Women Are Paying Themselves Half Their Worth


Tonight I discovered that women in business for themselves are paying themselves half of their worth. Gender pay gap be damned, we're doing it to ourselves and not even realizing it. This isn't a beat-ourselves-up-post, it's a hit-ourselves-over-the-head-and-wake-up post.

The Discovery of the Self-Imposed Pay Gap

During an event hosted at our office here at Tin Shingle in Beacon, NY for a group called Hudson Valley Women in Business, I was talking to a friend who designs high-end jewelry. And her jewelry isn't cheap. It took me three years to finally pull the trigger on a pair of her earrings. While we were talking at this event, I told to her that I'm making discoveries in an Artist's Way group I'm in that she was considering joining, and I confessed to her what I discovered in my Artist's Way journey.

I have recently made a discovery that despite what I sell not being cheap, I still don't make enough to make a salary. There I said it. Business bills get paid, but that's it. And I don't know why. No matter what the business expenses are, I make them, but not much more. Why? I'm in need of a money mindset shift.

I confessed this to my friend, and in response, she admitted that while she was coming up with pricing for a workshop series she was leading for a non-profit organization, she really struggled with the pricing. Them being a non-profit and all, and her being a super do-gooder person, she grappled with a real price. She broke down the hours it took her to prepare for the class, and then to deliver the class, and realized that her hourly rate for the workshop was actually double what she thought she should be charging. She took a deep breath, submitted the rate to the prospective client, and they didn't bat an eye. "Oh sure, that price is right in line with what we pay our other people."

My friend was shocked at their acceptance of her rate, and that she almost undercharged for her time and talent by half.

Another time years ago, I moderated a small panel at Barnard College for women in business. One of the panelists was a woman who co-founded a frozen dessert company. They made this chocolate dessert and sold it in many stores, including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and others. They had fleets of trucks shipping their product all over the country. They boasted that they never took a salary. None once. Why? To keep investing in their business. But why? I was stupefied.

Discovery of the Pay Discrepancy Made During The Artist's Way Journey

Last month during a Valentine making workshop, I bought (finally) a copy of The Artist's Way for $5, and committed to doing it because a friend asked for a book club around it and I accepted. I can host a book club in our office, so bring it on. It's met twice so far, and has been a really gentle, and intense experience. Love it.

The book is all about creativity as a spiritual practice, and that you can dive in and unclog. You can silence the "Censors" who tell you you can't do something. Why what you want to do is wrong or won't work. During this experience so far, I discovered (I think) that what needs unclogging for me right now is money and pricing. I've unleashed some crafting creativity in the form of furniture painting and website design, so I'm all good there. But something made me buy this book and agree to show up each week to this group of others who are showing up each week, and what has emerged for me is the money aspect. There is something wrong with how I'm earning it.

I'm Not The Cheapest Chip In Town

Never have been. Even when I sold accessories I designed and produced, I paid someone to sew them, so I built that into my pricing, and advocated that others do as well. Consulting isn't cheap either - at $175/hr, so what's the problem? Or maybe that is cheap! LOL

I'm making exactly enough to pay the business bills. That is the problem. Whatever that number is, is what I make. It's need based. There is no cushion. There is no profit margin. If the business  bills go up, the gross number goes up, but the net stays the same. That's no problem. The amount made is for the amount needed for bills at that moment. I may have issues with profit margin. It may make me uncomfortable. And that is what I need to unclog.

The Salary - Undervalued

I was approached to head up the communications effort for a large client. I don't know their budget, but let's just say that they are pretty big with a lot going on. They wanted me to put something together to create and promote their communications. To report on their business, essentially. I told them I'd need 2 writers and a designer at least, and that I'd come back with a proposal. And where do I factor into that budget, because I would not be the main writer. I would be the producer and guide of the content strategy and execution.

So I thought, Ok, if we were on staff, in their Communications Department (which they don't have), what would my own salary be? It would be $46K. How do I know? Because that's what I made at my last full time job 15 years ago. So that must be right. They'd be saving lots of money because they wouldn't pay my health insurence or any other benefits. So it's right, right?

Wrong. It's been 15 years and the work I've done to build three businesses with three websites that reach hundreds of thousands of people and has changed the lives of some, is worth something. When I was quitting my day job 15 years ago to strike out on my own as a website designer and now also a digital marketer, an editor of The Village Voice interviewed for my job. When she learned the salary, she admitted that she couldn't possibly work for a salary that low. I underestimated what I did then, at $46K, so what am I doing now? Fifteen years and a lot of experience later?

Where Do We Go From Here?

I don't know. I'm working through the money issues through The Artist's Way because I have a feeling I'm going to have to face some Censors. And then I'm going to call Galia Gichon to whip my plans into shape and take her current Accelerator program with HerCorner.

I'm embracing March Madness as getting mad about my money issues and facing them. There is no reason for this! Enough. And the change is in my hands! Our hands. We are the boss. So let's make it happen! And realize that our needs, what we "need" to earn is actually much greater, and includes Summer Camp, IRAs, cash saved for when you can't work because you go on your own family leave, and a new couch, dammit!

Photo Credit: Like this photo? It's awesome and was made available on CreativeMarket.com from Ira Cvetnaya.