Category Archives: Money Trap

Perfection is a Money Trap

Money is one of those areas where we have all made some mistakes.

  • We have bought things that didn’t work.
  • We have spent too much money on stuff we never used.
  • We have given people presents they didn’t like.
  • We have lost money on the sale of a house
  • We have gotten “taken to the cleaners” in a divorce.
  • We have run up charges and interest on our credit cards.

And yet we are mostly still here, and kicking!

Sure some of these things were and are avoidable.  And yet they also still serve to give our Inner Critic great fodder for berating us!

There are a couple of things I want to clear up about these ‘errors in judgement‘ and ‘mistakes‘ we all make with our money.

First, you got through them !  The problems may have been messy and costly, but you survived them!  It’s one of the things I think our ancestors that went through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl got trapped in.  They somehow missed that they made it through the troubles, and that they didn’t happen again in the same way.  We tend to practice “one trial learning” with many things.  We tend to either try and hide our head in the sand or decide it will always be like it was, and avoid getting anywhere near the part we think is scary.  We stay trapped.

The other thing I’d really like my readers to consider is the value of the messing up.  Huh, you say!  How can there be value in having gone through that terrible time, that mess?

It’s all about learning!  As humans we actually learn by making mistakes, by being imperfect.  You don’t just get on a bike and ride it the first time.  You wobble and pedal and fall off.  The same process happens a bunch in other aspects of our lives, including money.  We screw up, make mistakes, and learn.  If we don’t make mistakes we don’t learn!

But instead of accepting that we make mistakes, sometimes in order to try and avoid “errors”, we try to be — or appear to be — perfect… yipes!  Just how patient are you with yourself?  Do you keep trying to attain something close to perfection to avoid judgement?  And do you notice that most of the judgement come from your inner critic, instead of the people around you?

Many of us have this thing in our heads about trying to be ‘perfect‘.  I truly think it’s one of the traps our Inner Critics use to keep us stuck in a rut.  Somehow we think we are supposed to be perfect without practice, failing, or learning.  Instead I really like the perspective that Maya Angelou put forth:  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We do recover, we do persevere, and we do learn.

Money is just one of the assets that we ‘spend’ while we are learning.  Money, Time, and Energy all get spent.   And I’d like to suggest that Money is really just a reflection of the other two: Time and Energy.

Here’s the really interesting question.  How much time, energy, and maybe even money do you spend trying to be perfect, protecting the idea that you are almost perfect, or even hiding that you aren’t perfect?  What if instead of getting trapped by perfection, you actually celebrated your mistakes as ways to learn?  What if it’s really about focusing on the learning, and not beating yourself up about that mistake you made?

It’s really likely that your attempt at perfection is a reaction to some really ‘old stuff’ that actually is no longer present in your life, right?  Like avoiding being judged or lectured.

Seems to me trying to be perfect has us holding on to, and getting stuck in, our errors in judgement, instead of learning from them, perhaps laughing them off, and most certainly moving on… what say you?


Shell Tain, the Untanlger

If you’d like some support letting go of trying for perfection, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at



Now, there’s a juicy topic!  In the world of finance liquidity means having money available for your use.

My guess is that you don’t think of yourself as a ‘finance’ person, but you do handle, use, and need money, right?  And one of the things you need from money is to be able to get your hands on it, right?  If all of your money was tied up in a retirement account, in order to get your hands on it you would have to go through hoops, fill out forms, wait, and then would only be allowed to take out so much without a penalty.  You are willing to have the money “out of touch” like that so you can sock it away and hopefully let you money grow for your retirement.  That’s a good thing.

