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Are You Making What You’re Worth?

Make the salary you're worthWe all know that a huge step in paying off debt or building wealth is to make more money. Sometimes different jobs or opportunities come along that provide a way to earn some extra cash. However, it’s important that you don’t make the mistake of swapping your time or energy for less than you deserve. Ask yourself if you are making what you’re worth before taking on extra jobs.

Extra Income Opportunity

I will be attending an optometry meeting soon in a city a few hours away. It just so happened that another doctor in the area was looking for some vacation coverage for a couple of days while I was going to be in town. The conference was in the evening, so I emailed him for more details. I might as well try to earn some extra money if I’m there anyway, right?

It Doesn’t Pay What I’m Worth

I found out that the rate he was paying was about half of what I usually make at my regular jobs. I realize you don’t need to pay someone top dollar who isn’t going to form a long term relationship with your practice, but half price pay?

Then I started thinking that I should do it. Maybe I’m a wage snob? Even if it wasn’t what I normally make, it was still more than I would earn if I didn’t work at all. There are people who work minimum wage who probably don’t make that much in a week.

Maybe, but when you look at transportation, an extra night in a hotel, and self employment taxes, it really wasn’t worth my time. I could probably work on my blog for 16 hours and get just as much return at some point in the future. I emailed the doctor back and politely declined.

How Do You Know What You’re Worth?

I think it depends on a variety of things like experience, skills that set you apart from the competition, and what type of job you are applying for. I have 15 years of optometry experience, many of those are with high risk patients and with medical conditions. If an eye surgeon was looking for someone to follow her patients, I might move to the top of the list and could command a high rate of pay. Someone just looking for a person to hand out eyeglass prescriptions can hire any greenhorn just out of school, and my extra skills don’t amount to much in that situation.

When Should You Work For Less?

I might work for less if I am trying to build good will. If I had wanted a full time job at some point from this doctor, I could have taken the job for less pay to show my excellent skill set for future reference. It would be like giving away a few awesome blog posts to a big site in the hopes of getting a paid job down the road. You just have to be careful that you don’t get stuck into the trap of continually undervaluing your work.

There will always be someone who charges less than you. Sometimes people hiring are just looking for a warm body to do the job and will always hire based on cost, but many times employers are looking for quality, work ethic, or certain skills and will pay more. Grayson wrote a great post on Sprout Wealth about this recently. Make sure you believe why you are worth your asking price and know how to explain it. If you don’t own it, you can’t sell it to others.

Why Do I Always Seem To Make Less Than I’m Worth?

There are several reasons why some people consistently work for less than they are worth.

Debt – You may be in deep debt and live paycheck to paycheck. You cannot afford to refuse income, even if it’s a low income that won’t let you break out of the cycle. Here is where side hustling can get you ahead of the curve to start commanding a better salary or learning more skills to move up the ladder.

Outdated Skills – If I refused to use electronic records or keep up with current trends in eye care, my skills would become outdated and I’d be worth less. Just because you graduated or got certified in a certain field doesn’t mean you never have to improve yourself. Some jobs also may not have relevance in our technology driven society. A brick and mortar travel agent is going to struggle, but a good travel website with a relevant blog might do really well.

Wrong Degree/Skills For Geographic Area – I see kids from our area all the time who go off to school and major in something like art or biology and come home to work at the coffee shop. They might be skilled or talented, but no one is hiring those jobs here. If you want to live in the Four Corners area and make money right now, health care, industries that serve the elderly/retired population, and petroleum or civil engineering would be careers to consider. I’m not saying you can’t succeed with a different degree, but you might need to move to find a career in your field. A PhD in Physics won’t really earn any more money when you are waiting tables.

Poor Marketing/Customer Service – If I have to call or email repeatedly when I’m offering to pay you for work that you claim to be good at, don’t expect the job, and I’ll probably tell all my friends how awful you were. Go above and beyond to make yourself available and reliable.

I’m lucky that we have enough income and savings that I don’t have to take a job that doesn’t pay what I’m worth. If you consistently find yourself making less than you deserve, maybe it’s time to figure out why and make some changes.

Do you earn what you’re worth? Am I a snob for not taking that job?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Great post. I think that when you’re financially stable there’s no pressing reason to work for less than you are worth. Back when I was broke as a joke, I’d do pretty much anything (ok, well not ANYTHING) for money because I had none. At one point in college I had 4 jobs and was picking up anything extra I could find. But these days we bring in enough income and have enough financial supports like a solid emergency fund and healthy retirement accounts that I would not feel that pressing need to take anything that could result in money in my pocket.

    • I value my time too much to work for peanuts at this point, but if it was taking a low paying job or nothing and I was in a bind, you can bet I’d be working for peanuts.

