The Fierce Girl's Guide to Finance

Get your shit together with money



‘Don’t ask, don’t get’ – and other life pro tips for IWD2019

In my view, every day should be International Women’s Day. We have thousands of years of patriarchal oppression to make up for right? But since it’s only once a year, I’m writing in honour of it.

Normally I just talk about ‘money this’ and ‘finance that’, but today I’m sharing a random collection of life and career tips that I’ve collected over the years.

While I sometimes think I could have pushed harder and been more successful by now, I’m not a total failure in the old ‘adulting’ department. So here is some of my hard-won knowledge.

  1. Don’t ask, don’t get

If I could only choose one piece of advice this would be it. It’s just as useful in the bedroom as the boardroom, to be honest. Women who don’t articulate their desires are far less likely to have them met.

I used to just get given a payrise or promotion and be like ‘wow, thanks!’. Never occurred to me to ask for more – which is actually a thing you can and should do. Similarly, when you’re making a big purchase, why not ask for a discount?

So now I ask, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel (i.e. a lot). Maybe you get a ‘no’, but maybe you get a ‘yes’.

Whereas if you don’t ask, you’ve given yourself a ‘no’ from the outset.

  1. It’s not about having time, it’s about having priorities

People ask me how I have time to do all this food prep and go to the gym five days a week, and all the other stuff that means I can wear sequin hot pants at age 40. I make time because it’s a priority.

I have no kids or husband to deal with, so I actually have plenty of time.

If you do have kids or a crazy job, and can’t make time for that stuff, then that’s cool too. Your priorities are different. It’s not wrong, you’re not lazy, it’s just a fact of modern life.

Money helps in this situation. If buying pre-packaged meals helps you hit your calorie target, then do it. If getting a personal trainer means you optimise your time in the gym, then invest. If you can pay a cleaner and steal back two hours of your life, then why not?

Sure, we should be responsible with our money, but we should also be realistic. We all have competing priorities – the key is to work out the order they go in, and build a life around that, with no judgement and minimal guilt trips.

  1. Choose a leader, not a job

I’ve been so lucky in my career, working for talented people who taught me a lot. My first boss taught me everything I know about PR, even if she shouted at me now and then. My editorial director in a London book company was inspiring even if she described me as ‘bossy and opinionated’ (in an affectionate way). This week I attended a retirement dinner for the man who told me I was a shit writer, then turned me into a good one. And my current boss has taught me that ‘no’ is just the start of a negotiation.

However, the thing they have in common is that they weren’t just managers, they were leaders whose values I was aligned with.

So the point I’d make is this. When you’re planning your next career move, look for a leader you’d follow into a fire. It’s not always about the company brand, or the title you’ll get, or even the money. Find yourself a boss you like, who sees you as a person, not just a resource – and you’ll go further at work.

  1. Be your own cheerleader

It’s great to have someone who spots your talent and rewards you accordingly. But people are busy and focused on their own stuff. Simply doing a great job isn’t enough to help you climb the ladder.

You need to make your case and highlight your good work. I know, that sounds awkward AF.

Drawing attention to your wins, describing yourself positively, pushing your case in a performance review: they all sound about as comfortable as a strapless bra that’s a size too small.

This week I had to write an announcement about myself for my boss to send to all staff. At first I was all like ‘oh I sound like a douchebag’.

And then I was like ‘oh stop it, who cares, you’re the head of PR and if you don’t PR the shit out of yourself, who will?’. So, I pretended I was writing it about someone else, and it was totally fine.

So my main point here is, cheerleading for yourself is not a natural or comfortable thing for most women – but do it anyway, like Rihanna putting her own damn crown on.

That awkward payrise conversation: how to slay it (and not piss off your boss)

Now that we are all super BFFs with the four ladies who will make us rich, I want to spend a little bit of quality time with one of them. Think of it as a Single Date on The Bachelor, but no awkward kissing at the end. (Unless that’s your thing, which is fine, no judgement here).

The tricky thing about Earning is that she can be hard to control. There are many factors in play, including the job you choose, your level of experience and the fundamentally patriarchal workforce that embeds a 17% gender gap.

But there are things you can control (unless you’re on an Award or Enterprise Agreement – in which case, stop reading and go watch some Real Housewives, cos I got nothin’ for you. Soz). One of them is growing your salary.

Women are great negotiators

Of the many arguments put forward about why women earn less than men, one is our unwillingness or inabilty to negotiate.

I don’t know about you, but I long ago honed my deal-making skills – with myself. All those complex arguments about whether to eat that cake, but only if we go to the gym and if we just cut a small bit off and there are no calories if it’s off someone else’s plate and look it’s Sunday and I really worked hard this week and it’s gluten-free … etc etc etc.

A brain that spends that much time making trade-offs about the size of your butt can totally nail a pay deal.

And yet I was amazed to find out that my very grown-up, professional, confident friend who has worked in corporate for many years, HAS NEVER ASKED FOR A PAYRISE.

