What You’re Worth


How much is my time worth?  Most people don’t ask themselves that question enough, but more importantly, most people only equate “worth” to “how much money” they’re making.  Doesn’t work like that.

For the past three years, I made good money; I ran both a consultancy and brokerage business and had 3 payment models: 1) Consultant – paid hourly (made a ton of money here!) 2) Consultant – paid based on attaining sales or marketing metrics (more risky, but made a ton here also) 3) Brokering deals and taking a 5%-10% cut of revenue on a monthly basis….(this worked in my favor as well).  So clearly, I had figured out how to make money.  What I hadn’t figured out was how much I was worth.  Really worth.  Because all I was looking at was the monetary piece.

So living this seemingly great life, working 20-30 hours / week and making more money than I’d ever made before, I SHOULD have been happy; even thrilled.  And I should have felt like I was getting what I was worth.  But I didn’t.  I felt empty.  Almost all the time.  

Then I had a meeting for a potential consulting client and when I met their team and understood the mission of the company, I followed up the meeting with an email stating, “You had me at hello.  Let’s create a position for me”….and lucky for me, they did.  

As we were going through the negotiating process, I realized I was going to be taking quite a salary cut.  And I realized I’d be working 60 + hours / week, so not only would I be taking a paycut yearly, but hourly as well.  I should have been bothered or annoyed; but I wasn’t.  In fact, I hardly negotiated.  Some of my colleagues that I was nuts (for not negotiating); and I had to explain to them, “money is just one way for a company to show me my worth.  There are other factors I’m taking into consideration”.

So what were those factors and how did I determine what I was worth?  First, I figured out what mattered most to me.  And I listed the top 10 things that matter to me about a job.  “Compensation” was relatively low on the list.  What I wanted in return for sharing my skillset  was as follows:

  • I wanted to look forward to waking up in the morning.  Every morning.  Without fail.
  • I wanted to be inspired and do something that changes lives as well as the world we live in.
  • I wanted to be surrounding by people who are smarter than me; so I’m constantly learning and bettering my skill sets.
  • I wanted to be mentored; by those who are patient enough to make me a better person both professionally and personally.
  • I wanted to be a part of something that matters.  Not just a company, but a family.
  • I wanted the opportunity to be in a role where I could drive change in an organization and thus, drive change in an industry.
  • AND I wanted to be compensated commensurate to what I had made previously.

So that being the order of my list, I found that my worth could not be 100% measured in compensation.  I DID want to be paid “what I was worth”, but at the same time, had to balance money against all other assets; the other “wants” that really made me happy.  So, I actually took less money.  I didn’t want to negotiate.  And we see articles all the time written about how “women negotiate “X”% less time than men” and there is “unequal pay in the workplace”.  And these articles are informative and point out that women may be losing more than half a million dollars over their lifetime by NOT negotiating.  But I wonder, could it be that women just realize there are more important things in life than money?  I know in my view, “not negotiating much” was a concious choice.  Could it be that women just see the “bigger” picture and realize that money is not the be all and end all?  I wonder if anyone has ever looked at the gap between men and women being paid differently from that angle.  Is it possible that there is a small segment of women who CHOOSE to make less money or who believe their worth is displayed in different ways?  I’ve always wondered this….

And my response to my own situation as well as what I recommend to others is always the same:  Set up a structure where you will get paid for PROVING what you’re worth.  What you’ve done and your accomplishments in the past should lay the groundwork for you to GET a job.  It should not dictate what you get paid.  What you WERE worth in one job may not transfer to your worth in your new role.  Take a lower base salary and set up a compensation structure where you make MORE money for each contribution you make.  Define your contributions by quarter, define your goals; everything from strategic to tactile to driving revenue to cutting costs.  Everything is measurable.  Even one’s ability to “inspire others” can be measured.  That is where you will find out your true worth.  In looking at your overall contribution to a company, both quantitatively and qualitatively.  

If you’re not willing to take the lower base salary and structure something measurable – how confident are you in your worth?  Not enough for me to hire you…

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  1. Jordan Nacht
    June 5, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Loved this article. Would definitely be curious to see the difference in men and women. Also, I totally agree with this ‘qualitative vs quantitative’ aspect of business. The most successful people I know aren’t necessarily the happiest people I know (quantitative). The happiest people I know are those who follow their hearts and do what they do with passion and vigor and drive (qualitative), and happen to make money doing it. To have figured this out is something I commend you for. To have shared this knowledge with others and to have stated it so poignantly is something I respect and admire you for – and this coming from the little brother who hated you with a passion most of his childhood 🙂 Amazing article.

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