Survival as a Solopreneur: 7 Toughest Things About Working Alone — and How to Conquer Them

By: Laura Gayle

No more strict hours or stuffy business attire: You are your own boss and can adhere to any schedule and dress code you want. Creating your own company and working alone certainly has some enticing perks, but there are also some risks. Pay can fluctuate, and taxes become more complex. Often even the lack of company-backed benefits can seem too daunting for many women to strike out on their own. With careful planning and strict budgeting, though, many women are able to take on the solopreneur life and happily live out their dreams.

I Think I’m Alone Now…

It can be fun working alone for the first week, maybe even the first month, but eventually the loneliness may start to set in. Not having a co-worker to break up the monotony of the day can be difficult. It helps to have friends at work to discuss ideas, share successes, or even just commiserate about life. 

Working alone can be lonely at times, but there are ways to help keep you connected. Keep your existing friendships strong and rely on them to help keep your day moving. Branch out and meet new people, maybe even other women who work alone and understand what you’re going through. If it’s possible in your home, having a pet can help keep the loneliness at bay; a furry friend is still someone to pass the time with.

Fluctuating Income

When you first start out, it might seem that all of your money is going out, with very little return. But if you believe you have a good service or product and believe in what you are doing, this will eventually change.

When money does come in, though, it may not be steady, and your financial picture might look like feast or famine. Expect large sums to come all at once for a big order, and then a meager trickling of income at other times. It can be hard to maintain your normal lifestyle with an unpredictable paycheck. 

This is when your saving and budgeting savvy needs to go into overdrive. Always stick to a budget and make sure you have enough in savings to get you through the slower times. Early on in your company’s life, try to avoid large personal purchases, if possible, to maintain your savings safety net.

Missing Those Big Corporate Benefits

One of the perks of working for a big corporation is that the company helps to fund employee benefits. Whether it’s healthcare coverage, a short-term disability program, or company-funded retirement plan, benefits offered by big corporations can really add up. When you’re working as a solopreneur, suddenly you’re responsible for footing the bill — and costs can stack up quickly. 

Shop around for the best health insurance package that suits your needs. Healthcare companies are incredibly competitive and want to work with you in finding the right coverage. Start your own IRA or 401K to help set aside retirement funds on your own. You may not get the benefit of a company match, but at least you’ll have the beginnings of a nest egg for retirement.

Keeper of Secrets

Your entire business plan is at your own fingertips, which is both exciting and terrifying. Be sure to keep your company's secrets, documentation, and precious client information both safe and accessible. Utilizing cloud storage is the perfect way to have documents available at a moment's notice, but also keep them safe from prying eyes. Cloud storage can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world with just a simple internet connection.

Relocating Your Office

Working for yourself, you have the luxury of setting up your new office anywhere in the world. You are no longer tied to a corporate office that must stay within your 30-minute commute time. Select your new city carefully, as it could offer some major benefits to your company and your bottom line. Some up-and-coming cities, like Kansas City, for example, boast short commute times coupled with low monthly rent. This combination represents a desirable climate for many first-time business owners.

High Startup Costs

You've laid the groundwork and have a solid plan for executing your own startup. You know how much initial costs will be, down to the penny. Good for you! Unfortunately, starting and owning your company can come with some hidden expenses that can drive the cost of starting your own company even higher. 

Simple things like having a desk big enough to spread out your work or finding tech help when your computer crashes can cost you a hefty and surprising chunk. Be sure to maintain a cushion to pay for such unexpected expenses, and remember to keep all your receipts for possible tax deductions at the end of the year.

Self-Employment Taxes

Yes, starting a business is expensive, with hefty overhead costs. Luckily, a good portion of what you spend on your business may be tax-deductible. The federal tax code allows numerous deductions that people starting their own business or working from home are entitled to take. Furniture, office supplies, computers, or communication services, like the monthly costs of phone and internet, can ultimately be deducted. Calculating tax deductions for your end-of-year return can be complicated, though, so it’s best to use an online service to keep you organized. Tax calculators can help give you an idea of what is and isn’t deductible, and can help you predict what your year-end payment (or refund) might be.


Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of the Business Woman Guide, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.

How 'Nice-Lady' Negotiating Saved Me $4,300 in a Year

By: Jill Beirne Davi


After a recent hospital stay, I opened one of dozens of health care-related bills and found one for $21.47 for the TV and phone in my hospital room. I never used the phone. I never used the TV. Yet here was this bill — one that my health insurance would not be covering — telling me I owed money for a service I never used.

Now most people would get on the phone right away to dispute this error, but I hesitated. As an agreeable people-pleaser, calling to disagree felt scary. Deep down, I was terrified of the word ‘no’ — both hearing and saying it.

I’d think: It’s hopeless anyway; they’re just going to tell me I have to pay. And then I’d rationalize not calling by telling myself it was “only $20,” or whatever the bill amount was. If the bill in question was higher, sometimes I just wouldn’t even pay it.

Every once in a while, I’d get up the confidence to call. But at the first sign of disagreement, I’d panic and hang up — and then send in the payment.

As my financial life became more complex with a mortgage and two kids, I realized my shut-up-and-pay (or not pay) strategy couldn’t continue. Those smaller charges were adding up. And the larger ones I ignored were hurting my credit when those bills went to collection. I knew I needed to find another way.

