I Cost More Than You’d Ever Think (Confessions of a Black Female Consultant)
I want to talk about how the mind works if you’ll indulge me. According to science, our brain burns 400–500 calories daily just to help us think. That’s for the basics — remembering to eat, remembering how to walk, remaining in homeostasis.
What’s not included are the calories you burn trying to troubleshoot or process thoughts for things like your job. You might as well run a lap with the amount of cognitive energy spent getting hot and bothered by trying to impress your boss.
Hence the basis for my forthcoming rant, and level of pessimism around my new life as a consultant. There’s always room for me to step up my sales game. My go-to strategy is usually content marketing — creating something of value (blog posts, podcasts) for free that potential clients engage with. The goal is once I woo them over, they’ll immediately throw all the cash they have at me for my services.
Allow me to be vulnerable for a bit. I’m not saying business hasn’t been surprisingly good this year. But this creating content game is lame and has (in my humble opinion) little ROI. I get far more clients by flat out asking “please hire me” than hoping the 10-minute video I spent seven days producing tickles the fancy of my ideal client (SEO strategies included).
And I took the time to think about whether there’s any other reason I put all this work into creating so much content. I never want to publish something that isn’t thought out, well-rehearsed and researched, even in an age of Snapchat attention spans. My brand is at stake, so it’s extremely important for me to spend the time (and calories) thinking carefully about what I’m saying and how people are going to receive it.
I actually love writing but lost a lot of that passion under the exhausting pressure of trying to stay relevant (i.e. viral or trendy) rather than writing what’s truly on my heart. Yes, I realize businesses exist to create value for others and it’s not about what you want (unless you plan to be your only customer). But to be honest, usually at the heart of entrepreneurship is the pursuit of a dream versus the very practical decision of building something based on emotionless data and observation.
Maybe it’s a stereotype, but…a lot of times it’s us women talking about dreams and passions when talking business. We’ve been working for a company LITERALLY sucking energy and creativity out of us, with meager compensation in return. So, we go off as entrepreneurs lest we die literally from a mental breakdown or in misery over our should’ve/could’ve/would’ves.
I know better than to ever advise anyone to quit their job to sell cupcakes because it brings them joy. All things being equal, it’s ballsy, high-risk and no guarantee of scalability. But that’s the catch — all things aren’t equal. I’ll double-down and point out that we live in a world where mediocrity is still profitable as long as your male, cis-gender, white, and rich.
That’s not me in my feelings. Those are facts. Last year INC. magazine reported a 114% increase of women in entrepreneurship, and that startups led by women earn 78 cents for every dollar invested, compared to 31 cents at male-owned startups. In other words, male-owned startups are in fact mediocre in comparison to women-led startups. As a black woman point-blank, my mind is worth way more to businesses and investors than any white, cis-male owned tech startup company ($1.5 trillion more to be specific).
And yet, men are 98 percent more likely to get funding for their cupcake shop/app/cryptocurrency or whatever else versus any woman who spends her invaluable brainpower coming up with a better or similar idea. The chances that only 2 percent of those from the opposite sex are developing lucrative concepts good enough for venture capitalists to invest in is not reality.
What does this have to do with my content marketing? Well, time and again the advice I get from business mentors (predominately male — this is not a male-bashing session, just facts) is “you need to prove your worth by creating free content and getting free exposure.” I follow Boss Babes, Inc. and several other women-centered entrepreneurship pages, and almost EVERY free webinar session basically says to give my priceless mind energy away for free.
So now we get thousands if not millions of women rarely compensated for what could amount to trillions of dollars worth of material. If things like “patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, or unique ideas” can show up as assets on a balance sheet, why the hell are we (WOMEN) expected to give them all away for free?
It’s because folks know that our brains cost way more than they can ever afford. Most of the time a woman’s work is for the betterment of others versus herself. We’re like the mom society takes for granted, never calling us or buying us anything but showing up at our house uninvited when it needs to do laundry or wants us to cook.
To be clear, this is labor abuse, but if you’re a white woman living in a place like the U.S., you can find a way out of this trap with your head still intact. Now, can you imagine how fragile the situation is for women of color, across the world?
I focus primarily on Africa, not just because of my lineage, but because of the numbers. Africa is set to have the largest population worldwide of employable youth in 2050, yet we’re still not on track to create enough jobs for them.
Add to that the way patriarchal systems are set up there, and it becomes less of an uncomfortable microaggressive matter and more of an extremely violent form of socioeconomic suppression.
More women than men choose to be entrepreneurs in Africa than in any other place in the world, according to the World Bank. The reasons for this are pretty much the same, but the consequences of it not going right are often the worst.
So I have to say that I don’t care about proving to you that I can think. There comes a point where women have to take a stand or the patriarchy will keep standing on our necks.
This woman, personally, will continue to assert, ask, and demand to receive the pay she needs before giving you the services you seek. If you really need or want me to create something of value for you, by all means, vet me through previously booked (paying) clients, ask to see my college transcript (I did GREAT in grad school), and book me for a PAID consultation (no, you cannot “pick my brain” for a $2 cup of coffee and see where we go from there). Outside of that, be ready and able to pay me and any other women the penny and some change (plus tax and fees) we’re owed for our thoughts. Period.