If I offered you a genuine diamond for $500 in one hand and a fake diamond for $5000 in the other, your eyes might hover over the latter—even though I just said it was fake.
Price is shorthand for quality, a heuristic so ingrained in us that we don't notice how much we rely on it every day.
It's an undeniable feature of capitalism, yet many of us tend to negotiate ourselves down in our careers before the salary conversation even starts—all because we appraise our worth according to the value of a dollar in our own pocket.
Tying the value of your work to the value of your own dollar is an expensive mistake.
The exact same dollar entering or leaving a pocket helps or hurts differently depending on who's wearing the pants.
The sooner you internalize this, the sooner you go from being a resource within capitalism to a participant.
An extra $500 a month is life-changing money for many. But a negligible expense for most employers and clients. To some, your salary is a rounding error.
So next time you name your price, don't flinch. See it as a filter. Some will roll their eyes at your price tag, some won’t even blink, and there's a lot you can do to polish your value—from the way you package it to who you target—so it shines in the right eyes.
And if they still say no? You can dig into their needs and negotiate. Or you can move on.
A Cautionary Tale About Kindness to Money
I'm terrible at appraising my worth like a lot of "creative types". I was kind to money and hard on the work I did for it.
Early in my career, I was making $32k a year.
I was working 50-hour weeks, while in $20k debt, covering 2 people’s rent in a roach-infested apartment. It was a miserable chapter of my life.
I'd initially been hired as a sales rep and switched into marketing without negotiating a change to my compensation. I was a copywriter with a small portfolio who quickly proved himself, making an entry-level sales rep's base salary minus the commission.
Money showed me no kindness then. So today, I show it no kindness either.
Be kind to people, but don’t be kind to money. Money has earned it. Money isn’t here to change your life; it only ever changes hands.
Money doesn’t know what you’re worth.
Not until you name your price.