Inspiration came in the form of my two-year-old daughter negotiating over school clothes. I realized she was a pro in this delicate art form: pleasant, curious and dogged in the pursuit of her own happiness, despite hearing several "no’s" from her mama. I could learn a thing or two.

And then it hit me: Instead of perceiving the person on the other end of the phone as an enemy, I would approach them as a collaborator — someone who could answer my questions and help me get what I wanted.

So, back to the hospital bill.

Calling with no plan was the old Jill. This time, I took 10 minutes and did my research. I called the insurance company first. Then I wrote down exactly what I wanted the outcome to be. Finally, I wrote down in big letters, “What if they say no?” and scribbled some thoughts about what I’d say next.

Prepared, I picked up the phone and pleasantly introduced myself. The man on the other end sounded like he’d had a long day. I detected annoyance. Bad start, but I forged ahead. After calmly explaining my situation, I asked how I should proceed. He reminded me that my insurance didn’t cover this and explained it was a separate service.

I paused. This is normally when I’d agree and hang up. I looked at my notes and asked a question instead: “I don’t remember signing up for these services. Would you be able to send me a copy of the document I signed that said I authorized those charges?”

“Ma’am,” he replied,” you are automatically enrolled in the services and should have received a document in the hospital for you to sign if you wanted to opt out.”

Bingo! This new information gave me just the leverage I needed. I explained: “I never received paperwork to opt out. I was never given the opportunity to decline these services. What should I do next?”

He responded, in a huff, “Ma’am, did you use the TV or phone in your room or not?”

“I did not,” I calmly replied, ignoring his tone.

There was a long pause, during which I made sure to stay quiet. He came back and agreed to give me a one-time credit for the bill.

I thanked him, hung up and broke out in a happy dance. I couldn't believe it! The amount was irrelevant; this was a breakthrough moment. Since then, I’ve gone from timid bill accepter to expert nice-lady negotiator. In the past year alone I saved over $4,300 in fees, discounts, health insurance copays and incorrect charges by having the courage to get on the phone and negotiate. Want to do the same? Here are my tips for getting the outcome you want:

Have a written plan. If you usually get flustered on the phone, don’t wing it — be prepared. Before each call, write down the exact outcome you’re seeking and how you hope to get there, including possible roadblocks and how you can get around them. It’s important to have something (anything!) to say when your emotions get rattled.

Get your facts straight. Knowledge is power in this situation, so keep all documentation of bills sent to you, have specific dates ready and always read the fine print on any policies so you can speak intelligently and confidently on the phone.

Ask open-ended questions. Before a call, write down 10 questions you could ask the person on the phone. This can help move the conversation forward when you may otherwise feel stuck.

Be neutral and pleasant in your tone. If you’re angry or upset about a bill, give yourself some time to calm down before reaching for the phone. I used to think I had to turn into a jerk to get my way, but in my experience I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Being pleasant, making a connection or even cracking a joke can help grease the wheels between you and the rep.

Have a plan for a no. Instead of fearing an initial "no," learn to embrace it. Don’t be discouraged — just keep asking questions until you can find a creative way around it.

This article originally appeared on

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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit 

I used to let people walk all over me at work — until I learned how I could use my niceness to my advantage

By: Jill Beirne Davi

'Niceness' can be a helpful tool in a negotiation.  Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution License

'Niceness' can be a helpful tool in a negotiation. Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution License

Nice people can find it challenging to successfully negotiate a business deal.

For 'nice' people who tend to let others take advantage of them, it is essential to prepare for negotiations.

Using 'nice' qualities can actually be helpful: By behaving pleasantly and positively, your opposition is more likely to soften and follow your lead.

For us sensitive, "too-nice" types, negotiation can be a nasty word.

At least for me, it was.

Sure I talked a good game, but when it really came down to negotiation on my own behalf for what I wanted, I possessed a terrible habit of rolling over and letting the other party win. My ears burned hot red at the hint of confrontation. Even though it was "just business," negotiation always felt personal. I didn't want to anger anyone and I believed pushing back meant I'd ruin the relationship.

But you can't go through life, letting people take advantage of you. Especially when you run your own business. As business owner and consultant, I knew I needed new tools to help me deal with the uncomfortable scenarios all business owners eventually face:

Situations like:

What to do when a client is late on payments?

What to do when a client wants to change the terms of the contract?

How to ask for better terms from vendors?

Things are going well in a conversation with a potential client — until you start talking about your fee. What do you next do to seal the deal when things are feeling tense? What to do when a client won't take the suggestions you know they need to be successful?

I've learned from running my own business that negotiation is an essential skill I needed in order to survive. So, I devoured everything I could on the subject (even the out-of-print, hard to find books) and started practicing on low-stakes events.

My first real win had nothing to do with business, but it was great practice. It came when it was time to order my daughter's birth certificate. I called the government office and they told me to send $25 in cash (!) with a pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelope. Once received, they'd send me a copy. I followed the directions to the letter.

3 weeks, no certificate.

So I called again. The woman told me they received my request and sent it out already. When I told her I hadn't received it, she said my only option was to re-send the money and try again. I hung up the phone and instantly realized: I could get angry, I could roll over and send the money, or I could negotiate. I decided to do some prep work, call her back and negotiate. In the end, she sent me a new certificate free of charge, (happily I might add).

