Why ‘Charging your Worth’ is BS and What to Do Instead

Explore why ‘charging your worth’ is holding women in business back and how to beat gender biases, emotional pricing, and set effective, strategic rates.

Emma Bowdler | The Women's Accountant

Emma Bowdler

I’m a cheerleader for women and an accountant bursting with personality. 

We’ve all heard the whispers, the well-intentioned advice, and the Instagram captions that cheerfully chirp: “Charge your worth“. But here at The Women’s Accountant, we’re calling it for what it is…complete and utter BS.

And it’s not the harmless, throwaway kind of BS that you can easily brush off either. In fact, these three words are internalised by women the world over, reinforcing gender stereotypes, stifling our growth, skewing our business pricing, and actually further entrenching the very undervaluation it’s seeking to solve. Yikes. Well, we better do something about that quick smart.

Here’s why it’s so unhelpful to set a pricing strategy based on ‘worth’, and what to do instead.

Decoding the Worth Matrix:
A Historical Deep Dive


The society that most of us have grown up in (read: patriarchal, capitalist and white) has a knack for undervaluing women. From overlooking our contributions, to sidelining our achievements and even downright attributing them to men, we have seen women cast in the role of ‘less than’ throughout history.

Add to that the fact that women’s roles as caregivers, educators, traders, and community organisers are often deemed as less significant or “natural,” which minimises their profound societal impact. And what we see is a systemic undervaluation of women that not only robs us of due credit, but that has heavily skewed historical narratives about ‘women’s worth’ that’s left a mark on the psyches (and pay packets) of generations of women.

Even today, from the lack of representation in corporate boardrooms to the pocket money we give our children and the very language we use on a daily basis, the world seems insistent on undervaluing us. And we won’t stand for it anymore.

Why ‘Charging your Worth’ is BS and What to Do Instead | The Women's Accountant

Because here’s the thing: not only is women’s worth, or any human’s worth, impossible to quantify (despite the fact that capitalism does its best to put a number on it). But what we ‘do’ for a living is not tied to our personal or self-worth. Your worth is not up for debate, and it most certainly shouldn’t be tied to a price tag.

So, why are so many women still bombarded with ‘how-to’ articles and inspirational graphics on social media encouraging us to ‘charge our worth’?

To quote feminist marketer and entrepreneur, Brook McCarthy, this insidious chant to ‘charge what you’re worth!’ is not only damaging and distracting, but it also doesn’t help women, practically or otherwise, to actually earn more or build self-esteem. In fact, it does the opposite.

“Generally, an all-too-easy way to assert power and control over another is to find out what their vulnerabilities are and poke them. Tying self-worth to how much we earn is yet another way the patriarchy preys on women.


It is also so stupendously simplistic that it’s insulting.”

 

— Brook McCarthy (Hustle & Heart)

Why ‘Charging your Worth’ is BS and What to Do Instead | The Women's Accountant

How Our Systems Conflate Value and Worth

Our current capitalist economic system, by design, assigns a monetary value to goods, services, and even time, inadvertently reinforcing the idea that one’s worth is directly tied to their economic output or potential.

While this has some really functional benefits, it also has the effect of reducing individuals to mere commodities, where our worth is perceived through the lens of market demand, profitability, and how much value we ‘produce’.

By conflating value and worth, we have inadvertently (and some would say deliberately) created a culture where self-worth is perpetually tethered to economic metrics.

Not only does this phenomenon narrow our understanding of human potential, but in a system that is also patriarchal, it relegates intangible qualities like kindness, creativity and empathy (i.e. feminised qualities) to the bottom of the pile because they don’t always translate directly into economic gains.

Is it any wonder that industries dominated by women like childcare and nursing are frequently underpaid, undervalued or overlooked? So, what does this look like in the business world?

Someone Call Gwyneth,
We Need A Conscious Uncoupling

While we are gradually seeing a more sophisticated and expansive definition of ‘success’ in the business world, the reality is that we are still largely operating in a realm driven by dollars, tangible and quantifiable metrics, and trading time for money.

In a business sense, the conflation of worth and value is holding women (and their businesses) back. It’s perpetuating the undervaluation of women’s skills and services, especially in industries where gender biases already exist. It’s impeding our financial growth, it’s notoriously unreliable, and it’s ignoring external business factors, which are crucial for pricing strategies and long-term sustainability.

