“Charge your worth.”
You’ve likely heard it before… but what does that advice even mean? And how do you find your “worth?”
As creative entrepreneurs, we price our products and services with the hopes that they will offer a salary that pays our bills (and benefits our lives!). But what happens when going from working a steady 9-5 job turns into a 24/7 self-employed position? In our recent Creative Economy Survey, we uncovered a gender pay gap in the Creative Economy, and found that pay doesn’t necessarily increase with more hours worked, especially when evaluating a female’s pay compared to a male’s in the same career.
As much as we’d like to think our dreams of flexibility and work life balance are being achieved, in reality, we (especially women!) are working more, making less, and don’t even realize it.
Instead, 24% of female creatives and 11% of male creatives are making $5 or less per hour… which is hardly enough for your daily coffee run to fuel that hour. If these were simply hobbies, it wouldn’t matter much, but when we begin to rely on $5 per hour for a career, something has to change.
Something you should know: the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Washington, D.C. and 29 states boast a minimum wage at rates higher than the federal minimum with the highest reaching $10 per hour.
And yet, over one third of creative entrepreneurs are making less than $10 per hour, despite the fact that 73% of us hold bachelor’s degrees.
That means that in certain states, you would earn more working hourly at your local fast food restaurant than you would offering your expertise as a creative professional with years of experience. We want to see the knowledge and skill you’ve honed over the years, and the boldness and entrepreneurial spirit you’ve shown in undertaking your own business to count! That’s why we’re so passionate about alleviating the Gender Pay Gap, and helping creatives charge their worth.
The great thing about all of this?
Without a boss to report to, creative entrepreneurs can increase their wages. They don’t rely on a manager to give them a raise, but instead must take matters into their own hands in taking their business, and bank account, to the next level.
So today, we’re standing alongside you all and challenging you to charge your worth, and here’s how.
1. Negotiate Confidently
When asked about reasons for the gender pay gap, 61% of respondents attributed it to negotiating power: meaning women are less likely to negotiate higher costs and are treated differently during negotiations.
One thing is true: we’ll only get paid what we ask for. Negotiation depends on the front end – and on the confidence to raise our prices to meet the cost of doing business and the cost of living life.
Take Action: As the year comes to a close, review your 2017 financial reports to determine where you’re receiving the greatest profit margin for your work, and what could be tweaked to ensure you’re being properly compensated for the number of hours you’re putting in per project or product.
Evaluate the number of hours you put in per product or service, and price accordingly to ensure you’re covering your upfront costs, labor, and taxes. Not charging your worth means those items cut into profit, resulting in the potential for the $5 per hour rate… and that makes minimum wage sounds like luxury.
2. Price Transparently
In a world where competition is fierce and industry standards are more like industry secrets, price transparency has the potential to raise the Creative Economy and fix the gender pay gap. Speaking openly with one another about money, wages, and finances leverages the knowledge of the creative population. It helps creative entrepreneurs set a standard and base for the value of products and services in order to run a successful business.
Take Action: Reach out to 5 people in your area or industry to connect over coffee. Building relationships is a great place to begin, as transparency about pricing begins with a level of trust between both parties. Your local Tuesdays Together group is a great place to find other creatives dedicated to running a profitable business and who believe in community over competition.
We consistently hear about the difficulty to know where to begin when first pricing your products or services, so price transparency has the potential to eliminate that confusion and fear, and give a starting point for comparable work.
End the price race to the bottom. Collaborate rather than compete to raise the tide for all. Just like price transparency can raise awareness and set the standard, collaboration can create more work for all. Partnerships and joint ventures don’t just give each person a piece of the pie, but rather bake a larger pie all together, allowing creatives to increase revenue and gain valuable business insight and experience alongside other creatives.
Take Action: Connect with other creatives and find collaborations that fit your brand and needs on The Creative Community. You can find others looking to collaborate in your area specifically, as well as “teleport” to cities throughout the world.
Collaboration and sharing knowledge fills in the gaps in areas where you may feel less capable, resulting in a greater sense of confidence in the work you have to offer, and what it’s worth paying for.
4. Value Yourself
Stop doing work for free and understand the value that you uniquely bring to the table. If we continue to offer our products and services for free, not only are we devaluing the paid product as a whole, but we are setting the standard that the time we spend on the product or service isn’t valuable either.
