Salary/Negotiation... kind of a weird situation.

Last week I found a design firm’s website by accident and really liked it. So, I called and got the creative director’s email address and emailed him a cover letter and portfolio, and just asked for a portfolio review.

Two hours later I got a message on my home phone from them and a few days later, yesterday, I was there for an interview. It’s a really small company, 4 people at present, but they have a regional/national/international clientel. Anyhow, the interview went really well, as we seem to see eye-to-eye on many things.

They said that they really like my work/design philosophy, and were thinking of expanding by 1 or 2 additional creatives in the next several months because of the workload that they are getting. The role is a little unconventional in that it’s not really your typical designer role. Or, as what one of the principle said, they are looking for someone that they will be able to entrust with maintaining the standard of work, do good work, and not have to worry about managing that person. From what I gathered throughout the whole conversation, they are interested in having someone who is able to a) think strategically b) design strategically and c) have a firm grasp on the craft of design. The job seems like a lot of hard work, but I really like it and I think it has possibilities.

So after chatting with the two partners of the firm for about 1.5 hours, they brought up some details. That this state has a no-fault-hiring-firing policy (because I just relocated here from another state, ForMyInfo) and that they’d be interested in having me work on a contract basis for 60 days and if all goes well the contract would be extended to a full-time position. Ok so that’s fine. But then they basically asked me point blank how much I want.

I basically ask them back “how much are you offering?” and their answer was “we want to know how much you need, and if it’s too high we’ll definitely tell you so.” Overall, it’s very informal, but I wish it were a little bit less so. It’s kinda weird because throughout the conversation it was quite clear that they are interested in bringing me on board (showing me projects that they are currently working on and what I’d be working on, keep saying things like “if/when you were/are working here, then …”), but then at the end there’s no serious/formal job offering.

Anyway, when I got home after the interview I got a nice email from them saying that they’re sriously looking over my portfolio one more time and that we will be in contact soon. Today I guess I’m supposed to get back to them about how much I want, but I am really shaky. I’ve been up since 2 AM this morning agonizing over this because I don’t want to mess up.

Does anyone have any advice on what I should do? I want to just wait for them to contact me, but I already said that I’d get back to them with a number and don’t want to be a flake. At the same time, I realized after I’d opened my mouth that what I said was pretty dumb.

The salary conversation is always the most difficult part. I never understood why it is so taboo, but I always freeze when people ask me how much I expect too.

  1. I hope that you’ve researched the average wages in your area. If not, I think the Core77 salary info is available for free. Find it and keep it in mind.

  2. Try to give a salary range. I’m not sure if they want an hourly rate in this situation, or a salary and just take 1/4 of it. If you want $30k, tell them 28k-34k or something. That way you let them know what you want, but it also shows your negociable, and in the end…salary is going to be a negotiation.

Lastly, if they really want, you will be able to work through this.

Good luck.

I think if you have a good feeling about the people, and they are interested in you and vice versa, simply tell them how much you would be happy with- i.e. how much you feel you deserve or need to make given your experience and situation. Add in that you are open to negotiating- I have done this and the firm said they couldn’t pay my requested amount to start, but worked out a time period and progress reviews that would get me there if things worked out.

Don’t undersell yourself or agonize over it- as long as you aren’t asking for 250k and a company car I think they’ll be willing to work something out. Like Mr-914 said, check out the salary info and ask around- educate yourself. The worst is underselling yourself and then regretting it later, so if you start a bit on the high side its ok- thats what negotiating is about.

Sounds similar to something I went through that didn’t work out so well. If this place is in Georgia, and the firm is A-F, look out.

don’t offer a range, it allows them to corner you into the lower end.

consider benefits, vactaion, and what they will expect from you on a day-to-day basis. be certain to explain to them that since you will be contract for 60 days, you have to cover your costs, so have a plan for what you must have now, and what you will want if/when they hire you.

if you cow now, you’ll be expected to cow later.

kfg is right. contract is different than salary. if its 40hr/wk multiply out. you can find freelance rates in old posts. they may balk. but mention no health insurance. no employee taxes. no 401k plan. etc. plus they probably charge $100+/hr for your work. they dont like, then they can hire you. just my .02

I agree with ykh. It takes a lot of discipline not to grab at a job when you are looking for one. Calm yourself down. Evaluate your experience and talent compared to the pool. Look at coroflot and AIGA salary surveys for designeres in your region, think about what you really want to get paid and then add a 10% pad. Negotiation is always expected. Remember that you can renegotiate at the end of the trial period. Use that 60 day period to do a more vigorous search. Remember it is always easier to get a job when you already HAVE a job.
good luck guy.