Freelancers Face a Bigger Gender Pay Gap and Most Don’t Even Know It

Here’s some worrisome news: The gender pay gap is more pronounced among freelancers and consultants than it is in corporate settings, according to new research.

Female freelance writers, editors, graphic designers, artists, and others who bill for their own work make 32% less on average than their male counterparts. This is according to new research from HoneyBook, a website that small businesses and freelancers use to bill for their services. That’s a significantly bigger gap than the 24% difference calculated by Payscale and the 19.5% gap reported in recent U.S. Census numbers.

“Creative” businesses owned by women bring in significantly less annual revenue—$30,700 annually— compared to more than $45,400 for male-owned businesses, HoneyBook found.

Related: Women Data Center Pros Out-Earn Their Male Counterparts

HoneyBook co-founder Shadiah Sigala stresses that the company looked at real data for its freelancer report. “These are not self-reported numbers,” Sigala says. “We literally looked at how much people are transacting, we looked at the bank and credit card charges and what they are collecting.”

Related: Most Republicans Feel the U.S. has Done Enough on Gender Equality

One striking thing here is that these independent workers set their own prices and thus contribute to their own disadvantage in the market place. That probably points to the adage that men tend to be more confident in their own capabilities than women and thus are comfortable charging more. “Men inflate and women deflate,” Sigala says, noting she finds these results both sad and hopeful.

“When we polled our users, the majority said they did not think there is a gender pay gap, that there is parity,” Sigali explains. In addition, most of those surveyed said they never get push-back or haggling when they state their prices, so there’s a good chance their customers would pay more if only asked to do so.


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“Men ask for more money and get it. Women are less likely to ask,” she says.

Related: Three Reasons the Gender Pay Gap Persists

The next step, she says, is to spread the word on these findings and help educate freelancers and contractors so they don’t sell themselves short.

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