- In my second full year of freelancing, I made less than $40,000 while working 12-hour days. I knew something had to change. I wanted to find a way to earn more money without working myself to the ground.
- The book “Overcoming Underearning” gave me a five-step plan to help me increase my income. Ultimately, it gave me the confidence to go after the life I want, and my income increased at the same time.
- It taught me to examine some of my beliefs around money, and to start respecting my own time and my own work.
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Like many business owners, I was obsessed with reading a ton of self-improvement and entrepreneurship-related books in order to improve what I do. And — if we’re being honest here — to figure out ways to earn more money.
But boy did I struggle. In 2017, my second year of business full-time, I earned just shy of $40,000. I know this isn’t a terrible salary by any standards, but I was working 12-hour days, almost seven days a week, running myself ragged.
So what changed? I read “Overcoming Underearning,” a book by Barbara Stanny that was originally published in 2007.
It’s weird to think that one book can change your life, but it did for mine. So much so that in 2018 I crossed the six-figure mark in my business in October. I also drastically reduced my working schedule, got some semblance of my life back, and felt so much more confident about what I was doing.
While the exercises she has in the book aren’t exactly new to anyone who’s read a lot of self-improvement books, it was the way and the order in which she presented the information that worked wonders for my career.
I’ve divided the five life-changing lessons into the five-step plan she lays out in the book.
1. Tell the truth about your beliefs around money
Stanny notes that you need to start looking at your beliefs around money to overcome your earnings barriers. It was uncomfortable, but I dug deeper into some of my limiting beliefs around money.
One that surprised me is that I thought if I didn’t work long hours, I couldn’t expect to make a profit. Turns out, watching my mom and dad work long hours instilled this belief. Once I figured that out, I worked on telling myself the opposite — that I can earn a high income even if I work part-time hours — until it stuck.
2. Make a decision to be OK with earning more
Sounds deceptively simple, but making a decision to earn more money was much harder in practice. Stanny says in the book that I needed to commit to a profit motive, meaning that I needed to commit to making more money.
In essence, I had to get over my fears of wanting to earn more — it’s not selfish. Once I set an earnings goal, it was easier to understand what I needed to do, which was to cut out a lot of things that weren’t going to make me money.
3. Stretch your fear muscles
Stanny mentions that the biggest barrier to overcoming underearning was fear. Frankly, I thought that I had gotten over my fear of pitching big-name clients. When it came to send the email, I would constantly stop myself.
I learned that stretching my fear muscles is to start asking for what I want in a small way. I started asking for trial articles from clients. I asked existing editors if there was room in the budget to pay me more. It didn’t always result in more money, but it gave me the confidence to keep asking, helping me to land more clients.
4. Start respecting your own time
There were a few sub-lessons in this step, but one thing that really stood out to me was to take time for myself. It’s deceptively simple, but hard for me in action.
I thought once becoming a mom that I wasn’t allowed to have time for myself. Or if I did, it was to work on the business. Silly, right? Because I made a commitment to stop underearning, I started taking more time for myself. It was symbolic of the fact that I wanted people to respect me professionally. If I don’t respect my own time, how I can expect people to do the same?
5. Spend on what matters, cut back on what doesn’t
As a personal finance junkie, I thought I had it down pat when it comes to managing my money well. Boy, was I wrong!
I am really good atsaving money, but wasn’t as strategic when it came to spending money to improve my business. I’m sad to admit that I spent a lot on subscriptions and courses that I never used. For example, I bought a high-end course (we’re talking over $1,500 dollars) because I felt like it was the only way to increase my income.
I’m sure you know what happened: I started watching the introduction videos, then stopped. It’s gathering dust.
When I made the decision to earn more, I forced myself to look at my business expenses. The fact that I spent on items that I rarely used was eye-opening. If I wanted to increase my profits, I knew I had to be more strategic about which products and services helped me do so.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but once I cut out 80% of my spending, my income shot up. The best part was that because I increased my profits.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t about earning more money (though that’s certainly a perk) — it was about building a better life for myself and my family. Now that I’ve reclaimed my time and crossed a bunch of goals off my list, I am confident that it will only get better from here.