Am I being paid enough? Nafisa Bakkar reveals the questions you need to ask

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Nafisa Bakkar is on a mission to help everyone, regardless of their background, know their worth…

Nafisa Bakkar is the CEO of amaliah.com, a media platform designed to amplify the voices of muslim women. Her goal is to make sure that “every single person understands their value, and everyone around them also understands it, so we get paid what we’re worth”.

Her journey began when she was at university, studying Natural Sciences. “I realised there was a whole world out there misrepresenting muslim women,” she says. “I wanted to change that.” 

However, Bakkar says on stage at Stylist Live LUXE, she didn’t realise she could get paid to help. She felt she owed it to other people of her race and gender to be platformed regardless of what she got in return.

That changed when the vice president of eBay called her. “I told him what I charged and he said ‘no, I’ll bring you in line with what I’m paying everyone else’. Not everyone is that nice. He taught me that I was undervaluing myself.”

Keen to know your worth? Here’s Bakkar’s eight-point guide to working out how to get what you deserve: 

Know what you do for free and why you do it

“Sometimes you can do things without getting paid. But for me, there has to be a mutual benefit. Good will goes a really long way – if you like what they’re doing and want a long term relationship, engage with them. If it’s a small business and you admire what they’re doing, you don’t have to charge. Sometimes, it might be good to do things without a fee so it can go into your portfolio and give you leverage for another project. But remember that, as tempting as it can be to say yes when you have a huge brand turn up, that’s called ‘logo collecting’ rather than work. Once you do something for free it can be hard to get back to a place of value. Sometimes saying no means they’ll come back with budget.”

Break down how much time it takes to complete a task

“No one is just paying for that hour you turn up or those 800 words you write. It’s also about the time it takes to research, write, send emails back and forth. You might have to physically deliver something and it could take three hours to travel. Sometimes you do the maths on that and you’re not even on minimum wage. I also charge a weekend premium – my weekends are precious to me. Asking me to sacrifice my family time and my Sunday mornings? There’s a price for that.”

Ask for a fee

“It’s surprising how easy it is to be paid when you ask. It’s easy to think we’re not experienced enough or we’ll annoy people, but the more you ask the less daunting it becomes. I will know when people have no money, but I’ll still ask because it makes it less daunting.”

Be good at negotiating

“I’m not a slimy man in a business suit, so I thought I wasn’t cut out for negotiation. If it feels uncomfortable, it wont be authentic, and you need to be comfortable or you won’t get what you’re worth. Double it and add 20% – that’s the rule. And you can just say something like: ‘we appreciate that offer but you need to meet us at our current rate’. Don’t be scared to ask for more. If you do decide to work at a reduced rate, make sure they know that it’s less than usual so that for future they can give you the right budget.”

Negotiate twice

“Any time a number comes back to me, I push it. It might be a tiny amount, but don’t think that the number someone gives you is the be all and end all. Sometimes I ask for other things. If they’re interesting but can’t pay me what I want, I ask for an introduction to a different person or department that I think I can have a meaningful conversation with. Think about what other value comes from the relationship?”

Diversity and inclusion isn’t a reason to work for free

“The lack of budget in diversity and includion roles reflects how companies value that. Sometimes you think it’s ok to do it for free because of the exposure, but with D&I roles you don’t see key decision or senior management people in the room, and they’re the people who will be bringing you back in. Marginalised communities are wanted on specific calendar moments, and it’s tempting to do it for that month so you get work in other months – but there’s a very small chance that will happen. If it’s two weeks before black history month, and they’re scrambling to book you, it tells you they didn’t value the event and they panicked to be woke.”

Learn how to say no 

“I’ve gone to Twitter for the rant of my life when someone hasn’t paid, but I now think you should never send a message that you would feel uncomfortable about if someone screenshotted. You can say F you in a professional manner. How do you do that? Say, ‘currently we only have the capacity to take on paid projects, so if there’s anything in the future then let me know’. A lot of the time they aren’t coming from a sinister place, it’s just that the person contacting you doesn’t have access to the budget. Keep the relationship professional so as to not burn bridges.”

Talk about money

“Talk to people in a similar position to you. Say, ‘we’ve been asked to work on this brief, how much would you charge?’ Twitter is great for something like this. And don’t just ask women – ask men, too. We know there’s differences in how we get paid and sometimes the numbers are ludicrous. Sharing knowledge and transparency is key to having a good rate. When a brief comes in, also ask who they’ve approached. There’s also a concept called favoured nation that I learnt from Stylist – it means everyone involved is getting paid the same. Sometimes that means it can be lower than normal, but sometimes it’s better to be equal.”

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