However, a bunch of people I know are also reducing their access to their money in another way, and it’s an interesting money knot for sure: They overpay their taxes.  One friend does it because he feels that it will make him safer from the possibility of an audit.  Others do it because they actually think of their taxes as a savings account.  And yet others think of it as a way to put aside money for fun things.  Hmm…

Personally my sweet spot with taxes is to either get back or owe both Federal and State less than $1,000.   The reason I like that spot is because I’m not in essence lending my money to another ‘entity’ to use all year long.  Sure I can’t make as much interest on my money as the government can.  They can put my money with your money and invest it at higher rate than you or I can get.  But beside that point, I also don’t have the use of my money when it is waiting to become a positive tax return.

Allow me to digress for a moment.  I must admit that I do enjoy the guilty pleasure of watching some daytime Judge shows here and there.  My favorites are Hot Bench and Judge Milian from the Peoples Court. These things are always about money, because money is the basic way that courts have of solving issues. It’s amazing how many times people end up in court because they borrowed money from someone with the promise of paying it back once they got their tax return—and then somehow didn’t pay it back.

Here we are just after Tax Day, maybe you filed early, maybe you filed on time, maybe you got an extension.  The more interesting question is, did you give the government a bunch of your money to use free of charge for months, and at the same time deprive yourself of having the money on hand during the year? Oh, and while we are at it, during the year, did you incur or pay any interest on your credit cards?

If you did, you are certainly not alone, and I get it. Overpaying in taxes to get a bigger return can feel like a good idea.  My guess is the part of you that makes the decision isn’t really your competent adult part, but more your kid side that wants to be handed some fun money all at once.  There are other ways to create some fun money—really!—and they don’t cost you as much in liquidity or interest.

Whatever happened with your taxes in 2016, you have a choice to do it the same way or differently in 2017.  What’s your choice?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d a bit of extra support untangling this liquidity thing, give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Disarming a Money Trap

Remember the Money Traps?  They are those things where you are just bopping along and it seems like you suddenly fall through a hole around money stuff.  Sometimes, when we are trying to make a decision, all sorts of things can get confusing and money traps really don’t help with that process—they impede it!  Let me show you an effective way out of one of those traps using an exchange with a current client (with her permission, of course!)

mysteryRecently a client, who is in real estate, emailed me between our scheduled calls with a somewhat urgent conundrum. She had the opportunity to take a major real estate workshop through a different company than the one she works for.  She needed to make the decision to take the course or not within two days time.  She wrote: “Anyway, I need to decide today or tomorrow to enroll.  The ONLY thing holding me back is the fee $799.  But otherwise I have gotten confirmation after confirmation that it will propel me into the numbers I want in real estate.  How do I make this decision?”

Since she was tangled in this, and it seemed like the thing holding her back was perhaps the Money Trap of the actual cost I emailed her with this:

“Let’s ask the ‘deeper’ part of you, how’s that?   Stand up, find a spot in the room to stand in, close your eyes, imagine, ‘You have just finished the class’.  Really get that sense of that experience.  Now scan your body and just notice what sensations you get, and where.

“Okay, now do the same process with other perspectives, moving to a different spot on the floor with each perspective—like, ‘You don’t take the class,’ and, ‘You take another, different class.’  Make sure you try it with at least three different options.  Notice what the exercise is pointing to.

“Now if it is about the money (which is likely) do the same thing again but this time it’s, ‘You spend the money on the class,’ ‘You don’t spend the money,’ ‘You put it on a credit card,’ and other options you may think of.  Let me know what you discover in the different perspectives.”

She wrote back with: “Okay, I did the exercise.  When I took the class my body felt like my feet and legs were secure and grounded to the floor—my head and shoulders light.  When I didn’t take the class my body felt very heavy and tight in the shoulders.  When I took another class my body felt nothing really.  When I spent the money and when I didn’t spend the money my body felt exactly the same.

Continuing, I wrote back: “Ah, so what does that tell you? (I love this stuff !)”

To which she answered: “It tells me my life will not be drastically changed whether I spend the money or not.  It tells me that I will have a more solid foundation in real estate without stress if I take the class, and if I don’t take it I will have stress in my shoulders.”

Translation?  It’s not about the money!

