One of my first roommates here in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was a vegan raw foodist, Reiki practitioner, and massage therapist who spent her days alternating between massages and reception work in a nearby ski resort and her evenings building up a small but popular massage side business.
One day, she was telling our other roommate—an aspiring health coach and retreat owner from Finland—that she was looking for a part-time summer job.
I invited myself into the conversation, asking: why didn’t she just make her living off her massage side business during the summer?
Even now, in the winter, which is a much quieter and less touristy time of year here in the valley, she was well-known and had a consistent flow of customers. So it makes sense that in the summer, when the valley fills to the brim with tourists and athletes, it would be easy for her to do a little advertising and fill up her client roster.
She said that wouldn’t work because she needs to save some money and while she might be able to live off her massage business, she didn’t think she could hit her savings goals.
Undaunted, I asked if she’d considered raising her rates. Because right now they’re less than half of what a resort would charge. She could easily still give people a massive savings on resort prices while really making what her training is worth.
But she shook her head sadly, explaining that she didn’t want massage to be a privilege. She wanted it to be something that anyone could afford if they needed it. She wanted to help people.
I think this is something a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. Especially women.
We go into our businesses wanting to help. We want to take away people’s pain with our massages, give them back their lives with our health coaching practices, make them laugh with our comedy, teach them how to live with our art.
And we feel bad charging a lot for it. Because health, laughter, adventure, love, and wellness…they should be available to everyone.
I get that. And so I understood her hesitation.
But I’m also an entrepreneur and a problem-solver, so I couldn’t leave the conversation at such a sad, unresolved end.
Instead, I asked her if she had ever considered having more than one pricing structure.
She looked at me blankly and so I pressed on:
“You could easily do something like what my therapist does. She has three distinct pricing structures she works with, which allows her to make what she’s worth while also offering help to those who desperately need it.”
“The first price is her normal fee. Her hourly rate. And it is comparable with industry standards. It’s something she can live on. It’s what her training and expertise are worth. Most people are able and happy to pay it.”
“And then there’s her ongoing treatment rate. You can buy a package of five sessions at one time for a reduced price. If you know you are going to need some ongoing care, this helps relieve the financial burden of that long-term help.”
“And, finally, she offers a massively reduced hourly rate for people who are unemployed or have special financial circumstances. That way, if someone is in desperate need of help, but quite literally cannot afford it, she can be there for them.”
“What if you did something like that for massage? A raised, industry-standard price for individual massages. A three-massage package deal for those with ongoing needs. And, on an individual basis, special prices for people who need your help, but cannot afford industry standard rates.”
Both my roommates buzzed with excitement, because pricing structures like this open up a whole world of possibilities. And far too often, we forget that business, like life, isn’t pass-fail. It’s not all-or-nothing. You can have more than one rate. You can change the world and make money. You can love yourself fiercely and also act selflessly.
The conversation got me thinking, of course.
About how so much of the time our reasoning for not starting that business, following our passions, or doing something spectacular for ourselves comes from that all-or-nothing thinking. We haven’t looked at the big picture. And, as a result, we are limiting ourselves.
I can only make $X per hour. I’m tied to my hourly rate. I must take a part-time job. I can’t afford the plane ticket. I don’t want to alienate the people who really need what I have to offer, we say.
But isn’t this just pass-fail, black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking?
Couldn’t we, instead, live in the gray, work around our limitations, change them, challenge them?
Couldn’t we have a three-tiered pricing structure? Or a free and a paid version of our art? Or a product that unties us from the hours-worked = money-made model?
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to our limitations, but very often there is something we can do if we’re willing to think a little differently, ditch the pass-fail attitude, take a risk, and find the balance between offering the world what we can and putting food on our own tables.
Which is why today I am (again) pausing from the travelogues to offer myself (and perhaps you) a reminder:
Life isn’t pass-fail.
Neither is business.
We all have limitations, but they aren’t always as daunting as we think.
And a desire to change the world doesn’t mean you must always be just scraping by.
What if we all re-examined our limitations? What would change in our lives?
