Entrepreneurs and Money Shame

I want to talk about money shame. The perceived shame, along with the inadvertently given shame. Often they are so intertwined.

I will be first to say this article is kinda all over the place. I've always tried to be transparent about my experiences + experiments as a soulful business woman, so here is the next installment of my haphazard business memoirs. :) 

I've taken a lot of trainings from entrepreneurs who teach how to grow and build a business online. Price your work this way; build your mailing list like this; put all your opt-ins over here; do this with these hashtags; funnel your emails—and more. I'm grateful for what I've learned. I've tried to follow the teaching exactly in some areas and follow my own intuition in others. I'm a huge fan of experiments (and talk in depth about it in Dear Artist) with the grace of feeling my way through and adjusting as I go.

Know your value. Price accordingly.

One thing I've seen a lot online, and I'm sure you have too, is this: charge what you're worth! Or, know your value and the value of your work, and price accordingly. (Note: I'm only addressing digital products and services right now; tangible goods are completely different due to the materials involved, cost, time, shipping, and so many other variables.) Along with that, there is often (not always! Just often. *smile*) within the self-help / create-a-life-you-love community a message that if you choose not to purchase their program or invest in their training or coaching, you're not willing to do the deep work needed.

But even worse, if you say “I can't afford it,” it's implied that you are just not worthy to live. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but it doesn't feel far from the truth.

First, know this: I get it...it's hard and vulnerable to do the deep work.

And, I get it...when you are healing from a poverty mentality or lack mindset, it's wise to check-in with yourself and examine where you are coming from. And learn how to shift the language you use to become oriented towards healing and truth.

And, one more thing...We're all trying to make money and create a life doing what we love.

But my truth is? 

Sometimes, I really can't afford it. That's it. I won't apologize anymore. And I don't need the shame that comes along with it, especially when you're offering something I really really really want / need / could use / could change my life. And it breaks my heart to feel or witness subtle condescension, a sense of exclusion, or moral superiority around this, too.

Also, here's the other truth: sometimes my bank account or PayPal account might actually have the numbers you're asking for, but I need to pay my electricity bill or replenish my fridge or fill up my gas tank. And sometimes I need to make other choices for the cash I have, even when I really really really want what you made. Or when I truly cherish you, believe in your work and want nothing more than to support you with a luscious deposit in your bank.

Even if I do everything I can to earn it and save up, sometimes it takes a little time.

So this is a plea to the entrepreneurial communities of brilliant creatives—let's make tenderness a new way to do business. Let's make compassion a core value and agree to rebel against shame or fear-based marketing. I say this because I need it. Please believe the best. Please trust me as I find my way. Trust me when I need to hand my cash over to the IRS instead of you. Please say a little prayer for your people. Please know that I would flood you with abundance if I could—in a heartbeat! Because I believe in you. I believe in what you want to sell me. Believe me—I want to buy it! And I am a wholehearted believer in miracles.

I also know that healing, along with cashflow, doesn't always happen overnight.

It certainly can! But doesn't always.

Healing a lifetime of money stories

It's not a secret that I am recovering from scarcity mentality. I grew up very poor. I've not always made the best financial choices. I've been deeply affected by lack, and I need to stay watchful so that I make choices and use words that align with the blessing and abundance I long for and know is already in my life. I've been working with an incredible guide, Lotus Kruse, who runs a course called Money Love. (Not an affiliate...just truly grateful for the energy Lotus pours into her work and her clients.) She introduced me to the book Money Love which opened with these lines: 

This is a book about loving money. And no. Loving money is not the root of all evil. Evil is the root of all evil. Money just makes evil more evil. But it also makes love more lovely. Generosity more possible. And you, more able to express who you already are.—Meadow Devor, Money Love

Needless to say, it's been quite the experience. So much has been healed—thank God!—but I'm also still living out some of the natural consequences of the past. It's messy. It's uncomfortable. It's stressful and intense. Somedays I think, I just can't handle this. I can't do it. I want out. I feel like such a fragile and messy human, yet at the same time my life blazes with strength and beauty. I am grateful for all of it, and especially for being able to create and offer revolutionary programs that enhance and nourish the lives of others.

I also love connection and giving generously. As a creative entrepreneur, I believe in paying the asking price (or more) for the gorgeous services and programs of my community. I know what goes into designing websites and creating courses and making images that delight and inspire, while also wanting to show up fully, hold space for others, write, create, play, rest, go to the grocery store, attempt to manage stress, manage everything else, take care of yourself or your family, answer emails, return phone calls, process private heartache, be present, do this on social media, take care of that, oh and eat a proper meal...

Whew. It's so much. I see you, beautiful woman. I get it. 

Never assume

As one who works from home and is finding her way navigating all of the above and more, I want to be open and say that it can feel like I'm fumbling through a labyrinth learning how to do it all. Especially finding the sweet spot of pricing for services and offerings. I'm sure we've all heard the golden rule of sales—NEVER ASSUME what others can or can't afford—along with some version of a story that goes like this: Local millionaire runs around the mall in sweat pants and flip flops. Gets ignored by sales girl. Goes next door and drops $6k on face serum.

And the opposite is true. So many who appear completely stable and secure on the outside are hovering on the brink of financial doom. We never know, truly, what goes on behind bright smiles and closed doors. This is why it's important to 1) not make judgements based on everything we see, and 2) make values-based choices for our work and our lives.

