4 questions to ask yourself about money in your business

The three key words of my business are slow, gentle and profitable. When I decided on these, I found it especially important to add profitable as well as slow and gentle. I believe, and know, that we can be paid well and still run a business that is slow and gentle, that leaves room for our personal lives, our humanness and anything else that is important to us. This blogpost is all about the need to talk more about money in slow business.

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Yet being profitable, or money in general, is not discussed much in slow business circles. Money is the sphere of business bros, #girlbosses, hustlers and productivity hackers, it seems. But when, like me, that way of running your business feels wrong to you, how do you approach money in your slow and gentle, non-hustle business?

If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you’ll know I’ve been spending quite some time reframing how I feel and think about money. I’ve been challenging my own money stories, figuring out a way of setting financial goals that feels good and in general unlearning many old associations of money I carried with me.

This post is a continuation of that unlearning. I decided to frame it as a series of questions around money in business. These are the money-questions that have been in my mind for a while, and that I see other business owners grapple with as well. I provide some of the answers I’ve come up with and invite you to do the same.

Do we need to justify how much we charge?

Whenever I hear or read conversations around money, I often hear people trying to justify how much they charge. In fact, I did something similar in my recent check-in with my business and financial goals. I mentioned my financial goal for this year and how as good as that goals feels, I sometimes feel like it sounds too small. I did a little bit of self-coaching around that, but also mentioned how:

“Other people’s money goals are other people’s money goals, not just dependent on whether they attach status to them, but also dependent on where they live. I live in a country in which I don’t have to pay for health care out of pocket. I live in a country that has a fairly robust social safety net. I don’t have any children to spend money on. I’m saving for retirement through my teaching job.”

In writing this, I didn’t apologize for or try to explain my prices—in fact, I didn’t mention my prices at all in this post, because they weren’t relevant. To me, this didn’t feel apologetic, whereas other examples do.

Too often I hear small business owners, especially those socialised as women, be apologetic about prices or price changes. If you want to explain your prices as an example of financial transparency, these please do—although I believe that we can offer financial transparency in other ways if it’s important to us.

Your money goals are your money goals. How you communicate about them and about your prices is an inherent part of how you run your business.

There is a slower, gentler and more profitable way of running your business.

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If explaining more about your goals and pricing feels genuinely good to you: more power to you. Yet the tone I’m hearing often is one of apologizing, almost defending a choice they have made. As if their explanations towards other people are really an attempt at justifying towards themselves why they charge what they charge.

I know that I’ve certainly done this in the past, especially when it came to pricing things like (in-person) workshops where it felt so hard to charge more than the bare minimum I needed. (And yes, I definitely made a loss on the first in-person workshop I hosted.)

Next time you find yourself speaking or thinking about your prices, take a pause. How does this feel? Do you feel like you need to apologize? Or do you feel like you can take up space in the world and that your prices are a way in which you do that?

You are allowed, you deserve, to run a business that pays you well and that supports you.

This doesn’t mean picking a goal just because other people have this goal too. There is no need strive for a six or seven-figure business if this doesn’t sit right with you. Just as we shouldn’t undercharge out of fear of taking up space, we also shouldn’t overcharge in an attempt to prove to ourselves and the world that we are “legit”.

You are allowed, you deserve, to run a business that pays you well and that supports you.

How can we separate money from status?

While I was mulling over all of these money-questions I had a conversation with a friend who also owns a business. When, I wondered aloud, do we feel like we or other people are charging too much? Of course, what other people charge is none of my business. But I sometimes notice a knee-jerk response within myself around other people’s prices, especially when people are framing them as part of having a “six-figure” business. Why does that get to me?

Part of my response, especially when I was just starting out, was caused by self-doubt. I wondered whether in order to be a proper business owner I should want and strive for a six-figure business as well. That I had to aim for it.

The main reason why it gets to me is because six figures doesn’t mean anything to me. As a goal, it has no emotional layer to me and I can’t imagine it motivating me. In that conversation with my friend, we realised that status doesn’t do much for us when it comes to making money. I don’t think making six figures—or four, or three, or whatever—confers status to someone. It doesn’t for me. I don’t need or crave that kind of status.

At the same time, there is something incredibly empowering about making money with your own business. I feel much more empowered about the money I make in my business than the salary that I make with my part-time teaching job. I feel more pride, more strength, taking up more space in the world in a wonderful way.

As part of changing how we feel, think and talk about business, I believe we need to uncouple money and status. The status that money gives people really only means something within the capitalist system that we live in. In business circles, money status is also tied intimately in with hustle culture.
I’m currently in a place of financial stability and know that I’m writing from a privileged position, but I try to remember that money is money. Just money. I’d love to see a world in which we can take the status and the moralising out of money, although I realise that we need more than individual change to make that happen.

If my newsletters and free resources resonate with you, I might just be the right mentor for you. I don’t believe in 10-step-plans, or get rich quick schemes. I do believe that it is possible to create and run a business that fits you and your life: your values and rhythms, your strengths and passions. I strongly believe that you don’t need to do all the things, or be on all the channels to make your business work. 

I’m here to help you feel more supported in your business. I’m here to give you the confidence to run your business from that place of deep inner knowing inside of you, offering my signature blend of mindset shifts and practical steps.

How do we price our products and services?

In the Spring of 2024 I’ll be launching my new group programme, Marketing without social media. I’m slowly chipping away at putting it together, and as part of that chipping away I’ve also been thinking about pricing.

It’s the first time I’m running a programme like this, so settling on a price hasn’t been that easy.

