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The self-imposed glass ceiling on your income potential

Do you put a glass ceiling on your income and limit your earning potential?

I know you wouldn’t intentionally, would you? I know you wouldn’t put a “CLOSED” sign up on your website or ignore email enquires.

So why is it, that at certain times of your business growth, you cap your earning potential and create a glass ceiling?

This is a very personal story I want to share with you today. Outwardly I know I give the impression of confidence; of someone who knows exactly what she’s doing. A woman with a goal and a clear plan on how to get there.

And yes, that is me … most of the time.

But in between those times, I’m just a normal, average human being who thinks way too much and talks herself out doing stuff because … well, it’s scary at times to take a leap in one’s business.

I’ve been subconsciously imposing a glass ceiling on my personal growth and business potential and because I know there are some of you who read my stuff do exactly the same thing, I wanted to open up so you, too, can really see the glass ceilings that you may be imposing on yourself.

Your glass ceiling may not easy to see (hence the name!).

But when your head bangs up against it … you feel it, that’s for sure.

Gentle knocks to begin with. Nothing painful. Easy to ignore.

But over time, as your potential and growth swells within you, you realise that you’ve stopped banging up against it and you are actually stooped over, head bent down and your vision is constrained to what you see below you.

Imagine running your business squeezed into a box with no room to move. Imagine only looking down or backwards from where you’ve come.

Well, that’s your glass ceiling pressing down on you.

glass ceiling on income

Self Imposed Glass Ceiling on Your Income

I know I’m no different to you (we are all human beings after all!) so I know you may have had one (perhaps more?!) that’s come out at certain times of your business growth.

What’s been mine?

I smashed through mine last week. I registered for VAT on the 1st April (I know … a lovely day to have a joke on my subconscious!), which means my business turnover will exceed £82,000 this year.

Cripes … even just typing that sentence for all the world to read creates a knot in my throat. How funny that I feel my resistance kicking in again even though the deed is now done!

(Please note: as I tell you my VAT story, don’t take this as accountancy advice. I’m NOT an accountant and this isn’t about whether you should become VAT registered or not. This is about the stories that play around our heads and pull you back every time you are close to leaping forward. I am sure you have similar stories that pull you back from your leap forwards hence my need to share this story.)

Not getting VAT registered at the start of my business in 2004 has probably been the only business decision I’ve ever regretted. If I’d only treated it as part of setting up a business, got it over and done with at the start, I wouldn’t have had to deal with this over the past few years.

But why would I have registered for VAT when I first started up? After all, I barely made any money in my first 9 months of being a life coach.

Yet I started my business with all good intentions. I wanted to create an income that matched my part time job that I left. Thus for me to have £50,000+ as income, I would have had to invoice at least £70,000 (which back in 2004 was about the VAT threshold).

But I told myself I wanted to keep things simple and yes, doing VAT returns may have pushed me over the edge and have me running back to my PAYE world.

So I kept things simple, became self-employed and didn’t get registered.

Over the years, my income went up but just as I thought about taking my income seriously, I lost my Dad after 18 months of cancer. As you can imagine my business took a back seat and I barely made a profit those 2 years. So when I came back to work in September 2010, all I could focus on was building up my business again … registering for VAT didn’t even get on the radar.

It wasn’t until 2014 that the I found myself squashed up against the VAT glass ceiling and I realised how much not registering for VAT was capping my potential. Working with various mentors at the time I had all the support to create and build new revenue streams and raise my game. But somehow I never really upped my game sufficiently enough because it seemed I had convinced myself that by growing, I had to become VAT registered and VAT registration had created a number of stories in my head.

I know, I know. There will be some of you reading this thinking “What’s the problem here? Surely getting VAT registered is simple … just do it, make hay and let the sun shine!”

But I know in that what’s hard for me maybe simple for you … is true in reverse … as what’s hard for you maybe simple for me. For example, creating campaigns in Infusionsoft is a dream for me. I love it and would do it for fun if I could. But I know other people see this a total block; they don’t move forward with promotions or launching products because they get stuck in “I’m crap at tech” or “outsourcing this stuff is hard” stories and the like.

Stories That We Tell Ourselves

We all have stories running around in our heads that are based on our beliefs and what we’ve seen, heard and experienced. And these create glass ceilings on our income potential. These were just 3 of the core stories that I had running around VAT registration:

1. My clients won’t pay VAT as so few of them are registered themselves.

That was an interesting story that ran for years. Back when this story first started manifesting, I was charging a £30 monthly subscription to a membership site, my programmes were all bubbling around the £250 mark and my 1-2-1 fees where about £145 a session.

So yes, I had convinced myself that, at those figures, VAT on top would have been a proportional hike. But looking back, I could see I was seeing each sale in isolation. Simple maths would have told a different story if I had calculated my membership numbers on 1,000 members rather than the 100 I had at the time.

