When I was a little girl, I was frequently told I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. From an early age I knew myself, refused to be told what to do and thought nothing of questioning the world around me; strong-willed doesn’t even cover it. The purity of youth allowed me to believe I could always be the best, but as the realities of life started to hit I slowly realised that I couldn’t always be the very best at everything – and that I had to support and celebrate those who surpassed my own skill and ability. That didn’t ever mean I wasn’t aware of my own worth though; I vividly remember starting petitions, launching school protests, refusing to abide by rules or punishments I deemed unfair, demanding change and questioning why I wasn’t paid as much as the boys when I got my very first job.
Knowing your worth, and your voice, is a powerful tool – and a tool many more of us should embrace.
As I progressed through my career I was even more aware of the value I brought to the table, but requesting more responsibility or to be paid fairly was deemed ‘bolshy’ and unappealing; it seemed that young women (in particular but not exclusively) were expected to be grateful for the opportunities they were being given, even if that meant taking on responsibilities for a global brand while barely being able to afford to put petrol in her car. Back then it was easier to jump ship than it was to fight for pay that reflected my worth, so I worked my way up the career ladder by not being afraid to call it a day and move on.
Over the years I’ve come across more than my fair share of challenges, but the one that will always stick in my mind was within the last permanent job I had before deciding to take the leap into self-employment. Having supported a huge amount of new business, shaped the way we worked with clients, taken on more responsibility (and a team,) I believed I deserved not only a pay rise, but a promotion. And you know what I was told? If I was to receive a promotion, then the two boys on the same level as me (despite being younger, less experienced, working on less projects and not managing a team…) would also need a promotion ‘so as not to upset them.’ Honestly, that was the nail in the coffin for me right there; because I knew my worth, I understood my value and I refused to be penalised because of my gender.
Your worth is by no means intrinsically linked with monetary value, but in the simplest of terms this is how we tend to measure it in the workplace; it’s not about earning the highest salary, but earning a salary that makes you feel valued and respected – no matter your age, role or responsibility. Knowing your worth isn’t arrogant, it isn’t unsavory and it certainly isn’t anything to be embarrassed about (as women tend to be more than our male counterparts) – it’s empowering, it’s positive and it helps to carve out the path you want to walk for the rest of your life.
Nothing helps you start valuing yourself more than when you enter the world of self-employment. Having to actually attribute a monetary value to your time can feel like pinning a metaphorical tail on a metaphorical donkey: where do you even start? Over the last six years, through a lot of trial and error, I feel like I’ve been able to ask for a fair amount for my time and expertise – and the proof is in the pudding, when brands and agencies actually agree to pay it. I’ve been working in the beauty industry for 14 years, I’ve been blogging for nearly a decade, I’ve worked with some of the biggest brand names in the world, have seven award wins and numerous more nominations under my belt, have been featured in some of the biggest press titles and TV shows. I know my stuff, and I deserve to be paid accordingly.
When it comes to my blog, my fees are fair but take into consideration my expertise and trusted opinion, my audience and statistics, my longevity and industry recognition, as well as the time it takes to create high quality written and visual content. I’m open to negotiation, I’m always flexible when working within budget and constraints, but increasingly it’s becoming incredibly frustrating to have my content devalued and my worth brought into question because of narrow perimeters that make little sense outside of an Excel spreadsheet.
To put it into context, recently I was offered £65.00 for a series of 16 Instagram Stories for a new beauty brand; that equates to the equivalent of two of their products in retail value, or £4.00 a story. It can take me anywhere up to half a day to take imagery, plan content, write the copy, send it for approval, make any amends, post it live and report on insights – and the brand in question would only remunerate me to the value of £4.00 an hour, less than half of minimum wage.
No matter what you’re doing, where you work or how you make your money, NOBODY should be working for that little. No, just NO.
And it’s not just a one off. Within the space of a few days I was asked to create a large amount of content for around 30% of my usual fee, to reduce my day rate in half because ‘we’re a new company’, to talk at a ticketed event for free, to give away the rights to my imagery indefinitely without remuneration, to create a few thousand pounds worth of content in return for a couple of polyester tops, and meet someone for a coffee to ‘pick my brains’ about a new business idea. I have no issue with supporting new brands and businesses, with reducing my rates or compromising on fees, but I do object to being told how much I’m worth time and time again by those who really don’t know how to appreciate expertise when they see it.
Because they’re not just paying for the output, they’re paying for the years of skill building it took to be able to create that output.
You may think that arrogant, but I’m 36 years old and have spent my entire career battling against preconceptions and proving myself time and time again. I don’t have the highest stats, the best engagement or the most progressive approach, but what I do have is a trusted network, genuine knowledge, content that delivers in the long term and a not-too-shabby approach to copy writing and photography. Brands and businesses that approach to work with me are doing so for a reason, and if they’re not willing to meet me half way then I’m not willing to endorse their product, support their business or give them my time.
I’m not afraid of saying no – and you shouldn’t be either.
We all have to make rent and pay our bills, and sometimes compromise is essential, but we should be placing value on our time, skill and expertise even when others don’t. So let this be the motivation you need to start knowing your worth and putting associated value on that.
Ask for more money at work. Turn down the ‘opportunity’ that is anything but. Refuse to work for exposure alone. Don’t do anything you’re not wholly comfortable with.
Start valuing yourself and others will start doing the same. Promise.
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