Designing the Right Salary: Negotiation Tips

You need money. Someone else needs your specific skills/energy/knowledge. If only getting the right salary was that simple. Since it's not, and it's a professional skill we must all hone, I've distilled a few pieces of sage advice on salary negotiation from the Core77 Discussion boards for you.

These are just the highlights, so make sure to visit the Design Employment board regularly for even more career, salary, interview and general job search advice.

illustrations by Javier Medellin Puyou

Understand what is really being offered.

The right perspective when applying for a job can make a big difference. In this thread, Jrod asks whether or not the salary range posted in a job description is set in stone. Job seekers often take what's publicized as face value and don't realize that the negotiation has already started. 99.9999% of employers put a price out there that is competitive, but isn't the absolute limit of what they can afford for the role. NURB and yo put it perfectly, respectively:

"Salary range is probably on the lower end of what they're willing to pay for the right candidate. No one wants to pay more than they have to for employees who are as yet unproven."

"I like to think of their high end of the stated range as the midpoint of the actual range..."

If you are really smitten with a job but are totally turned off by the advertised salary range, don't dismiss it right away. There is almost always room for negotiation as long as you have what they're looking for. That last part is important - don't push for a higher salary unless you are positive you exceed expectations in the role.

Do you know what you're really worth?

In this thread, acm was considering a job in NYC, but wasn't sure how to approach the salary negotiation. He didn't want to leave money on the table by not asking for a higher salary, but also didn't want to get baulked at. He also wasn't sure about the results he got from a cost of living calculator. rkuchinsky offers some perspective:

"six figures like $100,00+ ? 3-4 years experience. No way. Not in NYC, or on the moon."

The point here is it can be easy to be misled by calculators and estimates online. Before you ask for a specific number, ask real people with similar levels of skill and experience as you who work in your area, or people who are knowledgeable of earnings in the role and city you want about what salary you should expect. It also helps to look at aggregate responses from large groups of real people, like the Coroflot Design Salary Guide or GlassDoor. Most other online estimates may lead you astray, and lead you to potentially embarrassing assumptions about what you should be earning.

What else could you get?

Sometimes a higher or better salary isn't the end all be all. In this discussion, Title Change, chevisw wonders if a significant title upgrade is worth it even if the work and salary don't change at all. Engio asks the perfect question here:

"Why would you not take it?"

The non monetary benefits of a job often match getting a fat paycheck, especially if, as in this case, the benefit is a more impressive job title that will lead to greater earning potential in the future. Medical insurance, education and commuting reimbursement, free lunches, use of the company gym, stock options and many more benefits that have nothing to do with your pay will add up. Don't forget about experience, mentoring, creative freedom, etc.

Do you have any questions about salary negotiation? Perhaps you've learned a super valuable lesson that's worth sharing with others? Share it all right here, or head on over to the Core77 Design Employment discussion boards. The more we all talk about this stuff, the better off we'll all be! 

Salary Negotiation

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