Decades after the first rumblings of women’s discontent, the built-in bias against equal pay remains real and endemic.
Some people speciously assert that women are paid less because they don’t believe they’re worth more – maybe so, in a few cases.
I can honestly say that what you’re “worth” when you run your own business is, in fact, a roller-coaster proposition. Whether you’re freelancing or a “CEO” of a small business, the joys of being an entrepreneur are not for everybody.
Regular income is vital to keep people emotionally and financially on an even keel. When you are out of work and short of money, you will likely have a low appetite for unpredictability and a low sense of worth.
Certainly, paid employment allows you to breathe a little and not be always fretting about that wolf at the proverbial door. There are other wolves to contend with (colleagues, clients, deadlines, project-scope creep, a board demanding reports), but for the moment, you are “worth” that salary that comes in fortnightly/monthly.
How do you preserve and measure your worth if you’re demoted, made redundant, or if you’re self-employed or a CEO of one?
1. What are you bringing to the table?
Think about examples of your prowess in delivering on-time, on-budget, excellent collaborative techniques for harnessing differently skilled team members, and judgement that comes of years of experience in a given field.
Then write them down, study them minutely; note the outcomes these past achievements accrued (e.g. improved sales figures, more clicks and downloads, etc). No matter whether others recognise what you’ve done, you have racked up a lot. Feel assured. Your list can boost your morale.
2. Listen carefully to clients and appreciate what you can get
Owing to the laws of supply and demand, they may have priced you well below your monetary “sweet spot” and hence you must negotiate. Be prepared to listen and be fair, but, most of all, be firm about your worth, if this is a deal-breaker issue for you.
3. Educate your clients
Politely inform potential clients about what the job entails. If they’re not prepared to understand and then, when you are hired, they make unreasonable requests, you will learn for next time to value yourself more.
4. Don’t absorb costs for the sake of delivering
If a problem arises, speak at the first possible instance about any overages, or costs that should not be yours. An ethical client will recognise what’s fair and what is not. Don’t lay yourself out to be taken advantage of, and don’t go into silent victim mode.
5. Gauge the trade-offs
If you do agree to absorb costs, what (beyond the money and or kudos) might you be entitled to receive in return? A referral to a better-paid project? Some free advice or payment in kind from this client? Take away copyright? A huge endorsement on your website? Discuss the likely trade-offs explicitly. Don’t leave the job empty-handed. You want to leverage what you did.
6. Assess your worth frequently
You are accruing “worth” every time you deliver another run on the board. Don’t expect breakouts of applause and champagne, however. It’s tough out there, but pat yourself on the back, and take a little break. Add your latest to your LinkedIn profile, write a summary about what you gained from the experience, and keep moving at a pace that’s right for you.
Worth is not unlike resilience. It has bounce.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.