Today, I have a new understanding of what it means to be a successful woman in business.
Being successful used to mean: being the last person to leave the office, being “too busy” to join you for lunch, and filling my bank account with money I’m not allowed to touch until I’m 65.5.
Today, success means building something of my own, pancakes on a Tuesday morning with my toddler, taking no less than 65 days off this year, and being asked to share my experiences on this blog because someone thinks I have something worthwhile to say.
Within the last 2 years I have had a baby, gotten married (yes, in that order), left my job at The Coca-Cola Company, moved to a new city, and started my own business.
I have made money, lost money, won accounts, and lost accounts. I have been brilliant, I have been outsmarted, and I have been pushed to my limits.
And, I have become the best version of myself.
My business, MEL BAR MAR, a digital marketing studio, is the manifestation of my belief that the model of success is broken, especially for women.
Redefining my version of success meant starting my own business. Today, 21 months, 23 clients later, I share my 3 most important learnings:
Pricing my services has been the most challenging part of my business. With the commoditization of web tools, justifying the value of my time is not always easy. I believe that there are 3 factors that should determine your salary or the prices you require for your product or service:
№1 Your Cost of Living
How much do you need to make to live the lifestyle you want to live? Factor in your expenses, if you share income with a spouse, and your plans for children, a new home, travel, etc. Come to a raw number and start your math from there.
№2 The Cost of the Value You Provide
How much experience do you have? Are you pursuing additional degrees? Do you regularly attend training to stay ahead of the competition? Are you on top of industry patterns and trends? Don’t take for granted what you know. Your past experiences, failures, successes, learnings and growing pains — along with your specialty, are all part of the value that you provide.What is this knowledge worth to your employer? What is it worth to your client or customer?
№3 The Cost of Your Time
Every hour you spend working is an hour away from your child, your husband, your friends, your beach chair, your ski lift, your yoga mat, or your dog. What is that time worth to you? If you don’t value your time don’t expect anyone else to. Your time is yours. It’s definite, not infinite. How much is your time worth to you?
In 21 months of being in business, I have served 23 clients. 21 of them have been honest, great people to work with, and I continue to recommend their product or service to my network even after our contract has been completed.
Earlier this year, a client refused to pay me for services that my team and I provided. We were operating on a verbal agreement and we had failed to amend the original contract to cover the additional work. When I pressed for payment my client told me, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Well, I’m here to tell you that business is personal.
“Business” is the reason my son goes to daycare during the week rather than to the playground with me every day. “Business” is the reason I am able to live in my city of choice 5 minutes from the beach. “Business” is the thing that consumes my thoughts when I’m supposed to be on vacation. And “business” is the only thing I spend less time doing than sleeping.
Since I work with a lot of small business owners, I am working with people who have spent their life savings to bring to life an idea. They have worked late nights away from their families, borrowed large amounts of money, and they have been brave enough to believe they have something new to offer the world. I take it very personally that my business helps to fuel theirs.
Business is personal and the people who act like it isn’t are the people that you need to protect yourself from.
As women, we are especially bad at investing in ourselves. We are crazy-good at investing time in our families, with friends, and at our jobs. But when it comes time to hit the gym, how dare you be so selfish!? You don’t have time!
Listen — Go for the run. Read the book. Take the workshop. If you don’t find ways to invest in yourself, every day, you will lose — lose the account, lose the promotion, lose your mind. Especially in the technical industry, if you aren’t taking time to hone your craft, you are slowing losing every day.
To be a great business owner, employee, mom or dog-owner, you have to be energized, poised and on top of your game. Define the things that make you better and relentlessly defend time, every day, to do them for yourself. Or be prepared to be in the rear view mirror of the woman who does.