Underselling yourself? Here’s how to break this habit.


You let them talk you down when you told them your salary requirement? You gave them a discount for your consulting services? And you offered this before proposing your full rate?

It’s okay. This is how we learn. Entrepreneurs and employees alike fall into this classic story that goes a ‘lil something like this:

If I say what I believe my value to be, they’re going to think…

  1. I’m full of myself.
  2. I’m not worth that much.
  3. I’m greedy.
  4. I’ll go with someone else.
  5. any/all of the above.

When YOU fill in the sentence, you don’t let THEM fill in the sentence. 

Which could be…

  1. I’m well worth the investment.
  2. I’m a stretch – and – they’ll work to get it.
  3. I’m a deal.
  4. I’m still undervaluing my work.
  5. I’m confident and this is the kind of person they want to work with.

Your brain may think it’s a mind reader… but let me assure you, it is not. It’s most often your own issues with money and worthiness that are getting in your way. Falling into a scarcity mindset, for example, makes sense when you see your bank account getting low. Kinda ironic given this is exactly the time to be your own best advocate.


So how do you break this habit and stick to asking for your value during negotiations?

The first thing you have to do is determine what your time is actually worth right now in your life. I *highly* recommend reading James Clear’s post The Value of Time. It’s long (and well worth it). In the meantime, read these two quotes:

“When I first calculated these numbers I was surprised. The value of an hour of my time was much lower than what I thought it would be.

Think about how many freelancers charge $40/hour, but don’t make $100,000 per year. Or consider how many consultants charge $400/hour, but don’t make $1,000,000 per year. How can this be? The answer is these people are only being paid $40/hour or $400/hour for some of their hours, not all of their hours. When we divide their total income by the total time spent working, the value of each hour is much less than what they charge for a given hour of work with a client.

Furthermore, although we might know what we would charge per hour, we rarely calculate how much time goes into earning money outside of our working hours. By accounting for all of the time we invest to earn money, we get a clearer picture of what our time is actually worth—and it is usually much less than what you would charge for an hour of work on your job.”


“Simply understanding the value of your time is helpful, but you need to know what you want out of life to get the most accurate idea of the value of your time.” 


What James Clear reminds us is that our rate is a combination of:

  • What the market will bear (based on research, talking to people, and the responses we get when we pitch it)
  • The investment of time and money it took for us to gain our experience and expertise
  • What is really important to us in life

If you’re someone who is fortunate enough to be “doing your life’s work” and identify with having your “dream job,” I’m not giving you a pass to discount your worth.


Sure, you may be cashing what comedian Pete Holmes calls “happy checks” (doing things that bring you joy), but you’re also providing a service that has value. When you discount it, you’re training buyers that your low rate is what it costs when it actually costs more. 

Am I saying you should never take a paycut? No. Here’s a HuffPo article where I talk about when taking a paycut can actually be worth it.

What I AM saying is that you owe it to yourself (and others) to first ask for your worth. To be open to the negotiation. To do your best to stay out of your head when you pitch your number. Because I want to keep you out of the RESENTMENT ZONE. There are no happy checks to be made there.

If the employer or buyer can’t give you what you want number wise, what other benefits of value can you ask for? A referral? Marketing opportunities? A visible stretch assignment?


Make sure to check out my other articles on negotiating:

3 Numbers You Need to be a Master Negotiator

Beyond Pay: 32 Benefits to Negotiate for as an Employee

Beyond Pay: 8 Benefits to Negotiate for as an Entrepreneur


And my free webinar – Negotiating for Business Success.


Here’s to getting paid what you’re actually worth!