Ninety eight.

When your parenthood is used to reduce your rate.

In this episode, Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Anonymous, AKA Lotus Vanreisel.

Lotus says:

“Hello freelance friends!

I’d like your opinion on an email I’ve received from one of my longest and most favourite clients…

After months of no work and no contact, she asked me last month if I have any availability in the next few weeks. I said ‘yes’ and also told her that my rates had gone up since we last spoke.

Here is her reply:

“So I’d love to be able to put some work your way but the hourly rate is a bit high — is there any flexibility? I know you don’t really do full days because of your daughter. Let me know.”

This irritates me no end as it implies I should charge less because wI have childcare duties. (I also know she worked part-time and didn’t earn much when her kids were younger.)
How do you handle situations like these?

I’ll also add that another long-standing client just asked me for a lot of work over the next couple of months, so while I could fit her in, I don’t have an awful lot of availability.

Would love your thoughts.

Thanks, Lotus”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:25] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:34] – Steve
Hello. Yes, each episode we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last one. Last time we were talking about it…

[00:00:43] – Frankie
It was Andi talking about having too much work to do!

[00:00:47] – Steve
He’s the best, aaaah.

[00:00:50] – Frankie
Ha! I had two messages from two separate people.

[00:00:54] – Steve

[00:00:54] – Frankie
It’s not “he’s the best, ah.”

[00:00:56] – Steve
Did they not say ‘ah’ in the song?

[00:00:58] – Frankie
Apparently, it’s “he’s the best around”.

[00:01:01] – Steve

[00:01:02] – Frankie
Something, something, something… bring you down. Yeah.

[00:01:05] – Steve
Jo Coop got in touch, who said,

“Loved this episode. As someone who constantly procrastinates with the idea of growth, it’s so nice to hear someone else say that this doesn’t always have to mean taking on staff.”

[00:01:18] – Frankie
Jon Richards says,

“So jealous of this problem.”

You’re not alone, Jon!

“I’d say you’re in a great position. You can curate your clients and projects to only ones that you really feel passionate about and, like Frankie said, keep raising your rates.

I’m in a design partnership and we have clear strengths and roles built on a 15 year friendship and understanding. However, I’d caution against teaming up with someone new. You sound like me, that you’d want the work to be at your standard, which may lead to spending extra time redoing things to feel right, because ultimately it’s your name on it.

To avoid saying no and managing additional designers, maybe create a circle of trusted individuals whose work you’re happy with that you could refer clients to? Then, when you’re busy, tell clients that you have someone who can help them. But obviously, keep in mind that you might not get that client back. So choose carefully who you offer this to.”

[00:02:06] – Steve
And, Danielle Bodicoat said,

“I’ve had loads of thoughts / conversations about this recently. I’m always over capacity, but resistant to growth for the sake of it. My wonderful co-mentor Isabel Fielding gave me some questions to think about and I realised that, for me, delegating work to other people has lots of other benefits beyond just outsourcing, like being able to support other freelancers and to take proper holidays where I don’t do work on the side. Oh, and getting rid of tasks that I don’t enjoy is also a nice side effect! These things light me up more than increased profit.”

[00:02:45] – Frankie
Excellent question. Excellent comments. Well done, team.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:04:27] – Frankie
Somewhat amazingly, we are on episode 98 and it’s an anonymous question, so we need a name…

Have you got any written materials? Oh, Lotus packaging!

[00:04:39] – Steve
Yeah. Lotus is quite a good first name.

[00:04:41] – Frankie
Okay, we’ll take Lotus from that.

[00:04:44] – Steve
Oh, I’ve got my cycling helmet behind me and it’s called Vanreisel, so it could be Lotus Vanreisel?

[00:04:50] – Frankie
Lotus Vanreisel.

[00:04:52] – Steve
That’s a really good name.

[00:04:53] – Frankie
Quite a name.

[00:04:54] – Steve
I don’t know who wrote this letter, but you need to consider changing your name to Lotus Vanreisel. I’m really disappointed I don’t know that person.

[00:05:02] – Frankie
All right, Lotus says,

“Hello freelance friends!

