Why Female Grant Writers Struggle with Pricing & Rates
Now that is a fully-loaded statement. But worth the heavily weighed explanation.
I have been going back and forth with other grant writers on this question of
“Do grant writers get paid less because most are female?”
and even down to
“Are grant writer rates high enough?”
Moreover, nearly every single female grant writer I know struggles with how to do her pricing and come up with rates that feel good.
In this article, I am going to break down some of the gender-specifics on the grant writing industry. Some of these may surprise you because you have been living the life thinking you only need to Google “Grant Writer Salary” and the Internet will get some ideal number that you can just throw onto your freelance grant writing website or in that grant writer salary description.
Here’s the thing. The most deafening question I get from my grant writing students is,
“How much should I charge for my grant writing skills?”
I am not going to give you a magic number in this article of what you should charge, but I think we first need to understand why we keep peering out into the information universe for this question instead of tuning inward.
Side note: Check out related articles on how to make decisions and understand what your value is as a freelance grant writer.
What I am going to share with you in this article should wake you up a bit and hopefully will ripple some change across this female-dominant landscape.
“If you are self-employed…you write your own paycheck. But the amount on the paycheck is pre-ordained long before it is actually inked. It begins with your price strategy. And that is preceded by your belief system about price.” ~ Dan Kennedy
A conversation that recently came up with Rachel Waterman, an amazing female grant writer, was a simple conversation about the grant writing pricing world, and it ended up being a type of conversation reminiscent of, “Is it the egg before the chicken or chicken before the egg?”
We were discussing that since grant writing is a heavily female-dominated industry could this be one contributing fact to why grant writer salaries are low and why freelance grant writer consultants get paid nominal wages compared to other money-related consultancies?
Well, this made me want to dive into this topic further and see what is going on with the pay rates for freelance grant writers.
Freelance Grant Writers Are Mostly Women
Yes, indeed, Rachel and are I correct in that grant writers (and freelance grant writers) are a mostly women. According to Zippia, 65.7% of employed grant writers in the United States in 2021 are women.
This is a whole lot. Now this statistic does reference employed grant writers vs. freelance grant writers, but chances are it’s about the same percent that transfer from employed grant writer into freelancing.
It might even be higher as students in my Freelance Grant Writing Master Course and Grant Professional Mentorship are primarily female.
I like being in an industry surrounded by women, however it also makes me a little hesitant when freelancer grant writers (or grant writers looking for a job) are seeing what other freelance grant writing consultants charge to get a baseline of what they should charge.
Why does this make me nervous?
Well, let’s go ahead and break down why I think looking at the marketplace might not be serving you when the field is dominated by female consultants.
No disrespect. Hear me out.
I will honestly point the finger at myself several years ago. Yes, that was me. I was not charging enough for my grant writing services. And if I felt that way, many other female grant writers are also suffering from systemic gender wage discrimination (described below), so are also pricing too low.
The problem with this, is that if many women are pricing low to write grants, and if we look at one another to see what the standard rate should be, that rate will be low. Then we all look at it and it looks normal and becomes the sucky industry standard.
And after doing some research on salary rates and female consultant pricing and a lot of personal development, I had some major epiphanies and a fantastic mindset change.
There are still very REAL systemic issues with gender gap pay
In the face of sexism, many women struggle to see the true value of our work and end up charging less because we don’t think we deserve more. In our guts we know we deserve it, but society has told us that we don’t deserve more than a man.
Society has told us that our priorities are having babies, cooking meals, cleaning up, and taking care of others. Now, I am fine with most of those things (except cooking and cleaning. Aargh).
I loved having my baby, volunteering for nonprofits, and spending time with family. There is nothing wrong with that. But it kind of leaves out all the other fun stuff I know I excel in. Like writing grants, securing millions of dollars for nonprofits, and earning an abundant income so I can enjoy life on my terms.
As Rachel Rodger states in her amazing book, We Should All Be Millionaires,
“Money isn’t everything, but it can solve a whole lot of problems – your own, your family’s, and the world’s.”
Here’s the thing. Women only got the right to vote 100 years ago in the United States. What?! Yep, for centuries women haven’t had a say in the way that society is run.
And when it comes to capital (i.e., money), it was just in 1974 that women in the United States were able to get a credit card in their own name and not in their husband’s name.
That’s cray-cray. I mean, I’ll age myself here, but I was born only a couple years after that, and I’m young (lol). 😉
But seriously, that is not a long time. If you are about my age, or even younger or older, I am sure that you remember movies like Working Girl, Maid in Manhattan, and (more recently) Bombshell. These show the ‘shockingness’ of women in leadership positions, but also the contemporary landscape of how society views working women.