By sorting through this in a body way, instead of a brain way, she was able to bypass her inner critic voice that doesn’t want her to try anything new and gain clarity for herself.  Hot stuff, heh?

Only one caveat here: don’t ask yourself, “How does it feel?”  Instead scan your body and see what you notice.  The feeling word asks for an interpretation which sends us back into our heads.  I was using this with another client on the phone the other day and she said, “My stomach feels guilty.”  I encouraged her to go back to a more descriptive, non-emotional word like jumpy, or achy.  After you’ve done all the perspectives then you can make the emotional interpretations—doing it in the middle muddies the water.

So the next time you find yourself in a money trap, find those different spots to stand so you can talk to your deeper self, notice what’s happening, and see what your inner wisdom has to tell you!  It’s cool stuff!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want to explore this technique a bit more? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Who’s In the Director’s Chair?

Recently I was watching an interview with my friend and colleague, David Darst and he brought up the classic Hollywood actor’s desire: “What I really want to do is direct!”  Directing is what we all want to do on some level.  Even Barbie wants to direct as exemplified by the “Film Director Barbie”—I know, I was astounded too!

Barbie Film Director

David was talking about how we want to be in the Director’s Chair in our relationships.  You know how that works—we want to  have everyone do things the way we want them.  Of course since our partners want to also direct, such a desire gets pretty messy.

I loved the analogy and started thinking about it on a personal level. For many years my title was Controller, which seems to me to be a money version of Director, so I too like to be ‘in-charge’.  I truly think we all do.

And yet, what I notice is that many people think that when it comes to money, they aren’t the Director, Money is.  For that to be true Money would have to dictate and direct what is happening, and it doesn’t do that.  What it does, as you’ve no doubt heard me say before, is reflect your choices.  Using our film analogy, Money is more like the “Director’s Cut” of the film—a reflection of what you the Director created.

So the problem really is, when you think Money is the Director you stop taking charge yourself.  You “let” things just happen.   You fall into what I call Money Traps, which are basically unconscious spending habits that don’t align with your values and goals.

Remember all those great Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland movies where the ‘kids’ put on a spontaneous musical in the barn?  They all had a Director.  It was Mickey.  He took the role, and coordinated the show.

Without someone directing we end up with chaos, yes? Or at least something unorganized and random!

Managing your money, taking the role of director regarding how you make it, spend it, save it actually isn’t as complicated as Directing all the aspects of an MGM 30’s musical.  It has to do with you being clear and purposeful with your money decisions.

If Mickey and Barbie can do it, so can you!  How about a major rewrite of the script you are following when it comes to your money?  How about making yourself not only the Director but the lead actor?  The one who moves the story and action along, instead of the person who is pulled through the plot by circumstances with no control?

This whole thing leads me to a great idea!  Why not write up the storyline of you and Money as it has unfolded in your life, and then, just for the fun of it do a re-write of how you’d like it to be?

You really are the Director of your money, so why not own and enjoy that?  After all, most of us do really want to direct!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

How about a little help changing your storyline when it comes to money? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Perfect Bandage Fix

Recently I had the opportunity for the perfect use of a bandage.  Using a bandage can have several connotations.  If can be seen as a temporary fix for a problem –  somehow usually involves lots of duct tape.  We’ve all seen some amusing examples of that one.  Bandages also provide great protection and safety for a boo boo or, owie which is often applied with the help of a kiss. I now have a third use for a bandage.  I’m using it to turn a bit of a downer into a smile!

I achieved a dent on my left side panel of my car awhile ago.  As I explored getting it fixed I realized it was one of those exercises in “what do I want to do with my money“.  The facts were that the quote to fix the car was $1,100, my deductible was $1,000 – ouch!  My 2001 Hyundai Sante Fe actually has less than 90,000 miles on it and is a delight.  Despite that it’s Blue Book value is around $2,000.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I applied my own Money Knot untangling philosophies to this issue.  Spending money to fix the dent didn’t fit in my GOSH Model.  GOSH is my tool to help you see if your spending is aligning with what’s important to you.  In GOSH the ‘G’ is for Growth – nope dent fixing doesn’t do that for me.  ‘O’ stands for Obligation – if I spent  money to fix this it would increase my obligations, instead of keeping them at ‘as low as is reasonable‘, which is the goal for Obligation.  ‘S’ represents Sustaining – the car runs just fine as is, so no pull to fix it from that side.  Finally ‘H’ is for Heart – I do love my car and like it to look nice, but not $1,100 worth!