  2. I would have done the same thing Kim. A lot depends on your current financial situation, but if you have enough money and you aren’t on the bread line, then it is good to set income expectations for yourself. Otherwise you may as well just go to work at McDonald’s everyday of your life.

    The only time I would willingly take a lower paying job when I didn’t need the money is if I saw it leading to much bigger things. That way I can justify it as an opportunity rather than just working for money.

  3. I don’t think you’re a snob for not taking that job. I think it’s important to ‘defend your time’ and make sure that the work you are doing with your time is WORTH your time, which in this case you clearly showed it is not. I like the idea of working for less to build goodwill, and I think it’s a great approach for people who are starting out a side hustle or have a brand new small business. A little goodwill can go a long way and ultimately can give a small business much-needed momentum.

    • I agree. I really feel bad turning down easy money, but it would just not make sense. Maybe if I lived closer and didn’t have to figure in transportation costs. The other reason was that I don’t want the people I work for now to think I’m willing to work for much less!

  4. I wouldn’t work for half-price either, especially for someone I didn’t know. I don’t blame you!

  5. To be honest, I am getting paid what I’m worth for my day job. Hoping it stays that way. 🙂

    • That’s awesome. I feel I am getting paid my worth as well at my normal jobs. I’m lucky to have people who appreciate what I do.

  6. Good post Kim! I don’t think you’re a snob at all for not taking that job. With it being just for a one-off situation then it’s just a waste of your time. We deal with this quite a bit as we will have prospective clients asking for lower rates. If it looks like something that will be long term or a lot of work, then we might consider it…to a certain level. However, we’re very picky about it as we believe our rate is good and don’t want many lower paying clients as once you go with that lower rate it can be pretty difficult to raise it in the future.

    • That has always been my philosophy with exam fees. We charge what we charge and it’s higher than the Wal Marts of the world, but that isn’t really the clients that you want anyway for the most part. People who want the filet for a hamburger price are usually not worth it in the long run.

  7. This is why I stopped doing taskrabbit. The market was SO saturated with people willing to drive somewhere 50 miles to the airport for $10, it really made even trying to bid ridiculous. I agree that if you are living paycheck to paycheck you really can’t refuse most jobs, except for above job I mentioned because it would cost MORE in gas. Time is also just as important as money, so if something takes too long, even though it’s OK money, I’ll pass. I has a friend who was willing to pay me “some” money to edit his band’s video, but they had HOURS of footage to sift through, and no idea what they really wanted. I saw the handwriting on the wall and passed on the job. In that time I could be looking for bigger and better opportunities. So no I don’t think you were a snob to pass it up.

    • Taskrabbit seems kind of like elance. I signed up and realize jobs were bidding out for $5. Not worth the effort. I still can’t believe you had to sit at the hospital for that one task. Was that the last straw?

  8. I think it is difficult sometimes to understand your worth when you don’t have good comparisons. For you, it was easy to know how much you make, but also what else you could do with your time. I do a similar analysis with extra work that I take on, if I am busy with other activities, then my rates have to go up because I know that I am worth more working on those other activities. I do think it is critical for everyone to have a good grasp of their worth and not be afraid to ask for it, otherwise you run the risk of leaving money on the table and putting yourself in an uncomfortable position down the road.

    • If I only looked at the gross number, it didn’t seem too bad, but with driving, a hotel stay, meals, and taxes, it made the gross pay way less than it seemed. If work is out of town, you have to consider all that carefully. If I could have done it from home, it would have been a good deal.

  9. I’m probably getting paid fair value for my job in education. Of course, I’d like more but a lower salary is one of the costs for working at many private schools. I think in general we tend to overvalue what we are worth. Maybe it’s a pride or ego thing. It certainly keeps many people from accepting lower paying jobs because they think it’s beneath them.

    • Teachers are never paid enough for their work in my opinion, but I think there are certain perks that go with the job that can make it worthwhile.

  10. I think my pay is fair based on my skill set. In regards to side jobs, I will take low paying ones if I know that they will lead to something greater. I value my time very much, so that is a big consideration for me.

    • My time is worth so much more to me since having a kid. If I’m going to spend an extra day and night away from home, I need to be compensated well or learning something valuable.

  11. Good post. I too have been earning less on my regular job. Now using my skills in writing, I am earning much more than the regular job.

  12. I am not paid as much as I should be for my skills, but I also have not stayed at a job for a long term. I did jump my last two jobs after about 1-1.5 years for each because I was jumping in salary. I started so low in the salary though which is why I’m still below market rate for my age/experience/knowledge in my field. I know if I don’t stay at least two years at this current job that it would hurt me in the long run so I need to stay long enough to prove that I can actually get things accomplished at a job. I know in a few years I should be working for what I’m worth.