After that small win, I was hooked and reached for higher stakes. I raised my consulting fees, negotiated with vendors (saving myself over $4300 in just three months), and started landing new clients reaching out to cold contacts using my new found negotiation skills.

Here's how I did it

This is the exact 5 step blueprint I use now before entering into any negotiation — without being aggressive or rude.

1.      You must realize you're in a negotiation. This is the hardest part, in my opinion. If you don't know you're negotiating, you will start to take things personally.

2.     Have a written plan before you begin the negotiation. Don't wing it! Be prepared. Before each interaction, write down the exact outcome you're seeking. If you're a sensitive or naturally agreeable person, it's important to have something (anything!) to say in response when your emotions get rattled.

3.     Ask open-ended questions. Some people, like me, were raised not to ask questions which makes this step seem impolite. However, questions are the only way to unlock the information that can help you get what you want. Before a negotiation, write ten questions you could ask the person on the phone. This will help move the conversation forward in case your emotions rattle you.

4.     Be neutral and pleasant in your tone. If you're angry or upset, give yourself some time to calm down before reaching for the phone. I used to think that if I was calling to negotiate I had to turn into a jerk to get my way. But in my experience, I've found the exact opposite to be true. Being pleasant, making a connection even cracking a joke or two can help grease the wheels between you and the person on the other end, helping you to get what you want.

5.     Have a plan for a no. In America, we're a nation of no-a-phobes. We hate the word and will do nearly anything to avoid it. But if you embrace it, and prepare for it in advance, you will be able to find a creative way around it.

Follow these five steps and you'll be able to negotiate better and still be "nice."

This article originally appeared on

jill beirne davis.jpg

Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit 

My Self-Employment Success Story: How I Quit Corporate To Work for Myself

By: Jill Beirne Davi

Since paying off $30,000 six years ago, I still use credit sparingly, and I didn’t take out any loans to fund the start-up of my business. Instead, I created a separate savings account called “Investments” to use as working capital for the business. I used that money to educate myself on the basics of starting a consulting business, as well as for things like my website and programs that taught me how to launch and run a business. Overall, my strategy was to pay for a lot of the major upfront costs in cash from my day job.

So I doubled down and focused on attracting more clients, to reach my tipping point faster. But once I stopped treating my consulting like a hobby, I got nervous. I had trouble promoting my services beyond word-of-mouth referrals, and I was afraid to follow up with people, breaking into a sweat when discussing my fees. But I knew I had to conquer those fears if I wanted to work for myself, so I hired a coach of my own to help me build those skills.

To attract clients, I worked around the clock. I hustled, but it was exciting! I woke up about an hour earlier than I had to every morning, and by 7 a.m. I was at my computer with my green tea, either writing posts on my blog or content for my workshops, emailing clients, asking for speaking engagements or studying up on how to run a business. I even took 8 a.m. client calls before showering, and put in a full day of work at my corporate job! I’d teach workshops, and speak or meet with clients on nights and weekends.

After eight months of really focusing on building my practice, though, it became clear that I had to choose. I essentially had two full-time, demanding jobs, and I was burning out. Clients were reaching out, but I didn't have the time to take them on. I simply didn’t have enough energy to ride two bikes any longer. It was decision time.

My Last Day at My "Real" Job

I crunched the numbers to see if I was ready. Overall, I was running a pretty lean machine. Most of my work was done remotely out of our home office, so I didn’t have to worry about permanent office space. As for health insurance, my husband and I talked about private insurance, but it made the most sense for me to be covered under his plan. I agreed to pay the difference coming out every month. I also applied for professional liability insurance, which can be paid in a lump sum annually. And I calculated how much I would need to put aside every month for retirement. Since I was cutting back, the contribution would be smaller than I contributed in the past at first but would grow over time.

The day I left corporate, I was definitely excited but sad. It was hard to leave a job that I’d called home for six years. When my coworkers asked if I was taking time off, I laughed. “Time off?” I said. “No way. I have a full schedule next week!”

It was definitely a rush to open my laptop that first self-employed Monday morning to a full schedule and no boss. I wrote my next blog posts, prepared for a radio interview later in the week, and had three client calls and a consultation with someone who wanted to hire me.

Financially, self-employment isn’t as drastic of a change as I once thought it might be. The hardest part is creating a system to manage my cash flow so that I can forecast what I’m making every month. I use Excel to plan out incoming client payments and outgoing expenses every month (including what I pay myself). That way I can see all in one place what I need to earn each month. Once I reach that number for one month, any extra carries into the next month. I still pay the same bills I was paying when I was working full time, including the phone, cable, utilities, groceries, parking and part of the mortgage.

What has changed quite a bit is my "fun money" fund, meaning my allowance for personal expenses, like getting a haircut or buying clothes. For now, it's half of what it used to be, which means I really have to watch what I’m spending more closely than before I left. But I’m at peace with making sacrifices until my income is more consistent. As long as I can get my nails done every now and again, I’m good for now while my practice grows. I expect to be profitable by April of next year.

The biggest challenge for me now that I’m self-employed is keeping my confidence up during the natural business ebbs and flows, like during the summer months when people are away on vacation and the phone never seems to ring. I’ve found that when self-doubt creeps in, it helps to reach out to other self-employed friends, or my amazing husband, and ask for a kind ear to listen.

