Stop asking people to work for free in the guise of women’s empowerment. You want to support women? Start by paying them fairly.
A couple times a month, I get an email asking me to speak at workshop or event. The latest one I received asked me to be the keynote speaker for a “high-end, 2 day virtual event”. The event was charging $250 per ticket. The organizer asked to pre-record my session, promote the event on my social media and provide a dedicated blast to my newsletter list. The compensation offered for my time, brand and promotional efforts? Drumroll please…
Nope, I wouldn’t get paid a cent, even though they were going to be profiting by selling tickets to this ‘high-end’ event. Instead, the value I’d receive was “an opportunity to help others” and to be able to speak among other “powerhouse females.”
This. Is. Wrong.
If someone is profiting from an event that you will be speaking/working at – then YOU SHOULD BE PAID.
So what if the event is free, does the same rule apply? Yes – there needs to be an exchange, but note that financial compensation is just ONE form of exchange. There are other forms of exchange that can be beneficial such as:
Exposure (not fake exposure when they have 100 Instagram followers and a poorly designed website and claim you’ll get 1000’s of impressions.) I mean real exposure – they have a significant following on social media (and high engagement), they get millions of unique visitors on their website, they have a mailing list of 100K and a high opening rate.
Credibility – When you’re an unknown ‘brand’ – the quickest way to gain credibility is to align yourself with established, reputable brands. That’s why being featured in The New York Times is such a big deal – it’s not about how much business you’re going to convert from that article, it’s the credibility.
Experience – This is called paying your dues. When you’re green, sometimes you work to build your experience, CV or portfolio. Early in my career I did internships and I wrote for free – I paid my dues. The value to me was in the learning and the experience opened up doors for me.
But there’s a point when you’ve got enough experience and you need to move past the discomfort for asking to get paid. Yes it’s going to feel uneasy the first few times, because it’s unfamiliar and you’re afraid you’ll get rejected if you ask for what you’re worth. And yes, you might lose a gig here or there because someone else was undercharging or doing it for free – but you move on. There will be other opportunities, ones that are a better fit.
There are special circumstances where you do something for a friend, or you invest in a relationship that you want to build. There’s no guideline for this – it’s really an intuitive thing. I’ve helped out friends, I’ve mentored those who are more junior in their career path, I’ve opened doors to help someone build their business – for no reason other than to help because it felt good to me. But before you do anyone any favors – check in with yourself to see where the energy is rooted in. If it’s coming from a place of scarcity and fear, don’t do it – this will only lead to resentment. If it’s coming from a place of love and abundance, then go ahead!
How to ask for compensation – a template
I used to get angry when I’d receive one of those, “Hey will you work for free” emails, but I’ve been practicing taking accountability for my emotional experience. Often when we are feeling angry or resentful, there’s a boundary that’s being breached. Our responsibility is to communicate our boundary, limit or need – not with passive aggression but with our words! So instead of focusing my energy on being bitter, I’d give the person the benefit of the doubt and use it as an opportunity to educate them on my rate. Here’s the email I use (feel free to copy and paste and edit to your liking):
Thanks for thinking of me and presenting me this opportunity. I’m represented by United Talent Agency and my starting fee for speaking is $1000 depending on the scope and commitment. If this aligns for you, feel free to reach out with more details.
Thanks for considering me for the opportunity. I’m currently accepting paid engagements only. Feel free to reach out if your budget changes. Best of luck with your venture.
I’m pleased to report that 30% of the time, I get an email back that they are going to make budget in order to have me speak.
Ask for what you want. Don’t silently fume and get pissed about it. You have an opportunity to educate people how to engage with you. And you can do it with grace.
Hope this helps. Now, go out there and get paid!