Your freelance and consulting rates: how do you value yourself?

Several years ago I attended a job club meeting led by an unemployed volunteer who was clearly—and deeply—troubled.

He asked someone from the audience the type of job he was looking for and his intended salary. The man responded that he was an unemployed engineer and wanted a job paying $100,000 annually. The leader asked if he would accept a job paying $104,000. The engineer readily agreed that he would.

Then the leader turned vicious.

He was really steamed, apparently because the engineer had some kind of self-esteem issue; he did not know exactly what he was worth or was willing to compromise on his salary expectations.

(Yes, I agree that the story in puzzling. The leader obviously had his own self-esteem problems that colored his judgment and left the audience wondering exactly what we were witnessing.)

However, the story does have a moral:

When we equate our salary or our freelance / consulting fees with our self-esteem, we’re mucking around in quicksand that can quickly engulf us.

Our fees have nothing to do with our worth as individuals.

Jay Abrahams is a famous guy on the Internet who charges $50,000 a day for his counsel.

I know, you’re asking what he does because that’s a business we all want to get in on. I listened to part of one of his free teleseminars and apparently he makes deals.

Is he worth $50,000? If people pay it, then he is worth it. That’s his price in the marketplace.

Does that mean that if there’s another Hurricane Katrina in Jay’s neck of the woods that he should be first on the lifeboat?

I say “no.” There is no way to assign a dollar value to people’s lives.

What we choose to charge should be our calculation of the market value of our services, not a measure of our self-esteem.

It’s just money.

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