So far, it’s been a joy, and I don’t see myself going back to corporate any time soon. The flexibility to create my day and really make a difference make the financial ups and downs completely worth it.

This article originally appeared on

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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit 

The Importance of Leaning In with Clients

By: Marguerita M. Cheng

As the daughter of a Chinese father and American-born mother, I have been exposed to many different stereotypes in the US, Europe, and Asia. I also grew up taking in mixed messages about what it means to be a successful, professional woman.

While both my parents expressed their belief that I could achieve anything with hard work, focus, and dedication—I saw that professional women’s struggles in Asia are exacerbated. As I grew older, I saw that women are not taken seriously professionally if they are too passive, but that they can also be derailed professionally by being seen as “too ambitious,” “too expressive,” “too opinionated,” or “too individualistic.”

Finding a Way to Lean in That Felt Right to Me

While I firmly believe that women can “have it all,” and that they should consistently “lean in,” my experience gives me a slightly different perspective—one that I bring to my career as a financial planner.

Indeed, juggling my responsibilities as a daughter, wife, mother, caregiver, professional, and professional financial planner has taught me to strive for balance—not perfection.

When I started out in financial planning, it was rare for a recruited female to be successful with a toddler and an infant, not to mention one from a diverse background. I knew, and so did everyone else, that the odds were against me. But with my success, 14 years later, that perceived liability is now an asset and a source of inspiration to other young women professionals in the financial planning field.

In my professional experience, I have always valued a collaborative approach involving negotiation, mediation, and compromise rather than an autocratic approach to resolving disagreements and conflicts. Being “helpful,” or “a good listener,” or “valuing connections with clients” may be dismissed as “female” traits, but make no mistake. They do not mask weakness. In fact, I have had to stand up against the criticism of some male managers for my professional approach with clients—which puts a premium on client service—because they view it as too time-intensive.

And to be honest, the comments of those who doubted me were responsible in part for motivating me to persevere. When I lean in, I am not just leaning in for myself. We all need to do our part to break through the stereotypes.

Though men hold a disproportionate share of corporate leadership positions, “Many industries lack the inclusion and participation of people of color and women, perhaps none more egregiously than the financial services sector,” said U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), in a statement.

The key for me is to lean in—on behalf of my clients and the financial planning industry. With my clients, I work to help them achieve balance between their financial-related goals for their lives now and their hopes for secure financial futures. With what the National Journal says “may be the most chauvinistic industry in America: Wall Street,” I work to clear the career path for other women and people with diverse cultural heritages.

Here is how I am leaning in with my clients:

  • I strive to create a safe, comfortable zone for honesty and creative thinking. I pride myself on my ability to sense stress, shame, or guilt as my clients enter my office. I recognize that their time is valuable and that they are coming to me to for financial guidance. I find that women, especially, need their advisors to be able to connect with them.

They also need to know that they are heard and understood, as opposed to being lectured to or talked down to. Women want someone to work with them to understand the impact that one decision may have on other areas of their financial lives. My goal is to enable women to verbalize the dreams they have for their personal financial journey and vocalize their individual needs and concerns so they are empowered to take ownership of their financial futures.

  • I give my clients plenty of time to make sound financial decisions. Many women are often struggling to balance their careers with their family responsibilities. It isn’t so much that women procrastinate financial planning, but that they feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overworked. I provide the education, time frame, and comfortable setting that they need by asking:
  • What would you like to accomplish today?
  • What do you need from me?
  • What is on your mind?

Here is how I am leaning in to shape the chauvinistic financial planning industry:

  • Instead of sitting on the sidelines, complaining that there should be more women and more representation among diverse multicultural communities, I am a candid and passionate advocate for diversity — and I am particularly dedicated to increasing investor education and financial empowerment in multicultural and diverse communities. I served as the chair of FPA Diversity Scholarship Sub-Committee for three years and I currently co-chair the 2012 FPA Diversity Committee.
  • I mentor young women and women of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds to pursue CFP certification. I firmly believe that role models are important, and I know that some women advisors may prefer to have a female mentor, so I make myself available to work with them.
  • I encourage financial firms that are committed to employing women to adopt more women-friendly sales training practices.
  • I challenge myself to inspire and empower those around me to believe in themselves and harness their full potential.

“A candle loses nothing when it lights another candle,” said Thomas Jefferson. So while leaning in remains an important goal of mine, my true mission is to light someone else’s candle—be it my clients, colleagues, those starting out in my profession, or the others who touch my life.

This article originally appeared on


Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.


Marguerita M. Cheng

Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. Marguerita is a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign and a regular columnist for Investopedia & Kiplinger. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. She serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) Advocate and subject matter expert for CFP Board, contributing to the development of examination questions for the CFP® Certification Examination. Marguerita also volunteers for CFP Board Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (DEC) hearings. She served on the Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board of Directors from 2013 – 2015 and is a past president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA) 

Rita is a recipient of the Ameriprise Financial Presidential Award for Quality of Advice and the prestigious Japanese Monbukagakusho Scholarship. In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).

Marguerita’s mantra is “So many people spend their health to gain wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health” (A.J. Reb Materi).

