Salary Story: By Going Freelance I Doubled My Salary To 80k

·4-min read

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

Been in the workforce for at least five years and interested in contributing your salary story? Submit your information here. Published stories receive £100.

Age: 31
Location: Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire
Current industry and job title: Public Relations, Freelance PR Manager
Current salary: Up to £80,000
Number of years employed since school or university: Nine

Starting salary: £18,000 in 2012
Biggest salary jump: £51,000 in 2020 to £80,000 in 2021
Biggest salary drop: £33,000 to £39,000 in 2017. Although not a drop technically, moving from a full-time job into freelance work impacted me materially, with no pension, paid holiday or sick leave.

Biggest negotiation regret: I wish that early on in my career I had known my worth. Now that I'm a freelancer and responsible for setting my own rates, I recognise a lot of the early missteps I made when I listened to older people in my field, who had a vested interest in keeping me feeling grateful for the small wages I was earning in return for bad treatment and a poor work/life balance. It's far easier to secure a wage you're happy with when you join a new business than it is to negotiate afterwards so always, always open negotiations from a higher position than you'd be happy to accept.

Best salary advice: Think about what you value in a job package – do you mainly care about the salary or do you really value the pension, private healthcare, paid sabbatical or any other perks? If you don't mind a bit of risk, consider becoming a freelancer. Yes, the risk is increased – there's no paid sick leave or holiday pay – but your day rate is higher to compensate for that and you have the added benefit of freedom to work for whoever you want. As a freelancer I'm my own boss, so I give myself a lot of promotions! I also only work for and with people whose values genuinely align with my own.

After graduating from my degree in multimedia journalism, I applied for roles in PR, having always intended to go into the industry. In fact, I'd chosen my degree with PR in mind. Following months of unpaid internships at London PR agencies every summer, I was fortunate to get a job straight out of university and started immediately. I didn't really stop to consider that I'd just got a job in B2B tech PR – which is very niche and wasn't exactly the most interesting sector.
After graduating from my degree in multimedia journalism, I applied for roles in PR, having always intended to go into the industry. In fact, I'd chosen my degree with PR in mind. Following months of unpaid internships at London PR agencies every summer, I was fortunate to get a job straight out of university and started immediately. I didn't really stop to consider that I'd just got a job in B2B tech PR – which is very niche and wasn't exactly the most interesting sector.
I was made redundant from my first job in tech PR and it was a huge confidence knock. I really thought it was because I wasn't good enough. I got a new job almost immediately and I negotiated a £1k increase on what they were offering, despite a rather large increase in responsibilities.
I was made redundant from my first job in tech PR and it was a huge confidence knock. I really thought it was because I wasn't good enough. I got a new job almost immediately and I negotiated a £1k increase on what they were offering, despite a rather large increase in responsibilities.
Unfortunately, my confidence knock persisted and I struggled to cope with the level of additional work expected. I didn't pass my probation so it was time to look for another new job. After taking on some brief freelance work to sustain myself, I joined a branding agency specialising in the legal sector.
Unfortunately, my confidence knock persisted and I struggled to cope with the level of additional work expected. I didn't pass my probation so it was time to look for another new job. After taking on some brief freelance work to sustain myself, I joined a branding agency specialising in the legal sector.
I brought in new clients, expanded the PR function at the branding agency I worked for and got some great results but I was repeatedly refused promotion or pay rise. After another disappointing refusal, I moved in-house to work for a law firm, where I was responsible for handling the PR for the technology and life sciences practices.
I brought in new clients, expanded the PR function at the branding agency I worked for and got some great results but I was repeatedly refused promotion or pay rise. After another disappointing refusal, I moved in-house to work for a law firm, where I was responsible for handling the PR for the technology and life sciences practices.
I received a minor increase to £33k after around 10 months when another person joined the team. Although there was an annual appraisal process, this was outside of that as I didn't make the cut-off for the first round of appraisals. I found out later that the new colleague was earning far more than I was, which is probably why they bumped me up.
I received a minor increase to £33k after around 10 months when another person joined the team. Although there was an annual appraisal process, this was outside of that as I didn't make the cut-off for the first round of appraisals. I found out later that the new colleague was earning far more than I was, which is probably why they bumped me up.
After almost two years in that role, no promotion or pay rise was possible and my mental health was suffering from my never-ending to-do list so I left to investigate a career change. I went freelance to tide myself over and four years later I'm still going. I've never looked back. My day rate started at £200 in 2017 which worked out at <strong>roughly £39k.</strong> I'm now up to £450 per day and only work four days a week, <strong>roughly £80k.</strong><br><br>Regarding increasing my day rate, I've always been keen to ensure I'm paid a fair day rate for my work so I've steadily increased it in line with my experience and it's flexible depending on how busy I am. As a freelancer, all the risk is on you – I don't mind this but it means that your day rate should be at least a third higher than what you'd pay a normal employee to account for the loss of employment protections, holiday/sick pay and pension contributions. A good rule of thumb is to look at the comparative salaried rate for the level needed, add a third and reverse-engineer it to find a starting day rate.
After almost two years in that role, no promotion or pay rise was possible and my mental health was suffering from my never-ending to-do list so I left to investigate a career change. I went freelance to tide myself over and four years later I'm still going. I've never looked back. My day rate started at £200 in 2017 which worked out at roughly £39k. I'm now up to £450 per day and only work four days a week, roughly £80k.

Regarding increasing my day rate, I've always been keen to ensure I'm paid a fair day rate for my work so I've steadily increased it in line with my experience and it's flexible depending on how busy I am. As a freelancer, all the risk is on you – I don't mind this but it means that your day rate should be at least a third higher than what you'd pay a normal employee to account for the loss of employment protections, holiday/sick pay and pension contributions. A good rule of thumb is to look at the comparative salaried rate for the level needed, add a third and reverse-engineer it to find a starting day rate.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Salary Story: I Jumped My Salary By 80k In My 20s

Salary Story: After COVID My Salary Jumped To 125k

Salary Story: Redundancies Led Me To The Right Job

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting