Don’t be a Nice Girl – Be a Business Woman

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“Yes, I’d be happy to do this. Now, with the amount of time you’ve given me, here’s realistically what I can give you. Or with this amount of money, here’s realistically what I can provide. Now, if you want to give me more time or more money, I can get closer to what you want.” – Lois Frankel, Ph.D.

Does that statement sound strong and empowered to you? Or does it make you cringe?

It’s from an article on Inc. – an interview with businesswoman Lois Frankel, Ph.D. The article is called Why Nice Girls Finish Last.

It certainly got me thinking. About me and my business. About how much I am willing to give, and what I am worth.

See, I’ve reached that point of ‘success’ (how do you even define that, anyway?) where people come to me for advice or help with their own businesses.

It used to be that I would help out anyone who came my way – for free.

But a while ago now I decided it was time to draw the line.

I have so many projects going on that I barely have time to keep on top of my business, let alone helping people with theirs for free.

My time truly is limited, and precious, and I simply couldn’t justify giving away my time any more. And honestly? I love teaching, but my core business is jewellery making and blogging – not coaching. I needed to make sure I had the time to focus on the core of my business.

So, I decided to charge people for my time. If they wanted my help, they needed to pay me what my time was worth.

Boy oh boy, was that a HARD decision to make!

See, I’m a “nice girl.” I like to help people, and I hate to say no. It makes me feel uncomfortable, like I’m letting people down.

I’m guessing you’re a “nice girl,” too. Because gosh, doesn’t it feel great to be thanked, and praised, and loved? It does. And we, as women, have somehow gotten it into our heads that if we say “no” or stand up and ask for payment for what our time is truly worth, that we are being “unkind” or “greedy.”

But we’re not.

We’re in business; we should treat what we do as business.

That’s not to say we can’t be kind, compassionate, caring, and helpful… but we need to be these things in a way that doesn’t result in us losing out!

We need to stop being afraid of charging what we’re worth. We need to stop being afraid to say no.

I have been saying “no” for a while now, and you know what? Every person who I’ve had to say no to has been gracious and understanding.

Of course, when I say “no” I say it in a respectful and kind way that explains my point of view. And very much like the quote at the top, I often say an “if, then” rather than a flat-out no.

For example, “I’d love to help you; however, due to the volume of requests I receive, I can no longer assist people with their businesses for free. Here is the link to my ‘hire my brain‘ page. Please get in touch if you’d like to work with me!.”

When I am confident of what I can and cannot give, other people seem to sense that and are satisfied.

I’m sure I’ll come across the odd person who doesn’t respond this way, but that’s life. I can’t let that hold me back from asking for what I’m worth.

I think I’ll let Louise sum it up:

“It would be, to get the things that you want in life, you need to take risks. You need to get outside your comfort zone and be willing to deal with other people’s discomfort, because if you spend your life making other people comfortable, you may feel good, but you’re not going to get what you really want.”

How do you tread this line in your own business – and life?

40 thoughts on “Don’t be a Nice Girl – Be a Business Woman

  1. A terrific and empowering post – Thank you. I’ve got myself into a strictly royalty situation where I spend enormous amounts of time with one client and the royalties have never come close to the value of work I provide. If I knew then what I know now…….

  2. A line from the movie, Hook, comes to mind, “Peter (Pan) — You’ve become a PIRATE!”

    Scoutie Girl, you’ve become an elitist capitalist — it’s all about YOUR bottom line. I find that view offensive and inconsistent with your “new economy” vision of a collaborative and cooperative, relationship-based economy.

    Bad karma.

    1. Hi LeAnn!

      I would love to know more about what you found offensive in Jess’s article.

      I don’t think she was suggesting that “nice” and “business” can’t go together. However, in the name of being “nice” we are often self-exploitative. That is counter to my principles of the You Economy.

