spectrum of the market.

When you’re intentional with the choices you make about your product and how you sell it, you communicate value in a way that allows you to generate more revenue regardless of how much you charge. Three years ago, when I launched my book, “The Art of Earning,” I made a very intentional choice to make the product “Pay What You Want.” While many of my mentors told me I could charge much more for that product, I was confident that this model would work for me. The results were above my wildest expectations; people loved that they could change the price and more people shared the book as a result. I could have gotten people to pay more per copy, but I think allowing for a lower price actually made me more money in the long-run.

Second, focus on the customer’s experience. Today’s market demands that you truly understand who is buying and what they want. Depending on what you learn about your audience, you might tweak the format of your product, how it’s delivered, how it’s positioned or how you communicate about it. The goal is to offer something that feels like the perfect gift for your right people at the right price.

The more you can customize the experience of your product or service for the unique group you want to serve, the more you’ll sell — and, likely, the more you can charge.

Instead of trying to charge what you’re worth, declare your worthiness by making intentional business decisions that set you up to earn more. Choose what’s best for you and your best customers and mold your business to those choices.

Tara Gentile is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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