Why Charging What You’re Worth is a Bad Idea

At some time or another, we’ve all heard this:

“Whoa, sister, that price is way too low for what you’re doing.
You need to charge what you’re worth!”

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve probably had someone tell you to “charge what you’re worth”.

This is always part of a larger conversation about pricing, and is usually between someone who is not making a sustainable living from their business or feeling taken advantage of by clients, and a friend, colleague or coach trying to be helpful.

The message is that if you’re not charging what you’re worth, you’re not charging enough — and dammit, you’re worth more than that.

But this approach has a fundamental flaw

The problem with charging “what you’re worth” is that you are tying your pricing to your personal value — not to the value of your work, but to YOU, and what YOU are worth to the world.

And that is flat out wrong.

There is little that is more damaging to an entrepreneur’s psyche than tying income to personal worth. Being self-employed is challenging enough, without having your business success or failure be a metric that determines your value as a person.

Here’s why it’s so damaging:

The problem with charging what you’re worth is that when you offer something of high quality it’s natural that price would reflect that (ex: hand crafted items, high-touch services). But when people don’t understand and recognize that value and all the work that goes into this thing that you’re offering, they think it’s too expensive. Now when they don’t buy it, you feel like a worthless failure.

But in reality, what the customer is telling you is that they either:

  1. don’t see the value in the service (at any price, really), or
  2. they can’t afford it

They are telling you that the product/service is not worth the price to them at that time — they are not saying that YOU as a person are not valuable.

It’s never about you. I repeat, it’s never about you. See the difference?

Here’s a very simple fix:

As you set your pricing, ask yourself three questions:

  • How much time will this product/service save them, and what is their time worth?
  • How much money will they be able to make or save that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise?
  • How much joy will it bring them — and can you really put a price on that?
  • How much do I need to charge for this so that I feel appropriately compensated and not resentful? (a clear indicator that your pricing is too low)

See, when you reframe “worth” and see it for what it truly is, your self worth no longer hangs in the balance at the mercy of your customers.

Now you can set your pricing with clarity and ease.

Keeping your pricing and income separate from your own self worth will eliminate a lot of the angst that comes with pricing to begin with. You’ll find it’s much easier to determine a price based on the above questions, and you’ll be able to stand behind that price when someone questions it.

If someone can’t afford what you’re offering or doesn’t see the value, they’re not the right customer. Move on. It’s not a reflection of you.

So stop charging what you’re worth.

There is no amount of money that accurately reflects your worth as the unique, talented, amazing person that you are.