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Business Minus Profit Equals Hobby

Aislyn Bryan - Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hobbies are great fun, excellent creative outlets and there's hardly anyone who wouldn't benefit from having one. If you're genuinely trying to build a business, though, a hobby is not what you want to end up with, so you have to clearly distinguish the difference in your mind. If your work is priced such that you just recoup the cost of your materials or you're just trying to make a little spending money, you're enjoying a hobby not building a business. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that... unless you actually are trying to build a business, in which case it's time to seriously rethink your pricing structure.

Money is not evil. It's the love of money that leads to trouble. Loving money and being willing to step on anyone to get it is definitely a bad thing. But making a healthy profit from your own hard work does not make you a soulless, unfeeling corporate vampire. Until and unless you make peace with the concept of charging what your work is actually worth, you have no chance of building a solid, profitable business that will actually support you. That's blunt, but that's the way it is.

Personally, I think this incredibly common problem relates directly to self esteem, though it's often disguised as nobility. Ego is another term for self esteem, used here in reference to how well one thinks of oneself. Ego is necessary to life but, like all things, must be in balance. Too much ego and a person is obnoxious; too little ego and a person feels the need to apologize for taking up space.

Low self esteem can result from messages of worthlessness received in childhood. They might be overt and right out there, from an abusive parent, or they might be subtle and completely subconscious from well meaning adults whose own self esteem isn't as healthy as it could be. An example of such an unconscious message might come from something as small as teaching a child to share everything he owns, all the time, whether he wants to share or not. The underlying message is that the needs and wants of others are always more important than your own wants and needs and that it's not ok to keep something for yourself unless no one else wants it. Obviously, that isn't a healthy message to send a child but it's so subtle and so well meaning, coming as it does from people who are simply trying to raise their children to be nice people, that it's hard to even recognize it as unhealthy. Nonetheless, that subtle message is assimilated by a sensitive child, becomes a subconscious belief, and then must be overcome in adulthood in order to grow a level of self esteem healthy enough to allow a person to charge a fair price for their work rather than virtually giving it away simply because someone else wants it. Most creative people were sensitive children and therefore more likely to have been shaped by subtle messages.

Oftentimes when people are selling their work at prices so low that they can't possibly make a profit, they claim to be doing so because they want everyone to be able to afford their work, as though it's cruel to exclude those people who can't afford to pay what the work is worth. It's important to remember that what you're selling is purely a luxury item. You're not selling surgery or plasma or even groceries. No one *needs* jewelry to live; no one is going to go hungry if they can't afford your work. There is no one so poor that he or she cannot afford some sort of adornment. For as long as there have been people, those people have adorned themselves with whatever was at hand. A seashell hung on a piece of string is a necklace that can be had for nothing more than the trouble of finding a shell with a hole in it. Charge what your work is actually worth in the marketplace and if you see someone who truly can't afford something you wish them to have, make a gift of that piece. Offering a gift from the heart is a far more generous and noble act than keeping prices artifically low in order to avoid feeling misplaced guilt.

Many people feel guilty for charging fairly for their work if they genuinely enjoy their work and would be willing to do it for nothing. Most people have no trouble expecting a fair wage for work they truly define as work; in other words, something they don't like doing. If you're digging a ditch for hours at a time, you probably have no issue with expecting to be paid well for such hard labor. But conversely, if the work doesn't feel like work, there's a tendency to expect little in the way of compensation for it, despite the fact that the finished product is at least as desirable as a well dug ditch. *s*

I think of this as puritan guilt because it probably comes from our culture's tendency to associate suffering with virtue. Try adopting this new belief: There is no virtue in suffering. Your work is not better, more valuable or in any way superior as a result of suffering while you do it. Actually, the opposite is true. If you are joyous and happy while you work, you suffuse your work with a joyous energy that accompanies the work to its recipient as surely as the energy of your suffering would suffuse that ditch. Your joy adds to your work making it more valuable, not less.

Life is much better if you love your work. If you are fortunate enough to be able to earn a living doing something that you would do for free, that's a gift from the universe. Don't squander that gift away with misplaced guilt and low self esteem. Honour and respect what you've been given by charging what your work is worth and using the money you earn to support yourself and your family and to do some good in the world. *s*



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sadface :( Love!



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