Do you think there’s anything you’re all in on today that
you might come to regret later? Anything that lights your
fire and gets you out of bed in the morning?
It’s hard to imagine that something we believe in with all of our heart, something we’re willing to take a stand for is something might haunt us for the rest of our professional lives.
Actually, I take it back. I don’t want you to think about this.
Because my mission is to get leaders to own their opinions, speak their truth, and unapologetically stand on their platform. And you don’t need to invite any more doubt to the party.
But today I want to put yourself in the shoes of Sophia Amoruso, back in 2014 when she released her book, Girlboss, sparking a movement that would unleash grown up girl power across the globe.
I’m Kim Wensel and this is Resentfully Yours, a limited series podcast where we examine, adjust, and reframe the expectations of a creative career.
The topics on this show explore how to avoid resentment when you’re feeling misunderstood, overworked, and undervalued. Because as a working creative the question isn’t IF you’ll feel this way, it’s WHEN.
This series focuses on how to get back to work that’s life giving, not life sucking; making your own definition of “making it;” and ditching the excuses that are keeping us from reaching our true potential.
GET RICH QUICK + OTHER GASLIGHTING
I couldn’t have found a more perfect example of girl boss culture than this one.
A podcast interview with the following bits pulled from the description:
- Start charging $10k today without years of experience
- She’s 25, has multiple 6-figure businesses and charges $15k for every dream project
- Now she teaches others how to charge the same all while having fun
This is the modern girl boss. And I’m not a fan.
Not because I don’t think we should want it all, but because I think this glamorization of a single destiny to strive for is unhealthy and unrealistic.
Positioning women as bosses through this lens has infantilized, manipulated, and misconstrued the leadership journey.
Girl boss culture cheers us on to continue leveling up. Have 6-figure months and 7-figure years.
Girl boss culture that tells us to charge your worth and only do things that you love.
Girl boss culture that says: You can do it all – have that baby, homeschool, run your successful business while earning thousands of dollars of passive income while you sip your latte because, hey, you only need to work 15 hours a week.
I mean, 25-year-old me would probably be allured by this. 25-year-old me wanted a quick rise to the top.
But 25-year-old me also didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have someone I could look up to help calm my angst about following the lead. I didn’t have someone whose life and decisions I wanted to emulate.
25-year-old me didn’t have the luxury of googling a topic and finding five courses about how to accomplish exactly that.
Now, 36-year-old me, the one with a mortgage and a retirement fund and vacations I want to take, knows building a name for yourself is not that easy. Work can be full of ease but let’s stop with this illusion of easy.
Sophia Amoruso herself admittedly cringes now when she hears people call one another girl boss. For me, it’s putting someone on a pedestal and encouraging carbon copies. This leads to dangerous groupthink and tired sameness.
Sure, you’re not following the lead of a middle-age white guy, but you’re still following step-by-step someone else’s path. And your path should be yours alone to form.
THE TRUTH BEHIND REVENUE NUMBERS
So why does this matter? Why not just let girl bosses be girl bosses and those who don’t like it can ignore it?
Because this illusion of finding the golden ticket is just that — an illusion. And this illusion is almost always driven by revenue claims.
Get to $10k a month. Scale to 7 figures. Leave your job and double your income.
These nebulous income thresholds have become why everyone’s frothing at the mouth. What no one is talking about is what it takes to get there and what it takes to sustain it.
$10k a month can mean vastly different things to people. For a 25 year-old $10k a month might be the most they’ve ever made, but to someone who is paying for two kids in college and a mortgage, that might be the minimum they need.
$10k might be sufficient for a freelancer, but to someone with three team members, it’s just the beginning.
$10k is great for a month of work, but when that project bleeds into two or three months, not so much.
Want to know what’s behind hustle culture? This blind drive to do whatever it takes to continue increasing your income. We endlessly chase these metrics thinking that something magical will happen when we get there.
Surprise, nothing changes once you move from $9999 to $10,000 a month. Hitting $100k doesn’t feel all that different from $75k.
What does feel different is always needing to feel on.
I saw an Instagram bio the other day: Stylist for 6-figure women.
I was so confused. Why just 6-figure women? What does my revenue have to do with my difficulty dressing myself? Does this mean as I make more money I’m going to lose my fashion sense?!
If I were to guess, there are a few reasons she’s positioned herself this way:
- She expects that only 6-figure women can afford her.
- She wants to work with women who are in the public eye and that’s assumed to be women at a certain income level.
- She wants to convey her level of service by justifying it through the type of clients she can serve.
- It’s easier to describe your clientele by income than their deeper needs, motivations, and values.