So if I did spend the money to get it fixed, what would I be doing?  I’d be falling into a Money Trap.  That’s what I call the things that pull us away from spending in alignment with the GOSH Model.  Things like habit, convenience, and ‘It’s on sale’ (Woo Hoo!) are all Money Traps.  They are those things that cause us to look at the credit card statement and ask “Where did it go?”   One of the great things about the GOSH Model and the Money Traps are that they are a bit different for each of us.  What may be Obligation to me, might be Heart for someone else.  For me, if I spent $1,100 to fix a dent in a car that is worth about $2,000 that would clearly be a Money Trap.  I’d  have to call that particular trap the “Vanity/Ego Trap” because it would be solely about ‘lookin’ good’.  Since I still have plenty of miles left on the car and it’s in good condition otherwise, I’d no doubt spend money on other things the car might need to run, but this one is cosmetic not mechanical.

So what Bandage cropdid I do?  I used a wee bit of Heart money and bought the perfect bandage for the car.  She just needed a little acknowledgement of her boo boo, and I needed a way to turn a downer into a smile.

The other principle that  I applied was one from my days as in Interior Designer.  If there is some weird architectural feature that just seems funky, instead of trying to hide it, point to it, make it a feature.  Give it a personality of it’s own!

I hope you enjoy both the perfect bandage fix I applied here, as well as the introduction to the GOSH Model.  If you’d like to explore GOSH more give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at  Meanwhile, avoid those Money Traps whenever possible.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Money in the First Position

Ever do that thing where you go into the store and head directly for the sale rack as if it’s the only thing available?  Or maybe you stayed at a job you hated because they gave you a raise?  These are just a couple of examples of the Money Trap I call Money in the First Position, and it’s a stinker!

First let me explain what a Money Trap is.  A Money Trap is somethimoney trapng that takes you off course.  It’s like a hole you fall into, and a trap that snares you.  When it comes to our money it is specifically something that takes you away from your goals, values and dreams.  It’s, above all, a distraction from your purpose.  There are bunches of these traps out there.  Some are common to most of us and some are yours alone.  This Money in the First Position one is pretty common.

The title comes from a nod to bank loans.  The main mortgage on your home is in “the first position”.  What that really means is if something happens to your home whoever has that “first” gets paid “first”.  I call this Money Trap “Money in the First Position” because what happens is that money is the first thing you consider, and often the only thing.

But wait you say, isn’t money an important thing to consider?  Yes, it certainly is.  The trap is when it’s the ONLY thing or when money is given too much weight.  There is nothing I like more than finding a great price for something I want.  The problem is when I buy it based on the price even if it’s not really what I want

Money is an important part of most decisions but we get in trouble when it’s the only part.  Dr. Phil has a great line about this: “If you marry for money, you earn every penny.”  It’s a big price to pay!

People often use Money in the First Position to actually protect themselves from having to explore new territory.  By asking the cost of something first you can dismiss it as “too expensive”.  That’s one of the most common results of this trap.  We dismiss something because of the price before we even really know what it is and what its value may be.  It would most likely be more effective to buy a pair of slacks that fit perfectly and you wore every week for twice or even three times the money you paid for the “perfectly adequate” on sale pair…and if you have the Money in the First Position trap running you, then you won’t even give that a chance.

The real problem with all of this is misunderstanding money.  Getting more money or a better deal isn’t the goal.  Getting what you truly desire or want and having the money (cost) make sense is the goal.   That’s the sweet spot.

