EVENT RECAP: MONEY MATTERS FORUM
At last week's Women Who Money Matters forum, we were lucky enough to hear from some of the most knowledgeable creatives in the biz, with panellists Kate Moross (Studio Moross and much, much, more); Pip Jamieson (founder of The Dots); and L.A. Ronayne (Creative Director at Havas London & Contributing Editor at Riposte) covering everything money-related: from how to negotiate payrises, to being strategic about working for free. Massive thanks to all three of them for sharing their hard-won insights and a tonne of practical advice.
Given so many of you couldn’t join us due to capacity (which I’m working on – bear with me!), here’s a bumper event recap so you're not missing out entirely. I’m convinced you’ll find at least one thing useful here, if not much more... and if that’s the case, please do share this recap with any working women you know who might find it useful too. Sharing is caring after all.
Don’t forget to sign up to be the first to hear about future events - see you there!
NEGOTIATING A PAYRISE
- Approach salary negotiations as a discussion - instead of thinking about them as a black and white request that's met by either a 'yes' or a hard 'no', frame the situation in your head as a conversation between two people with common interests, who both want to figure out the best way of getting you to where you want to be, salary-wise. Most employers don’t want to lose decent employees, and are inclined to trying to find a solution that everyone's happy with!
- Be straightforward and open, and try not to bring your emotions into the situation - this is about making a business case for yourself first and foremost.
- Especially within bigger companies, you'll need to demonstrate exactly how you tangibly contribute to the bottom line, and how you're indispensable to your team or boss.
- Remember that being tough when it comes to money doesn’t make you greedy or a bad person, so leave any fears about being unlikeable at the door. After all, you're negotiating a financial transaction for a service provided, which you have every right to do! If it helps, try thinking of your ‘business’ side and your 'real' side as two different personas... Beyonce has Sasha Fierce, and Nicki Minaj has, like, 15 alter egos. The real question is: what are you gonna call yours?
VALUING YOUR WORK
- Always ask potential clients for their budget first, rather than quoting blind. Doing this can help you avoid misquoting, so you don't come in really over (which puts people off), or really under.
"First things first, ask what their budget is - even if it’s just a ballpark figure."
- Always create a clear breakdown of the project's deliverables and what they’re worth individually, so that clients can understand what they’re getting for their money, as opposed to mentally assigning a lump sum to an overall project. Not only does that instil confidence in you and help keep both client and creative on track – but it means if something gets cut (or goes over), you know what proportion of the budget that affects. When it comes to putting a project scope together, transparency is key.
- If it seems like a client's fee really won't stretch to your rates but you want to make it work, instead of just slashing your rates try to see if there's room to negotiate on the deliverables (i.e. doing less work) - thereby still attaching the same level of value to your output and your time.
"Avoid the temptation to over-deliver and under-bill when putting together proposals. Sell yourself on the service you’re delivering, rather than being the cheapest in the game."
- Factor in your running costs, whether that’s a proportion of your office rent or your Adobe software subscription.
- The Rule of Thirds: When putting together a project quote, a handy rule of thumb is to assume a third of the budget will go towards your human overheads (i.e. staff wages); a third towards running costs and utilities (e.g. rent, electricity, insurance); and the last third towards your profit margin. Of course this will differ depending on your exact business model, and even from project to project, but it's a useful benchmark to start out with.
“Even if you're a creative, you’re still a businessperson."
WORKING FOR FREE
Having to work for free sometimes is unfortunately part and parcel of working in the creative industries - definitely when you’re starting out, and often even when you’re more established. Whilst it may rankle, there are some occasions when it is worth doing - so here’s how to make things work in your favour when the amount of money on offer is 'none'.
"Be wary of potential clients who tell you a project “will be good for your portfolio" - that’s your decision, not theirs."
- Be strategic about when and for whom you do free work – if you’re not being paid for your work, then make sure you’re getting something out of the deal otherwise that makes it worth your while, whether that’s access, a referral, or a bigger platform. Don’t be shy to ask for those things outright either.
MANAGING YOUR MONEY
- Self-employed? Get an accountant. They’ll likely pay for themselves, and make your life a whole lot easier (and more profitable!)
- If you feel uncomfortable chasing up late invoices, set up a generic email address and template letter specifically for sending all those pesky chase emails. That way there's a bit of distance between 'good cop' you (the one who does lots of beautiful, soul-stirring, creative work) and 'bad cop' you (the one who wants her f*cking money).
- On that note - make sure you include late payment clauses on all of your your invoices and contracts, i.e. terms stipulating penalties for invoices that aren't paid on time. FYI, a reminder a few days before payment's due that the fee for your project is about to go up tends to give most people a kick up the bum!
- When it comes to managing your cash flow, it pays (psychologically, not literally) to have an emergency buffer. Whether that’s a small loan for your business, or simply having a personal emergency cash fund, knowing that you're not financially dependent on one particular invoice - or even two or three - will allow you to relax, and make decisions from a place of security, not desperation. Like death and taxes, invoices being paid late are an unfortunate fact of life, no matter what you do. Find a way to make sure that doesn't pressure you into making bad decisions at work, and in life.
- Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher: a book about negotiating, which Pip found really useful when it came to negotiating salary in the early stages of her career.
- Salary surveys: Major Players and Creative Review both provide good benchmarks of industry going rates.
- The London Small Business Centre: this government-backed service provides small business loans and advice for both start-up and established businesses - worth checking out if you're thinking of striking out on your own!
And a few more which weren't discussed but I think are worth shouting about...
- The Financial Diet: a treasure trove of general money advice, which addresses the personal finance side of things really well.
- Bad With Money with Gaby Dunn: funny AND informative, what more could you want from a podcast?
- Open Account with SuChin Pak: I've recommended this podcast here previously, but it's that good. Start with the Eddie Huang episode.