    I would agree that if you’re not in need of the money, it’s not worth it to work for less than your worth. My husband worked in a job for 40% less than what he was worth because he was unemployed for so long. But if he was looking for a job while still employed, he would not need to take a job with a paycut. Luckily, he’s back at a job which pays for his skills so we’re not facing that situation now.

    • Early in my career, I might have been more willing to work for less. I did do a year residency for almost nothing, but it was a huge learning experience that has paid me back many times over. Working a few days at Wal Mart is not going to further my career in any way at this point.

  13. My time is one of my most precious commodities so I am very selective in anything additional that I take on. It’s unlikely I would have agreed either unless the person was a good friend that I was helping out. Otherwise the pay wouldn’t have enough to stay another night away from my family and my business.

    • I would help out a friend for free because I know how hard it sometimes is to cover time off, but not a stranger for half price for sure!

  14. I would take a low pay for something I love to do, for example I have guests at my house for a fair rate but I give them super cheap meals because I like to cook. I barely make any money of it and if the maid came to cook I would have no surplus for myself but it’s fun. Now doing other tasks for Guatemalan wage, no way. I would have taken the job if it were fun or a good networking occasion but otherwise don’t see why the guy won’t pay market or more for a temp job.

    • It is in a different market than I’m familiar with so I don’t know the going rate, but when I worked in a similar chain back in 1999, I made lots more than he was paying, so I think it’s just a matter of being stingy. In that case, he should just close up shop until he gets back from vacation.

  15. If you want the extra $$, go for it. But, he is in a bind. He needs someone to cover his practice. He needs to pay top dollar, not minimal dollar.

    No different that if he went to a temp agency. He would pay the agency quite a bit.

  16. I get paid what I’m worth at my day job, but I would take less to do something new… I think blogging is a good example for a lot of people. When you first start out, you earn next to nothing, and you have to put in a lot of time and effort to grow. And if you never get there, then you have to have other reasons outside of money to keep doing it.

    • If you are doing something you love and it adds value in other ways than money, I think that’s Ok. I got tons from blogging before I ever made $1 in the form of community, support, and ideas.

  17. I totally agree with your thoughts here, Kim. I know I could go on Fiverr and do a bunch of $5 posts, but it’s just not worth my time, honestly, even with the debt. I may do it on occasion, if we’re in a real money crunch, but instead I just let my writing reputation be my beacon, and the jobs are coming in just fine. Plus, I know I’m more like to write better for a job that pays me what I feel I’m worth, thereby solidifying my reputation as a good writer, which will lead to more jobs. Great post!

    • That’s an excellent point. For $5, I probably wouldn’t try too hard, and that sort of undermines the whole idea of side hustling.

  18. Even while unemployed, I’m hesitant to accept work that doesn’t pay what I’m worth. It’s one thing if it’s temporary, but if it’s long term, you’re setting a precedent for undervaluation right at the outset.

    • I think that can also skew your sense of self worth as well. I think if you can pay the bills, I’d try to avoid bargain basement jobs.

  19. This is a great post! I get paid very well at my day job, but so far I haven’t really been able to capitalize on my expertise and experience in any side hustles. I’m trying to change that through kicking off a tutoring side business – we’ll see what success that brings 🙂

  20. I don’t think you’re a snob for not taking, since there wasn’t much opportunity in general. The pay wasn’t there and it wouldn’t benefit you otherwise, so I would have declined as well. As far as making what you’re worth…I think many times, especially with jobs like blogging, there are opportunities that are worth more than pay. If you are able to get your name out or learn something valuable, there is a time to take less money.

    I have seen the other side of this too. I knew someone who used to be a millionaire through real estate sales, then lost everything. After that he wouldn’t take any job because he thought he was worth more than that…he ended up homeless before he settled for a job at a fast food restaurant. I suppose there are always 2 sides to things.

    • It is a fine balance. If I was broke, I would probably take whatever job I could find. Being out of debt gives you the option of making what you’re worth.

  21. We had this chat at an NYC bloggers meet up! It’s incredibly important to know your worth and I think people so often undervalue themselves. I’ve set a limit about the least amount of money I’ll take and have to stand my ground (unless it’s a great opportunity).

    • I think having an idea about your minimum is important. It’s hard to turn down work, but if your cost per hour turns out to be almost nothing, it’s not worth it.

  22. Great question Kim. I honestly don’t feel I’m earning what I’m worth – though I don’t do too badly. The fact is that I’m entrepreneurial and am keen to set up my own business in the next year or two. For now, I’m left running someone else’s. So while I’m earning more than I ever have before, I genuinely believe that in time my skills could earn me far more. I just need to hang tight and be patient now while the savings build up…

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