It sucks, but if you’re a female freelancer, the likelihood that your skills are being undervalued and underpaid is quite high. It matters because it belittles your worth and that makes it, no matter what your financial situation may be, a feminist issue.
Between 2008 and 2018 the number of highly-skilled freelancers in the UK increased by 47%, this saw a 63% rise in highly-skilled female freelancers. The reasons are many and diverse. Some female freelancers crave the independence of being their own boss. Some find that a “normal” job can’t accommodate childcare needs. Some are looking to drive innovation and create.
If you are a female freelancer, then whatever your driving reason for doing it may be, it’s almost certainly the case that you’re not charging enough for what you do, or charging for all the things you should be. As girls, we’re commonly taught to be polite and not to be “bossy” or “pushy”, and that message can carry over into our adult life making us feel awkward about standing up for the treatment and the pay we deserve.
Any female freelancers shouldn’t feel ashamed about charging for their time. If you’re giving a company a “few ideas” in an informal consultation – charge for it. Running a workshop? Great, but charge for it. Your time is worth paying for. (That’s not to say you shouldn’t do charitable or educational gigs too, but make sure that you do paid work too!)
The next issue, once you’ve identified that your time and skills are worth paying for, is working out what to charge. It can feel uncomfortable asking for money, but if you don’t do it, no one else will. The client is hardly likely to offer to pay you more if you say you’ll do it for a low price. So, while it may feel awkward, don’t be afraid to put a fair price on your work. Then, once you’ve identified that price, advice from Iona Bain of Young Money Blog is to double that price.
If you don’t push the boundaries of what you ask for she says “the default setting will be stagnation, with the very high risk that my freelance career would become otherwise unsustainable.” The worst that can happen is a) – the client will disappear without a word (in which case “you don’t want to be working with them anyway because that’s a shoddy way to treat people, and a reliable indicator that they could turn into a nightmare client”), or b), the client will come back and negotiate.
When the client begins fee negotiations, the end result will usually be a fee that is the same or better than your standard rate. You may even find that they say yes without negotiations – which only goes to show that you should probably have been asking for that fee all along!
Charity begins at home, but so does self-respect.