Determining Value When You’re Self Employed

Determine Value

It was still dark when the taxi arrived to take me to the airport for an early morning flight. After I’d settled in, I asked the driver how long he’d been driving. “Oh, this is just a sideline,” he said. “I have a business selling antiques and collectibles.”

I asked him about his business and then mentioned the popularity of Antiques Roadshow. He laughed and said that program had made his life so much harder. “Everyone thinks that any old piece of junk they find in their attic is valuable. I really love working with the serious collectors.They’re always so excited to find some new treasure.”

By any chance are you an eBay seller, I inquired

Collecting isn’t just an American hobby, of course. Standing in line at the post office one day, I noticed the man ahead of me was mailing a number of packages to different countries. “By any chance are you an eBay seller?” I inquired.

He answered that he was just getting started selling baseball cards online and most of his business was coming from collectors in other countries.

Although I’m not much of a collector myself, I am fascinated by the things that people collect. That fascination has grown since I discovered the History Channel’s most popular program, Pawn Stars.

I began watching out of curiosity to see what goes on in one of the numerous pawn shops that call Las Vegas home. I had assumed that most of their business came from down and out gamblers pawning their jewelry so they could afford to get back home.

Pawn Stars is nothing like that stereotype. It’s more like Antiques Roadshow with attitude. This Las Vegas pawn shop is a family business started by a loveably gruff man who brought his son and grandson into the business.

A vast array of merchandise walks through their doors. One episode featured an antique handcranked washing machine, European dueling pistols from the 18th Century, an old John Deere tractor and plow, and a clock a man’s father had received from Richard Nixon. Not a single gold chain ever makes it to the program.

The fascinating part of Pawn Stars comes when the shopowners do their detective work to determine the value of items. Several local experts are frequently called in to help uncover the history of an item.

History is not the only thing that determines how much money the seller receives, however. What is the condition of the item? Is there proof that it was previously owned by someone famous? Is there a market for this treasure where the pawn shop can profitably resell it?

Sometimes unique items are turned down because they don’t meet the criteria. Once in a while, Rick, the resident pawn shop historian, will purchase an item just because he loves it so much and can’t pass it up.

Every transaction is based on multiple factors. At the top of the list, of course is whether or not it’s a win for both the buyer and seller.

When you’re self-employed, determining value is about much more than pricing your products or services.

In my Making a Living Without a Job seminars, I often share a letter I received from a man named Al who had started a handyman service. It had been a life-changing experience for him, after a decade of trying to fit into a conventional job.

Al wrote, “I have never felt so appreciated as I do from my customers. And then they pay me on top of that! The value that I get from helping people and making a difference plus the enjoyment of the work is almost priceless.”

Enjoy the work. Help people. Make a difference. Build all those values into your business and make it crystal clear that what you have to offer includes all those things.

Then enjoy getting paid on top of that.

Barbara J. Winter spends much of her time collecting stories about self-employed success. She’s traveling around the US and Canada this year conducting Joyfully Jobless Weekends to share her best ideas and resources.