So notice where you put money in your decision making.  Is it top of the pile?  It is the only thing you consider?  Or is it an important factor mixed in with other things that are also relevant?

I can help you untangle this and other Money Traps, give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Social Status and Money

Seems like they go hand in hand, doesn’t it? The more status, the more money, and people often hope the reverse is true: the more money, the more status. We’ve lived with this hierarchical model for millennia.  And there is money right there in the middle of it.  But what is money’s role in this?  And what other choices do we have?

Anthropologically forming groups of “us” and “them” is a very human thing to do.  Money and what we do with it helps define our group, doesn’t it?  It’s a chicken/egg thing.Pyramid (as an illustration of social status and money)
This is another place where we think money is defining what is going on. However, what I think it really does is reflect our desire to be accepted or comfortable—or maybe even both.

I notice that we get nervous when we are out of our social comfort zone.  Those places where we feel comfortable are ingrained.  We are also very adept at recognizing them.  I remember once while house hunting, we found a great house.  It was perfect on many levels and the thought that went through my head was “I’d have to put on makeup and get dressed to go to the mail box here!”  I’d hit a true “social ceiling”: It wasn’t about money, the house was right on the money, it was something else. I’d like to think that it just felt too “stuffy” for me.  Who knows?

What I do know is that when we tie our money to the “social status” game we create more havoc in our personal finances.   We create a Money Trap.  You’ve heard me talk about them before.  Money Traps are things that steal away our attention from what is truly important to us.  They distract us and have us spending on things that we don’t really care about.  In the status game we somehow think that driving the more expensive car will move us up the social ladder and that doing that will make us happy.  It’s more likely that it will just keep us spinning to have more, instead to figuring out what we actually think that illusive “more” will create.

Here’s an example:  I once worked on the management team of a new shopping center in Thousand Oaks, California.  It was the late 70s and this mall, called the Oaks, was a big deal.  It had a full mile of stores inside the mall before you even walked into the department stores at either end. It was a very expensive mall with high-end stores.  The odd thing is that in finding the site, getting the permits, and building the mall, the developers had never really done any demographic research.  Thousand Oaks was a suburb of L.A.  It had nice houses.  It looked good from the outside.  However, for most of the families the husband drove a nice car into L.A. every day to work.  The wife stayed home with the 2.3 kids, drove an old car, and shopped at Target.   The home had lovely furniture on the first floor.  Upstairs there were mattresses and unfinished furniture in the bedrooms.  The developer had looked at the outside image to decide what the inside economics was like.  I felt bad for the families.  For me, it wasn’t that they couldn’t “afford” what they wanted.  It was that they were living a lie.  Looking at the money we can see that.  Looking at the outside we don’t.

What we really want is to belong. To be one of the “cool” kids. The problem is that most of the “cool” kids are longing to be one of the even “cooler” kids.  There’s the trap.  It’s the trap that I once heard described as “comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.”

So money doesn’t actually make any of this social status happen, it just reflects how hard we are striving for it and what we will do to get it.  My guess is that if we could all get clearer about that we might make different choices, ones that might have us feel happier.

If you’d like to untangle that just give me a call at 503-258-1630 or contact me through my website at:


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Married For Money?

I’ve always kinda liked Dr Phil.  Maybe it’s that he’s feisty?  Anyway, one of my favorite ‘Dr-Phil-isms’ is “If you marry for money, you will earn every penny.”  I think the money knot around that is worth exploring.

marriedThe biggest problem about marrying for money, or doing anything just for the money, is that money is never the actual issue.  It’s bass-ackwards.  Money is reflective of other things. Money is just a symbol for all the things we want that we think will make us happy.

If we make or “earn” our money doing something we love, we are honoring who we are.  In that case, we are living based on the core stuff that is truly important to us.  When we do anything  “‘just for the money” we are falling into the “Money In the First Position” Money Trap.  That’s the one where we make the choice solely for and about money.  Frankly, doing almost anything just for money isn’t worth it, is it?

