Last summer I received a $3/hour pay bump during my annual review.
Sure, any increase is nice, but I expected to receive about three times that much – just to make my wages competitive with the rest of my department’s.
I felt that I had been working hard, putting in long hours, and eager to learn – but apparently my employer didn’t see it that way.
Was I right and he wrong? No. I’m sure he had good justification as to why I didn’t deserve the bump. My work could have been sub-par for that promotion. Maybe I wasn’t putting in as much overtime as he thought was appropriate. Or perhaps my sense of humor came off as immature to him.
Whatever the reason, my boss and I were at obvious odds as to how much my time is worth.
What do you do when your boss doesn’t give you the raise you thought you deserved?
Money isn’t everything, but it is one way of placing value on something – or someone.
In fact, research shows that we would rather take a job at $50k a year in a department where other people make $50k, then land a job at $80k a year when everyone else in the department makes $100k.
Are people just stupid?
Well, if money is the only reason to work, then yes, many people are stupid.
But no one should work solely for a paycheck. We work because we want to feel valued. We want to contribute to society, take care of our families, and leave the world a little better than we found it. One way (but often not the best way) to measure our contribution is by our pay.
But what do you do when others don’t recognize your true value?
I’ve grown up surrounded by an amazing family, great friends, and phenomenal mentors. This healthy Christian community raised me to believe that we are each created for a reason, and the ruler of the universe has a vested interest in our success.
Because of this, I refuse to allow other people to determine what I’m worth.
Does this mean I’m just another member of the “entitlement” generation?
But maybe this is actually how we are supposed to live… What if we were meant to do work that makes us come alive, gives us purpose and satisfaction, and helps us truly make a difference in the lives of others?
What would happen if you stopped waiting for other people to determine your value and just started creating value – and charging for it?
It wasn’t long after this lackluster raise that I started reading a book called The End of Jobs. In this great read, Taylor Pearson compares his entrepreneurial friends and his professional friends – post college. While the professionals were excited to get their annual 3% raise, his entrepreneurial friends were disappointed if their businesses didn’t double or triple in size every year.
Confident that I would never be happy with 3% raises, and never satisfied with someone else determining my worth, I realized a life shift was necessary.
So I picked up more freelance writing
Right as I finished The End of Jobs, I made contact with a friend of mine who has an MA in English and is an exceptional writer. Myles (who will start writing on this blog in the near future) was having an equally challenging time finding meaningful work. Teaching wasn’t his thing, and after trying a few pointless jobs, he was discouraged – thinking he may have to join cubical nation after all.
Knowing that Myles was an excellent writer, and realizing that I had made $50/hr writing online before landing my current job, I told Myles we should start hunting down some freelance writing gigs. It could be a fun and profitable side hobby while we both figured things out.
So we started with a few $25/500 word articles and brought in some decent money. This rate was sufficient for simple articles that took us 30-60 minutes to crank out, but neither Myles nor I were satisfied writing mediocre content.
When we took on higher quality writing gigs, we found ourselves putting in 2, 3, or even 6 hours for each article.
While we enjoyed writing this more developed content, the time involved left us working for as little as $8/hr. For two guys with masters degrees, that rate was definitely not going to work.
So we had several options. We could both quit writing and stick with traditional work. Or, we could up our rates and hustle.
We decided to hustle.
And it started paying off.
Our rate per 500 words increased to $50, and then $100, and now we charge as much as $125 per 500 words!
We never anticipated making this much. And it turns out that many good writers charge double this rate. So we have plenty of room to grow.
While my paycheck increased $3/hr over a year, my writing rate increased 500% in three months!
Obviously I write much more frequently now – as I can make as much writing for two hours as I do during a full day at my office job.
It’s amazing how life works out – especially when you’re honest with yourself and others about what brings you value. One conversation with Myles about finding meaningful work has led to a successful freelancing partnership.
And we now have a team writing for us!
So not only has this leap helped us, but it’s given us the ability to help others make money doing what they enjoy as well.
Deciding to freelance on the side was the best career decisions I’ve ever made.
I’ve been able to add to my income, I’ve confirmed that my time is valuable (and becomes more valuable every day), and I’ve been able to help other people increase their value as well.