And for those of you that those movies allude, let’s think of the TV sitcom Friends. Monica was an amazing chef, but we heard more about her wanting a baby than opening a restaurant.
These are examples of systemic gender issues that pervade media, politics, and economy that you may not have even really been aware of. Maybe something always seemed a little off to you, but this has likely had an affect on what you feel like you can charge.
So, let’s get in how the systemic gender discrimination affects you as a Freelance Grant Writer.
Women Just are Not Charging Enough as Consultants
You may be aware that women, overall, earn an average of only $.82 cents to every dollar a man earns. It’s important to note that women of color experience a deeper divide and only earn $.62 cents to every dollar a man earns.
But women freelancers can set their price, so shouldn’t they be charging the same as men?
Research shows that women freelancers earn 28% less than men. Additionally, FreshBooks pointed out that 20% of women believe they must charge less – and give steep discounts – than male counterparts to get and keep clients.
As employees, 73% of women have not asked for a pay raise during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 58% of men. I’ve seen similar case studies on women freelancer grant writers not raising their prices during the pandemic.
Additionally, studies show that men often apply for jobs when they only meet 60% of qualifications, but women only apply if they meet 100% of them.
Why is this information related to consultants?
Well, are you bidding on grant writing projects where you might meet less than 100% of the qualifications? You might think about bidding because otherwise that man, who may be less qualified than you, will get it…simply because he is applying for the bid.
Highly Experienced Female Grant Writers are Earning even less
This one makes me sick to my stomach. A 2017 survey by Flexing It stated
“Women professionals with over 16 years of work experience earn 45-50% lower fees compared to their male counterparts.”
What?! You would think the more experience that women get, the more confident they would get with their pricing. But research shows that due to not raising prices as often, and other systemic issues, experienced female professionals lag ridiculously behind men.
Do Female Grant Writers Deserve a Higher Income?
Uh, a resounding yeeeeeeeees!
Yes, I had to ask that question, because I know some of you may be stuck in trauma and shaming yourself. Not only should women demand (and ask for) equal pay, with the right experience you can demand value-led rates.
The Clinton Global Initiative reports that working women invest 90% of their income back into their families and community, compared with only 35% for men.
Oh snap. That’s right. Making money is not an evil thing.
When you, as a woman, earn more money, you invest it more wisely. It’s a good thing.
The Way Female Freelance Grant Writers Can Charge a Real Rate
Lovely lady, you may be so stressing about what to price your grant writing services at, but first take a deep breath.
Let’s see how to move forward:
A. Awareness of Systemic Gender Discrimination
The first step in changing anything is having awareness.
You may have some trauma / insecurity around pricing and it’s normal. But normal doesn’t make it okay to continue where we have been.
Society has told women we don’t deserve an abundant income, but we need to tell society, “Oh yes, we do.” After all, the more of us that repeat that “yes, we do!” mantra that more it becomes a fabric in society.
So be aware of why you may get that crazy uncomfortable gut feeling around pricing. It’s not a mystical reason to feel so damn uncomfortable. It’s how women have been raised.
But now that we are aware we can start to demand change.
B. Take Action on Your Prices
We can overcome the gender discrimination system as this system is broken by our beliefs and then actions.
Evaluate your pricing and see if you need to increase them (ahem, you probably do). Don’t worry about your customers as they will follow suit around your beliefs.
If you demand a high price, stop giving deep discounts, and raise your prices, then customers will adapt.
I have seen too many women pricing low to get jobs (like I said, I used to be there), and then the customer pays that amount thinking you are cheap and must not be that good.
It’s our duty to increase our prices. Because if we do, those other women out there Googling ‘freelance grant writer rates’ will see that your higher price is the market standard.
Let’s raise the standard together.
C. Move Forward with Confidence
As stated, working women invest more into their communities and families. Don’t be a martyr, thinking volunteering is always so noble.
Why don’t you charge the price that accounts for your actual value and then set up your own foundation to give out $10,000+ grants to causes you believe in? Or allow you the time off so you can be president of that nonprofit and make real change in the community instead of worrying about having enough money to feed your family?
I love how Leonie Dawson discusses how, as a millionaire, she now is able to donate to more causes that she believes in, such as protecting wildlife, climate justice, and more.
How would that feel?
We got this.
Please feel free to share this article with more women out there!