My favorite podcast in the world (other than my own), howstuffworks.com’s (a Discovery Channel subsidiary) Stuff Mom Never Told You just had an episode about how women are generally much less likely to negotiate at work and are underpaid as compared to men.
I remember when I first graduated from college, I didn’t know what I was worth. I only asked for very little. I was just super glad I was hired by my first job. I didn’t even ask about my benefits and number of work days until my first day of work. This pattern continued into my second job. I signed whatever was handed to me without question. I worked like a cow until I became sick of being so disproportionately paid and called it quit.
I always say money isn’t a priority to me, but it doesn’t mean I love to be enslaved. I think people who are passionate about what they do would say the same. What I think most employers try to mislead us to believe is that PASSION ALONE should be enough to compensate for exceedingly long hours, emotional torments, bad career prospects and such.
I’ve talked about how I was making very little doing what I loved for a long while during my career break, and I was perfectly fine with it. However, I must point out how stress free I was and how I worked only 2 hours a day and spent the rest of my day writing my novel, dining out with friends and working out. In terms of hourly wage, I was paid very decently, I was just underemployed.
When I was recruited for my current job, I was asked my salary range. I was unsure if I should asked for that much, but then I reminded myself if I wasn’t paid as much as I thought I deserved, I’d end up feeling unappreciated again, and that feeling sucked. I was also sure I had the skill set that was hard to find in this job market, so I made the bold move. Now I’m just really glad I stood up for myself. I love my current situation, and I just can’t stop telling people how lucky I am to be paid this much doing something I’m so competent in and working very reasonable hours around friendly people.
Another notable instance is setting my freelance rate card. When it comes freelancing, you’re pretty much your own financial analyst. You need to figure out your equilibrium and position yourself correctly. Since I’ve been so sick of making minimal for doing so much work in the past and have learned that most people just associate how much they pay to quality, I’ve set my target clientele early on to the premium market. I know my qualification is well above what the market is offering, and I know how much the average market price is. When I took my first client, I told him, “I’m expensive.” He said, “Just be frank with me.” I offered a rate at least twice the market price anxiously, and after some negotiations on other terms. We had a deal.
As my service became more in demand, I decided to pump my rate card because my time cost was no longer the same. In the process, I lost a client or two, but I let them go without cutting my rate to retain them. My schedule was so packed that I was happy to have some down time. Also, my new rate allowed me to work less and still make the same. However, as a workaholic trying super hard to save up for my education fund, I soon filled the slot with another project.
Looking back, of course there were times when I doubted my self-worth. There were times when I wondered if I was asking for too much. There were times when I contemplated whether I had overestimated my ability. In the end, I was glad I was confident enough to not sell myself short.
The podcast affirmed my belief that if you can’t convince yourself you deserve better, nobody will be convinced. Lowering your expectation is basically holding a sign saying you’re worth just that and nothing more.