Are Women Asking for Enough Pay? | See Girl Work

Are Women Asking for Enough?

Arlene Dickinson

When it comes to getting paid in our businesses, are women asking for enough? How imposture syndrome might be hurting our bottom line.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I sat at my desk at home and stared at the computer screen. I was supposed to have pushed the send button a long time ago. My boyfriend was on the way over and we had plans for a late Saturday morning breakfast.

But there I was sitting at my desk and staring at my computer screen. My index finger hovered over the mouse. The cursor hovered over the numbers on the computer screen.

I was staring at my first client invoice.

When I first started my freelance marketing and writing business, I was doing it on the side while working a full-time job. I had a very simple website with not much on it. After all, I didn’t have any freelance clients. I only had my blog and a few ideas on how I could help small business clients with marketing their own services.

I met my first paying client at a networking event and I jumped at the chance to manage her social media and provide marketing consultation. My rate was very low. I justified it with the rationale that it was my first client, I had an unproven record in this landscape and I just needed someone in the door.

“I can’t have a business without a client,” I told myself.

Off I went, putting in all my weekend time, taking calls during the day (while at work) and then rushing home to work on my business some more in the evening.

The work was put it and now it was time to bill for it. But why was I so nervous? Why did I feel like I didn’t earn the right to be paid? Why did I feel bad about having to charge?

“I can’t have a business without invoicing clients,” again I reminded myself. Still, I couldn’t escape feeling anxious.

Fast forward almost two years later. I’ve been invited to attend PayPal Canada’s Small Business Growth Council‘s first event, a roundtable discussion moderated by Canadian entrepreneur, Arlene Dickinson (pictured above).

The Council is made up of a small group of Canadian small business owners—myself included. With a mix of women and men, the array of small business owners come from diverse professional backgrounds.

Paul Parisi, the President of PayPal Canada, welcomes the group and leads off the discussion.

We start by reviewing stats from PayPal’s new Emerging Entrepreneurship Study. The online survey focused on 5-9’ers—single business owners who run their business in addition to working a full-time job.

The study reports that there is an estimated 2.5 million Canadians (nine percent of the adult population) who run a side business in addition to working full-time. In the past 12 months, this community reported combined median revenues of $2.5 billion dollars.

We rally behind the findings as they are read aloud by Mr. Parisi.

I know what it is to work your full-time job alongside a full-time side hustle. That’s how I started my freelance business and I’ve met so many incredible small business owners, creatives and creators who continue to hustle this way.

In fact, with this blog as my new side hustle, I still identify as a 5-9’er.

That’s why I took a special interest in attending this event. It was delightful to finally have our community recognized as meaningful contributors to the Canadian economy.

As 5-9’er’s, we work hard, earn money from our businesses, employ other small business owners, hire caterers, book venues, order supplies, use Canada Post, pay for shipping – we do just about everything that a full-time business owner does.

Many of us do it as passion projects. But many of us run side businesses because we need to earn additional income.

At the roundtable discussion, we continue to read through the statistics and engage in light discussion. But things didn’t really get interesting until one stat jumps off the screen.

Are Women Asking for Enough Pay?
Image: PayPal Canada’s Small Business Growth Council

Women represent 66% of the 5-9’er community, according to the study. Yet reported revenues for women who work a side hustle is 71% lower than men.

As Ms. Dickinson opens the discussion to the group, I am immediately brought back to that time when I had to send my first invoice and the anxiety I felt of having to bill my client, of having to tell someone that they now owed me money.

It wasn’t something that I struggled with at my full-time job as much. But certainly, something I struggled with during those first few early months of running my own side business.

The group discussion becomes livelier as we speculate about why women aren’t earning as much in their side hustle businesses.

To me, the stat made perfect sense. I am in the 71% of those women who earn less than men who also work a side hustle.

I undervalue my services. I charge obscenely low rates for what I deliver to my clients. I don’t ask for enough. That’s really the bottom line.

A part of it is because I know I still have a lot to prove in terms of the value I can provide to my clients. But mostly, I undercharge due to lack of confidence and the professional insecurities that dominate my psyche.

I am profoundly aware that my imposture syndrome affects my bottom line. But I don’t know anything that will get rid of it faster and more definitive than experience. At least that’s what I’m counting on. And it’s a sentiment that Ms. Dickinson seemed to agree with.

With experience, I will have built up a stellar portfolio, client list, network of other professionals and entrepreneurs—and revenue. With experience, invoicing a client will be a simple admin task that I can get through without overthinking or having to question my entire moral being.

I’ll be able to talk about money first, not last and I’ll be able to ensure that both myself and my client feel confident in the value that I’m bringing to the table.

A study by @PayPalCA found that revenue for women who work a side job is 71% less than men. Click To Tweet

As women, it doesn’t make sense to me that we should start 5-9 businesses or even become full-time business owners and deal with the same exact same fears and problems that we do with our day jobs. Especially because there will be a lot more new and different issues to resolve.

The whole point of having something for myself is so I can create a business where I can thrive, lead, succeed on my terms and make some of my own rules.

If experience equals revenue then I have no problem laying that kind of foundation. But I refuse to let insecurity and fear paralyze my forward growth.

Let’s ask for more, send our invoices and get paid.


Images via PayPal


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Alethea Robinson

Founder & Blogger-in-Chief, See Girl Work

Alethea Robinson is a freelance marketing & content writer who provides content strategy, blogging, and writing & editing services for creative agencies and small to medium-sized businesses. In addition to her freelance business, Alethea is also founder and blogger-in-chief at See Girl Work, an online community for creative, entrepreneurial-minded women. Before starting her blog and freelance business, Alethea worked in marketing and communications for over 15 years.

  • Christian Cashelle

    Thank you for writing this! I have this gut feeling when I invoice my editing clients or discuss my rates with them. It’s kind of sad that so many of us undervalue ourselves. It’s a learned behavior that we have to break.

    • @christiancashelle:disqus I appreciate your comment. I agree it’s a learned behaviour. Women are cultured to undervalue ourselves. Now we have to “unlearn” it.

  • Wanderlust

    Thanks for this post. You’ve given me food for thought as I map out breaking away from corporate America and what that entails. Bottom line: don’t sell yourself short. That’s the most important lesson I’ve gleaned from this.

    • It’s definitely a part of being a solo business owner that we have to learn and practice and support other women in as well. Thanks for your comment.

  • Tisha Miltiades

    You’ve raised some valid points here! Peopple discuss this all the time but I’ve never really understood how the page gap could even be possible. As a student, all of my internships and placements have paid at a set rate and so it’s not something that has affected me but this post has definitely made me think! Thanks for sharing!

    • @tishamiltiades:disqus it’s good to keep in mind. After you leave school, you’ll no doubt have to negotiate your starting salary. Good luck with school! Hope it’s going well.

      • Tisha Miltiades

        Thank you! 🙂 x

  • Tasheena Ticer

    My work experience is as a teacher so I’ve never had to face the issue of unequal pay, but I can imagine that it would be difficult for me to ask for a salary increase, even if I thought I deserved it. I’m so proud of all of the women like you who are bringing new light to these issues and empowering other women to do the same!

    • @tasheenaticer:disqus Thank you very much!

  • Pingback: Is Your Business Just an Expensive Hobby? | See Girl Work()


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