Why can't women get what they want when negotiating?
The other day I came across an article that was simultaneously depressing and comforting. In a recent article for The Cut, Otegha Uwagba lays out her experience asking for a raise earlier in her career and why she — now a freelancer herself — has to frequently negotiate her rate. She also unpacks research that examines the question of whether women do or don’t ask for raises. While some past research has shown that women didn’t ask for raises as much as men or took jobs that didn’t leave much room for negotiation, some recent research shows that women in North America actually negotiate for higher wages slightly more than men, but they’re likely to be denied or get pushback for asking for more, Uwagba writes. Even a 2017 Honeybook study found a gender wage gap among freelancers; men earn about $45,400 and women $30,700. (I didn’t see any stats for gender nonbinary folks, but hopefully these studies will incorporate that in the future).
I needed to see this article this week, because for the last couple weeks I’ve hit walls while negotiating with publications for reasonable freelance work. While I’m working out the kinks in this process, I find and reach out prospective clients, pitch my services or stories, and aim to build a long-term client relationship. Ideally, I seek out clients with higher-end budgets, but I push for more even when working with smaller outlets.
Earlier this month, for example, I reached out to a trade publication that, according to The Writer’s Market, paid writers up to $1,000 per article. After getting to know what their needs were and sending over some of their clips, they declined to work together, citing my rate being too far beyond their standard pay, which was less than $0.40 per word. I was crushed, but I moved on to other prospects. I never got the sense that the company felt I was being difficult or pushy, but I had to stop myself from being too hard on myself for asking for higher rates.
On a happier note, I didn’t let my let-down earlier this week keep me from asking for a reasonable rates when I was approached for content marketing gig. After I sent my rate with a brief explanation of what it would take to write the content and my prior experience, they agreed to my rate.
Sometimes, I succeed in nabbing a higher rate. Other times, I don’t. And while personal finance experts and fellow freelancers (including me) will continue to push freelancers to ask for more, it’s worth noting that women can’t go into a room and negotiate their rate like a man. For us, even in the freelance world, getting what we’re worth is just going to be a bit more difficult.
But that doesn’t mean giving up. Asking can be awkward, especially for if women may be seen as greedy or ungrateful. However, not asking leaves money on the table for you and doesn’t make the company aware of what its standards should be.
Unlike staffers, freelance writers’ income can vary widely based the gigs they land in any giving year. I’m still figuring out my worth, as I’m sure many of you are, too. But as my rate shifts with every gig and each passing year, the one thing I know for sure is
Have you tried to negotiated a high rate? How did it go? Tell me in the comments or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.