I’d like your opinion on an email I’ve received from one of my longest and most favourite clients. After months of no work and no contact, she asked me last month if I have any availability in the next few weeks. I said yes and also told her that my rates had gone up since we last spoke.

Here is her reply. ‘So I’d love to be able to put some work your way, but the hourly rate is a bit high. Is there any flexibility? I know you don’t really do full days because of your daughter. Let me know.’

This irritates me no end as it implies I should charge less because I have childcare duties. I also know she worked part time and didn’t earn much when her kids were younger.

How do you handle situations like these? I’ll also add that another long standing client just asked me for a bit of work over the next couple of months, so while I could fit her in, I don’t have an awful lot of availability.

Would love your thoughts. Thanks. Lotus.”

[00:06:00] – Steve
Her longest and most favourite client wrote, “The hourly rate is a bit high. Is there any flexibility? I know you don’t really do full days because of your daughter.”

Hang on, is it an hourly rate, or a day rate?

[00:06:15] – Frankie

[00:06:16] – Steve
What’s full days got to do with an hourly rate?

[00:06:18] – Frankie
Nothing. That’s what it’s got to do with it. Nada. Nil points.

[00:06:25] – Steve
What? Okay Lotus, this person should not have written that to you.

[00:06:29] – Frankie
No, it feels like a bit of a brain-fart that they might regret. I hope they regret it.

[00:06:34] – Steve
It doesn’t even make sense from an economics point of view, let alone manners.

[00:06:40] – Frankie
So the first thing to say is — it doesn’t make sense, full stop. No matter the context, no matter who you are, who they are, you’re giving them a heads-up about the increase, given them an hourly rate, and they’ve come back and said I’d like a lower hourly rate because you don’t work full days. So just, yeah, basic logic. There is none. There is none. They’re confused. I’m confused. Steve looks very confused.

[00:07:11] – Steve
But Lotus’ question is — how do you handle situations like these?

I think, first of all, take a deep breath. Don’t hit reply straight away.

[00:07:19] – Frankie
100%. That’s advice for any awkward client scenario.

[00:07:22] – Steve
Obviously, you guys go way back, which is both a brilliant thing, but also an awkward thing because the fact is our rates go up over time and if they’ve not been in touch for a while, then there can be quite a jump. That shouldn’t be a surprise. That shouldn’t stop you putting up your rates. Also, she knows enough about you, and you about her, about your kids and-,

[00:07:43] – Frankie
Well, that’s the thing, right? That’s a thing we need to address because we’ve talked a lot on this podcast about exactly that — how transparent should you be with your clients about the fact that you have children and have got other shit going on? And yeah, you work reduced hours for those reasons. We’ve often talked about whether or not to be honest about that and in what contexts. I am always very much like “That’s just my life. That’s how I work”. I have no issues with telling people that’s why I work the hours that I do and the days that I do.

[00:08:22] – Frankie
But maybe this is an example where that has backfired? I’m not saying that’s your fault in any way. It’s not. But clearly, this particular individual is using that information against you.

Even if the math doesn’t make sense, that is what they are attempting to do, which… do you know what? I think that hurts in any scenario, but I think it hurts more when they’re a long term client and you’ve built that relationship, and therefore you felt comfortable to give away that level of information and now it’s being thrown back at you as a means to make you lower your rate.

It’s amazing how short that exchange is. It’s like, what, two sentences? And there’s so much to unravel.

[00:09:04] – Steve
So, when we’re replying… Firstly, we’ve taken a breath.

[00:09:07] – Frankie
Yeah, I need to take a breath before I go too rant mode! Sorry, carry on.

[00:09:10] – Steve
We’ve not replied straight away, but what do we do? Do we address that comment? Or do we simply say, “Hey, yeah, that’s my hourly rate. I’ve got lots of other things. If you’d like me to schedule you in, then let me know.” Do you ignore the comment or do you say, “yes, that’s my hourly rate. But also, it’s got nothing to do with my days or my childcare, because I only charge for the hours I work”.

