Whether on staff, a contractor or freelance, many women find negotiating pay a challenge – which it goes some way to explaining the gender pay gap. Our September panel of top class female journalists shared their experience and advice about how to ask for more money, chaired by Jem Collins, digital journalist and editor, founder of Journo Resources, and winner of the 2018 WIJ Georgina Henry Award. Wiggin LLP were our generous hosts at their central London headquarters.
Jem was joined by Lucy Foster, head of content at Shortlist Media; Chloe Lambert, assistant comment editor at the Daily Telegraph and Monisha Rajesh, a freelance feature writer for national titles and author of Around India in 80 Trains and her upcoming Around the World in 80 Trains. They were joined by Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan, co-founders and of She’s Back.
1. Ask for what you think you are worth
Getting paid more money for a job or freelance project may be as simple as just asking for it.
The best time to ask is when you are offered a job or contract with a new or existing employer, or commissioned to write a piece, because you know the buyer wants what you are selling.
Ensure you prepare your case. Write a list of your expertise/achievements to show why you should get more.
Practise asking for the highest figure possible in front of the mirror. A lot of our avoidance of asking for more money comes from fear of embarrassment and awkwardness.
2. Know your rates
You cannot hope to get paid the correct amount without knowing what the industry standard is. Encourage your friends and colleagues to talk about their pay honestly.
Research going rates on sites like Journo Resources and find out what others in an equivalent role are earning. If you are freelancing make a new rate card every year and ask for a rise in line with inflation.
Work out how much time a piece or project is going to take and what that time is worth.
Remember that when you accept low rates, you perpetuate the problem for yourself, your colleagues, and the future workforce.
3. If money is low, ask for something else
Some start-ups will understandably be limited on what they can pay freelancers – but remember, it’s their start-up, not yours. Even editors on national publications have tight budgets.
If a publication’s offer is still lower than what you think you are owed, can you ask them for something else? Could you negotiate flexible working, such different hours, time off, or working from home? Can they give you free products or services, send you on a free trip?
4. Be prepared to turn down work
Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. If you are being asked to work for a rate you know is too low, explain you can’t work for that fee.
Remember that certain asks require higher fees. If you are being asked for a very fast turnaround, accompanying pictures, lots of box-outs or multiple interviews, you should be paid more than the standard.
5. People want you to work for free
Journalism’s desirability is also its problem. Plenty of people starting out are willing to work for very little or no money. But imagine asking a plumber to sort out your drains for free. You have a skill that employers want and you deserve to be paid for utilising that skill for their benefit.
6. Find your niche
Hone a specialism and you will find editors will come to you rather than the other way around. It takes time to build, but it is worth it. As Monisha Rajesh said: “I am a brown woman who writes about trains”.
7. Keep developing your skills even during career breaks
Like other industries, journalism is constantly changing as technology develops, so even if you take time out your skills may not be up to date when you return.
Always be learning. Take free online courses, stay connected to work friends, and attend industry events.
Desirable skills mean you can ask for more money.
8. Do a good job and tell everyone
Delivering the service you have been asked for is so important. Don’t give employers an excuse to hit back when you ask for more money.
This means producing excellent work on time, which meets all the agreed requirements. Always be the answer to someone else’s problem.
Be prepared to go to meetings, on training courses and generally show willing – this helps expand your support network.
But don’t stop there. Your triumphs are not your boss’s triumphs. Make sure he or she knows what a good job you are doing, only then will you have a case for asking for more money.
9. Consider diversifying
If you currently only work in one area, medium, or platform, can you expand and make yourself more employable in the process?
Every successful business must now be present online and on social media. Someone has to produce this content for them.
Consider expanding into content and advertorial writing, social media, video making, or something else to ensure you get the pay you deserve.
10. Spread the word
Communication is key. As the recent reporting of the gender pay gap demonstrated, if everyone knew what each other earned, inequalities could be dealt with and pay would be fairer.