You can probably guess what my answer is to that. But can you say it and mean it yourself? Time to sit back and listen up, lady. Little Big Mouth is about to live up to her name.

We have all heard about it by now. Women are earning 78 cents to the Dollar on average. That would 22% less than what men earn for the same job.

According to the IWPR (Institute for Women’s Policy Research) “if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 44 years—or until 2058—for women to finally reach pay parity.”

Say WHAT?!?

Sorry honey. I do not know about you, but I have too many things to do in life to wait until I am in a retirement home to get my equal pay.

Lady friends, we gotta do something about this.

I don’t know about where you are, but the talk of the town here in the Netherlands — where women participating in the workforce is something that has only occurred in the last two decades or so — is that it is our fault because we simply do not ask.

Do I agree? Yes and no.

It is pretty darn hard for women to ask our value when the general message we have always received is we are not valuable enough. And when we have been pretty much excluded from the decision making about what is valued to begin with. All the more reason to stop asking and start commanding our value.

The “soft skills” myth.

We CAN do it.As women, things like our intuition, talents, gifts, sensitivities, compassion and ability to mobilise and organise have always been considered “soft skills”. Historically, our minds have been considered less “developed”.

We have been passed over for raises and promotions because we are “too sensitive”, play a different game, are not hard enough, or because it is assumed we will either have children anyway or not be able to perform (according to a model never built for us to being with) once we do.

And so we learn to BELIEVE that our skill sets are not valuable. And so we have, throughout history, learned to be modest rather than believing in our capabilities AND commanding our value.

Click To Tweet

So while we have a lot of blocks and learned beliefs to battle through, we have a duty to ourselves — and each other — to accept no less than our our truest value.

Who works for free?

My beautiful reader, listen up.

Who works for free? Slaves.

Is a slave viewed as a highly valued human being? Nope.

A slave is property of the slave owner. A slave sits at the bottom end of the human ladder and continues to be treated like she has no value for as long as she is kept there.

If someone is asking you to work for free, ask yourself this:

Is the person or company who is asking you to do this REALLY going to look at you — someone who is willing to demote her experience, knowledge, skills, and gifts to zero comma zero — and ever honor your value? Or will you forever be the one who works for free?

Is the chance so big that the employer or client is going to look at you and think 1) “Wow, this is a high-value person and I will treat and acknowledge her accordingly!” or 2) “By investing in her, I just raised the value in myself and my business!”…?

Nope.

Who else works for free?

Are you working for a charity, non-profitI’ll tell you who. Volunteers.

Now that is a different story. A volunteer puts herself forward for a good cause. A volunteer pays in TIME and ENERGY. And what does the volunteer get back in return?

A feeling so amazing, because she has does something in the name of a cause she really truly 100% believes in. It makes her feel like her very being has value because she has done something in the name of her values.

A freeing feeling, if you will.

Now I have done work for free (and for lowered rates) before for non-profits and charities.

And I will do it again when it feels right.

And that means when I can answer yes to the following questions:

1. Would this work be for a non-profit or charity with a cause that I believe in deep down to my soul to the point where I feel COMPELLED to donate my time and energy?

2. Will donating my time, energy and gifts feel rewarding rather than exhausting, stressful, and worrying because I am taking time away from my business and life?

3. Will I be acknowledged in a way that feels reciprocal for the time and energy I have given – be it with recognition, publicity, a genuine pat on the back, and/or an invaluable feeling that I have done a world of good?

Honey, if a profitable company or a person with funds is asking you to work for them for free (or worse “for publicity”), most likely they just have issues about their own value and would rather take advantage of you than invest in someone who will really be invested in their vision in return.

And so your answer should be a big old “No, thank you.” You are worth so much more than that.

I still struggle with that old devil. 

Look, I have done a truckload of work to break through my own blocks and learned beliefs when it comes to asking my value. And when I say truckload, I mean the other word.

But those blocks and learned beliefs run deep. We are layered in them, my dear.

Even with all that work, I still hit my head against them now and then.

Recently, a client from my Big Boy Brand copywriting business asked me to translate two of his blog posts… for free.

Yep. Free.

I simply answered back:

Thanks for thinking of me, [Mr Freebie-seeker]! What great blog post topics.
Unfortunately, I do not work for free.
Good luck,
Sara

What I got back was an accusation that I was being harsh, a line about his company’s lack of profitability and a curt “Good luck 2 u 2”.

The funny thing? 

I suddenly found myself starting to write an apologetic email. Yes, you read that correctly. Even after all of the work I have done to embrace my own value, I still felt a need to apologise for having set a boundary around respecting my value.

Even after all this time, I almost fell for it. The belittling message that I had no right to assume I have any value, no right to ask my value, and no right to be offended when I am undervalued.

Don’t worry. I forgave myself right away and reminded myself that there is nothing more professional, nothing more of a sign of leadership, than someone who knows and communicates her value.

And I realised how wonderful it is that I now have a beautiful, thriving business that helps other women communicate their messages, visions, missions, and value.

So I stopped myself, deleted my apology and let it go. In doing so, I released a client who was not aligned with the value I bring — and so I made room for those clients who will bring me the same value I give to them.

So when is it ok to work for free?

I will tell you in just a second.

But first, have you ever heard yourself saying this?

“I don’t care about the money, I just want to do what I like and enjoy life”.

There is your answer.

YOU NEED TO BE PAID YOUR VALUE SO YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU LIKE AND ENJOY LIFE.

It is ok to work for free when what you get back from it truly makes you feel how high-value you are — when it makes you feel like you are doing what you like and enjoying life.

This can come from volunteering for a cause you feel deeply about. It can even come from the free publicity you get — as long as YOU are providing this work as part of your own clear, strategic map and on your own terms.

(And by the way, this goes for accepting payment or charging rates for anything less than what you really feel you are worth and deserve for the time, skills, experience and value you bring to the table.)

So the next time someone who has no business of doing so asks you to work for free, stop, breathe and repeat:

I don't work for free. I work for FREEDOM, Sister! Click To Tweet

I don't work for free.I work for freedom,

Are you struggling to embrace and communicate your true value?

Contact me for a free call – and let’s discuss how we can write your little big value into the world.

Sara Bobkoff is a writer, a voice and message mentor and a story transformation coach. She is on a mission to get women communicating in their authentic voices, putting their most powerful messages out into the world, sharing their unique stories – and collecting a big, beautiful soulful community around the heart of their life and business. We are the new economy.

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