Yesterday, as happens cyclically in my business and in every business, it was time to button up a project. I detailed while Facebook IM’ing with a client that my role in the creation of their book was dwindling down as we had correctly projected, no surprise to either of us. In fact, it signaled the end of a thrilling chapter for him, excuse the pun.

As I was doling out the last of my editorial advice, I went on to tell him that I would be sending an invoice and “Oh, how I hated to talk about money, but there it was…lol.” You could almost hear my nervous giggle spring to life from my typed words. I was horrified as I watched my fingertips craft letters into sentences, form thoughts into tangible self-doubts and then I hit “Enter,” as if in a slow-motion film, where the antagonist screams, “NOOOOOOOOO!”

This wasn’t me, and this type of bumbling wasn’t necessary. I knew it the instant I’d engaged in my own misgivings. I had performed a service and was now simply moving into the next phase: invoicing and payment. As robustly as I had delivered my intellectual goods, now I had morphed into a slipping fawn on the ice, losing ground and tripping spectacularly.

I chastised myself for a micro-second and then got real.

My client is John Blake, an international sales trainer. I had just edited his first book, and maybe I was feeling a bit in awe? Instead of shambling my way out of the room, as I had done while onstage at a dance recital in high school, beginning the number one beat ahead to raucous, tear-spurring laughter, I centered. Stopped. Got vulnerable. I asked John, in all seriousness, did he think he could help me because I really was quite uncomfortable asking for the money at the close. Ironic that he was my client from whom I requested this advice, as I happened to, in that instant, be seeking his payment. He was kind, and surprisingly, asked if I could jump on a Skype call.

I expected to hear about logistics. I expected to hear about working the price into the process—enabling the step as a seamless transition to completion.

But he told me to revisit my value. To remember the service I provide. That I had already sold myself and to remember that I had made good on my promise. To recall the wonderful reviews my clients had left me—that I have yet to install on my website [note to self].

And I replied that I love what I do so much it makes me feel guilty. Which incited guilt to dig in its razor-tipped talons that much harder, because who gets to profess such a sentiment about their work?

“That shouldn’t stop you from remembering your value,” John said. “I feel the same way and I consider myself lucky to love my job. But it has nothing to do with your value.”

John also reminded me to immerse myself in the positive changes I had brought to people and their businesses. How collaboration had increased growth, prosperity and strengthened brands.

He advised that I should “stack the value” and ensure my tonality was ripe with “embedded commands,” a persuasive and effective manner used to direct a conversation to the intended target. I embraced my identity as a mother at this point, advising the prospect not to “forget their underwear.” I Realized I am the Embedded Commander with two grown boys and a teenage daughter under my wing. Latching onto this persona made for an excellent and easy-to-adapt analogy. (If you are a parent, or can affect the machinations of one, I suggest you try it!)  

We had a good and honest laugh.

I had hopped on this Skype call hoping merely for a nudge into better system management and implementation, and what I received was so much more, the reminder that the best people to work with make time for you, demonstrate caring when it is asked and that we often forget we are, in fact, delivering a service deserving of payment. That in moments of perceived weakness, we can discover renewed strength, mentorship and solidarity. Merely through inquiring. Through listening.

John never made me feel ashamed for showing my yellow belly. A half a world away, he stopped everything to speak to me, explaining the source of the noise droning in his background, the sounds of home improvement. He’s human, relatable, empathetic. I will strive to emanate more of these qualities.

And I will remember a few nuggets from our talk: 1) to stop and listen to my clients and associates with an open and compassionate mind when they need me, 2) I am quite lucky, but that does not devalue me or minimize my offering, and 3) the magnetism of being human and authentic in every endeavor returns tenfold.

Resist devaluing and minimizing yourself and your product or service. Reach out to people with authenticity and relish the enriched experience and relationships when they come back to you. And when you find yourself scrambling as I did…lean into it, as the buzz-phrase advises. Define your weakness. Only then will you be able to unearth its antidote: strength.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Hilary Lauren

Freelance Minnesota writer, author and die-hard word nerd, Hilary Lauren reads grammatical reference books in her spare time. She is the author of Killing Karl, a story about a career killer masquerading as an everyday man, and his wife trying desperately to love him. She also owns J. Hill Marketing & Creative Services, a digital marketing and editorial firm. She cannot stop writing. For there is no control over love. And that is what writing is…love. Like any other kind of passion.

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