Digital Design Career Advice: Salary Negotiation Do’s and Don’ts

During the depths of the downturn, many design job seekers had limited leverage when negotiating compensation with a prospective employer.

Good news: That’s changed.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of advertising and marketing executives said they are willing to negotiate compensation when extending a job offer to a top candidate, according to a recent survey by The Creative Group. Only 28 percent are not open to a little back and forth.

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Here are some salary negotiation do’s and don’ts to consider before you head to the bargaining table:

DO arm yourself with information. Do your homework so that you enter the discussion with a good grasp of current pay trends for your particular interactive position and geographic location. Research publications such as The Creative Group’s 2013 Salary Guide to make sure your request is in line with the going rate.

DON’T display the wrong attitude. Salary discussions must be handled deftly and delicately. The talks should be serious but friendly. After all, you’re not haggling over a used car with a salesperson you’ll never see again. How you conduct yourself during the negotiation process helps set the tone for your tenure with the firm or agency. As such, you won’t do yourself any favors by taking a hard-nosed approach or issuing ultimatums.

DO keep it real. Honesty is indeed the best policy. Trying to mislead a prospective employer about your current compensation in an attempt to obtain a better offer is an ill-advised strategy that frequently backfires. Likewise, don’t claim to have another job offer from a competing firm if that’s not true. Honesty is always the best policy. The interactive design world can be surprisingly small, and you want to maintain a reputation for integrity. More than a few overzealous negotiators have had their bluffs called and ended up with nothing.

DON’T make it all about you. If you decline an initial offer and ask for extra money, you’ll need to make a solid case for why you deserve more. The justification should be based on the skills, abilities and traits you bring to the table. Explaining how your most relevant strengths will help boost the business’s bottom line is far more compelling than mentioning your own material wants and needs.

DO quit while you’re ahead. Not understanding when to stop negotiating is a common and costly misstep. If you’ve gone back and forth on salary, benefits and perks, and the company ends up meeting all of your requests, do not continue pushing for more just to see what else you might be able to squeeze out of the employer. When a hiring manager starts to feel that you’re playing games or that you don’t appreciate his or her efforts to meet your demands, the whole deal can fall apart quickly.

DON’T focus solely on the dollar signs. Starting salary is just part of the compensation equation. A generous benefits package, stock grants, bonuses and training opportunities can help offset a lower starting salary. And while they won’t be reflected in your paycheck, perks such as additional vacation days, remote-work options or flexible scheduling can significantly improve your work/life balance. In short, when you’re weighing the pros and cons of a job offer, be sure you’re looking at the full picture.

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