Not only can I spend a few hours a week and make half-again my income, but I enjoy what I’m doing! Educating people, entertaining people, and inspiring people is rewarding. Plus, I get to blast my worthless opinions out into cyberspace. Who doesn’t enjoy doing that?
Who’s determining your value?
One of the biggest discoveries I’ve made in the last 6 months is that you get to decide what you are worth. Other people will place price tags on you, but you have the final say as to whether or not you accept those limitations.
Check out this photo below and tell me why it’s spectacular:
See anything special? Would you consider this the greatest photograph ever taken?
Honestly, I think it’s cool, but I’ve seen better.
However, a copy of this digital picture (which was edited in Photoshop) sold for $4.3 million dollars in 2011. Rhein II is the most expensive photograph ever sold.
And did I mention it’s digital?
In other words, you could blow up this photo above, print it out and post it on your wall, and it wouldn’t be much different than the one that some art investor paid $4.3 million for.
What’s my point?
My point is that “value” is arbitrary. The value of an object is based 100% on what someone is willing to pay for it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I have an Australian friend who’s photographs are far better than the one above. Yet no one has offered him $4.3 million for any of his artwork (although I recommend that you do).
And I bet we could find thousands of photographs we think are more impressive than Rhein II on Shutterstock.
How much would purchasing one of those Shutterstock pictures cost us? No more than $2-$5.
So, is Rhein II overvalued?
If Andreas Gursky had started his career by coming to my door and trying to sell me a photograph, I might have paid $20 for it.
That’s why Gursky doesn’t knock on my door.
Andreas Gursky sells photographs to people who recognize the true value of his work.
And before seeking out these art enthusiasts, Gursky had the audacity to think his work was actually worth something!
Is he arrogant, or has he simply refused to let other people limit his value?
Who are you trying to sell your time, product, or idea to?
Is it the first person willing to pay anything for it? If so, you’ll never maximize your value. Instead, you’ll fall into the trap of doing mundane work, for a nominal wage, living for the weekends and retirement.
However, if you begin developing valuable skills, and then seek out people who appreciate those skills, your income can double or triple every year – doing what you love. (Whether that’s as an entrepreneur or in an office).
Too often we wait for other people’s approval to decide what we’re worth. And when that happens, we are always undervalued.
As a Christian, I believe that Christ came so that I can “have life, and have it to the full”. Any day that I’m not in the moment, serving others, and loving life, I’m not living up to my destiny. Motivation for you may be something different – but find some external truth to place your faith in. Once you do this, no human can determine your value – not even yourself.
Once you recognize your value, you can do work you’re passionate about, for people who appreciate your value.
Don’t just settle for the first job that comes around. Determine what matters to you, and seek out jobs that align with those values.
And don’t be afraid to make changes when a job isn’t the right fit. Very few people marry the first person they date – and for good reason! If you can be mature enough to know when a situation is unhealthy, and gutsy enough to make a change, you’ll find yourself with the dream girl, the dream job, and a life worth loving.
How are you going to increase your value and change the world?
The easiest way to make $1 million is to help one million people. How are YOU going to do it?
It’s not just about setting your monetary value – it’s about truly providing value to others. As you strive to serve others more, you’ll be blown away by the impact you can have – and the money you can make.
I love the quote by Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
My goal with MoneyNomad, and one of my major life purposes, is to help people dream of what they could do, and then develop the tools to do it.
What’s your life work going to be? Don’t make it about money – make it about changing people’s lives by doing what you love.
Maybe you’ll end up with a billion dollar company or New York Times best seller. But if you don’t, that’s completely alright.
All that matters is that you continually hold yourself accountable to these three criteria:
- Recognize your own worth.
- Only do work that makes you come alive.
- Constantly add value to the lives of others.
Make achieving this your goal, and you’ll undoubtedly live a rich and rewarding life.
For the comments: Only 1 in 5 people are doing work they love. Are you one of those people? If so, share with us how you got there. If you are one of the other four, what’s holding you back from doing what you love?
Discover how to make a living by living your purpose. Sign up for my newsletter (above) and receive weekly updates with the best articles and tools on career development, personal finance, and the freelance/entrepreneur lifestyle.