So last night I sent an email to all my clients, basically letting them no that I can no longer solve every problem and answer every question for free. And then I got really depressed about it like a dork.
You see, ever since I started my business, I’ve provided endless support for every project I’ve ever completed. In the beginning when I only had a few clients, that was no big deal. But as my business has grown (and boy has it grown!) there simply isn’t enough time in a day, and every minute I spend providing free support is time that I’m not earning money.
Everyone tells me I shouldn’t feel guilty. I’m providing a service (that happens to be my sole source of income) and I deserve to be compensated for the work I do. And in my head that makes perfect sense. In practice, though, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
What is My Malfunction?
I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what troubles me when it comes to making money. I enjoy food (a lot), and I love having electricity and clothing and a place to live. I like to save money for Apple products and Jayden’s blasted Minecraft server fees (which is a whole other post). So why do I have such a problem exchanging products and services for money so that I can afford those things?
I love doing things for other people, and I’m not the type of person to keep score or freak out if someone owes me five dollars. I’ve always believed that I should help people when I can as long as it doesn’t prevent me from meeting my own needs. So I think that’s a big part of the issue – I feel like I should do things because I can and because it’s the nice thing to do.
Also, being self-employed is totally different from working for someone else. When you work a “real” job, you really don’t discuss pay once you’ve received your job offer (unless you’re in a field that offers bonuses or raises – I never had that joy personally but I hear it’s nice). You show up for work, you receive a direct deposit on a set schedule, and you don’t really mention it to anyone.
But just imagine how it would feel to go to your boss every other Friday and say, “I need you to pay me now.” Awkward and uncomfortable, right? That’s exactly what I deal with on a regular basis. I hate asking people for money. I hate that feeling of having to justify my work when I get finished.
The Challenge: Stop Being a Dork
One of my goals (gulp) for 2013 is to stop being so stupid about earning a living. And it’s going to be a tough one.
The fact is, I work very hard. Yesterday I was in front of my computer from 8:30 in the morning until about 1:30 this morning – on a Sunday. And my workday will start again around 7 AM, minus some time to get Jayden to school. That’s a pretty normal day for me.
So no more freebies. I’m forcing myself to feel okay about the fact that I emailed my clients and asked them to pay me for what I do. It still feels really tacky, but it’s part of it.
And no more mega discounts. I’m really bad about preparing a quote, then discounting it by 25 or 35 or 40 percent because I feel bad charging a fair rate for my work. Sometimes a discount is warranted, but not every time, and I’ve got to learn the difference.
I’m going to stop working so much, too. I’m a little less than two weeks from my first quit-o-versary. I estimate that I’ve worked close to 4,500 hours since I became self-employed. And if I divide that by my income so far this year, let’s just say that sweatshop workers probably wouldn’t trade places with me. In 2013, I’m going to take at LEAST one day off every week to do normal things like clean my messy house and hang out with my child. Oh, and read – once upon a time I loved to read.
I’m going to need some help with this! All this stuff sounds great when I’m exhausted after a grueling day at my desk, but it’s not going to be easy in practice. And that’s where I need all my friends who read this blog – the ones I used to talk to and hang out with before I became a workaholic – to keep me accountable. Make me take breaks! Force me to ask for what I’m worth! Seriously, I welcome assistance with this because it’s hard as hell.
Anyway, I’m all done whining now. I know many of you aren’t self-employed, but have you ever had a hard time asking for what you’re worth? How did you get past it?