I think maybe it’s time we all had a chat about money. Specifically, asking for money. No, I don’t need a loan – yet, it’s something else. It’s about you. Asking for money, for yourself.
There has been a lot of talk recently about how men get paid more than women because men are better at negotiating. Women ought, said some people, to learn to do it better, then they’d be paid the same.
Lesson? The pay gap is our own fault.
Then the backlash came. Hang on – why should women be paid less than men because, overall, they are possibly more likely to find those conversations difficult and uncomfortable?
I totally agree with this latter statement. Why should I be paid less for doing the same job as a man, (or another woman, frankly), because when it comes to money I find I don’t have the words to talk about it? I don’t work in finance. I’m not especially competitive. I don’t do a job that requires that particular skill. So why penalise me financially because I can’t?!
Unfortunately, the world isn’t like that yet. There seem to me to be wild discrepancies between salaries all over the place. It’s just not fair – literally.
So until it is, let’s have a go at being more upfront about money. Because it actually might be more straightforward than you think it is.
I met a senior media executive the other night, who is a woman and didn’t want to be named, who said emphatically that we need to be more masculine about all this. That we need to present our case for more money clearly and without emotion. And although I liked her and thought she was brilliant and captivating I thought, well… the thing is, if it was that easy – we’d do it.
Personally, I think the trick is to find your words, your language, that you feel alright with using when it comes to money. Find euphemisms if you want to – talk about “value” and “recognition” rather than saying “more money”. My problem in the past when it came to talking about money was that I literally didn’t know where to pitch it. I thought being “more masculine” meant being rude and brutal, when maybe it doesn’t work like that. And anyway, I don’t want to be like a man. I want to be like a woman who can talk about money.
I had a message the other day from a reader who wanted advice on how much to ask for a writing project. She said “I don’t want to price myself out of it.”
That struck me as a killer line – the fear that by asking for “too much” you will end things. That comes from a place where we mostly live in a world where things have a fixed price and you either pay it or go away. But salaries and freelance fees, I think we have all learnt over the last 18 months, have some flexibility.
It’s not about being paid absurdly over the odds for the work that you do, it’s about being paid that absolute maximum that the company’s budget allows for you and on that basis deciding whether or not you are prepared to get out of bed for it.
I dislike the idea that we all ought to want to be superwomen, that the endgame is Joanna Coles, that we ought to want to be kicking ass in a boardroom and earning £3m per year. I don’t want to do that, either – I want to do the job that I do and I want to be paid appropriately for it.
It’s just about not being treated like a punk.
So bear in mind that when you are negotiating over money, it is very unlikely that you will ask for a sum of money that will make the other party say “Forget it, bye.”
You are not a shop. They will not silently look at the price tag and then scuttle out. That’s why it’s called a negotiation – it’s like a conversation, but slightly different – and the people who like doing it, love doing it.
If you can get your head round even maybe even slightly thinking that it’s fun, you will be unstoppable.
I mean, it’s not like I’m Gordon Gekko, but I’m rather aware that there are some people out there who don’t even do basic bargaining.
Anyway I don’t think it’s too much to give away if I reveal how most of my fee negotiations go.
Them: So what are your rates/would you expect to be paid for this.
Me: I really like the sound of this project!! So, so keen. My fee would be £XXX.
Them: We haven’t got that.
Me: Oh right, well what have you got then?
Them: We’ve got XXX
Me: Alright well call it XXX + 10% and you’ve got a deal
You may be worried that someone will think you are “up yourself” if you ask for a robust fee and that may very occasionally be the case, but they are just wrong; you’re only asking, that is not being “up yourself” it’s just good sense.
Other times the negotiation goes like this:
Them: For this project we can offer £X
Them: Sorry, we know it’s not very much but it will be very good exposure.
Me: How about £X + 5
Them: Sorry we don’t have it
Me: That’s a shame but for the time and work involved in this, £X doesn’t make financial sense.
Sometimes, on really good days, it goes like this.
Them: We’d like 500 words for £XXX
Me: Amazing!! Thanks.
Of course, this is not just about us. This is about our children – and when I say children I mean daughters. I see it happening with my own kids even now; no-one has taught Sam to just demand and demand and demand and shriek and shriek until he gets what he wants. He negotiates hard, counting out on his fingers, simply not scared of being told no.
Kitty, on the other hand, while she’s not scared of stuff, (and we have no “little girls ought to be nice” BS thing in our house), I feel like it doesn’t cross her mind to ask, it doesn’t cross her mind that she might want something more than she doesn’t want to be told no. It doesn’t occur to her, unlike Sam, to sidle up to me and say something like “So, if I do this and this and this – and remember Sam got that – can I have another LOL Surprise?”
We spend our lives teaching our kids things – both on purpose by also by setting an example; change your own attitude towards money and you will pass it on.
Anyway enough about me – how about you? Are you a kick-ass negotiator? Or have you literally never asked for a pay rise. Please use the handy comment box below.
For further reading on this, the weekend papers just gone had a great piece from Dame Helena Morrissey about negotiating pay at the back of Style; Sunday Times Magazine had a brilliant – although slightly tangential to this subject – piece by Christine Armstrong about how top exec women with kids are not giving us the complete picture about how hard it is/how much help they have/how much they drink. It was fascinating! Christine will be on The Spike answering my searching questions such as what she’s having for dinner and her favourite shoes very soon.