The reality is that factors like market demand, competition, operational costs couldn’t care less about how we perceive our worth on a given day. And while as businesswomen we often seamlessly juggle our personal and professional roles, when it comes to pricing, we must find a way to separate the two.

À la Gwyneth Paltrow in 2014 announcing that she was ‘consciously uncoupling’ from then husband Chris Martin — it’s long past time to acknowledge that these systems, and their outdated definitions, are no longer working for us and we need to see other people.

Why ‘Charging your Worth’ is BS and What to Do Instead | The Women's Accountant

The Worth Reframe

Beyond its historical baggage, there still remains a whirlwind of emotions that come up for women when we hear the term “worth” in the same sentence as “charge,” “price,” or “business”. So, what’s the alternative?

We’ve got two suggestions for uncoupling worth and value, because we’re nothing if not over-deliverers. And also because there’s a far more pragmatic and feel-good approach to ensure you’re getting paid fairly, without tying a price tag to your intrinsic worth.

Instead, a pricing strategy that enables you to maximise profits, joy and sustainability and minimise risk, waste, and headaches — all whilst aligning with your business goals and objectives — is what we should be striving for as smart and savvy business owners.

An Alternative — Value-Based Pricing

A bit of a confusing title given we’re trying to decouple worth and value, but this first approach is to start with the results and put a monetary value on it. This strategy is often called ‘Value-Based Pricing’, where you attempt to set your prices based on the value (both perceived or gained) for your customers, above everything else.

Most of us spend a lot of time doing customer journey mapping and creating in-depth customer personas, and so this customer-first pricing strategy aligns with the kind of operation we want to be running. And because clients aren’t paying for your self-perceived worth; they’re investing in results.

For example, let’s say you’ve developed a stellar marketing strategy that’s doubled a client’s online sales. That’s tangible, that’s real, that’s worth something to their business, and that’s what your pricing should reflect.

It’s critical in business that we put a monetary value on solving customer pain points or helping them achieve their aspirations, but also that our worth as a person goes nowhere near that dollar figure.

An Alternative — Vision-Driven Pricing

The second approach is to start with where you want to end up and work backwards from there. Similar to a cost-based pricing strategy, this is where you break down your services, consider your costs (fixed and variable), take a quick gander at the going market rates, and then nail down a price that will help you achieve your business vision and goals. This isn’t a gut-feeling game. It’s strategic. And it’s evidence-based.

If this appeals to you, then once you have crystallised how much you need (or want) to earn in a given period—be it monthly, quarterly, or annually — this becomes your North Star, guiding your pricing decisions. By anchoring on a specific financial goal, you prevent undervaluation or overvaluation based on how ‘good’ or ‘worthy’ you’re feeling on any given day. The number might scare you but in the fabulous words of Beyoncé:

“What does fear taste like?

Success. I have accomplished nothing without a little taste of fear in my mouth.”


— Queen Bey

Then once you have a clear financial goal, it’s time to dissect your offerings. Understand each service’s individual components, how much time and resources each requires. Think about your journey, your learning curve, the late nights, the early mornings — and how they’ve all contributed to perfecting your craft.

Now that you’ve got a number in mind, take a look around at other people offering similar services. This is not to get you caught in a comparison trap, or because you’re trying to ‘compete’ (community > competition, always). But it’s more just to sense check that you’re neither undercharging, undercutting others, nor pricing yourself out of the market without a damn good reason.

As your business BFF and fabulous accountant friends, we then think you should add a little fat for business growth, expansion, tax and super — and you’re golden.

Strategy Over Sentiment

At its heart, pricing is a strategic decision. Knowing what to charge is a balance between understanding the benefit of the service you provide (value), while ensuring you’re making good coin (profitability), and can do it for as long as you want to (sustainability).

And while your worth is immeasurable, the number attached to what you ‘do’ simply represents the price for your services, the solution you provide, and the results you deliver —  not your worth, but its worth.

So, forget outdated, cookie-cutter slogans on Instagram. With clarity, confidence, and a pinch of badassery, let’s price like the pros we truly are.

Need More Help? 

 

If you’d like some help to refine your pricing strategy or even to build one from the beginning, you know we can help you do that, right?

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