19. How to Know if You Are Under Earning: Part 4

How to Know if You Are Under Earning: Part 4

Are you conflicted about getting clients? On the one hand, you want them, but on the other hand, you don’t? That internal conflict puts  a residue on your marketing message. And that residue can repel clients. Listen and learn why this happens, and how you can attract them instead. 


  • The three fears that cause a marketing message to warn clients away
  • How fear of autonomy affects your marketing message, in very subtle ways
  • Why it’s so important to resolve internal conflicts about wanting clients vs. not wanting them—it costs you money!




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Welcome to Episode 19 of How to Make More Money, a podcast that helps you get seriously good at the game of making serious money. I’m your host Kelly Hollingsworth, and I’m thrilled you’re here, because today we’re continuing our deep dive into how to know if you’re under earning.

In this series on under earning, what have we discussed so far? First, we discussed the math. You’re underearning if you’re making less than the market is willing to pay.

Then, we embarked on a discussion of your message. You’re under earning if you are silent about your business—if there’s no message at all. You’re also underearning if you have a message that’s out in the world, but it’s not bringing in considerable amounts of money.

We discussed a big reason for silence in the last episode—episode 18. If you’re silent about your business, you’re probably suffering from what I call “Fear of desire.” You don’t want to be judged for wanting money, so you say nothing about your business. Fear of desire is the first of the five fears that form the cancer of underearning. We discussed these all the way back in Episode 2. Fear of desire causes you to remain silent. Another of the five fears—fear of visibility—also can create silence. You’re not showing up on social media or elsewhere because you don’t think you look good enough to be seen or make money.

What causes a message that warns people away? The other three fears. If you’re out there hustling and saying things about your business, but no one is biting to any significant degree, the other three fears are showing up in your message, often unconsciously, and functioning as a repellant to your audience.

What are these remaining three fears? Fear of autonomy. Fear of Confrontation. And Fear of Equality. Today and in the next two episodes, we’re going to discuss these fears and how they’re costing you a fortune.

Today we’re talking about fear of autonomy, and how it shows up in your marketing message. First, we’ll discuss briefly what this fear is, and then I’ll share how it shows up in your marketing.

So what is this fear that I call the Fear of Autonomy? It’s fear of putting your car in drive and really getting engaged in your business because you have a sense of dread that doing so will negatively impact your relationship with other people, and also bring harm to them.

Here is a classic example. One woman who was coming to a lot of my in-person events before COVID hit told me she was worried about really digging into her business would harm her relationship with her grandchildren. She seemed pretty young to be a grandmother, so I asked, “Really? How many grandchildren do you have?”

She didn’t have any. Her own kids weren’t married. They weren’t even out of her house. Yet she was actively throwing today’s business under the bus in favor of caring for hypothetical grandchildren that may or may not have ever appeared in the future.

Fear of autonomy is so pervasive, it is now showing up in grandmothers who aren’t even grandmothers yet. And it’s rampant among moms. So often I talk to moms who say, “I don’t know. I want to move my business forward. I love working. I love making money, and I want to make more. But I feel guilty. I feel like I should be home with my kids. But then when I am home with my kids, I just want to escape. It’s fun to have an escape and work on my business. But then, there are times when I think, it would be so much less stressful to just be a mom and not worry about any of this.”

If fear of autonomy had a ventriloquist, this is exactly what it would say. “I’m harming my kids if I’m moving my business forward. But I feel very depressed at the idea of not having a business. I want to make money, but the guilt and the stress aren’t worth it.”

Fear of autonomy and kids or grandkids go hand in hand. But, please note, our thoughts about kids and grandkids aren’t the only sources, as far as fear of autonomy is concerned. Sometimes it’s a different relationship. For example, if you’re worried your spouse is cheating on you every time you focus on your business, that’s something that could keep you from being fully engaged. I see this kind of thing once in a while, too.

Whatever the source, the result is internal conflict. You want nothing more than to feel fully engaged in your business, but that feeling of engagement fees dangerous. Your business is then relegated to the mental and emotional back burner, because it always feels like there’s something more pressing, that threatens to boil over, if you take your eyes off it, even for one second.

That’s the trouble. That’s fear of autonomy. And now you may be asking, how does this wind up in a marketing message, so that it warns people away? It’s not like anyone puts up a sign on their business that says, “We are open for business during the brief window when the kids are at college but before the grandkids have arrived.” No one would ever explicitly put that kind of thing in a marketing message, so how exactly does fear of autonomy show up?

Here’s how. Your marketing message is more than mere words that you post on the internet, or elsewhere. Your marketing message also is comprised of what you’re thinking and feeling when you post the words.

