Self-Employment and the Gender Pay Gap

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We all know that women make eighty cents for every dollar that a man makes. It’s sad but true. The unfortunate reality is that, in self-employment and small business ownership, it’s not much different.

In fact, for every self-employed woman who makes seventy-two cents, there’s a self-employed man who makes one dollar. That doesn’t mean that self-employment and small business ownership aren’t worth every lost sale or missed opportunity. The risks are high, but the rewards are just as plentiful.

The Problem

Even though women often leave their corporate jobs in pursuit of more money as a freelancer, they still have to work hard and often charge less than their male counterparts to gain and retain clients.

While charging lower rates to counteract the biases of business is one reason self-employed women don’t make as much as men, other causes include that more women-owned companies are less than three years old and a high percentage of self-employed women are under the age of fifty. This means women are competing with men who are better established and have more experience.

There are still ways women can position themselves for success despite the systemic gender biases and other environmental factors working against women in the workplace today, whether they’re self-employed or not.

Conduct the Research

As a self-employed woman, it can be hard to know what the going rate for your skills or services is. Do some research to find out what others are charging based on their background and experience. Figure out where you fall in this mix.

Much of the difficulty transitioning from a corporate job to self-employment is in knowing what to charge and being confident that you’re worth it. Figure out how others sell themselves and remain confident in their abilities despite the competition.

If you’re just starting out, you may have to offer discounts or charge less to get the word of mouth and loyalty you need to build up a client base. Create a plan to charge more over time as you get more experience as an independent contractor, even if your corporate experience is very similar.

Hire Other Self-Employed People

Focusing on your strengths and delivering value may mean determining what you can outsource. You can hire other people to do your invoicing, scheduling, bookkeeping, or social media. You can provide oversight while freeing up your time to do the things you’re passionate about, and hopefully, bring in more income.

While you can support other self-employed people who are having a hard time as well, you can be sure to pay them the going rate so that you don’t perpetuate the gender pay gap yourself.

Think About New Skills

Sometimes your experience doesn’t lend itself to making the most money as a freelancer. You may have other skills that are more marketable or in demand, so think about what your abilities and interests are before setting out on your own.

Ask your friends and family what they think you’re good at and supplement one skill with another so when the market opportunities dip, you’ll have other ways to replace that income quickly.

There are also numerous opportunities to get more education or additional certifications surrounding your area or expertise to make yourself more credible in the marketplace. You can also maximize these skills by hosting seminars or teaching others how to do it, leveraging your skills into multiple income streams.

Word of Mouth

Get the word out about your skills and your new venture using any means necessary and available. Social media, local publications, guest spots, and speaking engagements are all great ways to get in front of potential clients and others who can spread the word.

Be wary of any conferences or seminars that don’t seem to promote gender balance, because you can find gender bias anywhere, and it’s very often at panels with all-male panelists or workshops with all male speakers.

As with anyone starting out on a new venture, you may also need the proper financing to get you started. Very often, your best bet is seriously considering a business loan to provide the startup capital you require. Whether you need a small amount of cash or a larger line of credit, you can learn more about business loans at

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Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post,, and Yahoo Small Business.