Women are paid less than men. The gender income gap is well-known in the world of employment and sadly it’s persisting. This gap refers to the differences in median earnings between men and women. Although the gap has decreased over recent years, women are still paid on average around 20% less than their male colleagues.
But all this should be different for freelancers who can set their own rates? Surely female freelancers are earning just as much as male freelancers?
The answer is no.
According to various studies, freelancing women in the creative industries are earning up to 32% less than their male counterparts. In a UK report by YunoJuno, which studied freelance pay rates in the creative industries, men were found to make an average of £350 per day whilst women make £308 per day. In other disciplines, the gap is even larger.
So why are female freelancers charging less than male freelancers?
Reasons why female freelancers earn less
Part of the problem is that the pay gap in the traditional employee environment is retained when the female freelancer first begins working with clients. Many freelancers, both male and female, judge their pay rates by what they were earning in their old job, and so men are likely to charge more from the get-go.
Confidence is another factor. A 2015 study, which explored data from nearly a million people in multiple different countries, found men have higher self-esteem than women. Quite simply, men will demand higher rates while women are more likely to settle for lower rates in order, they feel, to compete.
Women are also more prone to being self-critical and undervaluing their work. They’re more likely to charge less or offer discounts when they feel they may not meet their own high standards. Whereas men are more sanguine about just getting a job done, even if they know they’re not the best fit.
There’s also the factor of child care. Freelancing mothers may have less time to properly market themselves and build up experience, so they take on any type of work, which will not always be suitable. A lack of confidence in having enough time or focus can mean accepting reduced rates for their skill level.
These are just a few of the issues which affect why female freelancers earn less than their male freelancing counterparts.
Closing the income gap
With all these issues in mind, what are some of the ways you as a female freelancer can close that income gap in the freelancing world?
Making good money and forging a successful career is all about self-belief and confidence. It’s vital you believe in yourself, your skills, and the results you can deliver for your clients. Part of being a successful freelancer or solopreneur is cultivating confidence, assertiveness, and mental wellbeing.
There’s absolutely no reason why you should be earning less than any man, all things being equal. You have an inalienable right to earn what they do. No one should be able to persuade you otherwise, period. A strong self-belief and self-image will give you the power to spot when clients are unjustly trying to get you to lower your rates, just because you are female.
Understand your worth
It’s imperative to understand your worth as a female freelancer. The fees you charge should equal those of your male counterparts of a similar experience and skill level. Research the going rate for particular services and what male freelancers are charging. There are various freelancing publications which offer insights into the fee rates for particular freelancing fields.
If you have a good few years of experience and a niche subject background and focus, then your rates should reflect this and be decidedly higher than the average rate.
Women are less likely to negotiate than men. According to a report by Glassdoor, ‘68% of women accepted the salary they were offered and did not negotiate, a 16%-point difference when compared to men (52%)’.
Similar patterns apply when negotiating rates as a freelancer. It’s important to develop strong negotiating skills which might feel cumbersome and intimidating at first but will soon become second nature. When you know what you’re worth and you have set red lines, then it’s a lot easier to negotiate from a position of strength.
Also, it’s vital to understand when to simply say “no” and walk away.
Strengthen your brand
Strong branding goes a long way to impressing potential clients. Whether male or female, a freelancer with a well-designed brand image and voice will find it easier to get new projects. For female freelancers, branding can provide an opportunity to portray an assertiveness and confidence that can beat out similarly skilled male competitors.
A great website design, a strong logo, well-written marketing copy, and an aggressive prospecting strategy, can go a very long way in making you the best choice in the eyes of your target market.
This will also reduce perceptions among some business owners who perceive a potential mother to be less committed to their work.
Streamline your business
Part of your brand identity is in how you carry out work and manage your procedures. Irrespective of gender, when a freelancer runs their business more efficiently than their peers and completes work to a very high standard, then their reputation will precede them.
Using the best tools and applications can help you to make your life easier as well as those of your clients. They ensure you free up more of your time to work on billable tasks, develop marketing strategies, and enjoy more free time. Such tools include cloud invoicing, time-tracking, and project management software, among others.
Working on closing the gender income gap
Closing the gender income gap in the freelancing world is something both men and women need to work towards.
Across society in general, it’s important for businesses that hire freelancers to ensure gender equality when it comes to payment. Companies should to be aware of the gender income gap in the freelancing sector. Managers need to ensure all freelancers are paid fairly, based on their skills and experience, rather than any preconceived notions based around gender.
For female freelancers, in ensuring you are treated fairly and being more assertive when it comes to payment, you will help female freelancers as a whole to raise their rates.