One person talking about a million dollar business is talking about $1M of revenue in a year. Another is talking about the cumulative revenue made since a business started.
If we zoom back, what’s lacking overall in this conversation is the detail about what someone’s job looks like to achieve those numbers.
In my last corporate job I grew my department from one (ME!) to five in under a year. My duties quickly shifted from writing to managing. And I didn’t enjoy the management much. I took the job because I liked writing and persuasively communicating a case. I didn’t at the time have the patience to be developing the writing skills of others.
So if you’re a creative person who lives and breathes your craft, you need to understand that as your business SCALES (there’s that magic word), your day-to-day work is going to look different.
I’m not saying you can’t make a million dollars while still doing the things you love. Well, actually, yeah I am saying that.
If you started your business because you have a love of the craft, building it to scale will inherently take you away from the doing and put you in the position of leading.
Just because one person’s face is plastered across a website doesn’t mean you’re going to work with that person, learn from that person, or maybe even communicate with that person.
So if this is reality — and I like tempting claims but I enjoy reality much more — we have a responsibility to ask ourselves: what do I want my work to look like, day in and day out?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD SALESPEOPLE AND GOOD TALENT
I’ve started to notice the divide in our field — those who are doing the work because they genuinely love it. They get off perfecting their craft, knowing there’s always an opportunity to learn and improve.
And those who dub themselves “expert” as soon as they’ve read a book about something.
Last year I saw someone post on social media: I just spent the last weekend in this training. And now I’m a certified brand strategist!
Such a cringe moment. That’s like me saying, “I took an accounting course and now I can do your taxes for you as well as your messaging!
What we’re really talking about here is building a career vs. building a launch. You don’t build a career in a year. You understand it’s a long game.
Viewing your work as a long game takes the pressure off to figure it all out now. It takes the pressure off to have to monetize everything you’re excited about. It should take the pressure off to introduce yourself in a way that captures everything you might be doing at any given moment.
Sure, there are moments when you only need to be two steps in front of the people you serve. But I think that advice should be taken more to get you out of the perfectionism trap than to uphold your entire professional reputation.
As I’ve uncovered this for myself it’s been frustrating because I set a high bar for myself. And I don’t always expect that same level of quality from others.
When I see messages downplaying the importance of experience — lived, learned, or otherwise — I think of how many times I’ve been seduced by the promise and underwhelmed by the service.
Demanding without delivering.
Here’s what that boils down to: being a great salesperson vs. being a great service provider.
Some people are natural salespeople. They have no problem getting out there and building buzz about a product or service. Some of them don’t even really have to believe in the value proposition. They get high on the deal.
And that’s what I’m seeing with more and more businesses popping up promising to solve all of your problems on an accelerated timeline. We have to look a little deeper.
Do they show their portfolio or past work? How wide and varied is that work? Or are these all people paying each other? Because, hint, that’s happening quite often.
Or are they hanging their hat on sexy sales language and long scrolling sales pages?
Is their personal brand following much larger than their business following? And if so, are they selling their service or a blueprint for becoming them?
This is one of my favorite things about girl bossery.
Instead of rinsing and repeating, what if you could sell your genius and make money in your sleep?
I don’t know that that’s the exact messaging still used today, but it was when I was getting my feet wet as an entrepreneur. There was this unspoken assumption that the path to success went like this: freelancer to service-based business owner to course creator to passive income megastar.
Do only enough 1:1 work to be able to codify and trademark your signature method or process. And then package up that process and sell it to others.
The first large investment I made in my business was a group program. There was a copy coach assigned to each small group within the larger program. The role of that coach was to give feedback based on the template that the main coach had developed.
I was writing my About page and I asked the copy coach for feedback. “It’s good,” she said, “but look back at this part of the guide. That section is missing.”
I pushed back, “No, I understand the formula, but I want to understand from a writer’s perspective, does this work?”
She refused to give feedback on anything that altered from the 6-step template. She wasn’t trained to do anything else.
This is something we need to be aware of — as consumers and service providers: templates are a solid starting point but they can’t be the model for everything.
It’s so funny to me to see people selling courses promising a personalized, stand out result. How do you get a personalized result when you’re using a template? That is the antithesis of what a template offers.
Just because someone has found success does not mean their way will work for you. Just because you found success does not mean your way will work for others. And we have to be honest about this!
I’ve had people ask me how to attract top paying clients. Outside of providing an absolutely stunning experience, it’s this: do you have reference points? Can you offer multiple solutions? Have you done this one way or many ways?
