Noble Poverty

We always see little phrases here and there that clue us in to our society’s issues around money and the “noble poverty” mentality. For example, “Oh, I don’t want to get rich from this…” That type of thing.

And sometimes I will hear or pick up on things where it’s almost as if some people don’t feel they deserve to earn well. Sort of like a “This is good enough, it would be greedy to want more.”

Granted, we all have different ideas of what financial “success” is. One person might think it’s making millions; for others, it’s six figures. Heck, I think a lot of people feel if they can just keep a roof over their head, they’re doing fine, lol.

For me, I live a simple life by choice and don’t have much materialistic wants or needs. Not that I don’t have any, but I just have never been the type who yearned for the status of mansions and Bentleys and keeping up with the Joneses. Know what I mean? I value experiences more highly than things. When it comes to things, style and quality is more important to me than how much something costs or whether it has a designer label or is a status symbol.

A six figure income for me is plenty and I live a great life. I think for anyone in a service profession such as ours (where overhead and operating costs are practically nothing, relatively speaking), the $100,000 mark is an excellent initial financial goal to strive for.

Generally (and, again, I’m referring specifically to our kind of service profession), when you are able to get near that mark, you are making a healthy profit to sustain the business and most likely earning far more than you ever did as an employee.

(Side note:  I’m not saying anyone should “settle” for only ever making $100,000 a year if they have higher aspirations. That’s not what I’m saying at all! In fact, those who are able to achieve that first six figure level increase their confidence and business understanding commensurately and go on to earn much more beyond that. But most people in our industry are barely earning $10,000 a year and those are the folks I’m wanting to help.)

It’s a goal that challenges you to up your game and gives you a benchmark to shoot for. It’s an entirely doable and realistic goal with the right guidance and information. And once you start earning into that realm, and not living hand to mouth, there are more ways for you to invest and leverage your money so that it grows from there.

Yet, I hear over and over again the little clues in people’s phrases that they don’t feel worthy of that kind of goal. They “put themselves on sale” as Suze Orman oftens refers to it, practically apologizing for being in business and needing to charge for their services. All the “discount this, save money that” messaging in our industry is a symptom and demonstration of that belief system.

I’m just curious about people’s thoughts on this… where do you think this societal guilt comes from when it comes to money and earning well? Why do people feel guilty charging for their services? Is it a gender thing? What do you think would help people (particularly women) increase their self-esteem and feel more deserving of earning a great living? What would need to happen or change in order for them to feel good about charging better and feel confident in asking for their fees?

14 Comments Posted in Earning, Financial Success, Getting Paid. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses

  1. Patty Ravany says:

    Hey Danielle,

    An amazing post once again 🙂 I personally believe that a professional has to be 100% sure she can provide to her client the benefits and outcomes she claims in order to be able to charge what she’s worth and get it.

    I’ve been in a place where I was never satisfied with my work, so I’d give it away or charge very little for it, which as a consequence got people not to value it for what it was really worth (hours of work, of creativity, of energy.)

    It’s a difficult place to be at, but I’ve learned that it’s part of the learning process. And I found the way to fix it is all about acknowledging it. What I personally did and keep doing every day is exactly what you said yourself: I started to notice what I was saying to myself secretly (that I wasn’t worth it, was not “good enough yet” to charge premium rates, etc.) and forced myself to automatically rephrase it to something positive. It doesn’t happen overnight – but it’s a start and once you do it regularly enough, it feels a lot more natural.

    Having a list of all the good things I did, of the proofs of my expertise (hours learning and mastering my skills) also helps me focus on the positive – we naturally tend to look at the negative, so that’s something to change as well, and an other part of the answer to your question.

    I believe that it really all starts with a mindset shift.

    It’s a learning, on-going process and you have to start to acknowledge what is wrong and trust the process – trust that over time (not overnight!) you will experience a boost in your confidence.

    Self-worth, self-esteem, confidence… they are key to charging what one is worth and getting it.

    Thanks for this amazing post – it resonates a lot with the thoughts I have lately!

    – Patty

  2. Hi, Patty!

    Such wonderful insights that you’ve shared! Changing the internal message and self-talk are definite keys.

  3. Great topic and viewpoint, Danielle.

    If plumbers make $100 and hour and more, what is it worth to your clients for you to change their lives for the better? What is it worth to them to help reach their life objectives?

    It’s counterproductive to express it in terms of a rate-per-hour. That’s how tradespeople charge. Instead, send a different signal. Charge by the perceived value of results and a side benefit will be that it helps you always be focused on the value you provide.

    After ten years of running a couple different advertising agencies, I decided I’d never quote an hourly rate to clients (the industry standard practice) for our services again. Instead, clients would get estimates with only three numbers on them:

    Inside Services: $x.xx
    Outside Services: $y.yy

    Total: $z.zz

    I was told by others in the industry that it would never fly. It flew. It took a week or two of explain to clients why the change. But no one objected.

    All clients are really interested in is whether the price of something is *worth it* to them. So help them see what it’s worth to them.


    PS: A great illustration of how bogus hourly rates are as a measuring stick is that if person A charges $40 an hour and person B charges $25 an hour but takes twice as long to finish a task to the client’s satisfaction, person A is “cheaper” at $40 an hour.

