Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Julia Antenucci Asks for the Pay She Deserves

March 20, 2017

“Before I even understood what it meant, I wanted to be a writer. When I was five, I penned my first short story ever, marched across the street to the public library, slapped it on the librarian’s desk, and asked if she could please publish it. I remember her laughing kindly, and telling me it wasn’t that easy—and to this day, that has stuck with me. It isn’t easy to be a writer.

In college, while coping with my first devastating breakup, I stumbled upon Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood Bones & Butter and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. As I feverishly read these deliciously illustrative food memoirs, I realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life. Since then, I’ve thrown myself into my other passion—food—and begun marrying two things that should have been together all along.

When I graduated in 2014, I tried to hit the ground running, jumping into an apartment in Bushwick that I already knew I couldn’t afford. I lived off of spinach and apples that summer, trying desperately to find a writing job while receiving deafening email silences peppered with polite replies of “You need more experience.” Defeated, I retreated to my parents’ and sought to start small by freelancing.

Starting out, I had zero concept of self-value and didn’t think I deserved to value my work in the first place. It didn’t help that I had no idea what I wanted out of my career. So when I booked freelance writing gigs, I would throw out a low number, silently praying they would accept. They always did, of course. I would do work for free and sometimes, even when my contractors wanted to pay me, I’d “forget” to send an invoice. Call it sheer stupidity, but at times I felt some deep resistance to getting the compensation I deserved.

Last year, I stumbled upon a concept that would change the way I looked at everything— especially my professional and financial work. I was going through another big breakup and my second corporate marketing job, feeling like I wasn’t headed in the direction I always dreamed. Again, I turned to books. I found Girlboss and Jen Sincero; these women implored me to ask the same, terrifying question: “What do you want?” 
Ever since I stopped and truly asked myself that question, I’ve hit the ground running and I’ll never look back. It’s amazing what happens when you start being honest with yourself. My food blog and Instagram, Follow Your Fork, is finally off the ground, and I am slowly building meaningful relationships with my wonderful community of followers. Around the same time, I booked a freelance food writing job at my dream company. Instead of throwing out numbers I thought would be acceptable, I decided to go big and ask for a sum that would happily cover my rent. And as if it wasn’t even a question, the contractor nonchalantly agreed.

I have a long way to go. In a lot of ways, I’m just getting started. But I’ve since raised my rates with all of my contractors (who happily agreed), and in pursuit of honesty, I put in my six weeks at my marketing job to give myself the space I want and need to fully develop my career in food media (while waitressing, because everyone needs to pay those bills). 

But even if I’m at the very beginning of my career, I want to cry tears of joy for the tiny me who dreamed of one day being a writer. I’m doing it, and I can’t wait to see what I do next.”

Three pieces of advice for aspiring Girlbosses:

1.   Do the things that scare you first. For years, I put off making a website because the thought of not having the perfect web design scared me. I also resisted writing blog posts because I was scared it would never be good enough. And invoices? Yup, those terrified me, too. These days, to-do lists are my best friends, and guess which things are at the very top? Oftentimes, the things that scare us are the things that are most critical to our success. Learn to face doing them and eventually you’ll do them well. For now, just focus on getting them done. You’ll thank yourself later. 

2.  Celebrate the small successes. If you’re constantly chasing your dreams, it may feel like where you’re at now, despite your achievements, is not enough. Stop that! No matter how small, I make it a point to revel in each and every goal I accomplish. Always take the time to reflect, and if it helps, journal each and every success. Success is about the in-between after all, so savor its sweetness as it comes.

3.  Write terribly. The biggest mistake writers can make is believing that their work has to be perfect all of the time. Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of 10,000 hours of mastery comes into play here: You have to practice like hell before you can truly master anything. This especially applies to writing. You’ll be great someday; in the meantime, just write.

by Julia Antenucci

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