Making money and serving others — these two things are NOT mutually exclusive. That you must chose one or the other is a historically female message: That it's OK to be broke, because we're serving others. That the corporate world is exploitive, evil, greedy, and in direct opposition with service and generosity and community – this is false.
That rhetoric is dated and it's wrong. In fact, the more money you make, the more influence and success you have, the better you are able to serve. Whether it's on a large, global scale, or a small, local scale, when you're successful, you're powerful and you can give and do more. It is possible, ladies.
In this episode I discuss…
- How I started Wealthysinglemommy.com, and why focusing on making money from this project directly correlates with how many people I can serve
- Why making money benefits you, your community, the economy
- The history of “women's work” as a free service, which contributes to this mentality
- How to make money AND serve others at the same time
Full podcast episode transcript of Like A Mother, with Emma Johnson
Okay, so what are we talking about today? I want to talk to you … Let's talk about what I hear from women all the time, right? And they say like I love to talk about money and where I talk about what I do for work, and they often come back at me and say things like, “I really struggle with money. I'm broke, I'm sick of being broke. But I do work that I really love and it helps others, so it's okay. It's not a big deal that I'm broke because I'm serving.” And I want to strangle them because, one, this is a specifically female message that we receive and then internalize it, and then regurgitate and perpetuate. This idea that it's okay to be broke and that it's okay because we're serving others.
These things are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, I will show you today in this video, in this message, that the more money that you make, the more success that you have, the more impact that you have, whether it's on a global scale and media like my business is, or whether it's in your small sphere of whatever you are doing in the world, the more influence you have, the more success you have, usually means the more money you have and the more you can serve, the more you can change the world for the better. The more power and positive impact you can have.
Where does the idea come from that making money and helping others must be different?
Now, first of all, let's think about, where does this come from? This idea that serving and money are somehow in conflict, right? It's a very common liberal message that corporate world is evil and it's only about greed and money. It's bad and it's in direct conflict with serving the vulnerable and, in fact, capitalism and patriarchy exploit the vulnerable in order to exist, and I get it. I know that rhetoric, there's a lot of truth to it.
But I'm telling you, we are in a time of very interesting business and it's thanks to technology that is leveling the playing field and today we're seeing such incredible science that are showing that businesses, whether they are tiny local businesses or global corporations, the more they are actually serving people, serving the customers, serving their employees, and serving the communities where they are manufacturing and shipping and providing service, the better they are in a genuine way and serving the environment and protecting the environment, which is very important to me. The more they are serving, the more profitable they are, right? We're in the infancy of this new economy that we are in, but there is so much evidence that this is true.
How I started Wealthy Single Mommy to help single moms for free
Now, I can tell you from my own personal experience how this has become true. Over the last 10 years, since I went from a married woman to a stay-at-home mom to a self employed mom and now running this digital business that you guys all know me from, Wealthy Single Mommy and my book. For many years, for about 10 years, I was a freelance business writer and journalist and it was good. I made good money, I made six figures almost every year that I was doing that. It was work that I enjoyed, it was a good, decent way to live in the world, but it was a lot of corporate writing work, I realized that I was a personal finance writer. There was many, many personal finance writers, I wasn't really standing out and serving the world in any unique way.
But a big overlap with that was I started this blog where I was serving single moms and I was really the only person that I knew that was doing this in a meaningful way. And it was just so interesting and exciting to me and I felt like I was changing people's lives, and I was changing politics, and this was really awesome.
So for the first couple of years I made no money from Wealthy Single Mommy, like no money from it at all. And in fact, all of my other blogger friends and colleagues would ask me why I didn't have any advertising on my site. And I was like, “Well, I can't take advertising. I can't make money from it because then people won't trust me and it will compromise my message.” Well, meanwhile I was doing this freelance writing work, paying my bills that way, and it wasn't changing the world. So I got to a point where I thought, “You know what? I'm going to pivot. I'm going to let go of the freelance writing work,” which was not filling me up personally, my soul, in any way, it wasn't moving the needle on my politics or my values, “and I'm just going to focus on Wealthy Single Mommy.”
