By Lauren Saxe
You want to say something. You reeeally do. You’ve worked your butt off to get that new job or promotion, and you want to tell your employer you’re worth more than what they’re offering. But how do you even do that?
Negotiating a new salary, a promotion or rate with your boss or editor is totally intimidating. It can be awkward and nerve-wracking, but with the right tools, you can schedule the meeting feeling like you have the upper-hand. You know your skills, you know your work ethic, and you know your commitment to your company. So rather that underestimate your worth, take a cue from these Eds who have been there and ask for what you deserve.
Negotiate like a pro. Know what betting chips you have, and use them wisely. Once the position you’re after is secured, make sure you remind your employer (new or current) what you’re worth.
“In the very beginning of my career, I was given a pretty paltry offer from a legacy brand I was dying to work for,” says Jessica Goodman, senior editor at Cosmopolitan. “But I knew there was just no way I could make the salary work with my current financial situation. I had been interning at a digital outlet at the time and told them about my other offer—but left out the part about it being slim. As soon as I said I had the option to leave my current internship, my hiring manager offered to give me a full-time, benefits-included position with a salary nearly twice what I was offered at the legacy brand.”
And get this: Although she was thrilled with the offer, Goodman bargained for more. She negotiated a salary 8 percent higher than that initial number, and once she and her employer came to an agreement, she kindly accepted.
But, you can’t simply enter a discussion without support to back up your demands. Whether you think you deserve it or not, employers need a track record to validate it.
“When negotiating a salary, come prepared with reasons why you deserve the amount you’re asking for,” says Goodman. “If you work in social, bring numbers that show the ways in which you’ve raised followers or engagement. If you’re a reporter, show your hiring manager your deep bench of sources and explain why you’re the only person who can reach them.”
Freelance at the going rate. “When I was a college student, the first couple of times I was offered freelance gigs for writing, I completely lowballed my rates during the negotiation process,” says Lily Herman, contributing editor at Refinery29. Herman says a lot of this early hesitation about pay was due to a lack of research in terms of rates. She wished she had requested more time to make a finite deal, and the feeling of inexperience led her to take the first number that popped into her head. “I then spent the rest of my time on those projects kicking myself for not asking for more, and I promised myself that the next time I had the opportunity to negotiate, I’d go in knowing what I was asking for and why.”
Her advice? Take the time to do your research, and ask experienced friends in the industry how they approach their freelance gigs. With examples of other projects and what they’re worth, you can make a solid argument for the asking price on your next assignment.
Know you’re not alone. Self-doubt is inevitable. We all have our worries and insecurities, and sometimes they get the best of us. Freelance writer and editor Marissa Miller, who also happens to be writing a book on imposter syndrome, jokes that her entire career is “one big adventure of self-doubt coupled with crippling misery.” But she knows she’s not the only one feeling this way, and that, which many of us can agree, is somewhat comforting.
“My first time co-hosting a news commentary show on the radio was a disaster,” she explains. “My husband is also a journalist, so we were invited on as a ‘power couple,’ and that put so much pressure on me to perform that I completely froze. He spoke brilliantly and articulately and I sat there mortified of saying the wrong thing, so I said nothing at all. From then on, I convinced myself I was not qualified to be a writer because I couldn’t formulate a coherent sentence on the cuff.”
And while many would have sworn off public speaking for good, Miller took the high road. She promised herself she would instead improve, and when she started to land opportunities that focused in on topics she was more comfortable with, she built more confidence.
Be your biggest advocate — you got this! No matter what it is you worry about or underestimate, Miller recommends you remember one thing.
“There’s someone out there who reads your work and wishes they could do what you do,” she says. “Your work matters and you matter, and what an editor offers you on a piece is in no way an indication of your talent.”