When I first started working for myself, I would feel guilty that I wasn’t doing it “right.” I was home with my then one-year-old son, working part-time trying to grow my writing business and feeling guilty that other people I knew were putting in 40-plus hours a week.
In fact, I thought there was something wrong with me. That if I didn’t put in the “right” amount of hours, or grinding all day, the money I earned didn’t count. Of course, that’s not true, but emotionally, I couldn’t detach myself from believing it.
I also felt absolutely no joy around my money because I would guilt myself out of spending any purchase that wasn’t for my family. Case in point: I saw a used book at my local bookstore I had my eye on for a while. I couldn’t bring myself to spend the $10, nor the $5 on a latte so I could sit at their outdoor patio to enjoy said book. Looking back, I can’t believe I told myself I didn’t deserve to spend $10 for the pure joy of it.
And surprise: I burnt out. I ended up working 10-12 hour days around taking care of my son so that I felt I was operating a real business. I never spent money on myself for the first year I was a full-time writer. In fact, I barely paid for much-needed child care because I told myself I didn’t need it.
Let my story be a lesson for you: you deserve to make money any way you see fit.
Questioning the messages society tells you
Maybe you’ve been following a bunch of influencers on Instagram or read through tons of online business websites about the hustle culture. You know what I’m talking about: the intense morning routines and work schedules where they wake up at 5 am and work until the sun goes down.
Or maybe you’ve heard that you need to cram every waking hour with productivity hacks. Listening to podcasts about how you can earn more while you take your daily walks. Or work through the weekends and hold off on any social events until you’ve “made it.” Or how the only way you can be successful in your career is to sell online courses, or charge tens of thousands of dollars for consulting services. The list goes on.
While there is something to be said about working a bit more to get your career off the ground, it’s not the only solution. What if you have a young child and want to work part-time? Or you cherish your weekends and spending time with friends? Does that mean you can’t be there for them and grow your income?
Speaking of income, let’s talk about that too. Why can’t women earn as much (if not more) than men? Do we not have the potential to hone in on our skills and charge handsomely for it?
I get that it can feel discouraging to read statistics out there about how women continually make less money. I really do. That’s why it’s especially important to show others that women can carve out a career that they feel good about and one that earns them the amount of money to lead a comfortable life.
It’s just as much about your life as it is about paving the way for others — yes, you can indeed motivate other women to take charge of their careers.
It’s all about value
So how did I go from working 10 to 12 hours days, to working 25 hours a week and earning almost three times as much? The simple answer was that I saw the work I did in terms of value, not by how many hours I worked.
Think about it: would your customer or client care about how many hours you spent creating a great product or service, or that it was of the best quality possible? If you’re able to provide something that helps make someone’s life easier or that’s exactly what they want, that’s all that matters.
For me, my clients don’t care how many hours I work, as long as I provide high quality work on time and be responsive to edits I may have to make. That’s it. Whether I spend one or five hours writing is on me. I knew if I wanted to free up my time to spend with my son, get some much needed rest, I can. It took a lot of work to believe that my business should work around me and that it’s ok to make money working less hours.
You can make money selling crochet cats if you want to.
You can work as many hours as you want and grow your business at the pace you see fit.
Yes, you can automate some of your business tasks if it means you can take weekends off.
Don’t diminish your awesomeness — you’ve got plenty of value to offer. Let those who want to pay you, pay you.
How You Can Start Believing You Deserve to Earn Money
I’m sure you know by now that your brain can believe one thing but your heart believes another. Shifting your mindset to one where you believe you can earn money that works for you will take time (it took me years, so you’re not alone!).
To start, use some of these journaling prompts to get you thinking about what drives your beliefs and how you can change them. Use these as a springboard to take action, whether that’s finally launching, growing or scaling your business.
- What’s a purchase I could have made but told myself no, even though I can afford it? Why didn’t I give yourself permission to buy it? What were the beliefs running through my head at the time?
- What’s the best money I’ve spent on my business? What were some of the tangible benefits I’ve received and how can I build on that momentum?
- If I truly believed I felt worthy about earning money however I want, what would I do?
- Why do I want to start (or grow) my business?
- What do I believe to be true about my business and its potential to earn money?
- What’s one thing I would do today if I knew my business couldn’t fail?
- What is my dream business or job? What do I currently have in place that ticks off those boxes?
- What stresses me the most about earning money? Why?
- If I felt confident about earning money, what are some things I would no longer do?
- Who are some people that can provide me emotional support as I work on my business?
- Who are some mentors I look up to that can help me in my business using shame-free tactics?
Of course, there are plenty of other questions you can ask, but this list should get you started. Don’t get caught up in how you have to journal: I like to write notes there on my phone, and other business friends have mentioned recording voice messages to get their thoughts down.
You can even take it one step further and invite a group of women together to answer and share their answers. Doing so can help everyone feel less alone and hopefully find the support they need.
You’re allowed to make money any way you see fit
If the message isn’t already clear, here it is again: you can earn and enjoy your money however you want. There isn’t a right or wrong way to start and grow a business. Whether it’s charging flat rates for client work, incorporating software to promote your online courses, or signing up for a platform like Etsy to sell your handmade products, you have a right to take up space in the entrepreneurial world.
Now go get ‘em tiger.
Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer and a candidate for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Financial Planning Association, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and Redbook. She’s the host of Beyond The Dollar, where her and her guests have deep and honest conversations about money affects their well-being, and Podcasting Q&A, a branded podcast from Buzzsprout.