Top paying clients often aren’t buying the deliverable, they’re buying the perspective. And you can only gain perspective when you’re pushing yourself to learn new things, new ways, new approaches. Simply coaching others to do what you’ve done isn’t going to cut it.
This whole “I’ve done it, so you can too” is rampant. And honestly it pains me to see it working. But it gives us hope, so we buy into it.
GROWTH IS DIFFERENT FROM SCALING
When I first met my graphic designer, she gifted me her friend’s new book, Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing. This book just so happened to be authored by tech veteran, Paul Jarvis.
I devoured the book. It was the alternative to much of what I read at the time, instead encouraging us to resist typical avenues of growth and expansion. SAY WHAT?!
Yes, he talks about being intentional with the level of accumulation needed and stopping there. What a concept: being satisfied with enough and then living to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
He also hits on something close to my heart: being intentional with personal interactions vs. funnels or automation.
If I had one message and one message only to share with business owners, freelancers, and creatives everywhere it’s this: It’s never about the deliverable. It’s always about the experience.
It’s similar to the quote by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We’re living in a time of half-listening.
There are few times in our days when we can expect to be fully focused on, fully seen and heard.
I was picking up my daughter at school a few weeks back, standing with another mom, when a woman came up. We didn’t yet know each other and she introduced herself. She asked me a question and not five seconds in, she started looking over my shoulder waving and mouthing something to another person walking up.
So I just stopped talking.
How often does this happen at work? We give just enough attention to someone to get them to follow us, recommend us, or buy from us. And then our attention fades away.
We’ve neglected the client experience in favor of the sales experience.
I once signed on to work with someone. I paid the invoice, signed the contract, and received an automated message.
That welcome packet kicked off with a few essential items I needed to know…
Our time together is limited. Here’s when I’m available. If you don’t get me these things I will not begin and your project will be postponed. We will communicate by email unless otherwise requested. And if you need me otherwise we’ll schedule for 15 minutes.
Any momentum I had going was immediately stopped. It was obvious this person had been burned in the past. But it felt like I was being punished for behavior that wasn’t mine.
Where does this come from?
Here I am to argue again, unsurprisingly, #boss culture.
But who’s teaching us these tactics? Are they people who have been in business and understand what it takes to charge top dollar? Or is it just someone who’s telling you that you deserve to make all the rules and charge top dollar?
Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for what you need and what you deserve by any means. Creatives are historically underpaid and undervalued. But there is value that comes from experience, depth, and lessons learned.
What I charge today is based on what I know I’m capable of today, still allowing for room to grow.
You can communicate your needs while still being respectful, while still expecting the best.
It’s when we start imposing things on our clients that we need to pull back and ask: am I doing this because they’re pushing my boundaries or because I’m entering this feeling resentful from the get go?
This podcast is intended to encourage you to reset, rest, and rejuvenate as an essential part of the creative process. But it’s also about work. And work, by definition, is filling a gap that others have with a service, product, idea, or experience.
If you’re a service provider, that means using your skill to serve the needs others have and doing that again and again and again.
DO FOLLOWER COUNTS MATTER?
I’ve worked with a photographer for years now. Hi, Tina!
She’s been generous enough to sing my praises to her following. On a few occasions she’s referred me to others. When she’s done this, she’s let me know that she made sure they’re aware that I really know my stuff.
The unspoken was this: even though she doesn’t have a large following, she’s legit.
I know Tina doesn’t buy into this, but she does understand the social currency of follower counts.
We all know followers can be bought and sometimes that number only reflects the fact that someone is a fantastic content creator. Still, when we see a low number we immediately question their validity.
Having reach can help you get a book deal. It can get you sponsorships for your content. It can help you sell your course or a digital download.
But if you’re selling a high ticket item, is social where you should be focusing all of your efforts?
This gets back to the launch vs. the long game. For me, social media is a great place to connect and keep up with people. There’s opportunity to use it for more, but I’ll never prioritize my platform over my paying clients.
The sheen wears off. And if you want leads to come in easier over time, remember that repeat business is a lot cheaper than new client acquisition.
A big part of bossing up, if we’re going to call it that, is knowing where you excel and not needing to feel like the solution to everyone’s problems.
So whether you’re a girl boss or a boy boss or just simply the boss, remember that you don’t have to define your worth by any metric, monetary or otherwise.
You don’t have to rule with an iron fist.
And you don’t have to have thousands of followers to be successful.
If it’s taking longer than you expected, guess what? You’re normal. There are no short cuts. Burnout isn’t worth a spike of interest. And a career that spans decades, that’s a marathon, not a sprint.