Negotiating your salary

I’m sure that this topic has come up before but the search function for the boards doesn’t seem to be working, so I figured it would be alright to make a new topic. Sorry in advance if this topic is rote at this point.

I wanted to see if anyone has any tips on how to go about negotiating their salary, especially in regards to potentially starting at a new company. I have repeatedly heard/read that workers who don’t bother with this consistently leave money on the table and miss out on potentially higher pay, but many of us aren’t comfortable haggling or have little experience with it. I know a lot of younger designers like myself probably fear losing an opportunity for looking greedy, but it may often come at the price of undervaluing one’s skills.

In my specific situation, I have interviewed twice with a couple of companies I think it would be great to work for. One of these companies in particular is in New York City (in SoHo). I would love to move there and work for them, but I want to make sure I value myself as much as I can if I am going to moving somewhere with a higher cost of living. I am in an area of the country that is severely economically depressed and has a cost of living that is well below the national average, so the difference between here and somewhere like NYC is very pronounced.

According to a number cost of living calculators, an equivalent salary to mine in NYC would put me into the six-figure range. I haven’t discussed salary with this company yet, but if a young designer with only 3-4 years experience asked for a six figure salary I’m afraid they would baulk, assume I am insane, and move on to another candidate, and I would miss out on an opportunity that I am very excited about. On the other hand, I do have sources to suggest that that is what I am worth in that area, and I don’t want to low ball myself.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to approach this? I don’t want my humility to cost me money, but at the same time I don’t want to ask for an amount that seems absurd. It is a large multinational company, if that makes any difference.

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


That is kind of what I figured. I think these cost of living calculator’s math might be a bit flawed. That does kind of leave me at a loss for what to ask for though.

If its a large multinational company. There might t be a lot of data available for you to look into.

Check out and see if anything pops up

Have you tried checking the Core77 Salary survey?

NYC, looks like average around $60K, but I would think that would be with more experience.

I’m not sure what kind of cost of living calculator you are using, but maybe you also have too high a living expectations. Also, cost of living for NYC, Manhattan proper will be different than if you live in Brooklyn or NJ which many people who are junior and starting in NYC do.


I’ve tried finding them on there but I can’t find anything. They aren’t originally an American company and they are just opening their first studio in the US (which is why they are hiring). Is it mostly American companies on Glass Door?

I believe its mainly focused on US companies/offices. But if not you can always look at companies that are similar in the area.

That is a good point.

I think these COL calculators are factoring in a lot of things that aren’t necessarily relevant to my personal situation. I’m young and unattached, I dont require very much space to live comfortably, I would probably ditch my car if I moved, and my expenses are generally pretty low. They seem to be factoring in the price of real estate (I won’t be buying any property) and other things. I just entered my salary and location into them and they spit back a $100,000/yr + salary expectation. I was as shocked as anyone but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t insane. I think the severe economic depression in my area combined with the very-high COL in NYC created that huge number jump that isn’t indicative of reality.

I’m researching things like craigslist and NYC related message boars to try to come up with a more accurate and realistic budget for a 25 year old guy who just wants to live reasonably in Brooklyn or Queens and take the train to SoHo every day.

Rent and food will be your biggest expenses, but like you mentioned if you ditch your car, take on roommates, and don’t have a healthy thirst for $15 cocktails (PBR is easily found for $3 or less in Brooklyn) then you can get by and still have a good quality of living on $60k when you’re 25.

You really need to look at your bills and see where you spend most of your money, how much you can save, and then Craigslist + COL calculators are good at figuring out what will cost more or less. Your cost of food per month could easily jump 40%+ but it depends on plenty of factors eg. are you shopping at a Korean Grocery store or Whole Foods ($7 for strawberries?!).

Quality of life is also an issue. Are you happy living where you are now? NYC is a great place to live if that’s what you’re into, so all the money in the world can’t make it exciting to live somewhere deep in the rust belt.

This is business 101. Price is exclusive of cost. Price is determined by what the market will bear.

RK’s link to salary survey, and any other salary survey you can find is the only thing that is relevant. That is “price”. That is determined by the market. Your “cost” is irrelevant. Your employer doesn’t give a crap, nor should they.

So when you negotiate, leave your cost calculator at home, it is not a legitimate negotiation tool.

The following numbers are used for illustrative purposes only:

Them - We would like to offer you $50K.
You - According to this survey, a person with my experience is earning $60K in this area. Can you start me at $60K?
Them - No. We have to start you at $50K.
You - I understand a new hire is a risk. And if my reviews go well, how quickly do think I can ramp up to the typical pay in the area?
Them - I can’t say.

One of possibly countless scenarios, but either they are willing to negotiate, or they are not. Again, my advice is to think about your response before you make it.

I think this is great input. I dont think these COL calculators should be seen as a guide to how much one ought to be getting paid in a particular place as much as a benchmark for things like the cost of utilities and rent. I also understand that my skills are valued highly where I am now, as I don’t have many competitors, whereas in NYC employers have lots of options for people to fill the position.