And now, you may be saying WHAT? How can that be? No one knows what I’m thinking and feeling when I post words online. All they see is the words.

But here’s the crazy thing. A marketing message that you post online is more than the words themselves. This is clear to us if it’s a podcast or a video. People can see or hear a lot more than your words in those modes of communication. They also can feel your vibe. But over the years I’ve come to see that your vibe also comes across in your copy—words you post on a blog, or in social media, without any audio or video accompanying them.

This may feel like a difficult thing to believe, but consider this. Have you ever heard of what’s called “swipe copy”? Sometimes you’ll see an ad where a coach, consultant, copy writer—someone who’s had marked success with their own marketing message—offers to sell their copy to you. Maybe it’s an email nurturing sequence, or all of the marketing assets in a “proven” funnel, and they’ll sell it to you for $27 or $39 or $97—some nominal amount. And they’re telling you, “This copy worked for me to generate hundreds of thousands, or millions, or billions of dollars in revenue. And I’m selling it to you for a few bucks, so you, too, can become a mega-multi-millionaire!!! Buy it now!!! All you have to do is take this swipe copy. Replace my name with your name. My business with your business. And my product with your product. Then the copy I allowed you to “swipe” from me can go to work in your business and you’ll be rich. The money will shoot at you like a firehose.”

Does this ever happen? No. If swipe copy worked, everyone would have a billion-dollar business. So the question is, why doesn’t it work?

The answer is, as I just said. An effective marketing message is more than the words themselves. There’s also an energetic residue that is deposited on the words, and that energetic residue attracts or repels, just like the words themselves. Ineffective copy—the words themselves—can kill the sale. But gorgeous copy that’s covered with a repellant residue also kills the sale. It’s a little bit like a barbecue I went to in Chicago one time. I went to the picnic table, fixed myself a gorgeous plate of food, and went back to my lawn chair to sit down and enjoy it. The hostess decided that there were too many bugs, so she came over with a can of Raid bug spray–pure poison in aerosol form– and sprayed a cloud of it around my feet, legs, and all over the plate of  food that was resting in my lap. What was on my plate still looked and smelled amazing. But did I want it? No. The residue of Raid on it made it repellant. So did I eat any of it? Also no. Not a single bite.

The same thing happens with your marketing message. If you’re feeling a business-killing vibe when you post words, that creates a repellant residue. Picture a light layer of poison all over your copy. If you’re feeling the fear of autonomy and internally warning people away from you because you don’t really want a client—it’s going to harm someone else in your life, and harm important relationships in your life–this will come across in your marketing message.

Here’s an example. The other day I saw a woman post an offer on Facebook. The copy was beautifully written. I wouldn’t have changed a single word. The post included a stunning, attention-grabbing image. There wasn’t a single thing I would have tweaked about anything in the post. And believe me, I can almost always find something to tweak. And here, I found nothing explicit to tweak in the copy–in the words themselves. But I had a definite sense of something lurking behind the copy that didn’t feel attractive. Specifically, I didn’t believe that she actually wanted clients. I didn’t believe she would welcome them warmly if she got them.

Later that week, I was speaking with the woman who posted this post, and I asked her, “Just out of curiosity, when you posted this, did you actually want clients?”

The answer to this question was no. She didn’t unreservedly want clients. She wanted clients on the one hand, and on the other hand, she didn’t, because of the kids and the guilt and all that’s wrapped up in the fear of autonomy. So she didn’t have a welcoming vibe that attached to her words, and welcoming is the vibe you need to attract clients. She didn’t have that vibe. It didn’t attach to her words. And as a result, she didn’t attract clients with her post.

A repellant vibe will keep clients away from you, in spite of your welcoming words. And it works the other way, too. You can call clients to you with your mind, by placing an energetic residue on the words that attracts them even if they are not explicitly mentioned. This may sound a little “too into the woo,” and that’s not usually a place that I ever go. I’m an accountant and a lawyer, for Pete’s sake. But I see the magical effects of “calling clients with your mind” happen again and again, so I would be remiss not to mention it.

Here’s an example from my own life that I experienced as a result of launching this podcast. This past summer, I was out for a walk and I was listening to Taylor Swift’s album Reputation. And something crazy happened. For the longest time I have been working on the craft of storytelling, and the toughest part of that, hands down, has been designing a method for developing and organizing the beats of a long-form story.

If you’ve never heard of a story “beat,” if you don’t know what that is, a beat is simply the points in the plot on which the entire story hangs. The beats in every story occur in a certain order, and every story has the same beats. For example, every story has a beat in which the hero decides to leave the world as it is, and embark on a heroic journey to the happy ending. Every story has a beat in which the hero literally or figuratively is reflected back at herself. She doesn’t like what she sees, and she decides to get in the game and begins to shift into the identity that will create success.

