The Secret to Getting Paid what You Deserve

I will forever be grateful to one of my clients, who, years ago, when I was still working as a freelance editor, told me that I was not charging him enough for my work. At the time I was getting paid $200 a day more than what I was paid just a year prior for a week of my time as a staff assistant editor. So I thought I was doing pretty well.

Yet this client told me that I was his first choice when he needed an editor, yet he was paying me $400 a day less than the guy he hired when I wasn’t available.

I was shocked not only by the amount, but by the fact that he was so honest that he was suggesting that I should raise my rate to match that of my competitor.

In fact he insisted, saying he felt embarrassed paying me less when he thought my work merited more.

So I raised my rate, not just for him but for all my clients.  I must admit it was a little nerve wrecking at first, and I worried that other clients might laugh and turn me down flat.

But what I learned was: that by raising my rate, I raised my perceived value and this opened me up to a completely new clientele.  You see, in many ways I earned a new respect — my clients assumed that if I was charging that much I must be amazingly good.  And they were never disappointed.

Here are some of the secrets I’ve learned to ensure I always get the reward I deserve,

Do Your Research

Know your market and what the average, high, and low rates are for both men and women.

All too often men secure better wages for the same job as women, and there is no good reason for this. Women have more than proven their worth in all businesses and should be paid equally.

If you are in a “traditional job” there are plenty of websites you can reference to get the information you need.  If you are blazing a new trail by creating your own business, or working as a freelancer, the internet can provide you with a pay range that is normal for the type of work, or service, you provide. Also your friends and family can be an invaluable resource.  So ask people close to you for their advice.

Now I realize that although men have no problems discussing money with anyone, women often have blocks, and they tend to avoid the subject altogether.  We do this because, as with anything of importance to us, there is a real emotional charge attached to the subject of money.

It’s important for us to use that emotional energy in a positive way that emboldens us.

The key is to never lose sight of your — “why” — the reason you are working in the place.  Whether you seek more time with your children, the freedom to travel to exotic places, or expensive clothes, stay connected to that and you will have the courage to ask for what you deserve.

Believe in Your Own Worth

If you don’t believe you’re worth what you are asking for your client won’t believe it either.

Your voice and body language will betray you if you don’t believe fully that you deserve what you are asking for, and you will not receive the compensation you merit.  Be bold and courageous, and believe in yourself and your right to proper reward for your time and expertise.

The key to my being able to secure a higher rate was my sincere belief that I deserved it.  I was also annoyed to find out that men generally were paid higher rates than I, just because they were men. I was determined to change that and get paid equally.

Mission Accomplished

Once I made that commitment to myself, my clients responded favorably.  I realized perhaps women were paid less simply because they didn’t know to ask for more money.

Remember, your fees are not a reflection of you but are a reflection of how much you value your work. Time invested in your business is time away from your family.  So make sure it counts and you’ll always know the investment in your career is worth the return.

Don’t Compromise

Be willing to walk away if the opportunity is not the right one.

I once made the mistake of lowering my rate for a new client.  He’d been referred by another client of mine and had a reputation for producing good work.  When he came to me, however, he cried poverty, and insisted that if I did him a favor just this one time, he’d pay me my real rate when he had a project with a bigger budget.

Against my better judgement I caved in a agreed to do it “just this once.”  Well I never saw this client again!

When the project with the big budget came along he hired an editor who always charged a higher rate.  I had proven that I could do excellent work, for a fraction of the price, but in doing so I shot myself in the foot, because I changed his perception of me forever.

He paid this other editor a much higher fee, because in his mind I remained a low budget editor.

Don’t ever cave in and agree to work for less than what you deserve.  So much of your worth is perceived worth.

Have Firm Boundaries

In my editing business I realized that the bigger companies are often the ones who take the longest to pay you.

Slow payers have all sorts of reasons for this, such as the channels your paperwork has to go through before the payment is approved.  The bottom line is that you are just a small fish in a big pond.  When you are in business for yourself working on a project for several weeks, or even months, that can be crucial.

Whenever I embarked on a long term project, I insist on a partial payment upfront, followed by regular installments until the job is complete.  The key is to make sure the terms are clear and agreed to before you start on the project.

And what about the client who always has a sob story and never pays on time?

While it is okay to feel sympathy when a client is having difficulty, don’t let it impact your business, or your life in a negative way.  If a client can’t pay you on time, or if a check bounces, empathize but don’t allow yourself to feel guilty on their behalf.

Be firm about your boundaries.  You can be forgiving and lenient once, but don’t let bad or tardy payments become a habit.

Create your own destiny

Don’t settle for just a “job.” Follow your heart and pursue something you are truly passionate about.

Women are starting businesses at twice the rate than men are these days. I believe this trend is partly due to our need do things our way.  Men and women approach business differently and more and more women are finding they are much more successful when they step out on their own.

With technology this is easier than ever before, and work-from-home opportunities abound.  There are plenty of support networks for women entrepreneurs — find them, and use them to your full advantage (I’m going to do an article on these tools soon so stay tuned).  That is probably one of our greatest qualities, we want to help our sisters succeed!

I worked in the Hollywood Industry for 20 years and I’ve seen plenty of the bad and the ugly. It is an industry that thrives on the notion of scarcity — there are few jobs and plenty of people eager to break in and make their mark.  Sadly many people take advantage of this and try to pay as little as they can.  In today’s economy I know this is a trend that has seeped into many other fields.

I’ve also seen plenty of the good.  I’m proud to say that I have had an amazing career working with phenomenal people and on rewarding projects,  I also know that I am very good at what I do, in fact I can say boldly that I am regarded as one of the best.  And it is that confidence in my skill, and the value I bring to every project, that has earned me the respect of my clients and afforded me an exciting career.

I’ve also learned that I am the happiest when I can work on my own terms.

No matter how much you love what you do, remember that work is just a means to an end.  Work must enhance your life and not take away from it.  So pursue something you love and have the courage to ask for the compensation you deserve. You’ll be a much happier mom and your family will thank you for it.

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  1. This is really good 🙂 Especially the perceived value on higher pay scale. More business owners should realize this.

    • Lisa, you are so right, and the more we stand up for ourselves, the faster they will! You are doing phenomenal things to help women step into to their full power. Thank you!

  2. I get this. It’s not always easy to give oursleves permission to follow our passion and then charge what we’re really worth. I’m working towards a new adventure and will need to keep your words in mind as I travel this new and exciting path I’ve choosen. 🙂

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