About eighteen years ago, I accepted a position for a job at a hot NYC ad agency. It was my fourth official job (third city) after advertising school. I had a kick-ass portfolio, great experience and was really hungry. What I didn’t have was guidance on salary negotiation so I did what a lot of naive people in that situation do—just asked for a little more (in this case 5K more). I didn’t consider the cost of living compared to where I had been, I didn’t consider what experience I was bringing. I didn’t know my worth. The person who would become my boss, offered me an additional 5K on top of what I was asking and threw in an air conditioner (the brownstone I was renting was really HOT). I was over the moon. I thought to myself "WOW, they really have my back." What I discovered almost a year later was the next closest person to me in salary (working on the same projects as I) was making 40k more.
Seven years ago, I was invited to speak to a large group. I was thrilled with the opportunity because I was just starting my speaking career. I prepped for the event and nailed it. Afterward, people gathered to get more information about me, tell me how much they enjoyed my talk and a few even asked for my autograph. But when it was time to leave, I headed out to my car (about 10pm) started the engine and realized that I was way past red (EMPTY)—and I had no money. I had been the star of the evening and was practically stuck.
About four years ago, I walked a new client out to her car. As I watched her get into the latest model from Mercedes and head off on an extended vacation to Europe, I was struck by the irony that I let her talk me out of paying me my full fees because “she didn’t have it.” However, to add insult to injury, right as she was driving off, I was getting an alert from my cell phone that they were about to cut it off.
I have dealt with SELF-WORTH issues my entire career. And most of my life, I had no idea. I’ve always been confident, self-assured and out-spoken. What I didn’t recognize is that those characteristics have absolutely nothing to do with how one feels about themselves and what they are willing to accept. In fact, I’ve discovered during the past eight years of coaching and running a business with a 90% clientele of senior executive women and entrepreneurs is that education, experience, titles, money and even ivy-league degrees have absolutely nothing to do with how someone sees themselves. And often the “dopest” people are the ones who under-value themselves.
I know what it is like to be a BEAST and see a kitten. I know what it is like to ask for less, compromise and under-value what I bring to the table. And I am not alone.
We each have a “super-power.” A particular skill-set that comes to us effortlessly and when we are engaged in it at our highest capacity, not only is it game-changing, there is no such things as competition. But here is the crux. Often, when something comes that effortlessly, it is very easy to be under-valued (by ourselves and others). We convince ourselves it isn’t a “super-power” at all. How could it be, it comes so quickly? Can’t everyone do it? Isn’t really worth all that we think it is?
Therefore, we downplay this skill. We allow others to ‘talk us out of our fees.” We shrink and take smaller and safer opportunities. We give our talent away freely, all the while chipping away at our self-worth, because as a God-given talent not being honored, we feel internally conflicted.
Do you know how many businesses and lives I have changes in 3 minutes or less? (Ask around). The truth is (like all of you), my talent is so Dope, that I can connect dots for you that you didn't even know existed before you finish reciting the alphabet. But because I couldn't "put a label" on what my gift was, I hard a hard time valuing it.
I remember reading a parable about an oil company in Texas. The drill they had got stuck in the cement. They called contractor after contractor to fix it. Nobody could. Finally, they called someone in a from a nearby town. He arrived, walked over took a look, bent down and stared at it and said, "ok, no problem.” He fixed it in 45 seconds. He then handed them a bill for 1K. They were incredulous, “whoa, you couldn't possibly think you are going to charge us that much money…you were here less than a minute.” He said, “oh, my mistake.” He took it back and scribbled something down on it and handed it back to them and said, "I should have explained myself."
$1 for labor
$999 for knowing what do to.
The bottom line is, I know what to do. And so do you. Let's start acting like it and charging for it.
But if you are looking for support, tips, tools and strategies, visit
Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the CEO at Brand id Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Elevation + Branding agency. She and her team help senior-level executives and small business CEO's leverage their subject matter expertise to build their visibility, credibility, influence and impact within their industry. For more information about their services, go to PersonalElevation.com