8th June, 2018

Is there a gender pay gap in freelancing?

When it comes to negotiating in the workplace, countless studies have pointed out that women are at a disadvantage.

But does the disadvantage persist in freelancing, where a contractor’s work is worth what they’re willing to negotiate?

While there’s plenty of data on a gender pay gap when it comes to like-for-like regular contracted work, the data is scarce for freelance work.

This is because due to the nature of freelance work, the rates people charge are often opaque – there’s no central point of data.

But the examples that do exist point to a gender gap in freelancing work. When it comes to negotiating rates, is it a skill gap for women, or a confidence gap?

Is it just about having the confidence to charge what we’re worth? Or is there more to it?

READ: Turning ‘Can I pick your brain?’ into work


Why women under-negotiate

HR expert Anneli Blundell told The Pulse that while men will often open a negotiation with the aim of getting as much money as they can, a woman will go into a negotiation with a figure in their head of what they perceive as fair.

“It turns out women will negotiate, she said, “but they will negotiate mostly when they feel the offer is not fair.”

This could be a problem if their idea of what’s fair in any given negotiation is under the given market rate.

“They let the market dictate what ‘fair’ is for them,” said Blundell. “If you’re going to pay me $20, I may say ‘Oh, that sounds OK’. But if I don’t know that someone down the road is getting $40, then I could be getting ripped off.”

So how do you make sure you’re going to be paid a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?

READ: How to lift your freelance rate


3 tips to break the cycle

Blundell has three main negotiating tips for female freelancers.

1. Ask around

The nature of freelance work means that it’s hard to figure out what the actual market rate is – unless you ask fellow freelancers.

If you charge below the going market rate for your work, your contractor is very unlikely to correct you.

Instead, ask fellow freelancers what their rate is. Compare it with your own rate for similar work to get a sense of what the market will value.

2. Remind yourself of your worth

Blundell said it would be a useful exercise to remind yourself how you got to this point in the first place.

“Women need to convince themselves – or to remember – why they’re good at their jobs in the first place,” she said.

“A good way to start to remember is to think about all the clients you’ve won in the past.

“Pull out all the testimonials you’ve had, pull out all the awards you’ve had – build yourself a bit of a brand book where you can remember why you’re already doing well and use that as leverage when asking for what you’re worth.”

3. Try charging more (with new clients)

Blundell said advertising rates above what you’d normally charge could, in effect, start to attract a new calibre of client.

Price point is a very powerful thing,” she said. “If I’m contracting and I see two providers, but one is more expensive, then I’m going to assume that the one which is more expensive is better.”

But, she did warn that just putting up rates wasn’t the best way to go about it.

“Don’t put up your rates and do the same amount of work for an existing client – that’s a pretty easy way to lose clients,” said Blundell.

Instead, she advised female freelancers to try out a new rate with new clients.

“If you do that, what you can do is slowly turn your book over to new clients who are paying more.”