I think collectively women have a hard time owning their own self-worth (which is ridiculous…we’re awesome…we can grow humans!), whether it’s physically, intellectually or skills-wise and I think it’s even harder yet when you work in a field that requires you to name and negotiate your rate. For me personally, it’s been a very difficult journey.
As a freelance makeup artist I have hit that point in my career where I can no longer accept low paying jobs for multiple reasons, the biggest being my own sanity and my survival (I’m just really tired of being hungry). For too many years I have been the go-to cheap makeup artist, which is no reflection of my work yet it’s also what has kept me from advancing forward in my career. Too many times I have taken jobs that by the end of the project, I have lost more money in product than I even made on the job which means I’ll have to spend even more money to get my kit back to where it was so I can take another job. Seriously, I’ve worked jobs that with every pump of my foundation my stomach drops because I’m tallying up the product loss and the money in my head. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s time to jump off this scary merry go round because I’m just too damn dizzy at this point.
So how did I come to this realization? Well for one, I was “complimented” on how cheap I was by a client whom then went on to explain to me how all of her other makeup friends “charge loads more.” Then I was complimented (in a very shocked tone) yet again by how amazing she thought her makeup was which she hadn’t expected because of how little I had charged. Yea, that sucked. Then, on another job my client literally said, “Malia you need to charge more, you’re too good to charge so little.” I don’t think I had a choice but to listen to his advice at this point.
Not to toot my own horn but I have never had an unhappy client and almost everyone I work with hires me again. I’ve never had any reason to doubt my abilities yet the prospect of asking for more money and possibly starting to turn down jobs because they paid so little terrified me! The nail in the coffin so to speak came when having coffee with my amazing cousin who gave me some great free advice which was lucky since he consults and gives advice to most of Hollywood (Will Smith anyone?) for a living and he said something to the extent of this, “Right or wrong, people judge your skill on how much you charge. The more you say you’re worth, the better people will think you are.” If what he says is true, which by my own experience I believe is, all these years I had been marketing myself as the makeup equivalent of the cheap street walker that gives everyone a deal. Well folks, it’s time to get a better pimp.
Changing your rates is one thing, sticking to those rates and not giving in and doing favors for everyone is another. I find it especially hard working in the indie film world where budgets are tight and you know that asking for more money (aka enough to actually eat something besides ramen) could mean you losing the job because there will ALWAYS be people who are willing to work for next to nothing (HELLO!! I’ve only been one of them for 6 years!) But I’m trying my hardest to stand my ground. I know my work is good, I have an excel spreadsheet of names and numbers who will back me up and the struggle now is just BELIEVING I deserve to be paid what I am worth. It may sound easy but it’s not, or wasn’t for me at first.
I know I am not alone in this and my best recommendation is just to surround yourself with people who love you and support you and will step in if necessary to convince you to NOT take that job that pays less than the gas it would take to get there. For every job you turn down there is a better one just around the corner. Honestly, once I put it out there I have been SHOCKED by how much work I have had come my way. Empower yourself. Believe in yourself. Most of all know your worth and be proud of it.