Secrets of Success: How I Learned to Make What I Was Really Worth

By: Jill Beirne Davi

When I launched a side business about five years ago coaching people about their finances, I enjoyed it so much that I barely charged -- if I charged at all -- for my services. Many of the people I was helping were in the hole -- and desperately trying to get out. Plus, I loved talking to them about their money, so it didn't feel like an even exchange. I felt ashamed asking them to pay me.

After all, I had been deep in debt once, too, so I knew what it felt like to struggle to keep costs down. In fact, it was my own experiences that led me to become a money coach. As I began to share my success story, friends and friends of friends asked me to hold workshops, and pulled me aside for private advice.

I realized that there was a demand for money coaching, so I began doing it during my free time, while keeping my day job in market research. But when I first set out to offer my services, I charged nothing. I was caught up in the classic belief that if you loved what you did, you didn't have to get paid for it.

Work, by nature, had to be hard -- or so I thought. And if it wasn't hard, then you were pulling the wool over someone's eyes. So I did a lot of free sessions, irrationally hoping that someone would be so thrilled with what they were getting that they'd donate some money. Of course, that's not how things work.

Wait ... I Can Actually Get Paid to Do This?

As I started helping more people with their budgets, I realized that I could do it all day. I enjoyed problem-solving, crunching numbers and helping folks find creative solutions to sticky financial problems without having to declare bankruptcy or ruin their credit scores.

I decided that I eventually wanted to do this as a career -- which meant that I had to figure out how I was going to, you know, make money. I was working with a life coach at the time, so I shared my aspirations with her, as well as my fear of coming off as greedy if I asked for money. Her advice was simple: Start small. Just charge a little something to gain the experience of someone paying you to do what you love.

I realized that what I offered was valuable in ways that even I didn't expect. That first private client gave me the courage to take on more paying clients. So I did. A week later I charged my first paying client $25 for an hour-long session. He laughed and said, "That's it?" I stopped offering free sessions after that.

A few months in, this client was getting great results, so I considered asking him to write a testimonial -- but I was nervous for fear of coming off as selfish. I knew that it would help me build my future business, so I bit the bullet and asked him anyway. To my relief, he agreed.

His testimonial blew me away. I knew something had shifted, but after reading it I realized there was a real ripple effect happening in him. Not only had he started watching his finances better, but his smarter decisions and newfound discipline were also having a positive effect on his personal relationships and health. When I read it, something shifted inside me too.

I realized for the first time that what I offered was valuable to people in ways that even I didn't expect. That first private client gave me the courage to take on more paying clients.

The Inner Critic Comes Out

Still, it seemed that no matter how many people I worked with, I always had the same nervousness in the beginning. The same inner monologue would loop over and over: "You're not good at this. They're going to demand their money back and tell everyone how awful you are."

Oh, yes, my inner critic is a full-on monster, and she's the reason I kept my rates ridiculously, laughably low, just so no one would get mad at me if they weren't happy with my services.

This charging low fees thing went on for a few months with a handful of clients. Then I was contacted by a woman who'd heard about me through a mutual friend. She was a woman I admired, an entrepreneur who'd started a business a few years prior.

We sat down, and I asked her about her financial situation. I felt that I could help her, and she was nearly ready to say yes -- until I shared my rates with her. Her mood changed immediately. Suddenly, she wasn't so eager.

At first I thought my rates were too high -- but it was the exact opposite. She told me that the reason she didn't want to work with me was because they were too low. "I can tell by your rates that you're not confident in your abilities," she said. "So I'm not sure this is going to work out."

After the initial shock wore off, I realized she was right. To this day, I'm grateful for her brutal honesty because it made a lightbulb go off. After that, I looked through my testimonials and interviewed past clients about what they got out of working with me. Most clients started to see results around the two-month mark, and the best clients stayed with me for three or four months. The people who didn't get great results only came to me for one or two sessions.

At the time, I was billing on an hourly basis. So I started lumping sessions together and charging a bundled price to make sure people stayed long enough to see results. Each bundle was several hundred dollars -- way more than I was charging before.

Next Step: Overcoming My Fears

When I first started offering bundled pricing, I was terrified. I kept playing with the numbers to make them "seem" lower, doing things like adding more sessions to justify the price.

When people would question my fees, I'd explain that most clients didn't see results unless they were willing to invest some time, and the price reflected that. But I wasn't confident enough to charge more -- and potential clients picked up on that. They'd ask if I could just do one session or try to negotiate the price. Sometimes I caved, other times I didn't out of fear that they'd run to the 11 o'clock news with their complaints.

None of my fears ever came to pass. They were and still are completely irrational.

But after landing a few clients at my new, higher rate, history repeated itself. Clients were happy. They were getting good results, writing testimonials and referring friends. I could breathe a bit easier. I felt like I had scaled a small mountain and found a spot at the top where I could rest.

A year later, I raised my rates again after calculating how much I would need to earn in order to leave my corporate job. By this point, I was devoting 20 hours a week to my "side" job, and I knew I wanted to do it full time. I remember the first, four-figure proposal I sent out to a potential client. She didn't respond for a few days, and I chewed nearly all of my nails off waiting to see if she'd say yes.

Finally, the email came: "Let's do this." I was excited (for her) and terrified (for me). The inner critic, again looking for trouble, told me the other shoe was about to drop. I held my breath for a few weeks while I worked with the client, but after we both saw that she was getting great results, I let myself relax. And the higher rate became the new normal.