You would be a GREAT business coach Gigi! I would hire you. Of course I’d have to be on the broke sliding scale… ;)
Great post! Thank you. I’m trying to shed this pass fail thinking with broader goals as well! Like I don’t have to be just one thing for the rest of my life. If I commit to this less than fun job in Fargo for a year or even two it’s a means to something else and not who I am as a whole and it definitely doesn’t define me as a person. It took being confident in my writing and editing skills and giving myself permission to realize that my crazy, out of the box, entrepreneurial ideas, are in fact good ones, and if people think they’re crazy, it’s because they are good ideas and those people just don’t think like an entrepreneur, they partake in the daily grind, which, as you know, no matter where I live, is not something I want to be a part of long term. Not in the traditional sense. And also that succeeding means failing a lot and if I fail once, it doesn’t mean I can’t continue to be a writer or an editor. And actually, thinking about it, your post on the nay-sayers is part of why I finally allowed myself permission to believe in myself. So thank you. Now if I could just shed that belief that success is tied to money, maybe money would cause me less stress and I could allow myself to make more of it. Hah.
Rock on, lady. I totally agree. A handful of setbacks, mistakes, or even outright failures doesn’t multiply into a life of failure. All failure means is that you’re brave. You’re trying. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re making the love choice instead of the fear choice – choosing to believe in yourself, take a risk, and life this one short, beautiful life as fully as you possibly can.
Your comment struck home for me today as I’ve just had a little setback of my own. So thank you for the reminder. Keep going.
Well failure is not always good is it? When someone fails at something that they’ve risked their life to do and they die in that endeavour. Is failure in that sense beneficial?
What would the biggest risk you would take Gigi?
Absolutely fair. In the context of this post, I’m really talking about business risks, which are generally not life-or-death kinds of things. But I do believe that this extends to a lot of other areas of life.
I think it’s important to be as wise as possible when taking risks, but while not shutting ourselves off from risk completely. For example, when I started my first business and quit my job, I had enough money in the bank to live on for 10 months without any income. It was still very scary for me to quit my stable job and strike off on my own, but I had also taken steps to make sure I was taken care of in case of failure.
Similarly, when I left my permanent address behind, I only planned my travels about one month in advance at first. It was still a risk. I still could have lost clients. I still could have failed and had to return home. But I also knew that returning home because of lost clients was possible. I wasn’t going to be destitute. I had a backup parachute, an escape hatch.
What’s the biggest risk I’d take? Personally, the things that scare me most are the idea of having to go back and live in America again, slipping back into the worst throes of my previous depression, and continuing to get my heart broken. So every time I do something that makes me vulnerable in any of those ways, I’m taking a huge risk.
I’m not afraid of death (though I’m certainly not interested in taking any unnecessary risks there); I’m much more afraid of living an anxious, depressed life without love.
There are risks that, if they pay off, will enrich your life immensely. Starting that dream business, leaving to travel, adopting a child, loving wholeheartedly fall into this category for me. And then there are risks whose rewards don’t match up (packing your skydiving parachute while wasted, starting a business or leaving to travel for someone else’s reasons instead of your own, climbing into the polar bear enclosure at the zoo). If you take that first set of risks and fail, at least you tried (and you can try again). If you take the second set of risks, well, you’re just setting yourself up for failure–and a much more life-shattering failure/life-ending failure at that.
That was a really deep answer you gave. I appreciate that.
Pass or fail thinking is incredibly discouraging and limiting. It can get you to a certain point and then … there is this chasm to cross. The fear of “fail” then stops continued forward movement. I think too that not charging enough for what we offer, shows that we don’t always believe in ourselves as much as we should. It can send a “I don’t think I am worth more” message. Something to consider. I love your suggestion. I think a lot of people need to look at what they can do at a reduced rate or pro-bono for the moral compass side of the business, but it has to be balanced out by the business side of the house. So many talented people out there. Glad you could help your roomy!! Good advice!
Glad I could offer a reminder! You’re pretty awesome as far as I’m concerned, so keep going! Because I’m gonna need you and your inspiring posts when this job makes me want to crawl into a small hole. :)
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