To honor Equal Pay Day, we invited Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid to give us a few tips on how to negotiate fair pay as a creative freelancer. Sometimes figuring out what you’re worth as a creative can feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it doesn’t have to be! Ladies Get Paid has a ton of great resources and events to help women close the wage gap and ask for what they deserve. Want to represent? Check out their Society6 shop and grab some cool swag!
Money is awkward. In our culture, we generally consider it rude to talk about and so we rarely do. For those of you who learned about saving/budgeting/investing/how-to-balance-a-checkbook: you lucky bastards. Growing up, I definitely did not receive a heads up about any of this.
Now as adults, not only are we supposed to know this stuff, we have to fight for it. For those that do creative work, it can be particularly difficult to price ourselves- let alone talk about it. And on top of all that, it’s stressful just making ends meet. At Ladies Get Paid, an organization that helps women learn how to advocate for their value, the overwhelming majority of our members site negotiating as their number one workplace challenge. The close runner-up is what to charge.
We’ll do our best here to break it down:
photo: Describe the Fauna
INFORMATION IS POWER
We know there’s a gazillion sites out there that tell you what you should be making yet as creatives and freelancers, many of them don’t seem to apply to us. We worked with Puno Dostres, the founder of ilovecreatives to present a workshop on doing math (aka what the F to price yourself) and here are some things you should be asking yourself:
- Do you charge hourly or per project? There’s a lot of debate over this with arguments on both sides. Jessica Hische makes a good case for charging per project in her essay, “The Dark Art of Pricing“
- If you have money saved up, how long will that last you? This is essentially how much you have in the bank minus the cost of monthly expenses and it’ll help you determine the number of months you have until your money runs out. Sad face.
- What do you need to make each week? If you don’t make enough this month, but make more next month, how does that affect your runway?
- How much time do you need to work each week? We highly recommend you start tracking your time – a tool like Get Harvest can help.
In addition, gather intel on the market value of your work. In your industry, with your years of experience, in your location, what does someone in your position typically make? Your best sources are not necessarily other creative freelancers (in case they’re being under compensated), but rather recruiters, talent directors, and people who are generally responsible for getting you paid. You’ll also need to take into consideration the parameters your particular client may have – an HR person can help you better understand them. Oh – and use this spreadsheet Puno put together. It’s genius.
MAKE YOUR CASE
Does the mere thought of negotiating make you want to vomit? We totally get it. Negotiating can be tricky; not only do you have to prep the talking points, you also need to manage your anxiety. First, you need to believe you’re truly worth it. Second, you’ve got to prepare.
- Don’t expect people to take care of you. Women tend to make the mistake of seeking an emotional connection rather than just money. Feeling loved by your boss or your clients? That’s great! But if you’re not compensated fairly, then you’re not being valued.
- Manage your anxiety. It’s normal to get nervous. The best way to prepare is to role play, recognize and acknowledge when your heart starts racing. By simply noting when it happens, you may actually find yourself less emotional during the negotiation, largely because you already anticipated it. Promise yourself a reward when it’s over, regardless of the outcome.
- Name your price. Once you’ve done your market research, you need to figure out three numbers that you will use during the course of the negotiation:
A. If you don’t get what you want, what will you do? This is what you will judge everything against. This is known as your BATNA: best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” If we don’t add that, mentioning BATNA below doesn’t really make sense.
B. What’s your ideal number? Keep your eye on this.
C. What would be worst deal you’d agree to take before choosing your BATNA?
- Talking points. Think through how someone could respond to you as this will make sure you’re not taken by surprise or disempowered when a client or boss doesn’t agree with your number right away. Have an argument, or better yet, evidence, ready to go.
- Prep the presentation. Do it in person if you can. Be positive, present your argument as logically as you can, and do it in a format the other party can absorb. Rather than just advocating for yourself, couch things in terms of the team. Show how this will benefit the company. Also, the most crucial part of your presentation is your opening. As lawyers say, it’s the opening argument, not the closing, that convinces the jury.
- Have a backup plan. You get paid your value when you’re ready to walk. The reality is, you have more leverage when you have a Plan B in place. So make sure you’ve saved some money, explored other options, or at least be okay with not eating out every night of the week.
Remember, they’re rooting for you. Negotiating isn’t a zero-sum game, the conclusion you come to should be a win-win for everyone. The company/client wants to make this work. You want to make this work. Negotiating is really just creative problem solving which, as a creative, should come naturally to you. You’re probably better at this than you think.
Now, go get paid.
Photo: Martha Swann
Claire Wasserman is the founder of Ladies Get Paid, an organization that helps women rise up at work. Through education, community, and advocacy, LGP gives women the tools to get recognized and rewarded at work. Launched in the summer of 2016, they have over 4,000 members from 45 states and 43 countries. Membership is free.
If you’re in New York, sign up for our upcoming roundtable where we feature some kickass lady creatives making money and talk about everything in this article.