Okay, I hear you thinking: “But what if I need money to pay the rent and feed my kids, and do a yucky job to get that?”  In that case you are doing the work you hate to make the money to support the kids you love.  That’s not the same as doing something just for money.  Would you actually keep that job if you didn’t have the kids and the rent to worry about?

The reason that doing something just for money rings so hollow is that it’s not really about money.  Again the bass-ackwards thing.  (Okay, I enjoy using that word)  It’s about the life you imagine you will have once you have money.  And there is the fallacy.

Remember that thing about money being reflective?  If you are just about having money, you are waiting to be in your life until you have the money.  What’s the money supposed to give you?  Happiness, safety, peace?  Maybe even love or fame?

None of those things start after you have money.

Money can reflect those things, but it never creates them in a satisfying way.  There’s another rub.  We don’t actually want just the money, we want the money to make us happy.  Ah, not money’s job.  Money’s job is to show us where we are putting our energy and efforts, to show us what we are choosing.

So are you choosing to spend your efforts and energy in making money, and hoping that it will make you feel good about yourself and life in general?  Or are you choosing to live every day using your energy and efforts to enhance and reinforce what you really care about, and allowing the money to reflect that?

So I think what Dr Phil really means is that it will be brutal and hard to marry for money, because you won’t be honoring who you are, you’ll only be chasing money, and that is bass-ackwards!



Student Loan Blues

Have you got ‘em?  The student loan blues, that is?  They are becoming more and more common these days.  I’m getting calls about them all the time.  So let’s take a little time here and untangle some of the knots that come with those challenging loans.

First some interesting facts. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average studentloansstudent loan is $30,000.  Of course that means that many are higher than that.  The 20 high-debt public colleges had average debt levels ranging from $33,950 to $48,850, while the 20 high-debt nonprofit colleges ranged from $41,750 to $71,350.  A Huffington Post article has some even more intriguing stats to share.  The amount of student loan debt is second only to mortgage debt, which means that it is higher than credit card debt.  Student loan debt has grown by almost 300 percent in the last 8 years according to the New York Federal Reserve.

That’s some of the big picture of the student loan knot.  But if you have a student loan, the big picture doesn’t really have much of an effect on you.  It’s your own student loan that you worry about.

What do you make up about the loan?  How do you feel about it?  For most people that I talk to about student loans, they feel bad about them.  They feel guilty.  Sometimes they have been told, or at least interpreted, that they shouldn’t do ‘anything’ else financial until they pay off that ‘nasty’ student loan.

Funny thing about debt.  We use it, we have it, we take advantage of it, and yet we have a lingering inner message that says we shouldn’t have ANY of it.  Most of that thinking comes from early 20th century American thinking.  Having a loan of any kind was a bad thing.  They could take away your home!  And back then you didn’t get a mortgage on the home when you bought it.  You saved and saved and finally bought a house.  The whole family saved, it sometimes took generations to save enough to buy a house.  And often, generations would then live in the same home.  In those days, if you got a loan against the house it was because you needed money to solve some serious problem.

That all changed with the G.I. Bill after World War II, when people started getting mortgages to buy houses.

The reason I’m telling you all that house stuff is that we are in a similar place around student loans.  Used to be you had to save up for a house and buy it outright.  Used to be you had to pay your college tuition as you went.  The money folks got clever and figured out that people would pay more over time (interest) in order to get the house sooner. We are all used to that. So then they figured out that people would also pay more over time (there’s that interest again) in order to get through college sooner.

It doesn’t really freak you out, or keep you from saving or investing in other things that you have a 30 year house loan, now does it?  But somehow, having a really large, long term student loan does.

What does that student loan represent?  To me it says you leveraged your ability to get a student loan so you could go to school sooner, and finish school sooner.  That way, with your education, you could make more money sooner, follow your dreams sooner, and live a better life, all sooner.  How many years might it have taken for you to save more than $30,000 for an education at a job you could get without an education?  Would doing that really have made sense?

