We all have parking lots filled with baggage when it comes to money. Some of us feel we deserve to struggle, especially if we’re doing what we love. Others feel entitled to have the dough roll in quickly and easily. Collectively, there’s enormous vats full of shame, entitlement, confusion, fear, anger, arrogance, low self-esteem and other varieties of imbalance when it comes to our relationship to money and our beliefs about earning a living.
As someone who’s been offering freelance writing classes, readings, talks and, years before, editing and writing services, I’ve had more than my share of stumbling over what to charge, how to ask for it, and what it means to value myself with grace and balance. While I still feel a little apologetic at inappropriate times, I’ve come to learn how important it is to continually cultivate a healthier relationship with this life resource that’s so often tainted in our culture. Here are some things I work on:
MONEY IS A FORM OF ENERGY: Seriously, money is a compact form that carries the energy of who created this, did that, or gave those. I receive $12 for a class from a woman who earned that money teaching at the local high school, and then I distribute that $12 various ways, a small part to support the yoga studio, a larger part to buy more kale to toss into the blender, and some even to cover a toenail of my monthly mortgage. Money is simply an energy transport system.
BE BRAVE ABOUT ASKING FOR WHAT YOUR WORK IS WORTH: Particularly when it comes to yoga and other spiritual practices, there’s kind of a reluctance to believe we should be paid well for our time, energy, years of training, and heart and soul put into giving the class our all. Yes, teaching can and should be part of your spiritual practice, but shouldn’t valuing who you are and what you give also be part of that practice too?
BE CLEAR ABOUT THE BUSINESS ASPECTS OF YOUR WORK: It can get messy sometimes when people try to muddy the waters or refuse to see what you do as a business. I’ve had people blow off paying for classes in ways they would never blow off paying an electric bill as well as people who, when confused about a coupon for a yoga class, got very insistent they be given extra discounts. It’s important that you stand firm and kind, communicating to others, “I love teaching yoga, and it’s also my business” (notice I used “and” instead of “but,” which tends to make loving something and doing it as a business seem like opposites). Of course, you also don’t want to sound desperate and overly-wrought (“Hey, I do this for a living, and if you don’t pay up, I’m screwed!”). Sometimes we just have to breathe into our edges when seeking clarity in business transactions.
DON’T TAKE BUSINESS MISHAPS PERSONALLY: Whether you’re running your own studio or working at someone else’s or even working at home one-on-one or with groups, there’s bound to be some mishaps. Someone buys a 10-class card, then two classes in, vanishes, almost 100% likely because of what’s going on in his/her life. Someone might bounce a check and disappear. If people don’t communicate with you about what’s going on, there’s almost always no reason to take such mishaps personally.
DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR COSTS: “$15 for a class? That’s outrageous when I can do this at home for free,” someone once said to me. I smiled, nodded to show I heard what she said, and turned to help other people check in. If what you’re charging is in line with what yoga classes tend to go for in your area, then you’re probably on solid ground. There’s no need to apologize about the cost, and you can instead present that $120 gift card for 10 classes “as an investment in your health and well-being” for people who seem interested rather than offering it meekly. We do valuable work.
KNOW YOUR OWN MONEY STORY: Most of all, getting familiar with your own propensities around money and the story of money in your life is the best way to bring greater awareness to what you do in this world to earn money. Ask yourself where and when you feel uncomfortable, what has and hasn’t panned out as you thought, what money was to you when growing up and what it is now, where you might harbor shame or hurt over money, and other relevant questions. Bring kindness and curiosity to all you discover about befriending this energy form, and remember, it’s only money, honey.