When it comes to money, what are my values? How do I want to show up in the world? What do I want to offer? What kind of “business experience” do I want my clients to have? As an INFP, I'm both idealistic and intuitive. For those interested in psychology, this would be an intriguing study. My inner idealism wants to run my business on the dreamy beliefs that everything will be okay and I will never be taken advantage of. My intuition (and experience) knows this is not true, so it's important for me to have healthy boundaries and strategies. And then the mystic in me says, “Why not both!?” 

Why not both?

As a soulful entrepreneur, I've always wanted to create offerings from a place of love and gleaming service. I believe it's possible to make a difference for others while also creating a sustainable life for myself, so I've never wanted to offer anything out of desperation. I don't use scarcity or shame to sell my products. If you ever see something like “Only X spots available” on my coaching sessions or one-on-ones, it's because I want to be fully present for my clients and that's the space, energy, and time I have to give.

But with all that is going on in my personal life right now, I felt the pressure intensely. And the inspiration for Dear Artist, which had been slumbering in my subconscious for awhile, gently woke up. Okay, I thought. I can create this course, make it bigger and better than anything I've ever done. I will pack it with insane value. Almost everyone has, or wants, a meaningful creative life. This way I can help people and then I can pay off my taxes. Win win. 

My first goal was to use Dear Artist to pay off taxes. So I could avoid being penalized further, I made a deal with the Internal Revenue Service to pay them by a certain date. I took this urgency and got to work. I planned out my program carefully, started creating, and set intentional prices I felt good about. But in the back of my mind lurked a worried thought: even when you sell this course for past taxes, remember you'll need to pay future taxes on the program itself. So you need to sell even more. (For those who don't know, self-employed people like me pay roughly 25-30% taxes which includes our own social security tax, income tax, etc.) So I was looking at paying taxes for something I was selling to pay taxes, which felt a little meta and overwhelming, to be honest. But I kept going because this is the life I've chosen and this is what I do.

Over the course of this very wild summer, through a series of miracles, I've unexpectedly gotten all but the last $1k of my taxes paid. With non-taxable income. Let me repeat that. Dear Artist hasn't paid for a single dollar of my past taxes. Neither has my business or my husband's job. But all except for the last $1025, give or take a couple dollars for interest, has been paid. And I still have over a month before my deadline.

I'm crying as I write this. I feel like I've been shown grace and tenderly reminded that you, dear ones, clients & readers, you are not my Source. I can take pressure off of you to take care of me. Yes, I believe in value and energy and investment and sacred boundaries and all of that. But as our money itself reminds us, In God We Trust. And it's this trust I need more of.  

Know your values. Price accordingly.

So I've chosen to take a fresh look at my pricing for all of my digital products and one-on-one services. I want to price my work according to my values, rather than my value. I know that what I create is valuable to the right people. But prices are relative. Value is relative. (And also? To put a price tag on your worth is an insult to your gleaming soul.) What my work is worth to one person might be different to someone else—or even to me. 

But if I know my values and price my work that way...?

If trust is an intrinsic value, how would I show up differently? What would I charge for my offerings? It could go both ways ... I could lower my prices and trust that my needs will be met regardless. Or I could raise them and trust that the right people will find ways to pay it. 

If ease, relief, blessing, compassion and tenderness are intrinsic values, would I want my people struggling to come up with the cash? Would I want them going into debt? Would I want them stressing out over having to justify why they chose to purchase my work? On the other hand, I know the value of sacrifice. Of intentional investment. But if freedom is an intrinsic value, do I want to be the debt police? Or the one who decides what is or isn't the right amount of investment? Why would I project my own past mindset onto others? Or why would I assume it's going to be a struggle?

If belief is an intrinsic value, do I want to believe that when someone chooses to buy my work, they created a hardship for themselves? Or believe in them to make empowered financial decisions? Do I believe that I am taken care of and that my people and my work are not my ultimate source?

If self-care and sacred boundaries are values, how do I place a gentle hand on my work and say, “I will protect you. I will nurture you. I want you to thrive?” How do I ensure that I'm cherishing my own energy and not depleting myself by giving out resources I don't have?

How would truly walking through these values transform the way I do business and how I price my work? I don't think there's a right or wrong number. In this case it's about me and my heart. How do I feel in my body? When I create values-based pricing, do I feel resentment or relief? A sagging spirit or a thrill? How can I give the kind of abundance I long for in my life? Am I in alignment with what I believe? 

What I want for you

I want to offer you unexpected delight. I want you to feel relief. I want you to light up inside and think “YES! I can afford this!” I want working with me to bring you joy. I want to make my work as accessible as I can while setting prices that still bring peace to me as I seek to live the trust I claim. I want you to make mindful, guilt-free choices with how you invest your money and if there is something I offer that you want or need, I want you to feel peaceful and pure as you make your transaction. 

Money is energy. I'm not sure where I first heard it, but I read somewhere that money energy ebbs and flows just like all the others. I believe this. And I want to invite a sense of fluidity into my business and root into deeper truths that do not waver, even when I do. With intention and trust, I've opened my own [abundance] ceiling and I'm letting the stars spill in. I believe trust is powerful antidote for shame, and so for this season in my life I'm choosing to walk it out this way. This is my sacred rebellion against some of the “shoulds” of online business as well as the subconscious atmosphere of shame and sanctimony towards those who are having a hard time and just really need a break. 

xo, hil
Hillary McFarland