Much like I enjoy looking up at the windows of New York City luxury buildings to catch a glimpse of how the other half one percent lives – I love reading income reports.
For those of you not quite as obsessed with entrepreneurship as I am, there are many fabulous people who willfully share their earnings each month …on the internet… for all to see.
In a world where sharing how much money you make is arguably more taboo than sharing how many sexual partners you’ve had, that might sound totally crazy.
Personally, I find that kind of pay transparency insanely inspiring.
My friend Michelle over at Making Sense of Cents started tracking her extra income outside of her 9-5 job in May of 2012. That month she made an extra $672. Today, she’s hustled hard enough to make her “extra income” her full time income, with her September 2015 earnings coming in at over 30k for the month!
If you go to Michelle’s site, you can review her income reports on every step of that journey and watch her incredible earnings ascent in action. If that doesn’t inspire you to get your hustle on, I don’t know what will.
Serial entrepreneur Pat Flynn, founder of The Passive Income Blog and Podcast also shares his rockstar earnings on his website smartpassiveincome.com. The Net Total for September 2015? $119,184.54 – yep, that’s for ONE month.
Now I know people are quick to dismiss such amazing results as SPAM, but let me ensure you that these are not overnight success stories. These people are consistent, hard working hustlers – and they’re freaking amazing at it.
I’m beyond grateful for their openness and willingness to share how the hustle can manifest. If it weren’t for them and people like them, sharing their income publicly, I would have had no idea it was possible to bootstrap my way into a thriving online career.
In large part, I have these people to thank for my newfound income reality. Which, for the sake of pay transparency, is all over the place – with my worst earnings this year coming in last month at $2,337, and my best earnings coming in this July at $15,030 (*both before taxes and expenses).
Either way, I’m on track to triple my income in 2015 and I attribute a great deal of that to pay transparency, however minimal, for giving me important information about the levels of income possible and how to price my work accordingly.
Now, if you’re traditionally employed, there are some rockstar resources out there that can help you gain context for your income without prying into the paychecks of others.
That said, we are increasingly moving toward non-traditional working arrangements and pay structures- hello freelancing.
And so, I plead, can we just please just talk about our money already?!
In case you slept through the entirety of last week, Jennifer Lawrence made headlines when she penned an essay in Lena Dunham’s digital newsletter, slamming the revelations from the Sony hack that she was earning less than her male co-stars in the movie “American Hustle”.
If it weren’t for the secrecy that exists around salary, maybe these kinds of arbitrary pay inequities wouldn’t be so prevalent.
Not to say that pay transparency should go hand in hand with everyone earning the same salary, but that pay disparities be backed by logical explanations – not gender, race, orientation or any other discriminatory measures.
After all, if differences in pay have logical explanations, why should there be a need for secrecy?
And let’s be honest, when does an absence of transparency really serve as the best policy for the whole?
Silicon Valley startups are leading the charge in what’s become known as the “radical pay transparency” movement in the private sector – treating employees like partners by keeping them up-to-date on the details of company finances, salaries included.
Dane Atkinson, CEO of the data analytics firm SumAll finds that although keeping employees up to date and informed on pay differences means a larger workload, the added effort is worthwhile. “It reduces a lot of politics, helps with faster recruiting, avoids gender pay problems and keeps people focused on the work that the company values,” The Washington Post reports.
In an interview with Think Progress, Atkinson adds, “It’s stunning how much stress exists in the workplace around compensation, how much time is spent by employees trying to be treated fairly. When you take that all away, it’s not only more productive for the company, but a huge relief on the team. You end up getting a much bigger brain trust for running the business.”
The bottom line is boosted not only by this increased productivity and commitment to the shared mission, but also by worker satisfaction, manifesting in less employee turnover – an expense that can consume around 20 percent of a replaced employee’s salary.
Federal salary rates have long been public information. The Department of Labor says the policy of transparency serves to narrow the wage gap between men and women and among different racial groups, and guess what- it works!
A recent report from the Office of Personnel Management found that the gender pay gap among federal workers shrunk dramatically from 1992 to 2012 – falling from 30 percent to 13 percent for all white collar workers and 11 percent for general schedule workers.
Meanwhile, among the general population, women’s earnings have stalled at 77 percent of what men make, even when they work full-time and year-round. Perhaps lack of pay transparency is the explanation.
Where just 18 percent of women and 11 percent of men working for the government say they are banned or discouraged from discussing their pay, 60 percent of private sector workers report the same kind of lockdown on salary discussions – where equal pay continues to stall. Coincidence?
Though I dream of sweeping policy changes that result in universal pay transparency, I’ve always found myself too impatient to wait on others. So I talk about money, pay included, as openly and honestly as I can.
I may not be quite as awesomely open as some of my online idols, but I’m certainly open enough to dig into numbers with friends, family and professional counterparts.
Unfortunately, my unabashed candor is often met with hushed (and sometimes unhushed) chastising. “We don’t talk about that.”
Ugh, why not?!
Who are we serving by not talking about it! The employer that’s not valuing our work properly?
Former Google engineer Erica Baker created a spreadsheet where she and some of her former coworkers shared salaries, reposting it on an internal social networking account where it spread quickly.
“Before I left, about 5% of former co. had shared their salary on that sheet. People asked for & got equitable pay based on data in the sheet,” Baker tweeted. “The world didn’t end. Everything didn’t go up in flames because salaries got shared. But s***t got better for some people,” she added.
Lauren Voswinkel, a Pittsburg-based programmer coined the #TalkPay hashtag earlier this year, while urging people to share their salaries on social media – a movement that inspired me to reveal my own freelance #talkpay revelations.
“If earnings aren’t shared, at least in part, don’t we all run the risk of undervaluation – individually and thereby collectively? With freelancers unknowingly pricing themselves at a tenth of market rates, won’t would-be employers have ample low-cost choices, thereby reducing their need for higher priced alternatives and bringing down freelance budget altogether?”
For the full post, check out Why Freelancers Should TalkPay.
If we are going to demand transparency, in any form, from corporations, institutions, employers and others – let’s start by demanding transparency from ourselves. Salary seems like just as good a place to start as any.