Entrepreneurship & The Six-Figure Myth
Do you really need to make six figures?
I’ll just cut to the chase for you, and then explain: No. You don’t need to make six figures.
“Making six-figures” is the holy grail for many entrepreneurs. It’s not enough to have work you love. It’s not enough to quit a soul-sucking job or be home for their kids after school. It’s not enough that building a business feels purposeful.
I see this a lot with life coaching: a lot of coaches have clients they love, their creative fires stoked as they create courses and retreats and envision their TED talks, and yet they haven’t hit six figures, so they’re all saying the same thing: “I’ve worked hard — now show me the money.”
Before I hit my first six-figure year, I used to say the same thing. I used to think that when I finally hit six figures, I’d proudly announce it to the world, celebrating the milestone and relishing how different life would feel and all of the opportunities that would be open to me that hadn’t been open, before.
That’s not what happened. The cliche ended up being true: life didn’t actually feel different. Why? Because the things that make me happy aren’t the numbers in my bank account — they’re the belly laughs I share with my husband, finding free time to write in my Moleskine, the high of a particularly transcendent run, how connected I feel during a coaching session, the creative flow of creating new curriculum for my life coach training program, the camaraderie I feel with my dearest friends.
In essence, all the things that made me happy before I officially grossed six figures are all the same things that have made me happy, after.
I’ll tell you what six figures does come with: more responsibility. It takes more people to sail this ship. It takes more attention and smarter marketing. It takes more forward-thinking about the future, and navigating more fear.
These are good problems to have, of course, but the point is that I’d always thought, and a great many other entrepreneurs and coaches think, that life after six figures is simpler, somehow. It’s not.
What’s Your Happy Money Number?
Instead of having the goal of “making six figures,” consider this: What’s your happy money number? In other words, how much do you need to make to support your happiest lifestyle?
To come up with this number, add up all of your expenses. Pad by maybe 30%. What’s that number? Write it down.
By the way: don’t assume that your “happy money number” includes extras beyond what you have right now.
“But Kate,” you’re thinking, “My number WOULD include extras. I’d be happier if I had a new wardrobe, money for travel, a kitchen remodel, horseback riding lessons for the kids, a new car…”
Because here’s the thing: If you don’t know how to be happy making the money you make right now, you won’t know how to be happy at six figures.
Oh, and you want the money so that you can quit that soul-sucking job? There might be some inner work to do, first.
I’ve seen it time and time again, and I did it, too: Life coaches quit their soul-sucking jobs, not realizing that they and their victim-thinking were often what made it feel soul-sucking. If your soul-sucking job feels that way because you don’t know how to speak up for yourself around your crappy co-workers, you’re going to run into that same terrain when you open your coaching practice — there will be crappy blog comments, or crappy hate mail. If your soul-sucking job feels that way because you’re a workaholic, then you’re really in trouble once you’re setting your own hours as an entrepreneur. If your soul-sucking job feels crappy because you don’t believe in the product, you’ll inevitably hit a point of low motivation in your own business and not know how to get re-inspired.
Soul-sucking jobs become soul-sucking when our attitudes are disempowered.
In fact, this entire discussion is about feeling disempowered — because the assumption most people make is that when they hit six-figures, that’s when they’ll feel powerful. That’s when they’ll feel free. That’s when the opportunities will be limitless.
No. All of that is an inside job. You’ve got to find opportunities to feel powerful, limitless, and free if your life, in the here and now.
Money & You
Having more money has only ever made me more of who I already am.
It’s brought out more fears.
It’s brought out more generosity.
It’s brought out more challenges.
It’s brought out more leadership.
It’s brought out all the places where I was disrespecting my House of Money.
It’s brought out all of my tools for erecting appropriate money boundaries.
I work fewer hours, but when I am working, I work harder — not for the money, but because I want to.
The Good News: The Pressure is Off
If you really take what I’m saying to heart, there’s some potential good news: the pressure might be off. You might realize that if your business or coaching practice grosses $2,000 a month, you’re actually golden. Bills, paid. You, happy. That might be enough.
You might even realize that you don’t need to quit your salaried job; that running your business part-time becomes a way to have some fun, make some money on the side, and not have all of the responsibilities of invoicing, marketing, and attention that come with a full-fledged practice.
Let’s say that you’re making $800 a month working with just a few side clients in addition to your salaried job, keeping benefits and 401(k) intact, connecting with people from around the world who are interested in having authentic conversations, feeling a sense of purpose, feeling connected to who you really are, and now you run a business so you can write off some of your expenses (cell phone, internet, office supplies, perhaps even the room you use for your home office). Consider that this might be…enough.
In fact, if happiness is the real end-game, and if you stop insisting that you’re a victim of your salaried job — like if you stopped calling it “soul-sucking” — this might be more than enough.
I’m not suggesting that you aim low or downgrade your dreams. I’m suggesting that before you go off chasing your definition of affluence, you know why you want it.
Small has its merits. Small is not always the consolation prize.
More is not always more, if it ends up as the chasing of the hungry ghost.
More is not more, if when you arrive there you realize that the end-goal is empty.
Before you go after any dream, know why you want it. It takes courage to let go of empty dreams, but it’s a much faster path to happiness.