Every once and while, and probably more often than I know, I realize I have to practice what I preach.

For the past few weeks, it seems that many of my clients have needed a pep talk: “Set some boundaries,” I’ll say. “Know your worth and get paid for it. Don’t confuse being liked with being valued or appreciated.” From such advice and in sufficient number, I want to believe, gender pay gaps and other women-unfriendly policies can be overturned.

This week, I realized assertiveness starts with me.

In one of my other lives, I write a weekly column for a local newspaper. It’s a ton of fun. It is not, however, a probono gig although, recently, it has seemed that way. I have not been paid for months.

It’s the curse of the freelancer and I let it go for about thirty days, then sixty, but as the 90th day of no pay arrived, I very politely reached out to my editor and the publisher and asked “what gives?” I got a lot of justifications and excuses and finally the offer of a partial payment so small it required an electron microscope to see it.

I was on deadline and at first I thought, “OK, I’ll take it. Something is better than nothing.” And then somewhere in the depths of my heart—or checkbook—I heard the words. “No. This is unacceptable. You're being exploited.”

So that is what I said. As I have learned from Christine Hassler, “No” is a complete sentence.

I wish I could say I’ve been paid in full. I have not. We’re in “negotiation.” But I said what I needed to say. And the value of asserting myself, for not taking the easy, default people-pleaser way out, is almost more valuable the money. For once, it really is the principle that counts.

Lesson learned: it pays to know and advocate for your { self } worth.