Organizing the beats in a simple novel or screenplay is complicated enough. But organizing the beats over a long-form story such as a series of novels, or a Netflix series, is very complicated. On the morning in question, this past summer when I was working on doing that, I was trying out a new structural method I’d developed for organizing the beats of a long-form story, and it was working. I realized that I had finally invented a method of developing and organizing the beats in long form that was accessible, useful, and commercially workable.

When this method all came together, in organizing the beats that morning, it felt like magic. And then I went for the walk, and I was listening to Taylor Swift’s reputation album, and my brain began attaching the beats of my long-form story to the songs in her album. Taylor Swift’s albums burn through the marketplace like wildfire because she tell stories through songs. And I started to hear, in the songs in her album, how the story she was telling was organized, and it matched up with the beats in the plot of my long-form story. I know this sounds crazy but I could hear how the beats of both stories—the story in her album and the story in the series of novels that I’m working on –matched up, beat by beat.

When this happened, I had an immediate rush of a feeling I can only describe as fluency. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I was speaking in the language of story with no translation. It wasn’t like in high school French class, where you “learn” French by memorizing what each word in French means in English. For the first time, I was immersed in the language of story. I was speaking it in my head and hearing it in the songs at the same time. I continued my walk, listening to the album and hearing and feeling each beat of the story I was working on attach to the words, and for the first time, the entire long-form story I’d been plotting for decades came to life in my mind. I was seeing the entire thing on a movie screen from start to finish with the Reputation album as the background music. It was the single most profound experience of my life. When it was over, I went home and I was thinking to myself, two things. One was, wow, I finally have a handle on this series of novels I’ve been working on. And two, songwriting is really the most pristine form of commercial storytelling. A song is a story, and in a song there is literally nowhere to hide. Every single word has to support the story. And then I thought to myself, I am ready to work with a songwriter.

And then I launched this podcast shortly after that. And guess what happened? I believe that I conjured up a songwriter. We had never met, and he is not in my social media channels and I don’t know anyone who knows him, and vice versa. He doesn’t know anyone who knows me. He lives on the other side of the country from me. And one day, he was searching for podcasts in Spotify and came across this show that you’re listening to right now. He binged listened, wrote to me, and now we are working together.

Maybe this is a coincidence, me thinking I’m ready to work with a songwriter, and a songwriter reaching out to me through the bridge of my message—this podcast. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. There is nothing in this podcast that talks about me working with songwriters. I’ve mentioned coaches and consultants and lawyers and hedge fund managers. Accountants. I’ve talked about having a housekeeping business. I’ve been in all kinds of businesses. There are all kinds of people whom I have helped make all kinds of money that I’ve specifically mentioned in this podcast. But never once, in all of the episodes thus far, did I say anything about working with songwriters. And yet, I thought to myself this summer, I’m ready to work with a songwriter. And a songwriter appeared.

So rather than coincidence, it feels like there is a magical element to effective messaging. The message itself is the bridge between you and your client. It can’t be flimsy. It has to show people where you’re going to take them, and they have to trust that the bridge is solid enough to walk on. But, here’s the magical part. How you are thinking and feeling when you put the message out there attracts the people that you want to attract, even if your message doesn’t explicitly mention those people.

And it goes the other way too. How you are thinking and feeling when you put the message out there repels the people you want to repel. So if you are thinking and feeling that you don’t want a client, on any level, when you put your message out there, they will feel it, too. And they won’t work with you, even if your copy is beautifully written and there’s there is nothing in your message that explicitly warns them away. Don’t get me wrong. Often, there is MUCH in your message that explicitly warns them away, if you have the fear of autonomy. It’s rare that a warning to stay away doesn’t show up in the words. But even if the copy is stunning in its clarity and every element of the craft of good copy writing is present… Even if there’s no explicit warning that we can discern from the words, if the message doesn’t have that magical welcoming vibe attached to it, it will repel. That’s just the way it works.

So what I’d like you to glean from today’s episode is that the best copy in the world will not attract a client if you don’t want one. You will warn clients away from you, if not through the words you write, by the unwelcoming vibe that is attached to those words like a residue of Raid. And then you will not get clients.

Everyone gets what they want, and if you don’t really want clients, you won’t get them. So what do you do about this? If you don’t want clients at all, this isn’t a problem for you. But if you want clients on the one hand, but on the other hand, you have the fear of autonomy or other things going on that make you fee conflicted about that, you need to know what to do about it. If you want to know what to do about it? Join me for next two episodes that round out in this series on underearning, because we’re going to talk about exactly what to do about it. And thanks so much for being here today.