[00:09:39] – Frankie
Yeah, again, I feel conflicted on that one as well, because it’s like… well, it’s like any scenario where someone’s being difficult. It’s like — do you acknowledge they’re being difficult and why what they’ve said is not okay? And therefore, maybe the next interaction they have with somebody else, they might rethink themselves. Do you push through the pain to educate that person for the greater good of all freelancers everywhere? Or, do you just suck it up? Stay strong, but don’t necessarily point out why what they’ve said is not acceptable?

[00:10:14] – Frankie
What you do and whether or not you choose to address it is going to come down to a million things. Firstly, how much sleep did you have last night? But also, do you need the work? All the usual stuff. How important is this relationship with this particular person? Not only them as an individual, as an individual client, long term relationship blah blah, but also — are they hooked into your wider network? Is burning bridges with them, or creating a rift with them going to have a wider impact on your other clients or the work that you do?

[00:10:43] – Steve
Yeah, but it doesn’t have to cause a rift, does it?

[00:10:46] – Frankie
No. But, it could?

[00:10:49] – Steve
Yeah. I don’t know. It doesn’t have to create a rift. I know the level of annoyance on our side, on Lotus’s side is high, but with a gentle bit of wording.

[00:11:01] – Frankie
What would you say?

[00:11:03] – Steve
“Screw you Mrs”. No.

Yeah, I think even if you address it and say, “my hourly rate isn’t related to me having a daughter”. My God, you shouldn’t have to say this…!

[00:11:17] – Frankie

[00:11:19] – Steve
But yes, remember that you shouldn’t have to say this, but you’re going to…

“My hourly rate is just my hourly rate because I charge when I’m working, so it’s got nothing to do with my childcare. If you’d like me to fit you in, I’ve got lots on at the moment, I can… If you don’t have the budget for that right now, then we can look at how much you need me to do for you. Reduce the scope of the work.”

[00:12:05] – Frankie
The rage is bubbling quite high at this point, like — it’s up here. It’s almost coming out of my nose.

A lot of your clients, Steve, know that you have children? Yes. Correct?

[00:12:13.390] – Steve

[00:12:13] – Frankie
Have any of your clients ever said to you, “oh, you should reduce your rates because you have offspring?”

[00:12:19] – Steve

[00:12:19] – Frankie
I just don’t feel like this conversation would ever happen in the context of a male freelancer talking to a client. Even if that male freelancer was completely transparent about the fact that they had childcare responsibilities and were doing school pickups, and worked with reduced hours, whatever. I just cannot fathom a scenario where even when that man has been so transparent about the fact he has children, would that information be used against him to reduce his fee?

And, please, somebody correct me if I’m wrong — tell me I’m wrong. I would love somebody to come in and say, “Well, actually, I told somebody-,” maybe that has happened. I just feel like this conversation would only ever happen to a woman because, as we all know, a woman that runs a business, her business is deemed to be secondary to her responsibilities as a mother. And therefore, the assumption is your business suffers as a result of having offspring, basically, and therefore you’re probably working less hours, or the quality of your work isn’t as good.

That’s quite a common assumption — you’re distracted, or whatever, because you have a life outside of your job and we all know the opposite to be true. Yes. Am I right?

Yeah. It’s just nuts to me. It’s just nuts to me that somebody is saying that to you, and a woman is saying that to you, and a woman who has had her own children. I don’t think she’s a ‘bad’ person by the way. I don’t think she’s being ‘mean’. I don’t think she’s being malicious in any way. She just wants to get the best rate available to her. Fine. She’s been a long-standing client. You have a good relationship. Fantastic. But, it is slightly depressing to me that it is a woman who has also had children who is using that as a means to negotiate. It makes me a bit sad and quite angry.

[00:14:04] – Steve
Quite angry?

[00:14:05] – Frankie
Very angry.

[00:14:08] – Frankie
So I’ve said this a million times, but one of the biggest things about being self-employed and having children is boundary setting. Setting boundaries in different scenarios. You are being given a situation where you need to set firm boundaries about what you will and will not do for this client.

