Women Freelancers – Stop Apologising For Earning a Living

sign saying sorry, apologetic freelancer

 

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.

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper

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.

robot-148989_1280

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.

gender pay equality, scales of judgement

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.

question mark

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.

questions, choices

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.

we all have bills to pay

 

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?

Do you need to like your editor or proofreader?

handshake

 

You’ve finished your book, completed your marketing material or are looking for some help with your PhD thesis. Now you’ve got to find an editor / proofreader / wordy wordsmith.

How to find an editor or proofreader

It’s a tough decision. First you have to find them. You can find an editor (let’s just call them editors so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time) in a variety of ways. You can find them through:

 word of mouth

 places like writers’ groups

social media

or you can actually go straight to society directories (such as the SfEP directory).

I’m sure there are other ways to find an editor. If you use a different way be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Finding an editor can be equally tough if you are not sure exactly what you want. Let’s face it, unless you’re an expert at something, you rarely know exactly what you want and will rely on expert guidance. Do you really know if you need an edit or a proofread? (Hint: unless you have your material completely finished and ready to go, it won’t be a proofread you’re after).

 

thinking businessman

click here to find out whether you need an editor or proofreader

 

How do you choose which editor to work with?

So, let’s imagine you’ve trawled through the available resources and have decided that there are one or two (or more) editors who fit your profile – they are qualified, knowledgeable in your area and fit your budget. (Hint: cheapest is rarely best).

How on earth do you choose which one to work with?

Do you choose the most qualified?

The cheapest?

The one nearest to where you live?

See? It’s a tough decision. One editor may offer incentives (price plans, bundles and packages, discounts), another may just offer one or two services, whereas another may be so highly qualified you think you’ll never be able to afford them or fit into their schedule. If you are a business, budget may be less of a problem but timescale may be – do you choose the one who can deal with you straight away or wait until the one you really think you could work with has an opening in their schedule?

Here’s a thought – how about also finding one you enjoy working with?

woman with computer

Do your homework and talk to editors

When it comes down to it, once you have your shortlist you could procrastinate until it’s too late to book any of your preferred choices. Remember, good editors usually get booked up pretty quickly and may only be able to fit you in at short notice if they have a project timeline slide.

You will have chosen your shortlist to criteria of some sort, but now is the time to see if you can actually work with them.

How many people actually do their homework when choosing who to work with? You could find that someone who fits your profile academically is a nightmare to work with. Come on, we’ve all had that brilliant colleague who has the personality of a robot, or the colleague who seems mediocre on paper but is a delight to work with.

is your colleague a robot

While qualifications are important, you also need to be able to feel comfortable with your editor.

This is why it is so important to start a dialogue with the editors you choose.

Talk to them.

Ok, email them. Whatever, but do talk to them.

Right at the outset, when you send that first enquiry, you need to talk about what you think you need, ask for their advice and see where you fit into their schedule.

How do you feel when you talk to them?  Gut instinct can work here, but do you feel comfortable with the conversation.

How will they work on your writing? Do your ideas and theirs mix well?

Do they seem to know what they’re talking about? They should, but do they communicate it well too?

Are they too technical? Would they mind explaining things or do you think they are used to working with more technical clients.

 

This may be a teensy bit controversial … but …

If you don’t feel comfortable with the level of communication you probably won’t feel comfortable with the editing process.

comfortable at home

So do you have to like your editor or proofreader?

You don’t have to LIKE your editor, but you do need to be COMFORTABLE working with them.

Some people prefer a more formal editor/client relationship.

Some people like a more informal set-up.

Now, don’t get me wrong, most professionals can work either way, becoming more formal when the occasion demands, or more conversational when it’s preferred. Hell, even I can scrub up and do the formal thing when needed.

Faberge: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars exhibit

(c) etee, Flikr

But the working relationship, no matter what that might be, needs to be something you can live with. Sometimes hiring an editor is a one-off, but for many writers or businesses it becomes an ongoing relationship that can last a long time. Talking to your editor shouldn’t be a thing of dread, you should look forward to working with them and allowing them to help you hone your writing.

Will you both enjoy working together?

Here are three ways you can figure out if you’ll get on:

  1. Look at their websites.

Some editors have swanky websites, some don’t, but you should be able to get a bit of personality and information from their sites. It’s not the be-all and end-all of a working relationship, but it’s common sense to check them out.

You may gauge something of their working agendas, their specialities and affiliations. If someone highlights their academic work, they may not readily take on your work of high fiction.

You may also get a shock and find out your editor has green hair, and you have to ask yourself if you could work with such a non-conformist.

Sara Donaldson | copywriter | copyeditor | proofreader

Honestly, most of the time I forget it’s green

  1. Talk to your editorial choices.

Before making a firm decision ask them questions about how they’ll work with you, what level of editing they think you need, where you can fit into their schedule and timescale. You should, through conversation, be able to figure out whether you’ll be able to work together.

