A Mantra for Professionals
Ay-yo! Your girl, Kelly, here. Let me tell ya about what I’m currently reading. It’s called, “How to do the Work,” by Dr. Nicole LePera (2021). I’m on chapter 6, “The Power of Belief,” and I have had a bit of a breakthrough I wanted to share with my fellow workaholic professionals–especially freelancers and gig workers. I’ve come up with a new mantra for us: “I deserve to be paid for my time.”
Before we get into why I want to share this specific mantra, let’s get some background info and definitions straight so that we’re all speaking the same language. Possible trigger warning: We’re going to hint at childhood trauma. But just hint at it. You don’t have to unpack it if you’re not ready.
Let’s keep a very broad definition of “trauma” in mind. Trauma can be classified as anything that happened to you that significantly hurt your feelings and subsequently had a lasting impact on you. That could be anything, right? Therefore, it’s safe to say: Childhood is traumatic. You could’ve had the most idyllic childhood imaginable. But you are still a creature hardwired for survival with a wide-eyed frenzy of trying to figure out this eff-ed up world.
Now, let’s say you didn’t have the most idyllic childhood. (Psst, that’s everyone because there’s no such thing as a “perfect childhood.”) So, let’s say your childhood was less than ideal, for…reasons.
Belief /bəˈlēf/: “A belief is a practiced thought grounded in lived experience,” (LePera, 2021).
Core Belief /kôr bəˈlēf/: “Core beliefs are our deepest perceptions about our identity; they were installed in our subconscious often before the age of seven,” (LePera, 2021).
Connecting the Dots
Considering our traumatic childhoods, listen to this: “Sometimes our reality is too painful to understand or process, so we make up an alternative story that guides us through the darkness,” (LePera, 2021). Those alternative narratives (aka core beliefs) “are the many stories about ourselves, our relationships, our past, our future, and the innumerable other topics we construct based on our lived experiences,” (LePera, 2021).
So let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you were a child who for whatever reason was more or less left to your own devices through childhood and had to figure things out on your own. For whatever reason, your emotional needs were not met. Therefore, as many kids do, you learned to be super self-sufficient so as to not burden your parents.
Pause. We’re not blaming anyone’s parents, here. Use kid logic: Kids see their parents working really hard and totally stressed out for…reasons…and don’t want to pile on more sh…stuff for them to deal with. So, many kids become so self-sufficient that they turn into little people-pleasing perfectionists. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to stress their parents out with their needs. Does this sound familiar?
“When children’s emotional needs are not adequately or consistently met, they often develop a subconscious core belief that they are not worthy of having these needs met,” (LePera, 2021). Ooof, Dr. LePera hit me with a truth bomb.
Fast Forward to Current Day
So, here we are in adulthood with this subconscious core belief that we are not worthy, for…reasons. But our self-sufficient-ness and people-pleasing, perfectionist ways served us well in our careers. We climbed the corporate ladder by giving it our all–yay!
However, we have sucky boundaries and give our hearts and souls to our companies in hopes that we’re good enough. But guess what? The companies we work for gotta do what they gotta do for their bottom line. We give and give and give, and they say, “oh that’s great, Kelly, can we have some more?”
Oh wait, I slipped there. This is a hypothetical story. Cats outta the bag, now! It is me. I’m the one who gives and gives and gives and has sucky boundaries and just wants to make the company I work for happy.
So, here I am giving my heart and soul to a company, who basically makes me feel like I have to justify my worth because they have some bottom line to adhere to–shareholders, boards, or just regular-‘ol-greed. And I burned out in a spectacular fashion (i.e., epic emotional meltdowns–plural).
Justify My Worth?
But now that I work for myself (cheers to my freelance and gig worker homies!), I’m finding it incredibly challenging (and triggering) to work with buyers (aka clients) who are shopping around for the lowest price because they also have a bottom line to adhere to. It’s like trying to justify my worth everyday!
I am done playing that game. I’m done trying to compete against the zillion other creative professionals, designers–and *gasp* even Canva–for clients who don’t value, and therefore aren’t willing to pay for, creative talent.
Because why? Because my “I’m not worthy” core belief is wrong! It was silly, kid logic. My core belief–my internal narrative–was never updated. (Psst, don’t worry, you can change your core beliefs–you’ll just have to do the work.*)
A Different Pricing Structure
So now, I handle my pricing for Left-brained Creative (LBC) different. I have (a) my hourly rate, which is based on industry standards for someone with my skillset, experience, and education; but I also offer (b) a sliding scale because I know how difficult it is for my small business and nonprofit clients to afford the brand and marketing services they need to survive.
And so now, any time I feel the pressure of a bidding war for the cheapest designer coming on, I tell myself: “I deserve to be paid for my time.” I am worthy of my design rate. I did the research, and I picked a rate that is well-informed and fair. I don’t need to vie for clients who can’t or won’t pay for quality and professional creative talent. (Psst, you don’t have to, either!)
To all the professionals out there who are on the edge of burn out (or who have already burnt out), especially my fellow designers, hear this: You are worthy of your rates or desired salaries, too. Do your research. Be fair and honest with your pricing. You deserve to get paid for your time.
To all my small business owners and nonprofits who are on a mission to create positive change, hear this: Let’s chat. I want to partner with you on your pursuit for change. I offer sliding scale rates for those who align with LBC’s values, so drop your girl a line and let’s do some good work!
*LePera, N. (2021). How to do the work: Recognize your patterns, heal from your past, and create your self. Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
Kelly Strine is the founder of Left-brained Creative, a brand marketing and graphic design firm dedicated to partnering with small businesses and nonprofits who are working toward creating positive social change. If you have a project you want to team up on, let’s chat!