If you look at this blog written by my lovely colleague John Espirian, you’ll see the PCN (ProCopywriters Network ) survey from this year shows that women copywriters earn, on average, a staggering 29% less than their male counterparts.
This isn’t a number picked out of thin air, it’s from a survey of real, live copywriters.
There are other freelance earning surveys out there, for example on copyhackers.com but there aren’t that many that look at gender bias.
Let’s get one thing straight. No matter what your gender, freelancing isn’t easy. Look at those surveys and you’ll find that many, many freelancers are not being paid sums equal to their in-house colleagues. Hell, I’ve even had ‘the talk’ to a few vastly underpaying companies that wanted to hire my services, and it fell on deaf ears. It’s very easy for a company to ignore their savings on National Insurance, holiday and sick pay, in-house overheads and the like and just see the hourly figure. If they think the going rate they are asked for is ‘too high’, or if they try to set an abysmal per-project fee, the poor (with the emphasis on poor) freelancer has to think long and hard about either sticking to their rates or accepting insulting remuneration just to put food on the table.
But why do women seem to be more susceptible to being tied into low rates?
It seems to be something programmed into us.
Unless you are a business owner who sells ‘things’ there seems to be a trend that women have a tendency to undercharge. Now it’s not all women, but I know a fair few who struggle with this. Me included.
Women generally have to be more flexible, which is why I suspect there seems to be more female freelancers. If you bring up a family, you have to work around them unless you are lucky enough to have round the clock childcare and an equal-rights partner. Freelancing can be great for the flexibility it brings, but the lack of stability and the constant grappling for a fair wage can be exhausting.
It’s almost as though many of us are either grateful that anyone would hire us, or are apologetic for having to actually work for a living. Being in a service industry, with no physical item at the end of the production process, we feel we have to justify our existence in the workplace.
An article in Forbes claimed, in April, that in a few freelance areas women are out-earning men. But this information came from a start-up Lystable, which was touted as a workflow management platform aimed at businesses needing to manage banks of freelancers. They very soon after rebranded and became Kalo. Putting my cynical hat on, this may have been an attempt to get more coverage for the business. The one thing I will always remember from statistics classes at Uni is that if you’re a good statistician you can make the statistics say exactly what you want them to. Or they may be right – who knows.
Actually who does know?
Look around the internet and you’ll find tons of articles ranging from women earning a whopping 55% less than men to ones where women are outperforming men in the pay department.
Search for ‘gender bias in freelance earnings’ and a whole heap of articles will appear. Search for ‘freelance earnings 2017’ and you’ll get not only surveys but articles telling you how to earn more this year.
Who do you believe and does it matter?
Let’s make this clear – the internet is a great place for information, but many, if not most, people have an agenda. Yes, even me. What’s my agenda? It’s to let people know I exist … I live in a beautifully remote place, and if I didn’t have a web presence very few people would know that I’m an editor and writer for hire.
When you see sensational articles online, take a good close look at who is writing and for what audience. And to what purpose. Freelancer sites try to lure freelancers to their business (perhaps with the lure of better pay), writers for hire may just write what their client wants them to write, and big businesses have their business in mind. Everyone has their own truth.
Here’s the situation: we ALL have bills to pay and we ALL have to eat.
When it all boils down to it, it seems that women are still dealing with the Victorian attitude that the man is the bread-earner and the woman keeps house. Or I should say the middle-class Victorian attitude? For many Victorians, if the women didn’t work the family would end up in the poorhouse. The Great War may have taken women out of the home and into professions more traditionally male, but it didn’t change attitudes much.
Time is money for the freelancer and that includes women. We don’t work for the good of our health, we work to pay the bills, put food on the table and if we are very lucky take a holiday each year. I say very lucky, if you are a freelancer you have to schedule your work with military precision to take a holiday, and this year I won’t be able to take one due to work and other life commitments clashing.
So how, as women, do we stop apologising for trying to earn a living?
You can go and work ‘for the man’ and do the 9–5, or you can make yourself a few promises.
Repeat after me:
I WILL remember that my time is as valuable as anyone else’s.
I WILL NOT apologise when I give people my rates.
I WILL NOT give service discounts because I feel I have to.
I WILL timetable time off, for myself and my family.
I WILL keep in touch with my industry standard rates and apply them.
I WILL NOT give in to low-paying work unless I really, really have to or unless there is another form of payback (e.g. a new specialism or some on-the-job training).
I WILL include professional development in my work timetable.
I WILL NOT allow myself to think that I am any less valuable or professional than my male colleagues.
I WILL forgive myself if I fail, but I won’t dwell on it and will start over again tomorrow.
I WILL, I WILL, I WILL try my very best to earn the type of living I know I deserve.
Men sure as hell don’t have it easy, but when was the last time you saw a man apologise for earning a living?