When people talk to me about what to do about their student loans I suggest they think of their student loan as a ‘never ending car payment’.  Generally they are around that monthly cost.  Sure you eventually may be able to pay it off with the earnings you have from the better career you got because of your education. But in the meantime, don’t let it slow you down for a minute.  Every time you write the student loan check, remember you got the education years before you would have without that loan.  Not such a bad deal.  And it even comes with a tax deduction.  Hot diggity!



Money Talk: Business

Last week I wrote about talking about money in your personal life, particularly the places where it is most important to discuss the stuff!  This week the discussion continues with the focus being on business money talk.  Here we go…

Money Talk: Business

It seems like we talk about money all the time in business, and, to a certain extent, that is true.  However there is a distinction between talking about money ‘in your business’ and talking about money with your clients.  Two different things.  And it is even more likely if you are self-employed in some way (which most of my clients are), that you don’t talk to anyone but yourself about the money ‘in your business’.

When it comes to one-on-one conversations about money we get tangled up between the businesspersonal and the business.   What I mean by that is the conversation with one other person about YOUR fees or what YOU charge feels pretty darn personal.  There you are putting a dollar figure on your time, energy, expertise, experience…all that and more…geez!  You feel like you are putting yourself on a plate, and that brings up all sorts of emotion about you and money.  Are you over rating yourself?  Will they think you are pushy?  What will they think of you and your fee?

Or maybe you go too far the other way to being self-effacing and undervaluing yourself and your work? Always discounting your fees?  Stating your fee and then backing off, or maybe adding on free stuff?

That’s on you.  It’s all your stuff.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of the client.  Remarkably, they actually want you to talk about money.  They want to know what to expect.  How much they are going to pay for your services.  And they want it in a clean, clear, matter of fact sort of way.  If you don’t give them that, you create confusion and emotion with your client, that just isn’t necessary.

Here’s a prime example.  I use this wonderful guy to help me with technical stuff that just confuses and bewilders me.  One time we were doing a project and I asked him:  “How much will the cost be?”   His response was “Don’t worry, it won’t be much”, so I asked again and got the same response.  He was assuming that I was worried about the cost.  I wasn’t.  I just wanted to know.  Notice how he was concerned about something I wasn’t?  When we say things like that, we can actually create problems that weren’t there to begin with.

There is a difference between being up front and direct with a client about your fees, and talking to your neighbor about them.  It’s part of business, and we all want to know what we are going to pay for something before we buy it.

Before you carve this in stone, let me make clear that there are times you don’t talk about your fees with perspective clients.  In this case I’m talking about people who are offering a service, and intangible rather than an item they can take home.  When you first meet someone, the initial conversation often goes something like:  “Hi Jane, nice to meet you.  What do you do?”  You then answer that you are a provider of a marvelous service (coach, writer, consultant, web designer, etc).  The next thing they say is: “Oh, wow, what do you charge?”  You do not want to answer that question at that time.  It’s not a real question.  It’s a signal that tells you that part of them is interested, and part of them just wants an excuse to end the conversation.  If you state your fee, at that time, before the person knows anything about what you really do, you are more than likely making sure they won’t hire you.  Instead answer that question this way: “I hear that you are interested in knowing what I charge, but before we go there, tell me more about your business (or how I can help you, or what you need, or almost any open-ended question).  It’s not only fine but appropriate to talk fees once you have explored what they really want.  If you do it before that, you are falling through what I call the Money in the First Position Trap Door.  The likelihood of you having the perfect fee (not to high, not to low) for them before they know anything about what you really do is very slim.  So don’t put yourself there!

So bottom line.  Tell your clients (meaning the people who actually do want to work with you) about your fees and charges in a clear and direct way.  Everyone will be happier if there is no guess work in the process.  Keep your emotion about money out of the conversation and just give ‘em the facts.