Lately, I’ve been hearing from many women about a certain kind of feeling, a certain set of thoughts –
“I want to do x, but will I really be able to make money at it?”
“I love my business/side hustle/passion project doing x, but the next big step for me is to see – can I bring in significant revenue with it? Will people pay?”
I want to talk about the way we ask these questions.
If you are looking to make money doing your beloved, passion-fueled work because you think it would be joyful, or fulfilling, or wonderful to sustain yourself financially doing it, these are perfectly fine questions to ask.
But there’s another way I am hearing women asking these questions: Am I good enough at this to make real money at it? Is it legitimate enough that I could sustain myself financially by doing it? Do people like me, like it, value me enough to pay me significantly for it?
And here’s where I think we are doing ourselves a disservice. When women are asking these questions, they often think they are stepping into a place of greater empowerment around money and worth. That they are finally opening the door to considering asking for more money, or for the first time opening their minds to the possibility that they could love their paid work. These are important movements – especially for a population that has been deprived of so much economic freedom and power.
But I also want us to understand that when we say, “Am I good enough at this to make real money at it? Is it legitimate enough, or special enough, or amazing enough that I can sustain myself financially doing it?” what we are really saying is:
I will submit myself and my work to the evaluation system of the status quo culture and economy and see what that system has to tell me about me. And I will believe whatever I think it’s telling me.
Our culture is dysfunctional. It economically values things that do not foster human wellbeing (whether gems harmfully taken from the earth or companies selling toxic food or workaholic schedules). And our culture places little economic value on things that create a tremendous amount of human wellbeing – amazing caregivers, brilliant teachers, visionary art, profound healing work…there are far too many examples to name.
If you are looking to that dysfunctional system to tell you – through the dollars it feeds you – whether your work is legitimate, amazing, special or needed, well, then, we have a problem.
The status quo system doesn’t deserve that authority in your life.
So if you have a beloved idea you’re hoping can also be a source of financial sustainability, you can certainly begin what is often a zig-zagging trial and error process of testing what may work to help you get there. But please don’t do this with the story that the money you make tells you about the worth of the work.
You can suspend questions of value for now, if that feels right. Or, find other ways to assess the value you are bringing: What do you hear from the people you’re working with? What differences do you see you’re making in those you serve? And what difference is pursuing the work making to your own heart, your own growth? What value might yet manifest because you’re still germinating and planting seeds for the future?
But please do your thing. Do it for an hour or two a week if that’s all there is room for right now. Do it in the wee hours or the weekends or the moments you find. Give it some loving attention and see what happens.
We have to be far-seeing enough to listen to our callings and be creative about pursuing them – whether or not the world is ready to deem them economically valuable yet. That’s part of the change we are all here to make. That’s part of how we say no to what is, and collectively, dream our way into something different.
Photo credit: Corrina Peat