A couple of weeks ago I was away at camp with my kids. It was like a rustic version of an all inclusive resort with a slight twist. It was only moms and kids and the programming involved activities like meditation, candlelight yoga and discussion breakouts like “how to live your authentic life.”
Of course there were more camp like activities like canoeing, swimming, hiking and Groove (I love Groove).
It was fantastic. Funny because every year leading up to camp I’m feeling sort of “meh” about it but every year (this is my third year) on the last night we have a mom circle where everyone has a chance to say goodbye and say what they are grateful for. And every year I say that I’m grateful for not having to do any meal prep or cooking for 5 entire days (or laundry, cleaning, or basically any grunt work) but especially for having had a chance to remind myself how I want to live my life according to my values that drive me forward.
Camp is a reset button for me. It’s not always easy to find reset buttons in life. Let’s face it, most of us are so busy these days we are living in reaction mode. At least I am. As my business has grown over the past year I have not had a lot of time to think about the direction it is going in. I finish one project and have no time for reflection as I realize I have to start on the next one.
Of course this is totally my fault. Sometimes I’m a little too optimistic about how much I can get done in a day and I forget to plan for things like arranging child care and taking care of the things in life that need to be taken care of (buying groceries and feeding my children and myself).
So, it’s no wonder that while I was at camp I did it again. I got an email requesting help on a new job. It was rather exciting as it was not from someone I knew (my business is starting to grow without my having to flog it) and it was for the type of work I love doing – building spreadsheets and helping people get clarity on their financial situation so they can get unstuck. Of course I said yes.
The only slightly negative aspect of the job was that it had a pretty tight deadline. But I was at camp where people were taking care of my children for me and taking care of the day to day grunt work for me. So I forgot (again) to factor this in.
I remembered when I got home and had to make lunch for my kids again. Well, this sucks, I thought.
But then the kids went to live with their dad for his week of parenting and I got down to work. I also had space in my life for meditation and staying on track because I don’t do things like shopping or household stuff when the kids are gone.
But then the kids came back and I had to scramble. The job I was working on was not finished and suddenly I found myself working while arranging childcare, shopping and doing meal prep.
I worked at my desk building my beautiful spreadsheet while my kids entertained themselves and I would occasionally stop to throw food at them and yell at them to stop fighting (as my neighbours can attest to).
As the day went along (and as my spreadsheet grew into a thing of beauty and clarity) my kids got bored. They had been at entrepreneurship day camp the week before (funnily enough I am opposed to this type of thing but their dad loves it and had enrolled them) and so they were all up on figuring out how to find ways to make money by giving people something they need.
What do kids make money at in the summer? Lemonade stands.
So while I was at the desk trying to make things reconcile and ignoring the world around me, my kids asked if they could go to the store to get supplies. “yes, yes, just quiet – working.”
Off they went and were quickly back setting up their stand. I took a pause to help them carry tables and chairs and make sure the lemonade was food safe and then I found myself butting into their planning.
“How much are you going to charge?” I asked them.
Actually – no, I told them how much to charge. You will charge $0.75 per cup. The last time they had run a stand they had made $40 in one hour and I was horrified because I imagined that they were somehow gouging their customers.
They reluctantly agreed and then went out to sell their lemonade.
I went back to work and finalized a print copy of my spreadsheet. I felt positively giddy about it. I had learned some new tricks and tools while doing this work and I was really proud of the final outcome. I emailed it off to my client and went to check on my kids.
They had some customers. A couple of dads were riding by and had stopped.
“We always stop for these – gotta support the kids – our daughters used to run these.” and “You guys need to find a better street – not much traffic here.”
Then they proceeded to give my kids $3.50 for two cups of lemonade and said “don’t fill it too full.”
My kids happily obliged.
Later on my kids told me that all their customers were giving them more than $.75 per cup.
That’s when my blog post hit me on the head.
I had just finished my job and the entire time I was doing it, I was figuring out ways to charge my client less (by working for free – because hey, I like doing this work and I’m learning and I can’t charge for that).
I realized that I need to take a lesson from my kids. They were not gouging their customers. Their customers wanted to give them more! Somehow my kids sitting outside and selling their just add water lemonade from concentrate was filling some kind of need that their customers were willing to pay for.
Are you like me? Do you minimize the work you do?
Take a lesson from my kids. Continue to enjoy what you do, but don’t let that be a reason to do it for free. Charge what it’s worth, take on less work and make the work you do do, better.