I was scared to negotiate 24w


"I want to discuss increasing my fee," I said over the phone to the client I'd just landed. When I left my secure, high-profile job as a Director of Culinary Arts in 2008 in New York City, I was nervous to start my business. But this was my lifelong dream.

When I was a kid, I wanted an office like J.R. on Dallas.

It wasn't an easy dream to achieve! I was in NYC in the highly competitive food field that had recently "gone Hollywood."

The recession didn't help. Wealthy people with more resources were entering the trendy food field, bumping us hippies out. New bloggers were mastering social media a lot faster than my old ass. iPads came out the same year I published my hardcopy cookbook.

The world was changing and quickly. 

So when I landed a sought-after curriculum writing gig at a prestigious culinary organization and they offered a decent fee, it took every ounce of my willpower to negotiate instead of grabbing it right away.

I called my older brother to coach me. He'd remind me how long I'd been working in the field, that my expertise was worth a lot because few others had it. He'd get me pumped up. If I ever need a tough, savvy negotiator, he's my man. 

The client had funds. However, it was a grant for a kids cooking program so...not highly valued in our society. 

Nutrition is a strange industry with wildly varying services. If you add in kids and education? Pink-collar plus pink-collar and it's even more difficult to get people to understand the value of my expertise (slowing / reversing an obesity epidemic. Nothing too important)!

I've mentored a lot of women in my field and many have struggled with negotiating. I would suggest that they practice negotiating small things to make it easier to ask big things. I'd remind them that they are improving things for other women! That would often help them re-frame it.

So I knew I had to practice what I preached with this fancy client - which felt easier at schools and small non-profits. 

I remember talking to my brother while pacing in Union Square Park. I called my client and rattled off my talking points before I lost my nerve.

I was so scared. What if they took the gig away? (Such a silly fear but we all have it.) What if they changed the offer? What if what if what if??

They came back with a $700 increase which wasn't much but I was jubilant! It wasn't the amount that mattered. It was that they INCREASED because I ASKED. I was just so happy that it WORKED.

Later, my contact told me that he admired how hard I negotiated! I remember feeling so proud. Interestingly, I've never had a woman tell me that all these years.

In fact, I heard rumors from someone in my field that I was "expensive." Yes, that's right! 20 years in the field, master's degree, a pioneer of kids culinary education and my reputation was that I charged too much!!! 

Can you imagine anyone saying that about a man who had worked as long as I had? A man that was a cookbook author? And worked his way to the top of his field in New York City? 


It was a woman who said that about me. And it may have cost me other gigs. And I wasn't even that expensive!!!

At the time, I was really upset. But now? I'm glad that I might have made it easier for women who came after me. 

It's not just up to the men to *give* us what we deserve. It is also up to us to *ask* for what we deserve.

Creating a new culture with equal pay will require both genders to adjust their way of thinking and doing business. It will feel uncomfortable at first. But it's either take steps forward into discomfort. Or, keep things the way they are.

I still struggle with knowing my worth, financially and otherwise. Maybe I always will. Or, maybe I won't.

Either way, it feels good to TALK ABOUT IT.

Thanks for listening.

Much love, Jules

[[This photo must be from about 2011? I'm holding my cookbook, "Easy Meals to Cook with Kids," which I published in 2010 and I think I'm giving a talk at the JCC in Manhattan where I used to work.]]