pay

Pay Matters: Getting What You’re Worth

By Kristen Harris

Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth. But what exactly is that? What factors determine your worth? How do companies determine the pay for a role and how can you find that out? People generally don’t like to talk about money so anything related to pay tends to be murky and mysterious.

First, it’s important to keep in mind what type of work you’re considering. There is a big difference between pay rates for freelance or project work as opposed to hourly contract roles or full-time salaries. Let’s break it down.

> People who work on a freelance basis are running their own business, even if it’s a business of one. Generally, you’ll be a 1099 contractor with all of the responsibility of finding your own work, running the business, paying the employer’s portion of payroll taxes, and providing your own healthcare and retirement. You have flexibility, but when you don’t work you’re not paid; there’s no holiday pay or paid time off. Whether you’re paid hourly or by the project, generally freelance rates are higher than contract or full-time because you’re taking on all of the financial risk and responsibility.

> With a full-time position, you’re generally paid the same salary every week, or an hourly rate with a guaranteed number of hours per week. The employer probably also offers benefits like paid time off, holiday pay, healthcare benefits, retirement plans, and maybe even an onsite health coach or foosball table! Plus the employer’s share of your payroll taxes is paid by the company. If you divide the annual salary by 2080 hours (the number of work hours in a year), the hourly rate might actually be lowest of the three but add in an additional 30-40% of your salary for those benefits to get a true picture of your total compensation.

> The pay for an hourly staffing or contract role usually falls somewhere between a freelance rate and full-time salary. Depending on the firm you’re working with, you may have a level of benefits similar to a full-time position (that’s us) or little-to-no benefits provided by the firm. If a lot of benefits are provided, the hourly rate will be more similar to a full-time rate; when no benefits are provided some firms pay a slightly higher hourly rate (although many do not).

So, with the context of whether the position is freelance, staffing/contract or full-time, how do you know if the rate being offered is appropriate?

Pay ranges are a bit of art and science. There are some online resources where you can search by title, experience level, location, and other factors. I always like to look at 3-4 different sources, remove any outliers, then find the average. These resources usually gather their information from individuals self-reporting so this gives you a good idea of the going rate for that type of position. That’s the science. From there you have to consider other factors like your particular experience or level of expertise, your reputation, whether you already have a relationship or have worked together before, and even the company itself. Some places simply pay more than others; every business is structured differently.

Even with all of your research, at some point, it might just come down to whether the pay being offered fits within what you’re willing to accept. If there is a gap, consider other ways to bridge it. What else is important to you? Sometimes it’s easier for a company to provide additional time off, flexibility or other benefits rather than additional pay. Just keep in mind that any negotiations need to happen upfront, before taking the job. Once you agree on a rate, that should be the expectation on both sides.

We all want to feel good about ourselves and that we’re being paid “what we’re worth”. However, there really is no magic formula to come up with that number. Only you know what is most important to you, what you’re willing to compromise on, and what’s a deal-breaker.

Getting “what you’re worth” really means that you feel appropriately compensated for the work you’re doing, and that number is different for everyone. It helps to understand the different types of work arrangements, and the market for your skill set. We work with creatives in this area every day, just let us know how we can help!


Asking for a Raise? Four Steps to Getting What You Want

By Kristen Harris

In life, you often have to ask for what you want. You might not get everything you want but asking for it certainly helps. And asking for it in the right way really increases your odds.

Let’s say you’ve been working in a role for a while and things are going really well. You feel like you’re excelling at the job, taking on increased responsibilities, and creating value for your employer. So you’ve decided to ask for a raise.

You want the raise, and believe you deserve it but aren’t sure how to ask for it. How do you approach your employer? What should you ask for? What happens if they say no? Often, when people go into these conversations unprepared, they’re disappointed in the outcome.

You can greatly increase your odds of success by preparing for the conversation. Don’t just pop in your boss’ office and say “hey, I want to be paid more”. Since you’re the one asking for the raise and initiating the conversation, take all the time you need to get ready.

(By the way, if you’re freelancing or working independently, at some point you’ll want to increase your rates. These tips can also help you prepare for that conversation with clients.)

There are four key steps to preparing for a “raise” conversation:

  1. Do Your Research. Collect as much information as you can about your own role, your progression within the company, and similar roles at other companies. How long have you been in the role? Have you received raises in that time? If so, at what time points and how much?  Look at your job description–what additional responsibilities have you taken on? How does that compare with similar roles within your company and at other companies? Research the pay range for your role within your company and at similar companies. It’s kind of rude to ask your peers what they make, but there are plenty of online resources to find accurate salary information these days. How well is your company doing financially? If it’s seasonal, is this the “good” season or the “slow” time of year? Has your company recently gained (or lost) clients?

  2. Organize the Information. Organize your research, then identify the best 3-5 points to make your case for a raise. What you select is going to be unique to you and your position, but things like additional responsibilities, progressive growth, and comparable pay at other companies are good things to look at. Be sure to consider the overall health of the company and how your role fits into future success. Show that you’re thinking big picture about the company and its overall success, not just about yourself. Prepare your notes–actually write down your top 3-5 points–in preparation for your meeting.

  3. Make Your Case. Don’t just pop in one day on the fly, schedule a meeting with your boss or the decision-maker. Now you know that person has set aside time for you, and you’re more likely to have their undivided attention. Start the meeting by telling them you’d like to discuss a pay increase. Then share those top 3-5 points you’ve researched to help make the case for why you deserve it. Keep it factual, realistic and non-emotional. Then ask for their feedback and listen to what they have to say.

  4. Accept Feedback. Their feedback is valuable, regardless of the answer. If they say “yes” then congratulations–you’ve made a great case and got what you wanted! If they say “no” or “not right now”, ask questions and really try to understand their reasoning. Ask what you can do to earn the raise you want, and when an appropriate time would be to bring it up again. Talk about a plan or how you can take on more responsibilities that allow you to prove you’re worth more.

These pay conversations can be difficult because they often feel like conversations about our self-worth. They’re not. The only thing you’re talking about is what the company can afford to pay you for the work that you do, and how you might be able to earn more. If you can’t get a raise right now, you’ll get valuable information on how to get one in the future.

You can’t always get what you want (thanks, Rolling Stones) but preparing for the conversation can make it go more smoothly and increase your odds of success. Working with a professional can help things go more smoothly too. We’re always happy to help our placed talent navigate these tricky conversations–just ask.