How to Negotiate Your Salary

Creatives, like professionals in many other industries, are feeling the effects of the downturn. According to The Creative Group 2010 Salary Guide, starting salaries for creative and interactive positions are projected to decrease by an average of 0.3 percent in the new year.

Fortunately, the news isn’t all doom and gloom. One-third of advertising and marketing executives said they plan to make new hires in 2010, and six in 10 hiring managers said they’re willing to negotiate higher compensation for qualified candidates.

Understanding hiring and compensation trends can help you evaluate an offer—and even negotiate higher pay. Indeed, there is usually room to bargain with hiring managers, no matter the business climate, if you take the right approach. Here are some tips:

Know Your Worth
Before you enter into any negotiation, determine your value—what your skills and experience are currently worth in your market—by reviewing salary surveys and publications such as the 2010 Salary Guide and by speaking to networking contacts and recruiters. Various factors, including the demand for your skill set, company size and geographic area, play a significant role in determining pay levels. For example, a creative director in Lansing, MI, is unlikely to be paid as much as one in Los Angeles. Use your research to come up with a range instead of a specific figure so you have flexibility to negotiate.

Calculate Your Leverage.
Keep in mind that you may have more or less room to negotiate depending on the prospective employer. For example, your bargaining power may be limited if you’ve been offered a job at a newly formed startup or a company that recently lost funding. In situations like these, you might ask if the company would be willing to re-evaluate your compensation in six months, assuming you’ve met performance expectations.

Highlight Your ROI
Be prepared to illustrate ways in which you have benefited past employers in order to demonstrate how the company’s investment in you will pay off. When possible, quantify your contributions. For example, your knowledge of a particular software program may have saved your previous company 15 percent in outsourcing fees and could have a similar impact on the prospective employer’s bottom line.

Companies today seek individuals who have experience with social media and the ability to wear multiple hats, and many firms are willing to pay a premium for these talents. If you possess in-demand skills, be sure the hiring manager knows.

Look at the Full Package
If you are excited by the job and company, but the hiring manager is constrained by a carved-in-stone budget or pay structure, remember that your base salary is just part of the total compensation and benefits package. Consider negotiating for additional vacation days, telecommuting options, flexible scheduling or training opportunities. These perks won’t be reflected in your paycheck but can make up for lower pay. Determine which factors are critical to you and which ones you’re willing to compromise on.

Consider Your Long-Term Career
Before accepting or declining an employment offer, think about the big picture and what impact the job will have on your career. A small salary may be acceptable if you’re given the opportunity to work on a high- profile project that you can add to your portfolio or if you are able to take on more responsibility, for instance.

Negotiating a job offer is never easy, but keep in mind that hiring managers often expect a bit of haggling. And, even today, many are willing to negotiate because of the time and effort involved in bringing the right person on board. Although you don’t want to make unreasonable demands on a prospective employer, you do want to be prepared so you don’t sell yourself short.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative professionals and HOW’s official career partner.