The question of: “how do you charge your worth when you don’t feel worthy?” is very real. Leaning into what you specifically have to offer helps to bring a greater sense of value to your work – because only you can offer your product and service done by you. The more you invest in your own skills and career, the more others will invest in you!
Take Action: Identify your business audience, mission, and your unique value proposition. Get the confidence to value yourself when you know exactly what you offer to your audience and why.
By connecting with other creative entrepreneurs to aim for price transparency, collaboration, and confidence in pricing, we’ll begin to value ourselves more.
We connected with some amazing leaders in the Creative Economy to find out their advice on charging your worth:
I found the best way for me to ask for my value is to show off the work that I do regularly and consistently. The consistency helps to attract the right client. A client that is already invested in my design style and passion for my craft. This client will happily pay my price because they have already seen or experienced the caliber of my work.
And don’t be afraid to lose the client because you are charging what you are worth. The client that does not want to pay your value is either not the right fit or has not yet seen your value.
Compare, Scale and Add Tax. For me, it was important that I matched myself against my current competition. Please don’t get me wrong in saying this. Comparing pricing is where my research would begin and end. I didn’t judge their work or match one of my own recent projects against theirs. Simply having a starting point to see if I could add or remove services that best suit my target clients. From there, scale those services – making sure that you are offering what your clients want to purchase. Think about it: How often do you make a purchase for your business that you don’t need? And finally, add tax. Owning a reputable business means that you will have to pay Uncle Sam eventually. Make sure that you are adding in tax, so that you aren’t digging into your profit too much.
Apply your past life skills. I see so many creatives wanting to stay rote, blend in, and not get “found out” as an imposter, so they bury corporate experience they’ve had, or gloss over it. For me, combining the thing I was best at in corporate marketing—strategy & drafting copy—with the wedding industry became kryptonite for our business.
Oh—and I never looked at myself as a freelance writer. I called myself a business owner from Day 1.
The best advice that I can give to Creatives is to create a brand that truly reflects who you are in conjunction with the quality your present. A lot of creatives suffer from CCS – “Copy Cat Syndrome”. I don’t know if this is a real term, but I see it a lot. Creatives feel that the only way they’ll be successful is to copy what they see another creative doing when in fact that puts them behind because the creative they are copying will always be one or two steps ahead.
Branding doesn’t start with your logo or even your website. It starts with you and what you want to project through your business. The logo and website are beautiful accessories of that.
I love the Seth Godin quote “Charge more for more.” Instead of asking yourself how you can create a product that everyone will want AND be able to afford, think about how you can deliver more value, premium value, and then charge accordingly. Think about luxury hotel brands and fine dining restaurants, what are the things that they do differently that then enables them to charge a premium that clients are happy to pay.
As a creative you have to know your worth, the value of your time and the lifestyle that you want to create for yourself. If you want your business to be more than a side project, or a passion project, you have to start treating it as a business. You should be creating sales goals and taking the time to do research to ensure that your pricing is where it needs to be based on your industry.
The biggest thing we always tell people is to run the numbers. We tell them to add up every single dollar they made last year, soak in that number, absorb it….and now cut it in half. We like to call this “fun math.” In that it’s not so much fun at all. We tell them to take a hard look at that new number- the cut in half one. And to think about every hour behind a computer last year, every date night postponed, every soccer game missed (something we ask to BOTH men & women, by the way). We ask them to think about how many hours they worked on (or more likely, IN) their business last year and how much they effectively brought home. And then we ask them if they would take that job if someone else was advertising it. We ask them to ask themselves, “Is this working anymore? Is this WORTH it anymore?” For most people, the answer is no. And for us, that moment of truth is NOT an invitation to quit…it’s an invitation to start over. An invitation for them to go back to the drawing board and rebuild their businesses from the inside out to be something that truly supports them and their family, rather than always the other way around. It’s a chance to finally make a life and a LIVING doing this thing they love.
When most people hear that, their first knee-jerk reaction is to just hike prices to be at the same level “everyone else is” because it must be working for them. But that can actually be the death knell for so many businesses that are already in crisis mode. And that is because, as basic economics will tell us, increasing prices- without something more- only lowers demand.
We must FIRST figure out a way to increase demand, and a new price point equilibrium will inevitably follow. And for us, the Big 5 in demand curve shifting are these: Your Work, Your Why, Your Word of Mouth, Your Experience & Your Brand. Go to work on getting better in any one of those 5 (or ideally ALL 5!) areas, and the demand will naturally follow. And with that, prices you can be proud of.