And, you’re putting your rates up. Are you willing to negotiate on that rate based on the fact that you have children? Basically, are you willing to do that? If you are, you’re setting a precedent for that relationship with that client going forward. I feel like this is a watershed moment for you and this client. And if you’re going to continue to work with them — which it sounds like you have done for a long time — but if you’re going to continue to work with them, I feel like this is an opportunity to be like, “No, that is not a line I’m going to cross.” And, if they want to continue to work with you, they understand that and that’s going to be better for you in the long term.

Maybe they don’t want to continue to work with you and you lose them. That’s the risk, I suppose. But I would hate for you to not say anything, reduce your rate, for you to be treated in this way long term and feel like you missed the opportunity to set those boundaries with this person.

[00:15:13] – Steve
Which is why it’s great that you already have other clients and other work so that you can confidently reply. Somebody who is in a position where maybe they needed this work might feel inclined to reduce their rate.

[00:15:28] – Frankie
Yeah, that’s true. You have the freedom to say no, basically.

[00:15:33] – Steve
And, if that was you listening to this — in that position where you didn’t have that work — we would say: you don’t need to reduce your rate, don’t reduce your rate. It never ends well. You end up resenting it. If you’ve decided that is your rate and you’ve quoted that rate, stick to that rate. If you’re going to reduce anything, reduce the deliverable, reduce the scope of work that they are asking you to do.

Thankfully, you are in the position where you can say, “I’ve got lots of other work on, and if you want me-,” it gives you that confidence, which is why we should always be trying to bring in more clients so that we don’t end up in a situation where we rely on somebody who treats us like this.

[00:16:13] – Frankie
Yeah, like I said at the start, I hope they regret that comment. And maybe not now, but I’d hope they regret it if you did go on to respond and say, “How much I charge has nothing to do with the fact I have children.”

[00:16:24] – Steve
That sentence is so good.

“How much I charge has nothing to do with the fact I have children”.

There you go.

[00:16:29] – Frankie
I mean, it just doesn’t! Clearly Lotus is pissed off by this exchange. What do they say? “This irritates me no end.” Yeah, absolutely. “This irritates me no end, as it implies I should charge less because I have childcare duties.” Yeah, it does. And you know what? Sorry, rant part two…

Yeah, it does imply that. And that fits in with what we know to be true, which is that women get paid less than men in the workplace. There is the huge pay gap between women and men, and that a large amount of that comes down to the fact that women have babies and their careers basically dissipate overnight and they’re not rewarded for procreating. Whereas the data, I believe, shows that men who procreate go on to earn more and are promoted more.

[00:17:19] – Frankie
Anyway. My point being — if anything, as a fellow woman who has also had children, if I was that client, I’d be like, “Fantastic, good for you putting your rates up! Because our fucking system is designed to bring us down and I’m gladly going to support another mother to earn more money. In fact, you know what? Put it up a bit more!” would be like the dream scenario.

It just makes me sad that that’s being used as a means to pay you less. When you are not worth less, you are worth whatever you deem to charge and probably a lot more because we have been conditioned to charge less as women. Full stop.

In an ideal world, I would love to see this exchange to be more like, “Good for you. Great. I would love to throw more work your way because you’re not getting paid enough. I would love to pay you a higher rate because I know how hard it is to have to work in reduced hours around your children because our childcare system is so fucking expensive.” That is the exchange that I would like to see from your client.

And I know those clients exists, by the way. I have had exchanges like that. I’ve also been that person where I’ve said, “Yes, good for you for putting your rates up. Should have done that twelve months ago!”, and gone on to pay them quite gladly because that’s the right thing to do. Damn it.

[00:18:36] – Steve
Okay, have you got a comment for Lotus? Other than, “good name”.

Get in touch with Frankie wherever she has posted this, be it on Twitter or Instagram, or of course in the Doing It For The Kids Community. If you’ve not joined yet, go to

[00:18:53] – Frankie
And, I would really love some dads from Doing It For The Kids to come in, pile in on this episode and tell me that this has happened to you, please. And what did you say?

[00:19:03] – Steve
Oh, and we also need questions. As was proven with this one, they can be anonymous.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation over in the DIFTK Community.