It really hurts me when I hear Social Workers grumble about their salary. It’s too low, too little. Not aligned with their professional education. Not valuing their efforts. Not enough to have a wealthy life. Not enough to feed your family.

Jeanine, a social worker, said to me: “I think we really do deserve a better salary…not because I believe we are ENTITLED to it but because we actually really do DESERVE it. This profession is truly a calling.”

When you’re struggling with a low salary it’s hard to help others in need. You might feel like you can’t even help yourself.

Thus I totally understand that Social Workers are looking for ways to get better salaries. I see three ways, three solutions Social Workers practice to solve the problem.

1. Mobilize ourselves

There’s this Facebook group called “Social Workers for better salaries”. A while ago the members organized a march. To advocate for a better salary. To make a fist. They made an appointment to mobilize at a certain day at a certain time.

At that day, at that time, just a few people showed up. The solution didn’t really work. I’m not sure but I can imagine why it didn’t work: we are too busy with our clients. When we have to choose between spending time on our clients or spending time on ourselves, we choose for our clients. Right?

2. Leave the job

This is a drastic solution. I know social workers who are so disappointed that they leave the job. They don’t call themselves a social worker anymore.

They try to find other jobs with a better salary. I guess this solution might work to get a better salary but there is a great risk of unwanted side effects: you might get bored in the new job. You might miss the satisfaction of helping people in need. Feel the gratitude. To know that you really have an impact in changing this world.

It seems to be a choice: be a social worker and accept the low salary or get another job and choose for the money. A difficult choice when you know in your heart that you truly are a social worker.

3. Become an entrepreneur

Start your own business! Have you ever heard of this solution? Not many social workers choose this solution. Simply because it doesn’t come up in their mind.

And now I’ve mentioned it … could it be a solution for you?

The strange thing is when you have your own business you even won’t have a salary anymore! Not a low salary and not a high salary. Your business will make revenue and from this revenue you pay yourself an income. You’re the boss! You decide!

This week I spoke with John. He’s a youth worker and started his business one and a half year ago. His income is already higher then his last salary!

I think it’s the best solution to get a better ‘salary’. But wait a minute, before you start your own business right now I have some more advice for you. I did it myself and will share in my next blog some wise lessons.

Please let me know what you think!

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Showing 17 comments
  • Barbara

    About to do just that (starting a small business) I’m certain I’ll follow your blog for more tips along the way
    – the best to all of us ????

  • Anneke Krakers

    Congrats Barbara! Great decision <3

  • Amparo Pacheco

    My information please. Starting a business takes money. What kind of business? With or without a license? Any insight is greatly appreciated.

  • Sophia Sebbi

    Great advice, I have always thought and discussed with colleagues in my last recent role that we are not brave enough for activism…so I am not suprised about the organised march not working.

    I am a Newly Qualified Social Worker but taking time out to be a full time mum just after qualifying has cost me experience, as a result a reasonable salary as I have to settle for unqualified roles to build on my experience. Any advice?

  • Makha Thusi

    Thanks Anneke for initiating this blog which touches on various challenges within the Social Work profession, especially “being overworked and underpaid”. I’m one of those Social Workers who “felt the heat” and ran away to the corporate environment but lost the valuable opportunity of being a “skilled helper” to the “needy”; due to the calling, I’m now back in the profession; still the same old story of “low salaries”! I fully agree that it’s up to us to look for alternative ways to augment our income and am preparing to join those who are embarking on that journey e.g. establishing my own consultancy! I’ll continue to follow your “blog” as it is very “educational”. Well done!

  • Anneke Krakers

    Hello AMPARO, you can start a business with no money in your pocket. There are a lot of free tools and resources you can use. I did a webinar on that and will see if I can schedule this webinar again.

    The kind of business you choose is all yours to decide. You have very powerful skills that are very transferable to all kinds of businesses. I wrote a blogpost on that:

    I hope this helps for now!

  • Anneke Krakers

    Sophia, your experience is not only determined by your job. It’s much more! The system of licensing is probably very restrictive. My advice is to trust yourself an make a connection with your dreams. What is it that you want to accomplish in this world? What will be your next step to start your journey to accomplish this?

    I hope this helps!

  • Anneke Krakers

    Makha, I’m impressed by your story. Thank you for sharing. Congrats on your decision to start your own consultancy! I’m happy to support you on your journey.

  • Ngaire

    I’m just about to start up my own practice so over low wages and managers that have very little creativity

  • Linda van Leeuwen

    I just started to work towards my goal to be a private practitioner. After working for 10 years in different fields in social work I know where my interest lies and what I am good at. I feel I have just about enough knowledge to manage on my own. I am not doing it for a better salary though. I just want to help people in a way that I think will achieve the best results and have the freedom to organise my diary. I don’t think people should just jump in to a private practice as you carry a lot of responsibility when working with people. Making a wrong choice can have devastating effects on the person you are trying to help. I am looking forward to hearing your tips. Please have a look at my Facebook page. I just started it to help people by providing brief interventions and motivational posts around mental health and life struggles. Like I said, like most Social Workers I want to help people, not become wealthy through it. So the advice I post on FB is free for everyone to access and I am available for specialised therapeutic services if someone feels they need more support. Good luck to all social workers in every type of job. It is not an easy profession. ❤

  • Anneke

    Linda, you’re so right! In a social business purpose comes for profit. But be aware of your nonprofit hormones: they might tell you that money is not important but it is! You need money to build a sustainable business so that you can help people who need you. If you want my look on your fb page please join me and more then 500 other entrepreneurial minded social workers in my hangout Social Souls. I’m happy to give feedback on your fb page in the community. In this way others can learn from it too <3

  • Anneke

    Ngaire, congrats on your private practice!

  • Crystal

    What is the average an MSW can make in San Francisco ?

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