If you aren’t getting something you want, don’t assume you just can’t have it. You can ask for a higher freelance rate.
Even though I’ve been freelancing for more than 10 years, it’s still difficult for me to ask for a higher freelance rate. Over time, I’ve become better at getting paid more, but I still struggle.
Some of the reasons that it can be hard to ask for a higher freelance rate, especially as a woman, include:
- You don’t want to scare potential clients away by asking for a higher rate. They may turn you down, and then you could lose the gig.
- When you first start as a freelancer, you get used to accepting every gig because you need the money. Those initial habits are hard to break.
- Research shows that women regularly undervalue themselves. This plays out in my own career as a freelancer. While it’s definitely possible for male freelancers to undervalue themselves, it is less likely, due to the differences in our socialization.
- Women are often socialized to be accommodating rather than assertive, and it can be very uncomfortable to go against that conditioning and ask for more.
Of course, men can also feel uncomfortable asking for more money, and requesting a higher freelance rate can be a sticking point for anyone, no matter his or her gender.
In many cases, we feel as though we should just take what we’re given and be grateful to have it. And, while I am grateful in many cases to have regular gigs, no matter what they pay, I have started asserting myself a little more.
While the answer might be no if I ask for something, the reality is that the answer will always be no if I don’t ask.
Overcoming My Reluctance and Asking for Money
I have a lot of conversations with people about creating content for them. Many of them call me an influencer and hope that will flatter me into not taking any money for the work I do. I’ve started calling B.S. on that approach. I recently received an email from a major company asking me to contribute regularly to their “community.” In return for my content, I would receive the following awesome perks:
- Exposure to the community
- “Thought leader” status among the members of the community
- Social media shares
I replied to the email, saying I was interested in learning more about the opportunity, and giving them my starting rate for producing the type of content they wanted. I haven’t heard back.
One of the things I’ve realized in the last couple of years is that these companies appeal to your ego by calling you an influencer. They want you to feel important. But the reality is this: influencers are paid to use their influence. That’s what commercials are. And when it comes to online marketing and paid content creation, the same basic principles apply. If you see me as someone who can influence others (and I’m not sure I actually see myself as such), you should be paying me to exert that perceived influence.
About the same time, I was approached by another company for a different project. This time, I agreed to get on the phone to talk about the work. Toward the end of the phone call, after the project was explained, and after I was told what sort of exposure I could expect, the company representative asked if I had any questions. “Yes,” I said. “We haven’t talked about the budget. Normally I am paid $XXX for this type of work.”
There was silence on the other end. Then, “Many writers do it for the exposure, but I can ask if we have a budget for you.” About two hours later, I received an email confirming that I would be paid my asking price for my contribution.
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have asked about the budget. I would have either completed the project for free, hating myself all the way, or I would have turned down the project, knowing it wasn’t worth the time. Because I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t have realized that payment was an option.
Today I know that payment is an option. I also know that if I don’t ask for payment, I’m not going to get it. While there are some projects like this where you are pleasantly surprised at the end to receive a little bit of money for your effort, most of the time if you don’t ask for a higher freelance rate, you aren’t going to get it.
It’s difficult and uncomfortable to ask for more, and sometimes the answer is no, but I’ve learned that, in the end, it’s always worth it to ask.