      You Economy businesses must serve their owners as much as they serve their clients. We can’t fall into the trap of bleeding ourselves dry in the name of being “nice.”

      It’s the same with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You can’t love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself first. Build a business that takes care of you first and that will allow you to create a business that truly takes care of your clients.


      1. “I don’t think she was suggesting that “nice” and “business” can’t go together.” Absolutely!

        Being positive, helpful and friendly is a key to good business, as I stated above “That’s not to say we can’t be kind, compassionate, caring, and helpful… but we need to be these things in a way that doesn’t result in us losing out!”.

        The point I wanted to get across was that we have to find our own ‘balance point’ between what we’re willing to give for free (for example – I write a lot of blog posts, send out a fortnightly ‘crafty biz’newsletter, answer questions on twitter for folks) and the knowledge we feel we deserve compensation for (analysing and critiquing someone’s shop, for example, or giving detailed marketing advice).

        I do this whole creative business gig full-time. If I don’t ensure I’m earning enough money to support my husband and myself, I fail as a provider – no-one else is going to pay my bills for me! It is my responsibility – to myself and to him – to ensure I’m getting a fair wage for my time. I can only do and make so much as one person, so every moment is precious – and time I’m giving away is time I’m not earning money to put food on our table.

        I used coaching as one example, but this goes beyond that – it encompasses setting a fair price for our art and handmade work, saying no to opportunities that don’t align with our ethics/vision (for example, any blogger with a modicum of traffic will start getting offers from people wanting to pay for advertising that does NOT align with their values).

        If we give too much in any area of life we just burn ourselves out, and then we’re no good to anyone!

        I hope this helps to clarify, LeAnn :)

  3. I really needed to read this today. I just sold a large painting for a lot of money…which should make me feel very happy, but I don’t! I feel guilty! I struggle so much with the fact that my painting is a business, and with my relationship with money. Painting takes a lot of time, and I can’t give things away…I’m worth it! Lol! Thanks so much:)

    1. Congratulations Tahirih! I’m proud of you ;D

      It’s so hard to put a price on our artwork, isn’t it? I think part of this is that we find it natural to create what we do, and we think ‘gee, why would someone want to pay THAT MUCH’ for this?

      And it’s so great to see you valuing your time – you ARE worth it (sorry to sound like a skin-care commercial ;D)

  4. Agree completely. I get asked for free party planning advice all the time. I give lots of ideas away on my blog, and I love doing that, but there is a line. Just yesterday I had to respond to someone with a few party tips and then direct her to my shop. Fortunately, she was as nice about it as the folks you have “turned away.”

    1. Jennifer – I know what you mean – I give away a lot of knowledge on my blog and in my newsletter, too, and it can be tricky sometimes to decide what to give away to someone and when to ask them to pay for your knowledge.

  5. This is such an amazing article. I am starting my own business and I am “the nice girl” but have known for awhile that mindset will burn me out. Thank you! I think your bottom line is being able to create what you love and not over extend yourself so that you have the power to do so. Just my two cents on that! Knowing your boundaries is a very powerful tool!

    1. I wanted to quote your whole comment here, Holli – brilliant! You put it really well – ” I think your bottom line is being able to create what you love and not over extend yourself so that you have the power to do so.”


  6. I have been mulling over these very thoughts in recent weeks. I found a compromise that still added value to my time by offering a subscription service to people who cannot afford my full-priced consulting services. The emails & inquiries from other social media outlets have turned into a small revenue stream. They’re happy, I’m happy and I still get to feel like a “nice” person at the end of the day.

  7. What a great article – it sure rings true! Thanks for your thoughtful way of making a very “touchy” subject easy to understand and make so much sense!!

  8. Absolutely! I struggle with this all the time.
    What I’ve come to realize is that if I don’t do right by me first, I end up in no position to help others. In business, what comes around can go around.

    1. ” if I don’t do right by me first, I end up in no position to help others. In business, what comes around can go around.” – exactly!

