What’s Your Worth? Really?

How much would you like us to pay you?

For those of you in your twenties, don’t you hate this question? I have always had a problem answering this question. We put so much effort into building our skills, bettering ourselves so we can deserve a better life even a better paycheck… and when that question pops up, we often feel clueless!

When I was a kid, around 12 years old, I loved to bake cookies with my sister. We would look up my mom’s recipe books for a nice and not-too-easy recipe with ingredients within our reach, and we would make the best cookies ever! I was so proud of our cookies, I would carry some with me to school. I would think to myself, maybe I should sell them…

“How much? How much? How much?” The moment the break-time bell rung, I would open my lunch box, take out a cookie and eat it. And when my friends and classmates would ask for one, I would just give them. I was just happy to be the kid with the tasty snack that I had made. I was scared to say, “No, I’m selling them!” (Really though, I wasn’t trying to “rub friends” and make enemies. Kids are mean!)

Remember this hand gesture?

So I let that slide, and continued to give away cookies, till we stopped baking them.

But I was a kid, right? It’s never that serious for a kid! Right?

Well, fast-forward to high school… Remember how “The Mail” was taken seriously in high school? From the lettering on the envelope, to how the address was written, to the kind of perfume/cologne one would spray on the letter… Lots of thought and effort was put into the now ancient form of communication. (Do high schoolers still do that stuff my the way?)


I loved art. In fact I took up art in my school, and there was this lesson where we were introduced to Calligraphy. I experimented, and I quickly found that I could work up some pretty looking text. So I became that person who would do Calligraphy for people’s envelopes. It started with one, then two and pretty soon, I would have several requests.

“You should charge for this? It does take up your time and effort? Maybe start with 20 bob per envelope.”

“No way! They’re your friends. They would take it personally. Besides, you risk them going to someone who’d do it free. They’ll stop coming to you.”

I sadly never did gather up the guts to quote my price for my hand lettering.


Fast forward to last year. I go for a job interview. I am confident in myself. I know I have garnered notable experience. I do my research. I know my business and my own value. Everything goes well, up until that question – “How much do you want us to pay you?” I was ready for this question. I had asked around and I was told the amount people often earn for the kind of job I was applying for. I did my own research and the figures made sense.

Confidently, I gave my range: 60-100K!

“Why?” they asked.

I listed my reasons… Citing my previous experience, and what I would bring to the table. I could tell they weren’t sold. They did not see my value like I did. My confidence was starting to dwindle, and then… one guy said… “No. Go and really think about how you can be worth 100K”.

Was he being mean? Did he just not understand the value of what I do? Or was he just telling the truth? I was back to square one, confused about how to put a price on my head. It’s still a struggle. Apparently by the time I’m in my thirties, I would have figured it out. For those of you who have, how did you do it?



2 Comments Add yours

  1. I know what you are saying. I have the same trouble too. Like when I was applying for the job I currently have, I explained to a friend of mine the kind of work I would do and how much I agreed to get paid. The comment I got was, What? Why didnt you bargain for more? And am like how do you do that?

    1. istaystayc says:

      Lol! I know what you’re talking about. Then afterwards you’re constantly concerned that you’re under selling yourself.

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