Female Copywriters Talking Pay Gap

There’s a vast gender pay gap in copywriting. That’s what the Pro Copywriters’ Network survey showed last year; this year it was still there but BIGGER.
There are conflicting views on why this is but it was one male view in particular that prompted my dear copybuddy, Kady, to ask around her network for our views. This is what she asked:

What’s your overall take on the ‘salaries/rates’ bit of this year’s survey results?

I’m a freelance copywriter but I also write in-house and the pay gap has grown even more in that area since last year, which is quite terrifying. I dislike asking for more money but I do make myself do it, and it’s always been successful. Should I have asked for more each time? Perhaps. Would a man? Perhaps.
I do know this: money is the point of what you’re doing. I love writing with a burning fire of adoration. But I need money and it’s why I write. If you’re in the 41% of people who told PCN they want to earn more, I hope this year is your year. Only you can make it happen.

More women took the survey than men, and the gender pay gap’s still increased. Why do you suspect that is?

It’s a small sample. There are going to be wild fluctuations. Of course, the trend is worrying and upsetting but the numbers could be skewed by all sorts of things.
BUT. I do believe in the pay gap and I don’t believe it’s down to women not being ballsy enough to ask for more money or mentioning cupcakes too much. Men and women are different, and women shouldn’t have to sterilise their online selves in order to be taken seriously. If that bias exists, it’s an employer issue and we shouldn’t all just allow that to continue. 
Society has an ingrained problem with women. I’m not going to guess that this pay gap is down to ladies having babies but women generally have a care burden that gets in the way of everything else – from their own point of view and from an employer’s. Maybe when we stop hating women for working or even put them in hiring positions, female copywriters will ask for more and be given it. Or offered it, for God’s bloody sake. 
I’m being hyperbolic and childish but soz, between pay gaps and thigh gaps, that’s how this crap makes me feel. 

Have your own rates changed since last year’s survey?

Yup. I have the luxury of not needing my freelance work to survive because it’s all done in my ‘spare’ time. I can weigh up price by how much or how little I want to do the project. A concept I’m sure would make Andy Maslen shudder, though I’ll qualify: the price only goes up, not down. 
I recently secured a 43% increase for a regular gig – basically because it was that or quit it. I couldn’t justify the time spent anymore, even though I really love the work. Luckily, the client went for it. If I didn’t have a long history with them and a secure day job taking up most of my time, I might have been slightly less bold. Or maybe more bold, more hungry. Can’t say for sure.
For freelancers, getting clients and charging money is your daily grind. You are running a business. You have no comfy salary cushion, you have no health care, gym discount or free coffee. You SHOULD be hustling, whether you’re male or female, and it takes many years of experimentation with pitching to get a feel for what to charge.
If you feel you’re not earning enough (hey, who doesn’t?), find out how to earn more. Pitch high a few times; it’s a risk but you NEED to take it to move forward. Don’t let your rates stagnate. The world is growing more expensive while you sit on your fees, getting poorer.

Is ‘put your rates up’ the catch-all answer?

Neeeeeeowwww. For a newish copywriter, pricing is as delicate as glass. When you have a small number of clients – probably small businesses, not Coca-Cola – and you’re trying to pay rent, saying straight out that you’re putting your rates up is not the answer to pulling in more money.
Certainly, put your rates up for new clients – bit by bit, not a hundredfold. And if you begin a new project for an existing client, pump up your quote a bit. They don’t have to be told straight out “I’ve increased my daily rate by X%, k thnx bye.” You shouldn’t be telling them what your every minute costs them, anyway. That’s not how this works. You’re not a therapist.
I’ll say this: at the very least, you should be adjusting your fees every year. Inflation, but also personal growth. You get better every year and your clients are paying you not just as a tradesperson; you’re a consultant. Every project you’ve done (every problem you’ve solved, every course you’ve attended, every brief you’ve agonised over) is worth a lot to them. It’s not just your output that costs dollar, my friend. 

What’s the best pay-related advice you’ve been given, and what tips do you have for other writers?

It’s the same tired, old drum I always beat: Chris Miller. Always taking a beating, poor chap. Poor old drum. He told me no one really knows what they’re doing when it comes to money. After many years as a copywriter for agencies and freelance, he pitched for a job and was later told he’d put in the lowest quote “by MILES.” 
Unless you’re Andy Maslen, who has an incredible capacity for the business side of copywriting (which – sorry, hun – is all of it, really), you probably don’t fully understand what your copy is worth. I guess it’s something that comes with experience but he’s right when he says your work could be worth millions to that ‘small business’ when they sell to Microsoft, even if it took you an hour to do and you reckon that hour of your life is worth £50. 
Chris said the same, with a very similar example:
Here’s a strapline for a few hundred quid. That’s yours to slap on every bleedin’ TV ad/item of stationery/T-shirt/novelty hat/website/banner ad/dirigible/200ft-high holographic squirrel you produce over the next 2,000 years.”

Folks, if you’re good, you’re worth good money. 

In-house, not freelance, but I was stiffed on my starting salary at my current company. I had an offer below what I wanted (a salary I was actually already earning) and I negotiated, asking for more once I’d passed my probation. That was agreed and I was proud. I later found the job specification with my boss’s salary estimate. It had taken me nearly two years to start earning what he’d set as the maximum for my starting salary. 

I still work for the company and took enough of a leap in both role and salary to make that OK – and that particular boss is no longer here, though I don’t blame him for my own mistake. But I certainly learned a little something from that.

You can’t pitch too high if they want you; they’ll come back with another offer and you don’t have to take that either. Once you know you’re good enough for a company to really, really need you, you’ll feel less scared about shooting for that shiny ol‘ moon. 

One response to “Female Copywriters Talking Pay Gap”

  1. […] [Note: Honor recently pointed out that she’s since changed her mind about the reasons for the pay gap, and what people need to do about it. She’s written a whole blog post about it, here.] […]

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