Borrowed From The Boys + How To Know Your Worth
Earlier this year, I was sitting down for lunch with my older brother and some friends, when a topic relating to the Times Up initiative came up in conversation. We were debating whether or not the film All The Money in the World looked worthy of a cinema trip, when I mentioned the recent scandal involving Mark Wahlberg, where he was paid a significantly larger reshoot fee than his co-star Michelle Williams (of which Wahlberg then donated to Times Up). Whilst I expressed an annoyance at the sexism within the industry, my brother felt that Williams hadn’t negotiated as good a deal as Wahlberg. As Big Bro saw it, she had missed the mark on securing the right fee for herself. Of course, that situation is more complicated than just bad negotiation skills, however it did get me thinking about my own abilities at pricing my work, especially in comparison to the male counterparts in my life.
Talking money is always an awkward and uncomfortable activity for the majority of us. I’ve been freelance for over a year and the pricing game still hasn’t become any easier or clearer. I regularly worry about pitching myself too high or going in too low. Whenever I’m really struggling to find the right price, one of the oldest tricks in the book is to ask, “what’s the budget for this project?” Ah relief - they now can quote me a fee and I can take my time in deciding if A) it works for me, and B) I can negotiate a better rate. But what happens when they get to you first and ask you similarly? What’s the game plan then?
My go-to-mode is to panic at the thought of scaring off the potential work. Yet I’m curious - can you actually scare work away? Surely if someone is interested enough in you and sees enough value in your work, they’ll be willing to negotiate a happy middle? Or am I being idealistic? I guess it’s more about navigating through competition within an overly saturated market, understanding your USP and valuing yourself appropriately.
BORROWED FROM THE BOYS
I’ve noticed a trend amongst the men in my life: they pitch high. They pull numbers out of the air that I would never dare to ask anyone for, and they do it without even breaking a sweat. Again, I consulted my older brother (being the successful businessman he is) about his thoughts on my sponsorship requests for a new project I’m currently working on, and he suggested I increase my pricing by 30-40%. What followed was an inner monologue of self-doubt, such as, “why couldn’t I muster up his same confidence with numbers from the start? Am I not good at maths? Why was I willing to undercut myself and settle for less? Why was I afraid to ask for too much money?” And so on and so forth.
While self-doubt is not an experience exclusive to females, in my own experience, I have found men’s approach to money as more ballsy.
They calculate the costings of what the job demands of them (staff fees and their own service hours), research their competition and then add a little extra to cover their own expertise and USP. I often forget about the latter and haven’t yet developed the ‘I’m the shit’ attitude or the ‘I know my stuff’ mindset, therefore never include that additional ‘expert’ pricing.
Brazen perhaps, but we could all use a bit more oomph when it comes to demanding what we are due. And let me tell you, there is nothing as annoying as pitching yourself too low. The number of times I’ve kicked myself when whipping out a price only to find that my counterparts negotiated a much better rate than I did, simply because I settled out of a fear of overpricing myself rather than pushing for a fee I believed I was worth. So, for the second quarter of 2018, I’m working on banishing any anxiety around talking money and knowing my worth when it comes to pitching myself to brands.
HOW TO KNOW YOUR WORTH
Okay, so with a new focus, comes questions on practicality, such as, how do you even go about knowing your worth? Is there a spreadsheet somewhere that acts as a reference? How does one break down and budget the services they offer?
I decided to put the question out to my followers on Instagram and received a ton of very helpful suggestions (thanks guys!). Here are some of the things you should be aware of when it comes to pricing yourself correctly, whether as a blogger, influencer or freelancer.
DO YOUR RESEARCH: Research online what someone in a full time, paid position is making and add a third unto that price to account for your costs as a freelancer. Don’t forget, only you are responsible for your sick pay, holiday pay, equipment, etc… and these need to be accounted into your service fees.
TALK TO PEOPLE: When you don’t know where to start with pricing, speak to others in a similar field with a similar experience level to yourself, and very politely ask how much they are charging. People can get funny about sharing exact numbers but even a ballpark figure will give you some idea of whether your numbers match up.
CHARGE FOR YOUR EXPERTISE: List out all the services you can provide, along with how many hours it will take to do the job. That will be your base rate but then you should add a percentage based on your experience/expertise (like that extra 30-40% my brother was talking about). Word of warning, be sure you are able to deliver what it is you’re selling, otherwise, this added bonus won’t make sense to the brand/client.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?: When negotiating with brands/clients, be aware that they might pull your numbers down so it’s a good idea to have a rough plan of how low a fee you’re willing to accept. A fee is a benchmark on how important the project is to you, so when you hit that threshold, that can act as a compass to gauge what the job is worth to you. Remember that just because someone isn’t willing to pay you your quoted price doesn’t automatically suggest that your price is too high. They might be a smaller brand with less budget (something else to consider when pricing). Don’t forget that a fee isn’t the only thing you can negotiate, and if a brand/client isn’t willing to budge on a price, you can negotiate the services on offer.
WHEN DO YOU NEED IT BY?: When being approached about a project, be aware of the timeframe that the service is being asked to be delivered within. If a brand/client wants a very quick turn around, you can charge a pretty, premium fee for such a demand.
SOMETIMES, GO PRO BONO: Know when to take unpaid projects. No one wants to work for free but sometimes, you can take value from a job that isn’t about financial gain. I’m all for creative collaboration, but you need to be very clear on how the partnership benefits you. Nothing in life is really free and time is money honey, so if you’re willing to put in the hours, ask yourself what you’re getting out of it (brands love to quote exposure or clients love to say experience but those are things you have to decide for yourself!). However, if you want to evolve in the market, then this could be a great opportunity to be super creative and add a different dimension to your business. It’s all about the creative freedom and challenging yourself.
UP THE PRICE: Finally as your experience, knowledge base, network and follow count grows, so should your prices! It’s important to regularly reevaluate your rates. I like to do a new budget breakdown for my services every quarter. Others monitor it by project e.g. if you land an amazing deal with Nike, you can hike those prices up again.
A STORY STORY
I’ll end with a little tale I once heard when I started blogging. There was a small rumour hovering around the blogosphere about a now-famous influencer, who back in the day was charging £700 for a blog post when she was still classed as a micro-influencer. Yes, that number was initially shocking, but what I found interesting was her attitude towards pricing. She had spent time evaluating how much she believed her services were worth, and conclusively came to that figure. Of course, not every brand was willing to pay that fee but surprisingly, there were brands that she could adequately justify that price to. In the long run, that money brought about a credibility to her name, and as she increased in following so did her finances.
I’m not necessarily advocating that we all skyrocket our prices so drastically, because ultimately it has to make sense to what you're offering and how much available budget the brand/client can attribute to your work (dependant on the size of their company). However, I hope it pushes us all to reconsider our rates and analyse whether we are valuing ourselves correctly.
Every budgeting plan is different and each one has its own risks, so it’s important to do what’s right for you and set up a foundation for yourself to build upon. If you’re charging for blog posts, take a look at this blogger’s pricing suggestions for sponsored posts. If you’re charging for sponsorship on your Instagram, I would encourage you to have a read of this article on influencer rates in the US. Be warned that there is a still certain amount of trial and error when it comes to these things but if any of those conversations with my brother has taught me anything, it is to err on the side of caution and price slightly higher than you’re comfortable with. Otherwise, not only will we be underselling ourselves but also undercutting our colleagues in the industry, which will have a detrimental effect to us all in the long run.
So next time you are faced with the challenge of pricing yourself, don’t be afraid to 'think like a man', raise your price a tad and accommodate for the extra 1/3 of freelancer/expertise costings. You’re so worth it, I promise.