I was listening to the James Altucher podcast featuring writing coach Jeff Goins and the topic is “Real Artists Don’t Starve”. The over-riding idea is that successful artists, what Goins calls “thriving artists” do not create art to make money, they make money to create art. They learn the fearlessness it takes to charge for their work. When you are starting a business, as a consultant, or an agency, or a tech startup there is the moment that you need to charge for what you do – even if you aren’t comfortable with it.
So, here is a quick story – when I was recruiting for one of my startups, I knew that we could not pay market rate salaries. In no way could I offer these incredible, talented people what they were “worth”. So, I took a different strategy – I offered them the opportunity to create their own opportunity to solve interesting problems in their own way. That has some true value. But when it came down to pay, I couldn’t offer any attractive value.
So instead of pretending that the offer was competitive, I turned the offer on it’s head. Instead of pretending that the offer was fair, I asked the candidate how much they needed to afford to work at the company. What was the amount of money that kept their lives together so that they could get to do the thing (solve interesting problems in interesting ways) that they expressed a desire to do. This changed the paradigm from a question of fair value to opportunity. It is easy to address the short term cash issues through attractive equity and deferred compensation, but the thing that tips talent from no to yes is the opportunity.
As I work with startups and growing agencies, I run into this “worth” and “value” problem frequently. A founder or owner tells me that they don’t have enough money to pay for the best talent. They also tell me that they have trouble charging enough to make enough to keep the machine moving. Founders need to think about it differently – they aren’t feeding a payroll machine (which it certainly can feel like). A startup CEO is fueling a mission. What you charge is the fuel that powers your own personal moonshot.
When you are able to flip your own mindset that you aren’t charging based on your costs, you actually can start charging MORE because you are now charging based on keeping the mission moving ahead. And let’s face it, if money were your motivation, you wouldn’t have started a company – you would have become a stock broker. You started a company to do something. You started a company to solve problems. You started a company to make a difference in the lives of of your clients, your employees, your family and your own. Feed the mission, not the machine.
By the way, check out James Altucher’s book, Choose Yourself – right now it is $0.99 on Amazon Kindle – it is a super mindset hack about the future of work