    Now, what if person A said to the client, “I’ll perform that task for $50, based on one round of changes. As long as the scope doesn’t change or it goes into additional rounds of changes, there won’t be any surprise charges. It will be done right the first time and it will be done in a timely manner. Once you assign it, you’ll know it was done and done well so you can focus on your new client.”

  4. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Terry! You’ve hit on precisely one of the main tenets of my teachings in my industry. Hourly billing is killing people’s businesses and financial dreams!

    Check out my video:

  5. Amanda says:

    Hi Danielle

    I don’t think this is a gender thing at all. I have just as many male clients (if not more) that wrestle with feeling worthy of their fee as I do female clients.

    I think this is more of a societal issue with roots in our history of moving from inherited aristocratic wealth to one of entrepreneurship. Terms such as “new money”, “bourgeois” or “grasping” have been used for centuries to negatively label people who tried to better their circumstances beyond that which they naturally fell into – and if you’re starting your own business then you’re doing just that.

    I think that combined with the fear that we will lose clients or price ourselves out of the market etc. cause us to charge too little and take clients that only fulfill this believe.

    At the advice of my business coach I have increased my basic rate by 100% over the last year and have started offering a whole new service entirely that is charged out at almost 5 times my old rate. And guess what – the result has been better clients and lots of them!

  6. Oh, you hit that nail on the head, Amanda! I am always, always telling people: Raise your rates and you’ll get BETTER clients. It’s just a fact. But you are absolutely correct. Fear-based thinking keeps many from doing that for exact reasons you mention: losing clients and pricing out of the market.

    So I wonder, how can we help free people from the fears that are holding them hostage when it comes to charging well and earning better?

  7. Ms.Mattie says:

    Never had that problem, I know my worth and dont have a problem charging accordingly,now to get out and network/get the word out, thats a whole nother story…lol….but I have taken the first step in ordering your contract templates, about to send one out tonight. THANKS Danielle 🙂

  8. That confidence is fabulous to hear, Miss Mattie! Good for you and thanks for sharing!

  9. Laurel Weber says:

    Hi Danielle,
    I just bought your whole shebang last night, which I’m immersed in. This blog is fantastic. I have so much more to say but I’m exhausted from all my studying and the 3 new clients that just fell out of the sky. Right now I will just say that I got a call from a woman today pitching her coaching services and I told her I already have one–it’s you, Danielle!

  10. Aw, thank you, Laurel. 🙂 That’s the best compliment and you’ve made my day. I’m so happy to hear how helpful the blog and the products are. And super congrats on the new clients! You’ve got your hands full, dontcha? Have a wonderful adventure!

  11. Danielle,

    Thank you for sharing this topic. I like the title “Noble Poverty” sort of a paradox, I must admit it does grab the attention real fast.

    It depends at what season one is into: “go getter” or “what the? or “let me do this first then I will……..”

    As for me, I am climbing slowly at the moment, learning the VA industry for a full year, completing my studies (takes long hours to complete modules).
    I am personally:
    sizing it up,
    tossing it and looking at all the facettes,
    reading and gleaning,
    separating the gold from the dross,
    adopting and implementing,
    pondering on the VA world and looking into various VA networks,
    just because I do not join a VA network does not mean that I do not like it, it just means it is not the right time.

    I think it is wise for me to think on growing, enhancing and improving myself prior to thinking of a 6 digit figure, $$$$$$$$$ will come later, let me complete the learning curve first, there is a need for synchronisation.

    Right now, I do not feel I know enough about the VA industry/market to charge clients a lot of $$$$$$$$$. I do not want to kill myself.
    I like this blog it makes me think deeper and gives me a lot of food for thought.

    Kind regards,


  12. Hi Brigitte 🙂

    Thanks for adding to the conversation. Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of time studying the VA industry (and remember, I deal with the Adminstrative Consultant industry, not the VA one. That’s the term we use here). The most important things to be studying right now for you are business, marketing and your target market’s industry. That is what will inform how you set things up and move forward with your business with regard to providing administrative support for them.

  13. Judy Reyes says:

    I like Terry Robert’s comment. We are no less “journey-level” than the skilled craftspeople to whom we entrust our cars, plumbing, and electrical systems. If we feel we are experts at our “craft” we should charge accordingly, no guilt.

    Noble poverty: there is nothing “noble” about it. Long-suffering maybe, or martyr-like or ascetic, or pitiful. Not a goal around which to build a life unless you are uniquely called (like Mother Theresa).

    My dad and mom used to spout things like this. “We’re poor but happy.” It wasn’t true. Since they truly grew up in poverty, it was a defensive statement against people who they felt put them down because they were “less.” A way to tell themselves they were just as good as anyone else. And sometimes, an excuse not to reach further. Plus their strong religious background that taught them “suffering” was redemptive. It is a hard mind-set to break.

    Let us be free from these self-imposed prisons of the spirit. Mind, soul and material worlds do not have to collide. Onward, administrative consultants.

  14. Yeah, Judy! You go, girl! Love this 🙂

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