I’ll most likely be going with €800 for this four-month programme, which is a number that feels comfortable to me. There are a couple of reasons why it does:

  • it’s a number that I’m already charging for 1:1 mentoring. My 1:1 mentoring package is a different format and a different level of support, so not comparable in that sense. But already working with this number makes me feel more comfortable with it in general;
  • in planning financially, I’ve not made plans that are so specific that I plan per product. Nonetheless, I’ll set a new financial goal for my business for next year and I want to make a certain percentage with my business. Making a considerable chunk of my 2024 goal—whatever it will be—with the group programme will feel amazing;
  • it’s the first time I’m running it and therefore also a way to test the waters.

I expect the price for this programme to change if I run it again, like I’m planning to. The prices for my 1:1 mentoring have certainly changed since I started my business. As I described in this blog post, I used to try to price my mentoring services based on an hourly-rate—which didn’t work well for me. Now I price in a way that reflects my time and energy, not just my financial goals.

In pricing my services I also aim to be transparent. This doesn’t mean explaining in detail to (potential) clients why I charge what I charge for mentoring. It does mean being as precise as possible what a service includes (like support after a call or in between calls), and preventing a sense of scarcity when it comes to pricing.

For a while, my 4-hour package was cheaper than 4x one-hour single sessions. I’d seen other mentors do this and it seemed like the done thing. Then I realised that, depending on the client, I provided as much support in the package calls as I did in the single calls, if not more. This might’ve led me to raise the prices of my package to be more than 4x a single call—but that would likely mean that no one would book the package and just book single calls (which makes complete sense!).

The other option would be raising the package price to more than 4x a single call and then getting very nitty-gritty about the differences between the two. For instance, the single call includes two weeks of support via email or Voxer. I also provide this support in between package calls, but often there is more than two weeks between the individual calls. In many cases, though not all, I’d be providing more than two weeks of support.

Writing this down makes me feel tired. And if it makes me feel tired thinking about this, I can’t imagine how tired potential clients would feel. Maybe I’ll change my mind in the future, but I don’t want scarcity or confusion to play any role in why people book what they book. I never want to pressure someone into a package if they’re not ready for the time and financial investment.

Should we offer discounts, sliding scales and scholarships?

I stopped offering discounts for my services a while back. While I respect people’s decision to offer a discount as a thank you, for instance, for booking again, it doesn’t work for me right now. If I were to offer a discount to a recurring customer, I’d have to raise my prices. If I decided that I want to offer something for €100 and then give a 10% discount to recurring customers, I’d be making €90 on the product or service. Which would lead to a €10 hole in my budget.

At this point in time, offering discounts also feels like fostering scarcity to me. I only want to offer discounts as a way of celebrating, like I did when I celebrated 1000 newsletter subscribers. 

Last week I came across a blog post that captured my thoughts around discounts perfectly:

“I’m going to make an assumption here, but it’s based on years of observation of the herbal and magickal communities I run in (which is made up of largely queer, folks of color, gender-rebellious, and womxn-centered and femme folks). I bet that for most of you reading this, you’re already offering your services or goods for a discounted rate. Because you’ve underpriced it, because we don’t talk about money and fair wages, and because many of us would have a hard time defining what a fair wage is to begin with.”

Especially those of us socialised as women feel like we need to not take up too much space, including financial space. Ask yourself, are you offering discounts out of scarcity and feeling small, or out of joy and celebration? Are you comparing yourself to multinationals that can offer discounts because they have the financial space to do so (and often seriously underpay and financially exploit the people working for them)?

You will always be too expensive for some people. It is not necessarily your job to be affordable to all people.

At some point in the future I want to offer a scholarship for my new group programme. I also want to start using the sliding scale method. But I’m not ready for it.

Part of me feels like I should be offering these things because I’ve seen other people do it and I like the idea. I do want to support people who need my services but can’t afford them right now, or not at the higher price. But I’m not ready. I feel like I need to build even more trust in myself and do more work around money in order to feel comfortable offering a scholarship or sliding scale. I found Alexis’ words comforting in that respect:

You don’t have to offer a sliding scale, donation-based services, or payment plans to be a “good” activist.

There is something radical in naming a price that reflects the actual value of what you do and sticking with it. That is an act of social justice, too, and should be honored. There is enormous pressure within activist communities to act in a certain way and lose sight of what is actually radical, loving, sustainable, and kind. Charge what you’re worth and revel in it.

At the same time, I am very happy to be able to offer a lot of support that is free or cheaper than the group programme or mentoring. This newsletter is my absolutely favourite way of supporting my community and I really want this to be a resource that as many people as need it can make use of. I am very intentional with offering value in my free newsletters and provide complimentary paid subscribers to people who can’t afford a paid subscription but would benefit from one.

An experiment

Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:

  1. How do you feel about money in your business? Does it feel empowering or something to apologize for?
  2. When do you find yourself taking up less financial space around pricing or communicating what you charge?
  3. Which of the questions above resonated most with you? What is your answer?

I’d love to know which of these strategies to feel more supported in your business you’ve tried, and which you’re going to try out. I’d love to know!

Please feel free to share it with business friends, in your newsletter or on social media. 💛

I’d love to support you in all phases of your business. Providing clarity, focus and next steps is something that my clients tell me I’m really good at. If you’re curious about how we can work together through 1:1 mentoring, check out what I offer or send me an email–no strings attached. I have payment plans available, and flexible options for mentoring calls (30 or 60 minutes).

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