5 Reasons Women Don't Charge What They're Worth... and How to Fix It

Businesswomen shaking hands
Businesswomen shaking hands

It's Sunday morning and I am brainstorming with my client Alexandra on the phone about her coaching business. She tells me that she had a great week, lots of people came to her in crisis and she was able to give them life-saving advice. She explained how validating it was to know that she could provide so much value. I ask her how much money she made and she tells me, "Nothing." It was like a truck slamming into a wall. "Nothing?" I ask her, hoping that I misheard her. Then she tells me how much the clients really needed her, how they couldn't afford to pay, how she couldn't just leave them bleeding on the side of the road.

I wish I could say this was the first time that I've heard this from a client but it's not. Every week, I talk to women who are not charging what they are worth -- or not charging at all! We are never going to build sustainable businesses if we don't overcome this insidious obstacle and take accountability for how our choices impact our success. There are many factors out of our control -- like discrimination or gender pay inequality -- but what we charge for our services isn't one of them.

Here are the top five reasons that women don't charge what they are worth and what we can do to fix it.

1. We want to "help" people. Women are natural caregivers. Mom fixes our "boo boo" or makes us dinner and doesn't get compensated for it. So when it comes to charging for those same types of care, we may feel uncomfortable. Our empathy makes us great coaches, therapists, teachers, healers -- but it also makes us vulnerable to giving away the goods for free. I overcame this challenge by implementing a few rules. I never offer my professional services to friends or family members -- I refer them to other qualified practitioners in my network. I work on a sliding scale -- if you are desperate, I will still work with you but at a reduced rate. I make up this loss with my high-end clients. Barter is also a good option. Sometimes you can pay by giving me a haircut or a piece of handmade jewelry. As long as there is an equal exchange of energy, then we will both feel satisfied with the experience.

2. We want to do work that we "love." Loving what I do is an essential part of my work, but just because I love it, doesn't mean that I will give it away. Jessica Alba loves what she does and she's a multi-millionaire. There is a difference between my hobbies and my business. I love sailing but I don't get paid for it. I love coaching -- but coaching is my business and it costs money for me to maintain my website, do marketing, send out newsletters, and so on. Just like you wouldn't keep your sweat pants in the same drawer with your Calvin Klein suit, there has to be a clear line between hobby and work. My advice for women who want to maintain their business passion is to make sure that they separate what they love to do for fun from what they love to do for work. There is no shame in offering your coaching for free, as long as you go out and earn money doing something else.

3. We avoid the numbers. Did you do a P&L for your business last month? Do you even know what a P&L is? I was in my mid-30s before I started taking the financial structure of my business seriously. This is a big mistake. The foundation of our business is money and money is numbers. We have to love money. We have to hug it and kiss it and cuddle up on the couch with it. So many of us carry negative connotations about money. We are scared of it or overwhelmed by it. It is critical that we address our money drama and get support from professionals who can teach us how to make, manage, invest and organize our finances. These numbers will guide us in decision making, demonstrate our strengths and weaknesses, and give us the validation that we need to keep going. Get a money coach if you're stuck. Hire an accountant, a financial advisor, or grab some self-help books and face your fears head-on. We owe it to ourselves to get financially educated.

4. We are insecure. We doubt that we are good enough, smart enough, brave enough, worth enough, and that shows up in our business. A lack of confidence is a huge factor in undervaluing and undercharging for our services. We don't negotiate salaries or contracts. We don't' ask for raises for fear of seeming aggressive or demanding. We don't hire employees and instead try to do it all on our own. We need to pull this weed out by the roots. We need to change our limiting beliefs and raise our self-esteem. I highly recommend support groups -- like the Women in Wellness Group -- because when we can't see the value in ourselves, others can reflect it back to us. Connecting with like-minded people will uplift and empower us. Sometimes we need to borrow confidence until we can build it on our own. There are also a ton of personal growth resources like meditation, affirmations and EFT tapping that will help us break through these blocks and find our inner-badass.

5. We keep going to school. As long as we are still studying in some certification or degree program, we can maintain the mindset that we are just a student and we are not yet qualified to charge for our services. All of the women that I coach have more than enough education and experience to create a successful business -- but they keep signing up for more trainings, spending more money, and neglecting the skills that they already have. This is procrastination disguised as professional development. There is nothing wrong with getting more education. I am always learning and growing but I have to keep building my business at the same time if I want it to survive. If you're not yet making money from the certifications that you have, then stop and figure that out first. Climb out from behind your computer or mobile device and go get some clients. If you're stuck, get a coach or take a course like Women in Wellness Career Training that gives you the sales and marketing experience that you need to be successful.

This is a journey, not a destination. If you have your own business, you are already miles ahead of the people who were too scared to start. Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for everything that you've accomplished -- then put on your big-girl panties and start charging what you're worth. In work and life, we only get what we have the courage to ask for and what we have the comfort to receive.