• Finance

Male Freelancers Make More (Shocker). Here's What to do About It.

The gender pay gap is not news to anyone. Men have always been paid more than women, and in modern times this discrepancy continues despite assurances that equality has prevailed.

Most of the gender pay gap research focuses on traditional work environments. This research shows that women don’t ask for raises as often as men do, and even when they do, they aren’t getting them at the same rate men are. Recent research shows that while the overall pay gap is holding steady, it is narrowing for younger generations.

So…women aren’t getting fairly compensated in organizations with HR departments that regularly analyze pay equality when making compensation decisions. Do you think they’re getting a fair shake when they have to advocate for themselves on a contract basis?


New research shows that women freelancers make, on average, 48% less than their male counterparts.

Forty. Eight. Percent.

This is an increase from a study that showed women made 28% less in 2017 and 43% less in 2020.

And that’s not even the most shocking part of this most recent study. While women make 48% less on average, female DevOps Engineers make 60% less ($100.9 vs. $30) and hour.

So…what do we do about it. Here are a few ideas, including a mantra for each one to help you shift your money mindset.

Feel Entitled

In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, Linda Babcock, describes how women are inclined to feel more content with what they have and less entitled to things that might improve their lives.

“even when women can imagine changes that might increase their productivity at work, their happiness at home, or their overall contentment with their lives, their suppressed sense of entitlement creates real barriers to their asking. Because they’re not dissatisfied with what they have and not sure they deserve more, women often settle for less.”
— Linda Babcock

Put another way; women are more conditioned to settle — to accept what they have and not take proactive steps to change it.

This leads to a catch-22 surrounding achievement. Every time you achieve something, you feel successful because you have something better than you had before. It is then easy to slide into a mindset of settling. Well…now I have _________ (more money, time, happiness, flexibility), so I don’t need more or better ______. I can settle with less on one front because I have more on another.

If you’ve already broken the mold and gone out on your own as a freelancer, you should feel incredibly proud of yourself, but if you don’t take the next step to run your business like a boss (see below) and get paid what you deserve, you’re still settling for less than your male counterparts.

Mantra: I am entitled to happiness, wealth, and control over my work. I deserve more.

Know What You’re Worth

Our society has created a stigma around talking openly about money and compensation, and ultimately, that reinforces power structures where people get paid less than they deserve.

When you work for other people, you have the luxury (or crutch) of only having compensation conversations with your boss. When you work for yourself, you need to be very clear about what you’re worth and get comfortable talking about money regularly with other people (clients, staff, other freelancers).

Your worth is about so much more than money. It comes down to what you need and what the market is willing to give you. You must always strike a balance between being fair, competitive in the market, and getting paid top rates for your expertise. That balance isn’t always easy.

The only way to know what your skills are worth is to do your research.

  • Reach out to other freelancers and ask what they charge. Let me repeat — ASK what they charge, just ask. The worst they can do is not share their pricing.
  • Reference research like the report I cited above. The tables in this article are invaluable when you’re thinking about what to charge and proving to your client why you deserve it.
  • In addition to talking to people in similar roles, find people who hire/manage people in similar positions — this will give you insight into what people are willing to pay, not just what other freelancers are asking for.

Once you know what the market pays for your skillset, check your assumptions about your value. You might be leaning toward asking for less so that you can be competitive, but actually, you should be in line with your peers and competitors — if you come in drastically lower, that might raise doubts about the quality of your work.

Mantra: I know what I’m worth and have the data to back it up.

Break the Employee Mindset

Employees are dependent upon their employers. This learned dependence often means that when people start working for themselves, they don’t fully know how to break free of the social conditioning that dictates the connections between time and money. You have to learn how to be a boss in a world where the vast majority of workers never work for themselves.

A key mindset shift from employee to boss is pricing yourself as a business, not an employee.

When you’re 100% in charge of the money that facilitates your life and the time it takes to make it, you think about it differently. When you work for someone else, you might not even know what they’re charging for the end product and how your time fits into it. As a business owner, you need to charge enough to cover not only your time but also your overhead, taxes, benefits, PTO, and everything else it takes to run a business.

One of the biggest mistakes new freelancers make is charging a similar rate to what they made when they worked for someone else. You are a business now, not an employee — what you got paid as an individual contributor will not cut it.

This is a big one for solopreneurs. You might have much lower overhead than a larger company, and so you justify hourly rates that don’t include the costs it takes to run your business of one. A business of one is still a business — your clients need to be paying you like a business.

Mantra: I price myself to be competitive with other businesses, not employees.

PS: Here are six boss mindset shifts that will set you free as a freelancer.

Knowing what to ask for when it comes to compensation is tricky. You don’t want to seem entitled, you don’t want to lose out to someone else who asked for less, and you don’t want to have that awkward conversation about money in the first place.

But the truth is that money is a form of power. You give some of that power away when you settle for less than you deserve.

Ladies, we give enough of our power away. I hope you can use these mantras to shift your money mindset and get paid what you deserve.

Sarah Duran I'm a freelance project manager, 6-figure freelancer, & solopreneur coach. My expertise in curriculum design, facilitation, & coaching gives solopreneurs the support to get what they need.

View Website