3 Priceless Money Lessons for Women Entrepreneurs
Let's talk women entrepreneurs and money. Specifically, women entrepreneurs wanting to make money. It may seem like a given, that if you start a business one of your top priorities will be to earn money. However, many women entrepreneurs have a tendency to sidestep the issue of money. Actually aiming to be rich -- and vocalizing it -- is often a failed social experiment if you happen to be female. Ambition of any kind -- including financial -- is deemed an unlikable trait in women (though an admirable trait in men) and even though gender parity and overcoming the wage gap have become popular topics of conversation in the Time's Up era, too often women are faulted for having money goals.
Luckily, some fierce females are leading the pack when it comes to unabashedly seeking the power that comes with wealth, essentially rebranding what it looks like to be female with money ambitions. Here are three (priceless) lessons you can learn from them:
1. Don't prioritize passion over pay.
Author Jessica Knoll pulled no punches in her fierce New York Times piece "I Want to Be Rich and I'm Not Sorry," boldly declaring: "I want to make the kind of money that allows me to jet to Mexico on a Tuesday, to meaningfully contribute to nasty politicians, to afford a shark of a lawyer if any man ever lays a finger on me again."
To Knoll, financial success is the key to autonomy. She makes it clear that it's not enough for her to be a published writer; her goal is the freedom that comes with having money -- and lots of it. Money is power, and Knoll is intent on using her writing talent to attain much of both. She's quick to add: "If anyone calls that obnoxious, I want to do what men do, and shrug."
Women entrepreneurs are often said -- more so than men -- to be pursuing their "passion" projects. Double standard aside, there is nothing wrong with turning your passion into a business and certainly nothing amiss about following your dreams, though prioritizing passion over pay is a mistake. Having money gives you the power to make choices -- where to live, what doctor to see, what charity to support -- and having the means and ability to make these kinds of decisions should not be underestimated.
Not prioritizing passion over pay doesn't mean quitting what you love. If you're a baker with a pie business, don't stop baking pies and bore yourself silly taking up accounting. But, do spend some time doing research and planning how to monetize your business. Pursuing your passion is equally as important as being financially secure.
2. Know your worth -- and make sure everyone else does, too.
Writer-producer Shonda Rhimes signed a nine-figure deal with Netflix last year, leaving ABC, home of her breakout series Grey's Anatomy. When Rhimes started taking meetings with Netflix, she had a lot to boast about. Her ABC shows were so popular (and profitable) that ABC gave her an entire night of primetime TV -- a Thursday night lineup known as TGIT -- that included her Shondaland shows Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Grey's Anatomy, which after 14 seasons remains one of ABC's top dramas (it currently ranks number two).
Despite Rhimes' massive success at ABC, where she created a multibillion-dollar empire, her nine-figure Netflix deal wasn't just handed to her. Rhimes says: "As a woman, what I know is you can't approach anything from a point of view of 'I don't deserve' or 'I'm not going to ask for because I don't want other people to get upset.' And I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world."
If you're an entrepreneur who offers a service -- such as web design, social media marketing or copywriting -- odds are you've had clients offer to pay you less than you charge (and substantially less than you're worth). People figure that since you own your own business, there's no fee set in stone, like there would be at a larger corporation. They also figure -- especially if you're just starting out -- that they can take advantage by asking for endless revisions and refusing to pay until they've gotten 10 times the work you had originally agreed upon.
So, how do you balance your own literal and figurative self-worth with your very real need to pay rent and afford groceries?
Protect yourself by being very specific in your contracts. Specify, for instance, that your fee includes three revisions so your clients can't refuse to pay you until you give them 30. Require half your fee up front and the other half upon project's completion. You may have to say yes to projects below your pay grade in the beginning, until you're more well-established, but by putting safeguards in place to protect yourself from being taken advantage of, you are establishing your worth -- and no one can take that away with you.
Rhimes didn't start Grey's Anatomy with anywhere close to a nine-figure salary, but there's no doubt she knew she was talented and knew what her writing was worth. Her confidence kept her going until ABC, Netflix and everyone else could see her value. As Rhimes says, "Decide what you think you're worth and then ask for what you think you're worth. Nobody's just going to give it to you."
3. Use your money to give back, but don't give it all away.
Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts and bona fide rocket scientist, is determined to teach girls of all ages that it's possible to make money and do good at the same time. Making money, Acevedo says, helps you "create your own opportunity."
The Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls how to budget for what they want -- such as taking a trip to a science camp and donating to an animal shelter -- and in the process of dolling out Tagalongs, girls learn the power of earning money. They also learn that making money and doing good are not mutually exclusive.
Which is a powerful lesson for women to learn as well, especially since they're more likely than men to want to use their earnings to help others. The Girl Scout model of money earning -- balancing what you make between enriching your own life and helping those in need -- is a great method to follow because it teaches women that it's OK for money to be a means to more than philanthropy.
Women are socialized to be more empathetic than men, and while empathy is beautiful, noble and even life-changing, it's also wrapped up in the notion that women's needs are secondary to everyone else's. So, if you're an entrepreneur considering donating a portion of your funds to a charitable cause, that's amazing (and smart -- millennials prefer to buy from companies that give back) but just remember that, in a world where women make less money than men (yet live longer) it's prudent to also look out for your own financial needs.