If I had decided to take the hit on the VAT, for example, and included it in the £30 a month rather than pass this onto my clients, how would have that affected my decision to start attracting 1,000 members? What different strategies would I have acted on?

Plus VAT is part of our every day lives. We don’t like paying it, but we know we have to pay it. If VAT was included in prices, then we often don’t blink an eye … it’s when you choose to buy, get excited about buying, go to the checkout and then be told “Oh, that’s another 20% please” … that’s when, as consumers, we get the bitter taste in our mouths. And thinking that this was the only way to position a 20% increase in my prices, held me back.

2. I hate financials – I want to keep things simple

OK … I know this is a story that a lot of you will resonate with. Simplicity is all the rage right now! I’ve been working on building it into my life for a number of years and I know simplicity is one of skills I have that makes the work I do with my clients so effective.

But using simple as an excuse not to understand stuff that you don’t get that would help you shift you and your business forward, is … well frankly … a crap excuse.

I am never going to try to convince anyone that VAT is simple but I know now (see how I changed my story!) that I didn’t have to be a VAT specialist to get VAT set up. That’s why I have a trusted accountant who I don’t confess to understand everything he tells me in detail, but I take his advice and move on.

As your business grows, it may not be VAT that bothers you. But there will always be stuff that you don’t understand to begin with. Marketing funnels, hiring teams, project managements and outsourcing …. all typical steps up to growing a business. But often you know very little about each of these steps until you step up … so staying on the step below and convincing yourself you want to keep things simple is often just an excuse for not stepping up.

See how easy it is NOT to see your glass ceiling?!

3. I want to stay small

Small is beautiful. Spending time in my office working with clients who I find easy to work with keeps things easy. I need a calm, simple existence because if I stay small, I can play safe.

These were all stories I was telling myself which worked fine some of the time.

And there’s nothing wrong with easy, don’t get me wrong. I see there is a big difference between work when you are in the flow and hard work. I work hard but it’s never hard work for me.

But playing safe is not always a good long term strategy, especially if your competitors over take you or you get complacent with your marketing or you stagnate or get bored.

It was last year that I realised I didn’t need to play small to stay small. I don’t want to employ a huge team. I don’t want to rent an office space. I don’t want to become an agency or a full blown consultancy. I like the freedom of working for and by myself, in the comfort of my own home.

But that doesn’t mean I have to play small; squashed up against my glass ceiling.

There have been other stories that have rumbled away in the background but these were the 3 core ones. Perhaps they have helped you seen your own stories for what they are.

What Stories Create Your Own Glass Ceiling?

Perhaps you’re now starting to see how not being VAT registered is seriously holding you back from charging more, offering a different package or programme or working with clients at a higher level.

Perhaps you’re creating a different glass ceiling.

One of my clients recently admitted to me that her reason for choosing a £45,000 income goal was because over that she’d be paying a higher rate of tax. Now I know paying out large sums of tax can be heart wrenching, but if you have a good accountant, you only pay a percentage of what you earn … you’ll always be quids in. Thus capping your potential earnings based on the fact you don’t want to pay a certain level of compulsory rates of tax suddenly becomes rather laughable. (And believe me, when you can laugh at your stories, that’s when you know you can change them!)

A good friend of mine has a wonderful way of thinking of her taxes. Every time she pays her tax bill, she works out how many life support machines for babies she’s just paid for.

And yes, I’m not naive enough to know that her tax money doesn’t necessarily go to that budget. But as it’s compulsory and you have no choice in the matter, better to have a good heart when you pay it because of the ripple effect it creates in the rest of your being.

So what I am getting at here, is that your stories you tell you yourself are going to be different to mine and the next person who reads this article.

It doesn’t really matter what the story is just so long as you acknowledge what’s really going for you.

And acknowledge that that story may be putting a glass ceiling on your income potential.

Now that I am VAT registered, I have taken a few hits. The rumble strip that I drove over last week going through the process of contacting clients, making the changes to my accounts and prices was bumpy. But the few short term financial losses are counterbalanced with a huge, massive long term gain, for both me and my clients; stepping up and taking a leap of faith will filter through to the people I work with … that’s guaranteed!

I knew those bumps were temporary and carried on regardless because I knew the road will smooth out in a very short space of time, allowing my acceleration to the next stage of my personal growth and income potential.

Now that I’ve smashed through this glass ceiling, I can’t help but wonder what my next glass ceiling will be. At least this time, I hope to acknowledge it quicker and smash through it sooner.

Your Thoughts And Comments Please

Has this story inspired you to look at what’s creating your own glass ceilings?

Perhaps you are struggling with the thought of VAT registration? Or paying a higher rate tax? Maybe it’s your feelings of guilt or shame that stop you charging the prices you could be charging for your services? Or fear of going after a new market or creating a new brand or product?

Your personal beliefs around money create a lot of energy – positive and negative – around what you take action on to grow your income potential. I’d love to know your thoughts so leave a comment below.

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