Even a teenager can see how important it is for a working-mom to value herself.
When my 18-year-old son looked at the title of my #WomenGameChangers keynote the night before I was going to speak, “Acknowledging Your Worth: How to Work with Social Enterprises and Non-Profits Without Becoming a Charity Case,” he said, “Mom, that’s something you know a lot about!”
How does he know so much about how important it is for a woman to acknowledge her worth? Well this boy knows plenty. He’s seen me do anything to make his dreams come to fruition. Green Galaxy was founded eight years ago as his production company, to produce his global warming commercial Save It. He said I had to help him get it made, and I did! But after we succeeded, and his PSA was out there, people started coming to me and asking me to help them as well. The only problem was they weren’t offering me anything in return for my expertise. All of these people expected me to give to their companies and their causes what I have given to my kids: my connections, my ability to be a cheerleader and the skills to bring everything together and make dreams a reality.
My 18 year old saw that I so overwhelmed, it was hard for me pay full attention to him and his autistic brother, because I was too busy trying to save the world that they care so much about. I was so busy nurturing everyone else that I had forgotten to make sure I was taking care of myself, first. Luckily, I have some amazing mentors, including men. One successful entrepreneur took me aside and told me to read the fable “The Richest Man in Babylon.” It made me realize that as an entrepreneur, and especially a social entrepreneur, you must pay yourself first and then pay everyone else. You need to put 10% off to the side, because otherwise you’ll never have anything to fall back on, nor will you be able to keep yourself from being a burden to your children once you’re too old to work.
My brother, who helps run The Center for Entrepreneurship in Moscow, also taught me to take stock of my skills and tools: my visual storytelling, my gung-ho attitude and my networking abilities, and to monetize them. My tools included creating pitch presentations, doing social-media marketing, designing websites and initiating strategic partnerships, but I needed to get paid for those services. I started empowering myself to ask for my piece of the pie, charging for my time, and taking producing fees off the back-end if that’s what it took. I had a client who had huge dreams to build her brand into a transmedia universe of books, games, events, media and charitable programs. I realized that it was humanly impossible for me to do on my own. So I put a budget together and made a proposal to get the work done, and had to empower myself to ask her to pay for it, which I’ve never been very good at, and guess what? My client approved that budget and we were off to the races. I could pay myself, my expenses, my subcontractors and put that 10% aside!
Finally, the most important lesson I’ve learned from one of my mentors was how to negotiate a contract for myself. When I started off my life in Hollywood, I made more money in my 20s as a working actress than most lawyers do coming out of law school. But that’s the thing: I had agents and lawyers negotiating my contracts. I just trusted their expertise, expecting that my union would take care of enforcing those contracts. But companies fail and file for bankruptcy, and I was left without any residuals to rely on. So my legal advisers taught me how to write and enforce my contracts: to be sure I only offer what I know I can deliver, and to only work once I receive a retainer upfront. This is because once I do start working, I give my clients my all! I take care of them as if they are my children and that sort of attention makes me great at what I do: building their business profile and cheering them on in every media outlet.
As women, our nature is to nurture. But as they tell you during the safety instructions on an airplane, when the plane is losing altitude and you’re traveling with a small child, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Then help the child put on their mask.” In the business world, if you pass out from lack of funding, you’ll be no good at helping your client or your contractors. You need to build a team you can depend on, but make sure your team can depend on you first. That’s how we’ve been able to build websites, build brands and build partnerships with the entertainment industry successfully for so many of our clients. Because I’m able to acknowledge my worth, my business is healthy enough to help others.