A few years ago, I was talking about my business with my friend and mentor, "Infoguru Marketing" creator Robert Middleton, who works with independent professionals (check out his generous, and complimentary, informational offerings at actionplan.com). Robert suggested that I start packaging my services to offer more value to my clients as well as to earn more money. "What if your absolute minimum price to any client were $500?" he asked...at which point I literally fell off my chair.
At the time I only offered group workshops and individual sessions of The Work of Byron Katie, the self-inquiry process I facilitate. The workshops are attractively priced in order to allow many people to attend and get a taste of what I offer. A number of attendees go on to hire me privately after experiencing group facilitation with me. However, I had come to the (insane) conclusion that no one should work with me for more than three sessions, since the work I was doing was designed to foster skills that clients would ultimately use on their own.
$500 is not a huge amount of money; many life and business coaches get that much per month from each client they work with, often for years. "But I'm not a coach, or a therapist," I reasoned, "I am an educator. And as such, I am not doing my job if someone still needs me after three sessions."
Translation: "I'm not worthy."
Over the past couple of years I've worked with clients who are dissatisfied with their careers. They aren't making the amount of money they'd like to, they aren't attracting the kinds of clients they'd like to work with, they don't feel fulfilled. What is stopping them? They provide excuses, as I did. Nine times out of ten, when we scratch an excuse (I call excuses "yeahbuts" and "whatifs"), we uncover an underlying belief about unworthiness.
Feelings of unworthiness affect our emotional well-being as well as our business, even for those of us who are incredibly successful. I remember watching a Barbara Walters interview with Barbra Streisand years ago, when Streisand was about to embark on a concert tour where tickets cost upwards of $1000. On a TV show broadcast to millions of people all over the world, Streisand admitted to feeling devastated by her mother's cutting question: "Who would spend $1000 to see you?"
Hundreds of Barbra's fans would, and did, pay that much, and gladly; clearly she's worthy. Why, then, would this question throw a wealthy megastar into publicly confessed self-doubt? Because if they say it, and it hurts, they're right -- but only according to us. "No one can hurt me," Byron Katie says. "That's my job. I do that."
Because I believed I wasn't worthy, my business had to follow the dictates of my mind. I couldn't see clients beyond three sessions because that would have meant, in my convoluted thinking, that I had failed them. What if a client wanted and needed six sessions, or 12, or twice a week for three years? Obviously, they would have had to take their business elsewhere. So, subconsciously, I was banishing my clients and giving my business away to people who had no such self-limiting beliefs.
When I examined my beliefs about my business, I discovered that in attaching to my feelings of unworthiness, I was entirely in my clients' business, deciding for them what they needed and predetermining how much they thought my services were worth. I could never really empower them because I wasn't considering their individual needs. At the same time, I was ignoring my own need to earn a decent living in the name of "shouldn'ts" and "shoulds," "yeahbuts" and "whatifs."
Unquestioned, feelings of unworthiness can run our careers and our lives. Met with understanding through self-inquiry, our fears, doubts and resistances reveal wonderful information about the real world, and its real possibilities for us and our work.
How do you limit yourself with beliefs about your worthiness? Here is an example of self-inquiry on one such belief.
Belief: No one will pay me a minimum of $500.
Is that true? Honestly, I don't know; I haven't tried it in this business yet!
Can you know your clients would be better off if they paid you less? No.
Can you know they'd be better off if they had fewer sessions with you? No. Some people need years of therapy to deal with their issues, for example...and some need just a few visits. Some people take three weeks to heal from surgery, some take three months. One person can learn how to fix a car over a weekend, another requires a six-month course in auto mechanics.
Can you absolutely know that it's true that no one will pay you a minimum of $500? No. As a freelance copywriter I never touched a job for less than $500, no matter how small the assignment, and most of my assignments were in the four figure range. People will pay me handsomely for that, why not for this?
How do you treat your clients when you believe they won't pay you a minimum of $500? I want to impress them with how quick and efficient my services are, how immediately life-changing. I don't gauge their needs and concerns individually; I lump them together as generic "people." I'm entirely in their business, deciding how many sessions they "should" have and what they can afford. I judge them (and myself) if they don't "get it" in three sessions. I don't share my gifts with them; I don't honor their individual processes. I live in fear of their rejection; if I say, "I charge $500," and they say no, it means I charge too much, they can do better elsewhere, they don't value my product, they are stupid, they are cheapskates, etc.
How do you treat yourself? As a spiritual martyr who has to live on a certain amount of money and never aspire to more because this work is my "calling" rather than my business. As a result, I play very small.
What's the worst thing that could happen if you no longer believed this thought? I'd have no clients.
Can you know that? No. Could the opposite be true? Definitely.
Does this thought bring you peace or stress? Stress.
Who would you be without this thought? Clearer about the value I offer my clients. Creative about other services I can provide to them to support them. More available to people, a listener. I would be a sharer of information, not a people-pleaser. I would not feel the need to apologize for my fees. I would trust (and therefore empower) my clients to make their own decisions and take care of their own needs. I would be more connected to my clients and to the people I meet each day who ask me about my business.
I would be worthy.
Turn-arounds: Someone will pay me a minimum of $500. It is truer; some have; knowing better than I what is best for them, they have insisted on more sessions in spite of my "policy" against it. Other clients who have worked with me for only a few sessions have sent me referrals, and so have indirectly paid me more than my "minimum."
Everyone will pay me a minimum of $500. Yes; if this is my minimum price, everyone who works with me will pay it!
I will not pay myself a minimum of $500. Truer. Id I think I don't deserve it, I'll never charge anyone this amount.
My thinking will not pay me a minimum of $500. Yes; even if I actually earn it, until I know this is perfect for my path and that of my clients, I can't accept this money as my due. Case in point: Barbra Streisand, earning $1000 per concert ticket, but believing that her mother's question, "Who would pay $1000 to see you?" (and really, it was only a question) meant she was unworthy.
© 2005 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.