Make a multiple six-figure income and serve others at the same time
And by focusing my energy on something I really believed in, something where I was serving other women, where I was serving the world and changing things, let me just tell you what. This year, I'm going to tell you ladies, I'm going to bill for $400,000 for my business and that is really in … The business is six years old, but that's really in just three years of monetizing this thing. And my numbers are growing, I am in the national media all the time, got a big book deal. I am serving the world in such a more meaningful way than when I was making zero money from this business. I went from zero to a lot and my influence is that much bigger.
But again, I want to talk about where this is coming from. Where is this message coming from? It's such a woman thing, and it's a mother thing, because women's work traditionally was unpaid work. We had no access to the professional world, historically. We had little to no access to education, we had no legal rights. Women's work was unpaid work, it was housework and childcare. Maybe working alongside men in the fields, working alongside family business, unpaid, no rights to property, no rights to capital. And we were told that the most fulfilling work that we could ever have in our souls, the best way we could serve the world, is to be a mother and that's unpaid work. So for us to come out and say, “Fuck you all, I want to make money and I want to make a lot of it,” that's completely in conflict with what we were told we were supposed to do as women.
Give yourself permission to make lots of money
And so there you go, no one ever tells us that, no one ever gives us permission to love making money and to serve also, and to serve the world and to do these things together. Right? And I'm here to tell you my experience is not unique. Technology is changing every single industry, even very traditional industries, in a way that is accessible to individuals. You can run a whole business from your phone or your laptop, in anywhere in the world, in many, many cases. And the more accessible that that industry is, the more money you can make, the more you can influence the world in a positive way.
The nonprofit dilemma: make money or help others? Do both
So I reached out to our group, Millionaire Single Moms, and I brought up this topic. I was promoting this episode and I said, “Share with me what are some of your challenges,” and I got a really interesting case study that I want to work through, from Sabrina. And Sabrina says, “Emma, I run two youth programs for a nonprofit and the one I'm most passionate about is Gear for Girls program.” And I'll just summarize it. It sounds like an awesome program, Sabrina, where you are in some part of the world where you teach girls and women in these girls-only groups about mountain biking. So we get girls-only groups together, where they are not influenced by boys who tell them that they can't do cool things, like ride a mountain bike like a tough chick, and you teach them how to do it.
And you said, “Taking them out in a girls-only setting removes that pressure and gives them space to find confidence that they later take in the male-dominated outdoor industry, so that they can not only show up, but speak up when things are not right.” I love this, right? “I specifically love doing this as a nonprofit because it has allowed me to provide mostly to underserved community of young women. At this point, the best plan I have is to come up with really good marketing and grant writing so that we have funds to pay me better. LOL, that takes time, of course.”
Build a business that makes money
All right, this is so common. You want to do good, so you form a nonprofit. Fuck that. Listen to what it says, nonprofit. You want to make a profit, give yourself permission to make a lot of money, it is good. The more money you have, the more girls and women you can serve. Now, let me just brainstorm with this. Forget the nonprofit for now, build this as a franchise business. You start in your community and you build this as a for-profit business. Maybe you get grants, sponsorships. I'm telling you, all of those sporting goods companies that you are talking about, they have huge marketing budgets. Your local bike shop has a marketing department, the local gear shop has a marketing department, and they are all figuring out how to grow. Well, guess what the growing market is? Girls, because there's not that many girls. And if you can promise to bring girls into this industry that they are serving through their helmets and their bikes and they're cool T-shirts, then you are going to own half of the market share of the world of the bike riders, right, all of the girls and women.
So you build this as a for-profit business locally, then you franchise it and maybe you market it for single moms. It's a great franchise for single moms to run, because guess what? You run this during your kids hours, on afterschool hours and weekends. You bring in girls that pay to learn how to bike ride. And then you can also get community grants, and then you know what you're doing? You are so successful, you're helping these other women start businesses, right? You're growing the economy. And then you start, or maybe even from the beginning, you start a nonprofit part of your business, which is smart business because there's lots of nice tax write offs. It's high profile, you get lots of great media attention.
Making money betters the economy and the community
And then, I mean, you can dedicate half, you can dedicate whatever you want, half your profits, half your profits is nonprofit. But you got to get profits first and you ain't got no profits if you got a nonprofit. See what I'm saying? The bigger you think, the more money's involved, is the more people that you are serving and the more joyful of this work is. And that is what I want for all of you. But first we have to get over this idea that money and doing good in the world are in conflict because they're not, they're one and the same.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.