Money is a taboo topic, especially for women. And I too have combating views on how to talk about it with my loved ones, audience, and my design clients. I have to remind myself, one of my biggest “WHY”s in running my business is to lift up woman and their work. I believe that a woman at home, in her pajamas getting work done is just as powerful, resourceful, and important, as a man in a power suit in a corner office. That as business owners, we don’t do anyone any justice by shrinking around money conversations. In the online space too, it feels like there are two split sides about money goals and talking about money, specifically in marketing. So it’s time to get a bit uncomfortable and start finding more ways to openly chat about money.
I was anxious to publish this episode. It’s personal to me and I know that it’s a topic that is divided. But I want to talk about the M-word.
And why it’s so important that we stop viewing it as a taboo topic.
A lot of us have our own money stories. I grew up in a household where we’d never talk about politics, sex, or money. I was taught that money was bad and people who want money are greedy and controlling. I was taught that saving money, keeping it, increasing it, and controlling it was good, and spending it was bad.
But money is just a tool.
It isn’t inherently good or bad. Tools are meant to be used.
In the online space, it feels like there are two split sides about money goals and talking about money, specifically in marketing.
And I get both sides. I’m an Enneagram 9 so one of my superpowers is being able to see and understand all sides.
In the online space, we’re encouraged to share openly about the not-so-glamorous things to be viewed as “authentic”, relatable, and honest. But what happens when someone shares about growth? How is that viewed?
I’m going to break this down by two sides in today’s post.
Talking about money can be seen linked to the toxic hustle culture. Where goals and achievements are only related to the money you make.
I believe that using only money as qualifiers of success can be misleading and lazy. And I admittedly have been guilty of it. Right now, one way you see this play out a lot, in the designer space, is the promise of “success” if you get $10K months and $100K years.
But even those promises no longer pique my interest. I find myself glazing over posts about them. And I wonder myself, do income claims and promises force us to always strive for the next level, never feeling content with where they are? Does it leave us feeling the pressure to always chase the next level to feel successful?
Even with these promises of $100K years, a lot of times we are only seeing an above-the-surface look. We aren’t seeing where their money is going and if they’re profitable. Someone could have had a $40K launch but spent $40K on Facebook ads.
In the B2B space, sharing your income is viewed as a way to share that what you are selling works. It is used to show its effectiveness or the seller’s expertise. Money earned is used to validate someone’s worth in their work.
Another thing that I’ve found that people deem is “bad” when talking about money, it can make others feel less than.
I’m in a mastermind, and it came up for a lot of us how we’re scared to show success on social media because we don’t want to make others uncomfortable or be judged for it. We don’t talk about money or goals to keep other people comfortable
I think this idea of not sharing your success to make other people more comfortable is something that is engrained in women. And I’m not here for it.
One day I was listening to the “Unf*ck Your Brain” podcast and she said “Do you really think Gary Vee is getting shit in his DMs for being “greedy”?”
I think that perfectly sums up the idea that we’re comfortable with men talking about money and about the things that they have been able to do, but when a woman does it, she is thought of as “greedy”, “salesy” or “icky”.
And I do understand the icky feelings that come up! When you hear or see people always talking about $10K months, six-figure years, it can be triggering if you aren’t there when you feel like you should be. And that is especially true if talking about money was taboo growing up.
With people telling us that the amount we make a month is tied to being good at our jobs, we tend to build an emotional connection with money and our feelings around our worth.
One of the highs and lows of running a business: We feel good and safe when money is coming in and we feel insecure when it isn’t.
If those icky feelings come up for you, I challenge you to question them. Why does this make me feel this way?
I was reading this article in the Atlantic by Joe Pinsker and in part of the article, it talks about a woman who kept all her financial details private from her friends and children because she didn’t want them to feel bad or less than. In the article, the woman goes on to say that although she thinks that this rationale is genuine, she believed that it was also a “justification for silence”. That ultimately she wasn’t doing it to keep her loved ones feeling safe, but by not talking about money, she was keeping herself safe too. She didn’t have to confront the unpleasant facts and feelings of her own wealth in an unequal society. She was ultimately sparing herself from discomfort, not other people.
I think that that is a really important thing to think about.
I come from a place of privilege. I’m a white woman, I grew up middle class, I’ve had a lot of opportunities presented to me because of my privilege. If I don’t talk about money, am I sparing other people’s discomfort, or am I actually sparing myself that discomfort of having to address my own privilege.
On the other hand, when we’re in business the whole point of business is to make money. If we didn’t, it would be a hobby, right? (And there is nothing wrong with that!).
So it feels kind of weird to not talk about money if it’s the main objective of running a business.
From a 2015 Fidelity Investments survey: Four in five women (80%) have, at some point, refrained from talking about their finances to those they are close with.
When we talk about money, we demystify it. We can collectively all benefit and share tips with each other. Because the truth is, that yes, $10K months gets talked about like the holy grail, but the real truth once you look under the hood at what the costs are to run that business, $10K a month really doesn’t go that far.
How would you know that anything is possible if no one ever talked about it?
When we can feel comfortable about talking about money it empowers all of us to make smarter money decisions. Maybe when you hear someone talking about booking a $10K project it empowers you to raise your project prices.
We can start to see what’s possible for us.
Years ago, when I was in college, I heard about people making $100K. I thought that was only possible for people that had been in their career for years. I thought you just had to put your head down and do the work.
But that’s not true. I know that I’ve personally been able to break my upper limit by seeing other women’s examples. You don’t know what’s actually possible until you see it
I always think of the four-minute mile. No one was able to break the four-minute mile until 1954 by Roger Bannister. Then just two months later the record was broken again. Since then the four-minute barrier has been broken by over 1,400 athletes. Once we know that something is possible, it becomes so much easier to achieve it.
If after all of this, you still notice icky feelings coming up when someone makes money claims, ask yourself why? Why do I feel this way? Do I feel icky because I don’t think it’s possible because I’m jealous because I think they are lying?
This isn’t a competition. When we talk about money, we all win.
I think it’s a really powerful exercise to do whenever you have any type of icky feeling come up. Ask yourself why? Dig deeper.
Ultimately my hope is that we can both create a space where we acknowledge privilege and inequality in money claims. That we can create a space where women feel comfortable sharing their wins or growth and it’s not seen as bragging or icky. I don’t think that hiding what you’re proud of is healthy for anyone. When women start bragging, self-advocating, and not apologizing for it is when we can create real cultural change.