Accepting My Real Worth

I wish I could say that realizing my worth was a one-time event, but it wasn't. It's a journey. The fear never really goes away, but I'm learning how to manage it better. Whenever I offer a new service or raise my rates, that inner critic goes berserk trying to get me to revert to what is comfortable and safe.

Realizing my worth is like climbing a mountain with many peaks. You climb a small peak, and rest for a bit. Eventually, you have to get to the next one, so you keep going -- but you're terrified the whole way. Then you reach the next peak, and the journey starts again. With every peak, however, the urge to continue gets stronger.

I didn't start off with a ton of self-worth when it came to the services I was providing -- even if I felt plenty in other areas of my life! In the beginning, I attached my value to the dollar amount I was charging. But then I focused on whether my clients were really getting results. Then I made a promise to myself that if I couldn't help them, I'd quit entirely. But as long as I was, I'd stay in the game.

It's easy to stay stuck at a lower rate in order to avoid rocking the boat. Every time I've raised my fees, it's usually been followed by a week or two of panic attacks, fearing that this time I've asked for too much. But eventually the awkward phase passes, and my rates feel like a cozy sweater again.

My hope is that, one day, I'll be able to silence that inner critic who wants to devalue my professional self. But I know I'm not that enlightened yet. Still, one of the best things about going through this experience was finally realizing my self-worth. Here are some of my top tips:

Start small. Charging something nominal is still better than charging nothing at all. Don't give your gifts away for free, which could breed resentment later.

Find encouragement. Get a coach or mentor to help you stay the course when you're feeling uncomfortable about raising your rates or asking for a higher salary.

Focus on your results. When I get into panic mode, I read the testimonials of my clients. Seeing progress in their own words takes the spotlight off myself and shines it back on my clients.

Stay attuned to your emotions. This one is more of an art. If you are starting to feel a little resentful or burned out, it may be time to up your rates or ask for a raise. The increase can help get your sanity back -- especially if you offer a client-based service.

Let your rates work their way up. You don't have to triple your rates overnight to prove a point. That may backfire. Raise them incrementally and keep close watch on the results that gives you -- and your clients. Eventually, you'll be charging what you're truly worth!

This article originally appeared on

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Jill Beirne Davi is the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner). For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit 

Six Myths that May Stop you From Valuing Your Work Well

by Elisa Balabram

Something that many women struggle with is how to price their products and/or services. Here is a list of the top 6 Myths that may stop you from pricing your products and services well. If you are not an entrepreneur, read through the list and check if you have similar patterns and if it’s time to ask for a raise, or move on to a new and higher paying job.


  1. No one will buy from me if I increase my prices. This is a myth that people can’t afford higher prices. The reality is that most people associate price with quality and if you increase your prices, people will start valuing your products/services accordingly. I know of several business owners who increased their number of clients after they increased their prices. You may end up serving a slightly different audience, depending on your current prices, though. You would also serve as the example for your clients that it’s OK to value themselves and what they do as well.
  2. I can do it in my sleep and I can’t charge too much for it. This is the “good girl” syndrome. It comes to you so easily that you just do it for free any time you can. Then you feel drained, overwhelmed and having a hard time making ends meet. It is fine to charge for what you love doing, you are expanding your energy by serving others, and you can receive monetary compensation in addition to the personal satisfaction of helping others.
  3. I can’t possibly charge as much as her. We can always find someone else doing similar things that we think is allowed to charge more than us, due to their experience, their looks, or their celebrity approach. Stop comparing yourself to others! You are unique and your clients appreciate what you have to offer, it is time that you appreciate it and give it the value it deserves.
  4. I will seem greedy. Many people grew up with certain ways of thinking about money, and that having a lot of money is negative, and you are not sure if people will like you if you do become fully prosperous. Ask yourself if this is really true, and how you can shift your thinking and tell yourself that it’s fine to charge well for your products/services.
  5. I couldn't afford to buy my services or products if I charged more. Of course you can’t afford it! You are charging so little for what you are offering that yes, you can’t afford to spend that much money. If you do charge a higher fee, you will be able to have more money to invest in your own personal and professional growth and it’s a win-win situation.
  6. I’m not worth it. This is a huge myth. And it may take more than reading this article to get over it. I suggest that you write down a list of all you accomplished, all that you invested in self-development and career development, and your experiences, and take a closer look at your value. Even without reading your list, I can tell you right now that yes, you are worth it, and the sooner you start owning your worth the better you and everyone around you will feel.

Check out this blog where I share the basics of what you need to consider when determining the prices of your products and services.


Elisa Balabram

Elisa Balabram is a business and self-love coach, a writer, speaker and the author of “Ask Others, Trust Yourself: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Key to Success”. She is passionate about coaching women in a deeper, spiritual, mental and emotional level to help them become more self-aware, practice self-love and realize their desire to start or grow a business or creative endeavors and pursue their life’s purpose. She launched and published for nine years, and received the SBA Women in Business Champion of the Year Award in 2008. You can read her blog, schedule a complimentary Skype call and/or order a copy of her book at, and you can follow her on Twitter @womenandbiz.

