3 Phrases Every Femme Freelancer Should Practice
There's a slew of upsides and benefits to being a freelancer: flexible hours, increased earning potential, diversity of work and projects. But (real talk) there are also some serious downsides: increased liability, inconsistent cash flow, limited resources, and not to mention, standing your ground against pushy, flaky, or demanding clients. As a woman who freelances, I’ve experienced discrimination, degradation, and disrespect from clients, and I’ve learned a few phrases to help me clap back when my boundaries are crossed.
1) “That assignment is outside my scope of work.”
I cannot tell you how many times clients have asked me to do just “one more little thing,” even when it’s not included in the services they paid for. Women are socialized from birth to be amiable, to smile on command, to make people feel comfortable, and to smooth over conflict. Thanks to that charming little aspect of social conditioning, I have a very hard time saying “no” to client requests, even when I really should.
2) “I would like to keep our conversations limited to business.”
In addition to freelance writing, I also model for boudoir-style photoshoots. One time I was in a meeting with a client and his business partner, as I was walking them through a grant proposal I had recently written. The client pulled up my personal Instagram account, clicked on a photo of me in lingerie, and showed it to his partner, proceeding to tease me about the image. I immediately felt distracted and diminished. I wish I had been ready to clap back at him before continuing my presentation.
Sexual harassment like that is easier to spot, but burdensome emotional labor can sneak up on you. Women are frequently tasked with an unequal, unnecessary amount of emotional labor, even in professional settings. I once had a client who would often interrupt me during meetings to share news on his difficult relationship with his wife. I had no idea what to say, so I just listened sympathetically until he was finished, then I resumed the meeting. What a complete waste of time.
3) “I’m worth more than that.”
Like I said, women are socialized to be acquiescent. I’ve sent proposals to clients with a non-negotiable rate, and gotten responses like, “Well, that’s too much, I’m willing to pay you $XX.” It seemed like they expected me to jump at the offer, or expected me not to push back. This phrase usually feels too confrontational (which I’m not socialized to be), so I tend to decline more politely. But I’m secretly excited for the day when I get to lay this powerful line on someone who undervalues my work.
Good luck out there, freelancing femmes! Take no sh*t from anyone and keep holding your ground when it comes to your worth, value and work!
Kate Kelly is a documentary photographer & writer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She provides communications strategy, news & feature reporting, field surveys & reports, as well as documentary & lifestyle photography for clients, and enjoys finding creative ways to tell your organization's story on digital channels. Follow her on Instagram @HeyKateKelly or visit her website for more information.