  9. Thanks Jess! You are a wise woman. I especially have a hard time with people I know. I will say well this is my price but, I’ll give you x off since you’re a friend. I do this because I feel like I should. But, I am finding my friends often tell me no, it’s okay I’ll pay you full price. It’s happened a few times now and I think I’m finally starting to realize that my prices are fair and I don’t need to undercut my worth because the person hiring me service is someone I know.

  10. I’m about to open my very own cake shop and have to finalise pricing this week. This was a timely message to base my pricing on business based principles rather than “What if someone thinks that’s too much?” My product will be unique in my town, baked from scratch and made with passion for what I do, and your post reminded me that I need to value (literally!) my tiime. Thank you!

  11. Another great article Jess!

    This year I have really started putting my foot down about charging and charging correctly or otherwise just turning down a fair bit of work. A real wake up call was when I hired a couple of assistants and realised that I was paying them more than I was charging (in the end – by the time you factor in all the preparation time, travel, take out GST etc) for myself! The less time I have to work in the studio, the more I need to hire them… so it worked out that it was costing me money to run those workshops.

    The other big factor in realising I really had to make a change was the more work I do for free / to cheaply, the longer I have to work to still keep up with the paid work and that was then taking me away from my family and more importantly from my two year old. Here I was helping people I hardly knew at the expense of time with my daughter. And that’s just not on in my book.

    I do make an exception at times of course, there are friends that I gladly help out (but I know they would do the same for me – and do in different ways) and a few community situations. From those communities, I get so much value from that I like being able to then give back with skills that I can pass on.

    I’ve found it funny over time though… there are a few people that seem to think that because you choose to give some information away for free, that you’re willing to give it all away.

    If you think about it like this. If you were an accountant you may help a friend out with their tax a mates rates / in exchange for something or just to help them knowing that it’s the type of friendship that works both ways. A stranger surely wouldn’t expect you to do their tax return for nothing, they understand that that is your job, that is what has to pay your bills, feeds your family. Why should it be any different if you’ve chosen a creative business or coaching as your career?

    1. Mel, you’ve hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph, for sure.

      And I’ve faced the same thing in my jewellery business – for example, I now have a flat-out ‘no consignment’ rule – I just don’t do it, because I can’t afford to spend the time making pieces that may or may not sell at the expense of the orders from people who have already paid me!

      It’s hard to turn down consignment offers from awesome shops where I’d love to show my work… but you have to make hard decisions in business – which it sounds like you’ve definitely discovered this year.

      1. You’re so right about that! I still have a couple of stores that I sell work through consignment, but only because I have a great track record with them with my work selling really well there. That being said though, they do have to wait until all other work is done before I make work for them. People that have pre-paid have to come first.

  12. Great post! Very thought provoking! It’s so true I think for women in general as we are socialised to be the “nice girl”

    I really struggle with this too as I previously worked in the community sector for 20+ years and my jobs were about helping people. So I feel like my brain is now wired to help people problem solve.

    What I have to remember is that I used to get paid for it, I don’t anymore!

  13. Hey Jess! I just had to leave a comment and say that this post is something that we all need to think about as business owners. I think it’s great to give some stuff away. For instance, if I can answer a reader question easily in an email, I usually do…but, if they ask for something more intensive like a website review, I just can’t do it for free. I remember getting to that point in my business where I no longer had ANYMORE time and realized part of the problem was not always charging for my time.

    Like I said, I still don’t always charge for my time, but I do pick and choose what I can and can’t do. That really helped me become more productive and help more people. I think about it like this…I could do that website critique for that one person or I could shoot video on making your website convert more sales which will reach a lot more people.

    I’ll be sending lots of my clients this way to read this post! Soooooo good!

  14. Thank you!!! I’m trying to make changes in my business and this is just the reminder I needed that I’m headed in the right direction and need to stand behind where I believe things are going!!!

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