What’s Your Company’s “Gross National Happiness”?

by Mike Michalowicz

Just about every day (especially if you watch the news) you hear reports on our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Stocks soar or collapse depending on the media.  After all, if our country isn't making and selling stuff (stagnant or depleting GDP), we are in real trouble. . . times are going to be tough.  Conversely, if we crank up our productivity (growing GDP), make and sell more stuff, times will be great.  Right?  Wrong!

Bhutan, a little country east of India, just may be the smartest country in the world.  They measure their country’s progress based upon “Gross National Happiness.”  In other words, they measure progress not by how productive their people are, but instead, by how happy they are.  In 1972, the Bhutan government started to develop a system for measuring the happiness of their people.  The basic elements they measure in individuals are: economic wellness, environmental wellness, physical health, mental health, job satisfaction, social happiness, and political wellness.

Isn't that smart?  This is what every country should be after for its people - balance, health and happiness.  Unfortunately, not only do most countries just focus on the bottom line (GDP), most companies do, too.  I suspect, yours is included.  Instead of just measuring your people (and company) by revenue and profit, try adding these “Bhutanian” measurements:

  1. Economic Strength - How do your employees salaries compare to the competition?  Are you below the average or above?
  2. Environmental Wellness - How healthy is your space? Cramped in dark, cubicles or open, with natural light and comfortable.
  3. Physical Health - How much sick time do employees take? Can you offer in office benefits like massage or a relaxation room?
  4. Mental Health - How much stress does your team experience?  Can you dump your worst (nagging) clients?  Maybe that relaxation room will have another benefit!
  5. Job Satisfaction - You think this would be an easy one, yet many business leaders feel that if someone has a job, they should be satisfied.  How can you adjust the job so your employees love what they do?
  6. Social Happiness - Do your people like and respect the other people they work with? Do they like and respect you?
  7. Political Wellness - Does your team feel like they are listened to when you consider business decisions? Do they feel that you have the companies best interest in mind (or just your own wallet)?

I am not saying you need to ignore the bottom line.  Cash is the lifeblood of your business, and without it you are certainly dead.  But don’t forget, it happens to be your people who bring in all that money.  Instead of measuring just your GDP, start measuring your GNH, too!

How a Jellyfish Can Make All the Difference – Finding the Courage to Try Again

by Monica Shah, Revenue Breakthrough

This week, I have to begin with a story – one that I feel as though many of you will relate to.

When I was 10 my family went to Hawaii.  It was one of our first “big” trips.  It definitely beat the 12-hour car ride to visit relatives – our usual vacation.  I was beyond thrilled to be staying at a hotel on the beach.

As soon as we got to the hotel my sisters and I changed into our swimsuits and went wildly running into the ocean.  We were happily dancing in the water, when suddenly a child next to us starting screaming loudly, “I got bit!  Something bit me!”

I immediately looked into the water and saw a giant jellyfish swimming away.   I silently noticed how beautiful it was for a moment while my sisters high-tailed it out of the water, shouting at me to follow them.

I was horrified by the whole scene and slowly came out of the water, much to my chagrin.  I've never been much of the “sit on the beach and tan” type.

I eventually went back into the water.  My sisters didn't touch it for the next three days.  Whenever I went into the water, I was cautious, anxious, and always waiting for something to go wrong.  And it ruined the trip for me. I was totally exhausted by the time we went home.

I was reminded of this story when one of my clients told me about her experience with her assistant.  She had hired an assistant three years ago.  The experience had been awful.  She lost $3,000 training her and then watched her struggle through tasks that did not get done.  Since that day, she had been trying to do everything on her own.  The “assistant jellyfish” had stung her – and she wasn't going back in the water.

However, she was exhausted, burnt out and losing hope day by day.

I told her my story about the ocean.  She asked me how I made peace with it, because I love the ocean today.   You can’t pull me out of it no matter how many jellyfish exist there.

I told her that you have to keep your eye on the bigger picture.  For me, the benefit of the big picture was being able to enjoy the water.  Yes, there were dangers within it, and thing could go wrong – but the bigger benefit of feeling relaxed and free in the water always won over the dangers.

I told her to remember the bigger benefit – the benefit that someday when she found the right team member, she would be able to rest her mind and have more free time.  Both of those benefits far outweighed the costs of going through the pain of finding team members.

She agreed.  It took three hires for her to finally find a team member that worked for her, but she did it.   Today, she’s happier than ever.

What are you avoiding in your business because you got stung by a jellyfish?  What parts of your business need to re-examined from a place of love instead of pain?

Have you given up on seeing clients one-on-one because you had a client complain?

Have you decided never to work with a coach because the one your chose didn't help you?

Have you given up the hope of ever finding the right support team?

Have you decided that going to networking events isn't useful because the first three you went to were awful?

Take a moment and ask yourself.  What am I avoiding in my business because I have experienced pain or been hurt? Then ask yourself.  What is the bigger benefit for me if I try it again? Go back into the water.  You just might be surprised at how good it really feels. Let me know what you are willing to go back and try.  I love your comments!


Monica Shah

Monica is the Founder of Revenue Breakthrough, a company that helps women create breakthroughs in their businesses so they can live their ideal lifestyles. She is also an adjunct business professor in New York City where she teaches marketing and business plan classes.

How to Make Money with Your Passion

by Jillian Beirne Davi

“If you do what you love, will the money follow?”

