≡ Menu

money talks with Ellen Fondiler

Ellen Fondiler Money TalksWelcome back to our twice-monthly Money Talks column. If you’ve been following along, you know that in our columns we get to hear from artists/entrepreneurs who “bare all” in terms of beliefs about money + tricks/tips/tools to earning a living while living a creative life.

Today’s column features career strategist Ellen Fondiler. One of the things I love best about Ellen, and you’ll experience this for yourself when you read what she has to share, is that she simply cannot help but help people. Ellen is a natural teacher, trainer, coach …and mom. She’s always at the ready to share tips and resources or to connect you to exactly the person you need to know. Whether she knows you or not, she cares about your career!

Her business blog is named Unlocked. And you’ll see that in almost every paragraph below, she’s got her hand outstretched with a key!

So read on, because Ellen has sprinkled in tons of wisdom and guidance in response to my questions.

As always, we love to hear from you. Please comment below and let us know what this column sparked for you today.


Ellen Fondiler bioEllen Fondiler
Career & Business Strategist
Berkeley, CA

As a former attorney turned award-winning entrepreneur, Ellen Fondiler can help you see your strengths, create a strong plan, and create the career that you really want. Every door can be unlocked. Learn more about Ellen’s coaching and consulting services at: EllenFondiler.com

1. Are you earning what you’re worth?  As a career and business consultant, I currently charge between $250 and $350 an hour for coaching, writing, or editing. I charge $2500+/month for business consulting.

Some people think my rates are too high. Some people think my rates are just right. Some people think my rates are too low, given my experience level and the types of results that I can co-create with my clients. (I say “co-create” because it really is a partnership. I can’t secure someone’s dream job on my own — I can advise, support, inspire, and motivate, but my client has to be willing to put in their share of the work, of course!)

When people feel “on the fence” about hiring someone like me, or if they think it’s too much money, I will sometimes gently ask, “Well, what is getting your dream job ‘worth’ to you?” Or, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, “What is creating your own business and getting to experience the freedom of self-employment ‘worth’ to you?”

Most people would answer, “It’s worth so much. More than I could measure in dollars. This is my dream! This is my life!”

When you put things into that perspective, then paying $350 to get advice from a career expert might not feel like such an unreasonable investment any more. It’s actually a relatively small investment that has the potential to transform your life in a big way.

Could I charge more for what I do? Probably. But for now, my rates feel just right.

I feel like I’m receiving an appropriate level of compensation for what I do.

I also don’t feel any “resentment,” which can sometimes creep in when you’re under-charging and under-earning.

I have enough money for the time being, and more importantly, enough of all the things that matter to me in life: friends, family, free time and the means to enjoy my home, my garden, books, coffee, restaurants, and the city where I live.

I certainly have days where I think, “Man, I wish my bank account had ten times the amount of money that it does right now!”—we all have those days! —but on most days, I feel very “rich” in all the ways that really count.

2. What does the expression “starving artist” bring up for you?  The first thing that comes to mind is… a hug.

I’m a mom. I’m very nurturing. My inner-mom comes out, often. I can’t help it!

So, my first instinct is, if someone feels like they can’t possibly earn a decent living doing what they love, then I really want to give that person a hug. Because that’s a very shaky, painful mindset to have.

To anyone who feels like a “starving artist,” I would also say… start looking for inspiration in new places. Look for new role models to show you what’s possible.

I know so many people who are “working artists” and who make great money doing what they love.

My friend Alex is a professional writer who is constantly booked up with projects, earning a great living. Her brother Ben is a full-time jazz musician, composer, and music teacher, also earning a great living. My son Willie is an artist—a graphic designer—and he’s now working full-time at Facebook. There’s a woman I know, Theresa, who is a professional Tarot card reader, which is an art form unto itself. She has a constant flow of clients and she has built a beautiful life for herself.

My point is: yes, there are people who are struggling to make ends meet everywhere, but if you look in the right places, you’ll also find examples of people who are working hard, thriving, and succeeding.

But first, you have to decide to change your mindset from “This is impossible. I am always going to be broke…” to “I can do this. I can make this work. Every door can be unlocked…”

3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love?  I came of age on the cusp of the women’s movement. My parents instilled in me the belief that I could do anything, be anything, and succeed at anything I tried. So for me, it has always been natural to dive into the deep end of the pool. That said, I always knew that “success” takes lots and lots of hard work.

My dad was an airline executive and my mom was a stay-at-home parent but was very active in the community and volunteer organizations. They were both hard workers and really liked what they did. I have always loved working, trying new careers, learning new things, and piecing together whatever puzzle is in front of me.

4. What’s your biggest money story currently?  Toward the end of last year, I discovered a book on decluttering called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In the book, the author invites you to touch every single item that you own and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”

I started doing the process, touching all of my possessions, all of my cups, plates, pillows, everything in my home, and I began to realize, “This doesn’t spark joy, nor this, or this, or this…”

It was pretty revelatory. I realized that I had tons of old books that I loved—once—but didn’t need any longer. Tons of plates that belonged to my landlord that came with my apartment—but I never liked them! I began to declutter and clear out lots of new space. Through the process, I also realized, “I really don’t need very much in order to feel happy.”

I need daily inspiration and entertainment from podcasts, books, and my favorite TV shows (like Scandal). I need time with my two sons. I need a few beautiful cups for tea and coffee. I need green things surrounding me: plants, flowers, things that are alive. Oh, and a sexy European boyfriend might be nice—ha ha! But beyond those simple pleasures and experiences, I really don’t need much else.

So currently, my money story is a story of sufficiency. A story of simple abundance. I have enough… and enough is enough.

5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?)  I would say, “Figure out what you love, identify something that other people yearn for and would be willing to pay for, create a strong plan, work hard, market yourself, and THEN the money will follow.”

Here’s just one example: My friend Samantha has always loved cuddling. She realized, “Lots of people love cuddling, too, but don’t have anybody to cuddle with. Millions of people are deprived of physical touch, which has all kinds of mental and physical health consequences that have been studied and proven.” So she branded herself as a “professional cuddler” and now people pay $60 an hour to snuggle with her at her studio!

This didn’t happen overnight, of course. She started with zero clients and a lot of raised eyebrows and confusion about her services. She worked hard to build a following of fans. She wrote and self-published a book about her work. She participated in more than 300 media interviews to educate people about the power of cuddling. It took some time, but eventually, things began to take off. Now she even runs a certification program where you can learn how to become a professional cuddler, too!

Samantha’s story is just one example of how you can take any passion—even cuddling!—and turn it into a viable business or career.

If you’re resourceful, passionate, and willing to be patient and keep taking steps forward, day after day, there is always a way to earn an income doing what you love.

Money Talks with Sherry Belul appears here on the Mabel blog every 2nd and 4th Friday of the the month, meet us here!

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • cynthia February 27, 2016, 10:08 am

    Thanks – I really needed to read this today.

Leave a Comment

× 4 = thirty two