This has all been very helpful and based on this conversation and the budgeting I’ve been doing, I think I am getting closer to a number I would be confident suggesting, and a minimum number I would know I had to walk away from.

Per median annual for Industrial Designer II (2-4 yrs experience) in NY = $70,026 Salary Wizard- Do you know what you're worth?

Per average salary = $89,000 with New York job postings @ 20% higher salary vs. average job postings nationwide.
Industrial Designer salary in New York State

Don’t forget to negotiate vacation time so you can enjoy NYC too.

Must remember though, ‘cost of living’ for any NY job calculation really means cost-of-living-in-a-closet-with-a-sink.


It’s true, but it’s not all that bad. You start to appreciate the things you have and get rid of things you don’t actually need. Unlike me who lives in the suburbs and has a garage that’s stacked floor to ceiling with old printers, exercise equipment I’ve used twice, and suitcases that I don’t use but for some reason haven’t thrown away.

Unless you’re heading somewhere extremely flexible or very corporate, the possibility of negotiation for a jr. designer is slim to none. With so many jobless designers and a very competitive metro area, it’s wise to take what you can get; you have zero leverage really.

The best guess I can hazard is that it’s probably safe to expect an offer of $40 - 55k.

Everyone has very valid points but be sure not to get discouraged. If they make you an offer, they are probably not going to rescind it if you try to negotiate. Negotiate for certain. Really figure out what your magic number is and try like hell for it.

I bailed on my plans to negotiate at my last job despite knowing I would get less than the “market rate.” I was too excited to get the job at all so I convinced myself that it wouldn’t matter. Five years later I was the lowest paid person at my bill rate. Raises and bonuses were given each year as percentages of salary so I was always behind. I could not catch up despite having better credentials, having more experience, having acquired more patents, and having billed the most (hours and dollars) in the company for two years in a row. I ended up getting frustrated because I spent a huge amount of my time fixing the mistakes made by my peers. My solution was to do lots of research into salary surveys, to make charts of all my overtime, and some other things like that. Before I could ask for a raise, two new hires were brought in with 10% my experience and they were hired at more than my salary. At that point I said screw it and gave my notice.

I am not saying I played the situation very well (more like a what not to do primer) or that this is what would happen to you, but save yourself the trouble and be a little impertinent after you get an offer letter in the mail. Otherwise you could regret it in 5 years and end up leaving an otherwise great job.

This is a great example on how to negotiate a salary increase. Lots of good tips and break down of the reason behind each response.

Ramit Sethi has a lot of good material

I’ve been following along this thread with interest.

I’ve been on both sides of the negotiation and I’ve done poorly early in my career and I’ve done well in negotiations for myself. As someone who has to manage a budget, it is difficult. I want to get the most for my staff. I also want to be reasonably on budget for my entire year because that effects what raises and bonuses can be allotted at year end.

In general I have found the best time to negotiate is the time after you have been selected but before the official offer has been made. At this point there will be an internal range and if the company send out the first number it will likely be at the low end of the range. If you out out the first number you run the risk of being either too low (at which point you will definitely get the offer, but you will be underpaid) or too high at which point you will either scare them off or you will get a counter. Likely you will get a counter though and I think it is a good risk to take. So make your salary requirement high enough. Once you are in the system it can be hard to get a raise higher than standard yearly COL increases unless you earn a promotion. Even at promotion time, many companies have standard percentages they give.

The only other way to negotiate a sizable raise once you have a job is to get an offer letter. This process is not fun, frankly it sucks. I had a great boss at a job a long time ago who let me know I negotiated poorly and that I needed to give him an offer letter from another company for about $x so he could bump me up. Most bosses won’t be so forthcoming. The process was difficult. In the end I almost took the offer from the other company (once you emotionally go through this process that becomes another option, do I want to stay were I was underpaid?). In the end I stayed, got a counter and a nice bump, then shortly negotiated a promotion. So began my increased savvy for this kind of thing.

The only other tactic I’ve sen used effectively by friends and myself is to watch revenue. When I’ve had a product that I personally designed that performed exceptional in the market, or helped to land a significant client, or had a product that got considerable attention in the marketplace, those are simple data points you can use to say hey, I’m worth more, I’m providing value to the larger organization and deserve to compensated accordingly.

As a designer, you want to believe in a meritocracy, I will do great work and I will be rewarded for said work. In the end you need to do great work, ensure you get internal (at least) credit for that work, and use that to look after yourself and your family.

I agree, and I’ve also been there and done it, and it is a sucky way to have to negotiate.

While things may have turned out for the better for Yo and myself I want to point out a caveat with this tactic, and that is that it can undermine trust with your current employer and they may question your commitment, meaning you might get a short term bump, but it could lock you out of opportunities or promotions later on.

It can also backfire. You have to be prepared to actually take the offer so it should be a place you actually want to work for… which puts you in the doubly awkward position of turning down a nice offer from another company.