Ahhh the elusive: “Make Money Doing What You Love” thing.  Everyone wants it. We admire those that achieve it and we secretly doubt if it’s even possible for us. Can you really do it?  Yes! I say enthusiastically.   Yes you can make your first chunk of change with your passion!  But it requires a change in your thinking and a loving dose of reality.

First you have to think in terms of what inspires people to buy and what does not.  Next, you must decide if your passion is more of a hobby, or something that can truly generate income.  Finally, you must be willing to start small, right where you are to start helping people.

Rule #1:   People buy things that are useful, that solve a pressing problem they will pay money to solve.

Unfortunately, no one will pay you for something just because YOU love doing it.   Because it’s YOUR passion. You may have the greatest product or service in the world! But if it doesn't solve someone’s immediate needs, you most likely will not make any money.  People buy solutions to their most pressing problems.  Your passion is what creates raving fans and keeps them coming back for more!  So, you've got to think about other people’s needs first, ahead of your own. Your passion is the cherry on top, but that’s not why people plunk down the ka-ching.

Let’s take Steve Jobs for example.  He’s widely admired for building an empire doing what he loved.  But the money didn't come FROM his passion alone.  The money came through other people because his products solved some really nagging problems they had.  Let’s take the iPod for example.  Yes it was sexy when it came out. Yes Steve Jobs nearly combusted onstage with passion as he revealed it to the world.  But remember, at the time it came out, people had tons of music on their computers. But they couldn't take it with them.  The iPod solved all of this. His products are all designed to be intuitive and solve pressing problems that his consumers have in real time.

Your passion is great but when you combine it with a solution to a need people have, you start to earn income from it.  Ask yourself:  What are some problems people have that I’m really passionate about solving?  What problems have I solved for people in the past that got great results?

Rule #2:   Know the difference between what is a passion/hobby and a passion/income generator. 

I have a few passions.  One of them is coming up with creative solutions to tough money problems and helping people set up simple systems to get out of debt, save more and start living abundantly. That’s a passion of mine. ANOTHER passion of mine is vegging out in front of the couch with a Costco size bag of Nestle chocolate chips and watching an eight hour marathon of Housewives on Bravo.  One is a passion/income generator. The other is a shameful, shameful passion/hobby.  So, before you set out to make your first chunk of change doing what you love, take a moment to decide if your passion solves a pressing problem for people.   Or, is it something that’s really more of a stress relief or creative outlet for you?

Make a list of your passions.  Then decide which ones are truly hobbies that are strictly for you own enjoyment. Then identify if there’s anything on that list that solves a pressing problem people would happily invest money with you to solve.  Ask Yourself: Of all the things that I’m passionate about, which one solves a problem that people have right now?  Which of these passions are more for my own personal enjoyment?

Rule #3:   Start small and leave the Magical Thinking behind. This is a nod to my dreamers out there. (I know because I happen to be one.)

Sometimes dreamers get a great idea to create income using their passions.  Then something snaps in their brain and they begin to have delusions of grandeur fantasizing about creating the next Facebook, Apple or Pinterest.  And then they start thinking about who they could partner with, getting investors in on the ground floor, trademarking logos and agonizing over business cards.  They spend time on all this extra “stuff” that keeps them busy without moving them forward.

But it can be much simpler.   The key to making your first chunk of change is to start where you are and do the obvious:  Get out there and tell people in your world what you’re doing!  Tell them with enthusiasm and passion what you do and who you help! Tell people what problems you solve.   Ask them to keep an eye out for anyone who might need your help.   You will be amazed at how many people want to help you and refer you to friends.  Then, once someone raises their hand and says:  “YES!  I need your help!” feel free to charge a little bit of coin.  (Note:  You might be tempted to give it away for free.  Don’t do this!  Charge a little bit since people don’t value what they don’t pay for!)

Finally, revel in the fact that you were just PAID to do what you LOVE.   You've actually done it!  Let that feeling just overwhelm you for a bit.  Now, you won’t be able to support yourself just yet but you have crossed a huge milestone. You just experienced what it’s like to get paid to do what you love.

Many of us feel really uncomfortable receiving money for doing something we would do for free all day long. We've been taught that the only way to make a living is to do soul-crushing work.  But that doesn't have to be the case. In the beginning, just having a handful of people pay you to use your gifts to solve their problems is a huge validation that you can do what you love and earn money at the same time.  Ask Yourself: Who can I tell about my product or service? Who do I help?  What could I create right now to help these people immediately ( A class? A program? An App? A Website? A service?)

So, your three step plan to making your first chunk of change doing what you love:

  1. Identify which of your passions solve a pressing problem for people.
  2. Get out there and offer it to the people in your immediate circle.
  3. Charge a little bit of coin to validate the work that you do (you can always increase this amount later).

It is absolutely possible to make money doing what you love, so long as what you love is also useful and necessary for other people.  Remember, people buy things that solve their problems.  Help other people get what they want with enthusiasm and passion and you will be well on your way to supporting yourself full-time doing what you love!


Jillian Beirne

Jillian Beirne Davi is a Financial Turnaround expert and the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner).   After digging herself out of $30,000 in debt and saving tens of thousands of dollars, she decided to share her strategies with others who struggle in this area.  Turns out:  They work! The Abundant Finances community continues to grow with conscious women who are committed to making RADICAL changes in their financial lives.   For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit and sign up for the high-content, high value FREE newsletter today!