Most people I interact with professionally don’t know this about me… but I’ve been broke.
Before I go on, I want to make three things clear:
First, this is not a “rags to riches” sales story that I’ve worked on.
And, this is not going to be a hero’s journey where I reveal the one thing that pulled me up from the abyss. Because that’s not how it happened for me.
And lastly when I talk about broke, I mean REALLY broke.
I’ve been evicted from apartments for not paying. I’ve sat at the kitchen table deciding which bill to pay and which service gets shut off. And I’ve had just about all of them shut off — cable, electric, cell phone… the list goes on.
At that time, I was working at a newspaper and had two children under 2 years old.
There was no savings account. I would gather up change to buy diapers because it’s the only thing we couldn’t “do without” for a few days (if you’ve ever been in this situation… diapers outrank food).
Nothing is more humiliating than standing in front of a cashier after you miscalculated when a check would clear. “Ummm…. Ma’am… your card was declined.”
Even typing that phrase and hearing it my mind gives me a physical reaction.
Still to this day — years later– if I spend more than $100 at the grocery store, I get a pit in my stomach and plan out the script I’ll use “just in case.” Turns out, it makes zero difference how much money is in the bank account, that shit never leaves you.
Now, I knew it would get better. I was also working on my Master’s degree at my office in between publication deadlines. I could write and I understood people.
I knew with all of my being that this wasn’t it for me.
But having hope (and even a plan) for the future didn’t change my situation in that moment. I was working hard. More than 60 hours per week. Weekends. Evenings. I was moving forward but it never seemed fast enough.
My life goal then was a simple one. By the time my son was old enough to go do things with his friends, I wanted to have an extra $20 to give him so he could go to the movies. I never wanted to make him feel guilty for my situation.
You learn things when you live that way.
You learn how to make a meal out of just about anything.
You learn what you truly need (i.e. diapers) to survive.
You learn to spot a free meal from 3 towns away (“light refreshments” = dinner)
The reason I’m telling you this is not to bemoan how terrible my life was. Because if I’m being honest, yes it was the toughest time of my life. But, I wasn’t miserable.
We made it work.
I’m telling you this because I keep hearing marketer stories about the “tough times” and it makes me absolutely furious. It makes me angry because I can tell by the words that they use that their story isn’t like my story.
And that’s ok. We all have different experiences. But what’s not ok is pretending that you’ve walked in shoes that you haven’t.
I see the comments on the products:
Person: “I can’t afford this.”
Marketer: “You can’t afford NOT to do this.”
Person: “No, I really don’t have the money.”
Marketer: “Think of it as an investment.”
Person: “No, I REALLY don’t have any money.”
Marketer: “I’ve been there. You just need an abundance mindset. Nothing will change for you if you can’t invest in yourself. *Plus we have payment plans and there’s always credit cards for financing.*”
Making people feel guilty for not affording a $2,000 course is the height of bullying. $2,000! Do you know what that amount of money would have meant for me a decade ago? That’s 3 months rent. That’s the back balance on my electric bill. That’s groceries for like half a year!!
Now, if you’ve watched the news at all this week, one core human truth revealed itself:
Everyone has a slightly different view of what “ethical” means.
True North on our moral compasses all point in a slightly different direction.
And that’s ok.
As long as you know where yours is.
It’s important to know what your “dealbreakers” are.
What products will you buy, promote, or sell?
Who will you stand behind… and more importantly, who or what CAN’T you stand behind?
This is my dealbreaker:
No one should EVER choose between basic necessities and an online course. Or a coach. Or an event.
Although this is sacrilege, there is so much free online material that can get someone started toward financial stability. I know. Because I used it.
Ramit Sethi’s book and blog were the first step for me. Then after a few years it came full circle when I was a member of his team. I watched as Ramit told people to get their finances in order before he allowed them to buy. “I’m not going anywhere,” he’d say. “Pay off your debt, use my free material to start making money on the side… and when you’re ready, you can join.”
Every single marketer would have that exact policy if they’d ever been there.
If they’d ever walked into a food bank. If they’d ever begged a landlord for a few more days. If they’d ever looked at their child and wondered if they were ever going to be able to give them the life they deserved.
So to every marketer, course creator, and coach, please… if you really care about your clients and customers, stop.
And copywriters, refuse to work with clients who pressure the wrong people into their services.
It’s my belief that the products and services we provide should make the world a better place.
And for every story of someone making 6-figures overnight from an online product, there are dozens of untold stories about late night fights over a missed rent payment, a maxed out credit card that was supposed to be for “emergencies,” or a pile of bills that will go unpaid.
And I don’t want to contribute to a world that looks like that.
Because it ain’t pretty. I’ve seen it.