  1. Have a look at their work

Does their work seem to tie in with yours, or if not are they interested in your type of writing? Going by someone’s past work isn’t always an indicator of their future work. There may be good reasons that there’s little information on their website about the type of work they have done in the past. For example I have a portfolio, but it by no means shows all my past work – working with individuals and companies rather than traditional publishers can mean work won’t appear in a portfolio because of confidentiality issues.

confidential and confidentiality

If you can’t find any examples of their work online, bring it into the conversation. Ask if they’ve worked on your type of material, and if they haven’t ask if they are qualified to work on it. You may find that your editor hasn’t made it public knowledge, but they are dying to work on your type of project. And don’t be afraid to ask about qualifications, your editor won’t be offended.

So, do you need to like them?

In short, go with whatever feels the most comfortable.

You don’t need to LIKE your editor, but you need to take into account:

Are they qualified to do the job?

Do they work in a way that you’re comfortable with?

Can you talk to them properly?

Can you afford them?

Are your timeframes compatible?

If you can actually like your editor too it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable and you’ll look forward to working together.

 

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If you think you could work with this green-haired editorial consultant, why not take a peek at my SfEP directory entry? Contact me and we can talk through your project.

 

How A Cartoon Helped Me Relax (And It Can Help You Too)

kittens and roses

Running a business can be a pain. Ok, it can be brilliant, but it isn’t all kittens and roses.

Every waking minute can revolve around your business.

When you’re not doing your actual job, you’re thinking about it, about ways to improve it and ways to improve the customer experience. It’s always there, at the back of your mind – you can’t relax, you have a business to run.

Let’s admit it – it can be a bloody nightmare!

work work work

That’s why I decided to do something different. It could be called CPD (continuing professional development), or it could be called mucking around, but after realizing that I just wasn’t switching off I decided to take a cartoon course.

Yup. Doodling. For fun. To help me relax and perhaps gain a new skill.

Now if you’ve been following my blog for a while you may have spotted some of my cartoons. I had one on my website front page for a long time. On and off I’ve doodled since I was at school. Way back when, I had a fabulous Latin teacher who taught us all to cartoon – it was a brilliant way to keep us kids engaged and it’s something I’ve remembered, even though I’ve forgotten a lot of my Latin.

cupboard monster editing proofreading freelance questions

I had this on my website for years

But I wanted to gain a new perspective and, most importantly, I wanted to do something that took me away from my day job. Any free time I have is basically spent project managing for our local theatre. Producing plays is fun (sometimes), but it can be very hard to switch off, especially when I’m editing and project managing during the day. It’s all very full-on and can be hard on the old brain cells.

Cartooning is a way to help you switch off. You don’t have to be good at it and all you need is a piece of paper and a pen.

idea cartoon

When I saw on Twitter that Neil Kerber had started a five-week email cartoon course, allowing you to work at your own pace, I considered it. Neil has the ‘Supermodels’ cartoon in Private Eye, works with national newspapers and corporate clients, and has a nice relaxed style. He’s also a nice chap, which helps.

After some humming and harring, I decided one night (after a glass of wine or two) to just go for it. I have a tendency to put things off so the brain relaxant worked wonders this time.

I won’t tell you what the course includes (no spoilers, go enrol instead), but I will say that it reinforced what I had been taught all those years ago and I also learned new things.

Most importantly, it helped me to disconnect from all the brain work I do, and just let me take time out. Even if it was for fifteen minutes at a time, during a coffee break, I managed to sit down and just scribble.

cartoon dogs

You see, sometimes you need to give yourself permission to switch off. Cartooning is great as a creative outlet. If you need to give yourself an excuse for taking time out to learn to doodle, it can be great for team building at work, for illustrations when you’re giving a presentation or for personalised cards for friends, family and clients. It’s a great stress reliever too.

Now, I won’t say my cartoons will win any prizes (they obviously won’t) but taking a cartoon course was great for so many reasons:

  • It taught me a new skill
  • It reinforced my creativity
  • It taught me that you don’t have to be a brilliant artist
  • It taught me to look at the world in a different way
  • It helped me to relax
  • It gave me something to think about other than words
  • It encouraged my love for great stationery
  • It was a great stress reliever
  • It’s a transferable skill that I can use in business
  • It stopped me being so damned serious

So, you see, I’m glad I decided to take time out and learn something that was fun, took me away from work, and was totally frivolous. Only it really wasn’t frivolous at all – it taught me something valuable …

Do yourself a favour

Time out is important.

For the sake of your physical and mental health you cannot be connected to work 24/7.

Children don’t need to be told to go and play, so as adults we need to re-learn to disconnect and just be.

 

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Neil’s cartoon course can be found on his website neilkerber.com. This article has not been sponsored or endorsed by Neil in any way, in fact he had no knowledge that I was going to write it.

As usual if you need an editor’s help contact me and we can talk through your project.