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Mothers, It’s Time for Us to Monetize our Work!


Picture this: a company posts a listing for a Head of Operations position. The job requires 135+ hours of work weekly, requires the employee to be on call 24/7, and demands that the candidate be knowledgeable in psychology, medicine, personal finance, the culinary arts and also basic technological skills. Physical requirements include the ability to stand for hours, lift up to 75 pounds, and be constantly moving, operating on little to no sleep.  

The kicker? The position offers no medical or dental benefits, no pension, no paid time off, and no salary. It does, however, offer “infinite opportunities for personal growth and rewards.”

So, what’s this terrible-sounding position? 

Motherhood, of course, as MullenLowe Group so deftly pointed out in this heart-warming campaign. Motherhood is a position unlike any other, to be sure. Only, as many of us know, it’s not terrible at all— rather, it’s incredibly rewarding, though not financially. Mothers are the Head of Operations at home, and they do it all for free.

But they really shouldn’t. Mothers deserve to get paid, and now’s the time for mothers to charge for their skills.

If you love to cook, you can cook for other busy mothers and make sure their kids get a hot, homemade dinner.  

If you have a great taste, and you’ve staged your home before, you can help others stage their homes — or, if you’re stylish and great at shopping your own closet, why not helping other mothers to do the same?

If you’re great at saving money and you run your family’s monthly budget on point, guess what — you’re a great project manager. Why not help others cut costs or create efficiencies in their own households?

If you left the workforce and have gap in your resume, consider starting your own self-employed shop and offering your skills to other small businesses.

Yes, thank-you's are nice, but as mothers we work incredibly hard, every single day and it’s taken for granted— by society, by our communities, by our families, and most often, by ourselves. We’re expected to do many, many things for no pay. We may have the hardest job in the world, but we’re certainly not compensated accordingly.

It’s time for us to monetize our work.

So, what would a ‘mom salary,’ look like? According to an annual survey by Salary.com, the average stay-at-home mother works nearly 97 hours a week and should be charging around $115,000 a year for her work, whereas mothers who work outside the home should also earn “a ‘mom,’ base salary of $39,763 plus $23,709 in overtime, adding $63,472 on top of their day jobs.”

This resonates with my research. I interviewed hundreds of women in preparation for launching Pepperlane, and nearly all the women I spoke with could rattle off a veritable laundry-list (pun-intended) of the tasks they did each day as part of their Head of Operations role (aka #momlife): loading the laundry, loading the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, unloading the laundry, folding the laundry, shuttling the kids around, you name it— and if you break down these tasks, the average mother is completing something like 50 tasks per day. Sure, the nature of the work is different than a desk job, but it’s certainly not any less valuable.

It’s time for us to monetize our work.

So, where do we begin? Obviously, we’re not about to start sending our kids or partner an invoice every time we do their laundry, cook them a homemade meal, or walk the family dog. But, there are plenty of other folks out there who would happily pay us for our services...all we need to do is ask, right?

And herein lies the difficulty for many of us as women. If you’re anything like me, talking about money is uncomfortable, emotional, even fraught. You might assume that as a serial entrepreneur, I’m perfectly comfortable asking for money, but the truth is, that’s still not the case.

It has, however, gotten easier with practice. As it is with most things, the more you flex your negotiating muscle, the easier using it becomes. Here’s how to ask for money.

First, embrace money

Not only have many of us have been taught from an early age that we shouldn’t talk openly about money, many of us have also been taught that money isn’t something worth seeking—or we fear that in doing so, we’ll make ourselves appear greedy, shallow or selfish.

This couldn’t be further from the truth— not for women nor for anyone else.

Consider instead that money is a powerful tool that can provide incredible freedom and empowerment— and, once we’re empowered financially, we can in turn empower others (by paying them for their services, for instance).

If you’re willing to assume that making money is not a bad thing, then you can really begin to appreciate what you’ve learned and what you’re invested in terms of your business.

Of course, doing something only for the financial benefit is probably not the best business strategy in the long run— you have to enjoy what you do to sustain a business— but there’s absolutely nothing wrong than saying “I’m doing it for the money,” too.

But you also deserve to be paid for these services and should charge for them accordingly— and there’s absolutely no shame in doing so. The powerful differentiator is that you are the one deciding when you’ll perform these services for free (for your family, for instance) and when you expect a payment for the same services.

Know you are worthy

Another reason why many of us don’t like talking about money or asking for money is that we’re not sure how much we should charge, or what the going rate is for the services we want to offer.

The solution here is simple: do your research! Once you know what the price range is for the type of service you want to offer, you have a starting point from which you can adjust as needed to set your own rates.

Another reason many of us don’t like talking about money is that we may not have a clear enough grasp on our own worth: meaning, what is it we’re offering, and what’s the value of that service?

Just as it’s important to know how to ask for money with confidence, you should also be able to articulate to potential customers what it is you offer and how they’ll benefit from your services. Once you’re clear on your own unique value proposition, you’ll be much more comfortable and confident charging what you’re worth, because you understand it’s value to the customer and in the marketplace.

Just say no to bartering

I don’t have anything against bartering, but if I have to choose, I would like you to get paid— even if it’s not comfortable.

Of course, bartering arrangements amongst new women entrepreneurs are fairly common: after all, what have we got to lose? You offer a service that I can use, and I offer a service that you can use, so what’s the harm in exchanging services rather than cash, especially when we’re just starting out?

The truth is, bartering is not always good for business. When you barter, you’re telling the universe (and those around you) that you’ll work for free. In doing so, your customers will come to expect that you’ll maintain this type of behavior, and it can become difficult to change how you operate once this perception is entrenched.

We have the freedom to decide how we spend our cash, and paying someone for their services is a powerful way to show how much you value their services and respect them as a business owner. If something is worth paying for, then there’s no reason not to pay for it.

And remember...

The bottom line?

If you’re a mother, you have tremendously valuable skills, whether or not you’re currently in the workforce— and there’s never been a better time to learn how to ask for money and to monetize them (and certainly, there’s no better place to explore your path to possibilities and connect with other mothers like you than at Pepperlane’s upcoming conference, Pepperlane Connect, on May 11).

Sharon is a mother of two daughters. She built 4 startups that were acquired by Oracle, Microsoft, Infor and Barnes & Noble. She co-founded WIN, the Women Innovating Now Lab at Babson College to help female entrepreneurs start their businesses. Over the course of her career, Sharon has mentored over 300 female CEOs and business owners. One fact about Sharon that you won't guess: she loves to skateboard when no one is watching. 

Written by Sharon Kan

Sharon is a mother of two daughters. She built 4 startups that were acquired by Oracle, Microsoft, Infor and Barnes & Noble. She co-founded WIN, the Women Innovating Now Lab at Babson College to help female entrepreneurs start their businesses. Over the course of her career, Sharon has mentored over 150 female CEOs and business owners. One fact about Sharon that you won't guess: she loves to skateboard when no one is watching.

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