Female Freelancers Make 26% Less per Project Than Males, HoneyBook Study Finds

Women are taking on 22% more projects a year than men and still earning 11% less income annually

December 9, 2019

HoneyBook, the leading business and financial management platform for freelancers and solopreneurs, today released its 2019 Gender Pay Gap Report. Designed to determine how the pay gap and attitudes towards the issue have changed since HoneyBook’s inaugural report in 2017, the study explores the difference in pay between male and female creative entrepreneurs and how the gender pay gap is perceived in the creative economy.

HoneyBook’s new study shows that the difference in annual income between male and female freelancers has improved, with the gender pay gap narrowing from 32% in 2017 to 11% in 2019. However, further analysis reveals significant pay inequality remains: women are making 26% less per project. In fact, to close the gap women are completing 22% more projects a year than men. Simply put, the gender pay gap is shrinking in the creative economy because women are taking on more projects to make up for unequal pay.  

HoneyBook analyzed 345,675 invoices sent on their platform from Oct. 1, 2018, to Oct. 1, 2019, and surveyed 1,856 freelancers from Oct. 28 to Oct. 31, 2019. The report reveals a number of interesting insights on income disparity in the creative economy and the earning power of freelancers based on characteristics like gender, industry, and education level.  

Awareness of the gender pay gap is growing, but more education is needed to close it 

In 2017, HoneyBook uncovered that despite the existence of a significant 32% annual pay gap, the majority of both male (72%) and female freelancers (63%) believed that men and women were paid equally. This indicated a lack of awareness about the income inequality that exists between men and women in the creative economy. 

Since then, awareness of the issue has increased. The 2019 survey reveals that 35% of female and 59% of male freelancers believe that men and women earn equal pay. However, while awareness grows, closing the gap will take action on the part of all freelancers to fix. 

The study also found that female freelancers today are more educated than their male counterparts, but are still making significantly less per project. 71% of women have graduated from college or completed some or all of graduate school. While 54% of men have the same level of education.

When surveyed, women indicated that they were less likely than men to lower their prices after negotiating with clients. Despite this commitment to their pricing, women still make less. The likely reason? Women underprice their work in nearly every industry. 

 The gender pay gap by industry in 2019: 

  • DJ/Musician: Women earn 38 cents to the male dollar
  • Photographer: Women earn 65 cents to the male dollar 
  • Marketing Professional: Women earn 68 cents to the male dollar 
  • Graphic Designer: Women earn 86 cents to the male dollar 
  • Web Designer: Women earn 88 cents to the male dollar 
  • Event Planner: Women earn 97 cents on the male dollar 
  • Cinematography: Women earn one cent more than men 

However, the study found that 82% of women would change their pricing if they found out that their prices were lower than someone of the opposite gender in the same field and geographic region. This willingness on the part of female freelancers to change their pricing indicates how important awareness and education are to closing the gender pay gap. 

“I see established female business owners who cannot pay themselves consistently and struggle to manage the ebbs and flows of their income,” said Keina Newell, an entrepreneur and financial coach who helps women get clear on their financial goals. “Business finances can feel isolating and women oftentimes don’t know how or who to ask for credible help. Education and coming together as a community to raise awareness of the gender pay gap is the best way to close it.”  

While the gender pay gap has been heavily studied and widely talked about in corporate America, the same could not be said for the creative economy when HoneyBook undertook its first study in 2017. The goal at the time was to determine whether the same issue that troubled the traditional workforce existed for freelancers.

Since uncovering the gender pay gap in the creative economy two years ago, HoneyBook has remained committed to tracking the issue, raising awareness, and providing education to help close the gap. 

Gender pay gap perceptions are different between genders 

Together, the majority of respondents believe the primary cause of the gender pay gap is women undervaluing and underselling their services (45%), followed by wage secrecy (27%). The report also reveals that each gender has their own perception of why there is a gender pay gap:

Male respondents believed the top two causes are:

  1. Underrepresentation of women in their industry 
  2. Females undervalue and undersell their services

Whereas, women saw the top two drivers of a gap as:

  1. Females undervalue and undersell their services 
  2. Wage secrecy 

The survey revealed a stark difference between how men and women view the “Motherhood Penalty,” the idea that moms encounter disadvantages in the workplace due to the perception that they cannot balance childcare with a career. 27% of women responded that this contributed to the gender pay gap in their industry, and a mere 12% of men felt the same. 

Of the parents surveyed, nearly half of women (47%) have felt the need to hide their parenting responsibilities from clients for fear it will impact their pay. Conversely, 14% of men have felt the same.

The differences in the way that the gender pay gap is perceived between genders suggest that more education is needed to close the gap. HoneyBook believes that a deeper understanding of the causes behind gender-based pay inequality will empower female freelancers to charge their worth and create a more equitable creative economy. By sharing this information, HoneyBook’s report aims to address the gender pay gap through education and spark transparent conversations about pricing and income between freelancers.

The gender pay gap impacts passion, not just profit

When asked what concerns them most about the gender pay gap, female freelancers responded that they worry most about their ability to make a living doing the work they want. Other top concerns for female freelancers include the financial impact of having to adjust their product or service pricing and their ability to save for retirement. 

“HoneyBook has always supported all entrepreneurs and freelancers with the resources they need to build successful businesses doing what they love,” said Oz Alon, co-founder, and CEO of HoneyBook. “We’re determined to break down the barriers that keep our community from pursuing their passion and doing our part to help close the gender pay gap is an essential part of this mission.”

In an industry where entrepreneurs set their own prices, the solution to the gender pay gap comes down to awareness and education so that freelancers can be empowered to take action. Backed by this new study, HoneyBook has enlisted the help of finance and business coaches to offer actionable tips that female freelancers can use to charge more for their services and increase their earnings doing what they love.

To see the full report and expert financial advice, visit the Gender Pay Gap Report on the HoneyBook blog. 

Correction: An earlier version of the release stated that women earn 35% less income per project and are taking on 17% more projects than men. The statement has been updated on 1/9/2019 to accurately reflect that women make 26% less than men per project and are taking on 22% more projects than men.


HoneyBook analyzed 345,675 invoices on their platform from Oct. 1, 2018, to Oct. 1, 2019, to determine whether the gender pay gap in the creative economy still exists and how it has evolved since the first report was published in 2017. The data analysis was supplemented with a survey of 1,856 freelancers in the U.S and Canada via the online platform SurveyMonkey to better understand the reasons behind the gender wage gap. The survey was administered from Oct. 28 - Oct. 31, 2019.