Wait, what?

Now to be honest I am not the best at it myself – I’m lucky to have had bosses who offer them up without asking. But if you don’t have a fair and generous manager who knows you’re pretty effin’ hard to replace, then you need to step up and ASK.

However, having sat on the other side of these conversations many times (as a #girlboss), let me make a few points.

You do not get a payrise for simply showing up. You get rewarded when you do a great job, not an ordinary job. If your performance review is a little iffy, or if you’re as committed to the job as that time Britney performed at the AMAs, then be realistic.

Your salary is linked to the business. A company’s profit has to grow in order for your paypacket to grow, otherwise it just eats into the profits (and no CEO is okay with that). So be conscious of your employer’s financial position, and temper your request accordingly.  

You should take an interest in the performance of your employer anyway (because you are a Fierce Girl), so if you don’t know, ask! Most leaders are pleased to see their team members take an interest in the business.

On a related note, don’t feel bad for asking your manager. It’s not coming out of their own pocket; it’s coming out of the business’s, which is essentially a bunch of numbers on a balance sheet.

Go in high, but don’t take the piss. Arriving at a number to ask for is tricky. You don’t want to go too low and miss out, but go too high and it doesn’t reflect well. In all the salary surveys I have worked on over the years (doing the PR for them), average payrises across the workforce end up between 3-5%.

I’ve sometimes received payrises around 10% though. My friend recently went in for 5% and got it no questions asked – suggesting she could have started higher. So, I don’t have a magic number, but I reckon 5-10% is safe.

You don’t get a payrise because you’re shit with money. ‘As if anyone would think that!’ you say. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people ask for more money because they need it. ‘Oh this city is so expensive!’ or some version of that.

As a boss, I give absolutely zero fucks about your lifestyle needs, because I am running a business. If your need for wine money is the basis of your request, don’t bother. Please see the first point above.

You only get to go nuclear once. Here’s a scenario: you speak to some recruiters, friends in similar roles and your best friend, and reach a conclusion: you are grossly underpaid.

Now, this may be true or not – it’s hard to know for sure. Also, your market rate can fluctuate depending on whether you’re in a niche sector, have in-demand skills or very specific experience, that make you ‘hot right now’.

So you come to your boss with a figure that you’re sure you’re worth. It’s pretty high. But you feel it’s fair, you state your case and are duly rejected.

So now, do you go nuclear? Threaten to leave – or even get another job and wait for a counteroffer?

In my experience, you maybe get to do this once. And the chances of it working are 50/50, so be sure it’s worth it – and you’re really ok with leaving if they call your bluff. It can also take a toll on your reputation (you look demanding) … but then it could also show you are not to be messed with. So, it’s one option, but use it with care. 

Tips from some bad-arse bossladies

That’s my take on the issue (with input from one of my mates). But because I love you Fierce Girls, I actually went an asked some experts. Jane Neale co-owns an executive search firm called Hattonneale, hiring the people who run corporate Australia. Before that, she slayed it in the male-dominated world of advertising, as managing director of the largest ad agency, George Patterson. (Take that, Mad Men!). She is also an awesome human being, and kindly gave me these do’s and don’ts of nailing a payrise. (Btw – she is far less keen on the nuclear option).

Don’t demand a payrise or give your manager an ultimatum.
Do put forward your case for an increase in a businesslike way: why do you deserve a payrise? – list your achievements in your role in a clear and measured way.

Don’t focus on hours spent on the job.
Do focus on outcomes and achievements.

Don’t compare yourself to other colleagues as a way of leveraging support for an increase.
Do focus on your own merits.

Don’t threaten to leave if you are not successful.
Do ask for feedback and seek clarity on what you need to focus on to ensure you are in line for a review next time.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations.
Do your homework and be clear about the broader market and business performance as well as your own performance. Is this an environment when increases should be expected?

Don’t blindside your manager at an inappropriate time or place.
Do schedule a meeting when you both have time for a proper conversation.

Then I asked my own boss, whom I actually called Bosslady (she calls me Bey, obvs). Philippa Honner has run her own PR agency for 20 years, so she knows a thing or two about, well, everything. She says:

“Put yourself in the Bosslady’s shoes and think about what you are contributing to the place you work. This can be a commercial contribution, but also softer stuff like being a good team player, being positive and helping make the company a better place to work.

“If the Bosslady divided the staff in to stars and less shiny people… are you making the stars list? Make sure you really understand the value of what you are contributing so when you ask for a pay rise, you can explain why you think you deserve it on the basis of your contribution now, and in the future.

“Because even if the Bosslady likes you, it’s her job to run the business and make a profit so she can pay everyone, and have a bit left over.”

So there you go ladies. Earning and you are now much closer: you’ve invited her to your birthday drinks and friended her on Facebook. Now, make sure you keep up the friendship if you want to get rich.

Like this post? Share the love! Or even better, subscribe for updates in that little box on the right. Well done!

Blog at

Up ↑