No matter how many #girlpower and #girlboss hashtags trend, or how many women’s marches are held, the statistics about females in the workplace remain: Women are still making 80.5 cents to a man’s dollar, across the board (according to data from the United States Census Bureau). Get tips on how to fight for fair pay.
The wage gap is one that women have been battling for generations, and something lawmakers, government officials and the (very few) female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are up in arms about. As the topic becomes a new norm, and one that many millennial mothers are comfortable discussing with their daughters, and as more women are elected to office, efforts to decrease this chasm will hopefully rise.
But in the meantime, female writers can tackle the issue themselves, via email or on the phone, with the editors who assign their source of income.
We already explored the disparity of bylines in media, where a man’s byline still gravely outweighs a woman’s—and that isn’t just a visual representation, but one found in dollar signs, too. Negotiating for fair pay—and not working for pennies—is a task of all freelancers, regardless of sex, but could be a task more difficult for women, who aren’t always innately prepared to bargain.
Even so, for a career in media to continue to be a possibility, asking for what’s due to you is essential. As freelance writer Chante Griffin explains, “When we don’t fight for fair rates, we devalue our work and the time it takes to complete that work. It’s true: if you don’t value your work, other people won’t value it either. We lose out as the companies and corporations we write for simultaneously make huge profits from our work. And, we unintentionally contribute to lower rates across our industry.”
Here, feisty powerhouse women who know their worth give their best advice on how to fight for fair pay:
1. Start below rate, prove yourself and ask for more.
When you first start casting our your pitch nets, hoping for a bite of any kind, taking home a competitive rate might not be a reality. To build a name for yourself, having bylines is essential, since you can share them with potential editors, demonstrating your wordsmithery.
For those who are new to the business, Griffin says it’s okay to agree to lower rates to create your database of content — and to supercharge your confidence. With experience comes better mojo — and the ability to ask for more. In fact, she did just this — and many editors were receptive to the increase. “I increased my rates for my clients, by more than 100 percent. They agreed, and I was grateful to be making rates comparable with industry standards,” she shared.
2. Network to get the right gigs.
Freelance writer Jane Coloccia explains even though we’re all hungry for business (and ahem, paychecks!), you’re more likely to find quality clients if you put yourself out there. After all, the more you come in contact with, the better you will understand who is shortchanging writers, and who is giving them their due.
“You have to keep networking and getting yourself out there as great writing jobs aren’t going to just fall in your lap,” she reminds. The more you are in front of people, the better chance you have to demonstrate how you set yourself apart from other writers.
3. Be prepared to walk away.
When you’re a freelancer, there’s an uncertainty that comes every month when you’re wrapping up 30 days worth of assignments, and pitching for the next. You never know if it’ll be a stellar month, or one where you’ll barely get by. But if you want to attract better clients, being willing to say “no” to those who suck your time is essential.
As Griffin explains, when it comes to standing true to your worth, sometimes you win the fight, sometimes you lose it — but you’re always worth fighting for. Recently, she pitched a print publication that hopped on her idea right away, but the price was a quarter of what she usually accepts. “I countered with double the offered amount because it would cover the amount of time I would spend on the article. The editor declined, saying that the publication couldn’t afford it,” she shared. “I walked away happy that I didn’t accept less than what was profitable for me.”
4. Set yourself apart by being a professional.
With the influx of influencers who aren’t classically trained in writing, and the vast amount of churned content online, it’s easy to find a reporter, but not always a quality one. That’s why Coloccia says if you want to get get fair pay and wage, you have to distinguish yourself. This cuts through the competition and allows you to develop your brand and proficiency.
In other words: Be a boss from the very first exchange. “I act as a professional and this means acting in a professional manner, responding quickly, meeting deadlines, doing the project right the first time, exceeding expectations, and more,” she continues. “If you make the client happy and do a great job, you don’t really have to fight daily to get fair pay, they will happily pay you because they see and experience your worth.”
5. Know the market rates.
Before you write a story about a topic that’s new to you, what’s the first action you take? Research! Using your curious and dedicated journalism brain to understand what fair market rates are will inevitably aid your case, like ClearVoice’s Freelancer Pay Rate Survey Results.
“If you don’t know what other freelancers make, then it will be difficult to assess if you’re undercutting what you could be making,” Griffins shares. She suggests utilizing your network of other writers to understand what they’re making — and to tell if you’re being cut short. She also notes sites like Sites like WhoPaysWriters.com reports on rates from anonymous sources.
6. Do the math.
Setting goals for your freelance business will help you stay on track, prioritize clients and opportunities, and illuminate areas where you could work smarter, not harder. Even if it isn’t your strong suit, Griffin recommends doing basic math will paint a pretty clear picture.
“Once you determine your desired annual income, figure out how much time you need to spend pitching and marketing and how much time you must spend writing. Then set your per hour rate accordingly,” she advises. From here, you’ll want to figure out how long it takes you to complete different types of stories — including interviews, revisions, research and so on — which will inform who is worth the effort, and who frankly, is not.
7. Build your work-confidence.
You’ll be far less likely to demand an extra $100 or an extra $0.10 per word if you aren’t fully confident in your ability to deliver quality content. Griffin stresses the importance of building your esteem, and of course, giving yourself the luxury of patience, as it comes with time, experience and skill development. To ensure you’re always performing at your top level, Griffin suggests investing in your craft in a meaningful way.
“I took courses, read lots of articles, made a lot of mistakes, and listened in on many Facebook conversations in networking groups in order to learn how to freelance,” she explained. “Once my work-confidence grew, it became easier to fight for fair pay because I knew that I deserved it.”