This piece was originally published on the Women in Technology site.
Tomorrow isn’t just Tom Clancy and Claire Danes’ birthdays. April 12 is also Equal Pay Day. That means to make as much as a man did in 2015, a woman would have to work an additional 103 days. That’s bananas.
When I talk with clients and professional associations like Women in Technology, many of them share a goal of increasing their salary or getting a promotion in 2016. What does it take to make that a reality as a woman in states like Louisiana, where women make 65 cents for every dollar men make?
I believe we need to operate within the system as it exists today while simultaneously—if we choose to—trying to change it. There are lots of great people and orgs working to affect change in our state. But to help us navigate today’s workplace today, here are three of my top strategies for women to increase their salary or rates.
1. Know Your Numbers
A hopeful college senior recently asked me, “Is there a formula for how my diploma increases how much more money I can ask for?” Yes and no. Same goes for any additional credential or certification. While that framed certificate on your wall can help you justify your prices to clients or explain your value to an employer, it’s not as simple as a % increase.
As you're determining your salary range or rates, researching comparable roles for people with your levels of experience and credentials is an important way to benchmark. This allows you to first, justify your request in terms of market value in your region and second, ensure you're not low-balling yourself.
For salaried positions, one of my favorite salary calculators is www.payscale.com. Look at the job descriptions as well as the titles. Particularly for people who are in nontraditional roles, it can be useful to take the average of several positions that reflect your workload.
For entrepreneurs, it can be a little trickier. Look for businesses that share their rates online and talk to peers in the field. WIT can be a great resource. For my one-on-one session fees, I could only find two other businesses in the country that focused on supporting women through specific negotiations. Both were run by baby boomers on the other side of the country, charging significantly more than my ideal client could afford. I ultimately looked at services that were similar to mine in other fields to decide my prices.
Have your job responsibilities changed? Have you gotten additional certification or added to the services available to clients? Making sure your job description and associated compensation reflects the work you’re doing can be great ways to take home more money, so don’t forget to check your numbers regularly as your responsibilities shift.
2. Determine Your Goals
Another client recently came to me stressed about how much she should charge for a workshop she’d been asked to provide. Once she started talking, she realized that as someone trying to build her business, there was another key factor other than money. She needed feedback on her product as well as testimonials. So in addition to benchmarking against other workshops to determine a price, she built a survey mechanism into the proposal.
With any compensation negotiation, the question of money can feel most important. Don’t get me wrong, money’s key and determines such important things as whether your vacation is to St. Francesville, Louisiana, Disney’s Epcot version of France, or the actual country.
Still, there are other factors that significantly impact your day-to-day. Consider whether flexible hours, professional development, limited travel schedule, etc. are important to you before the negotiation. Clients often describe struggling with this when they look back at past negotiations. First, they didn’t recognize what was negotiable. Second, they responded to the other person’s proposal without having first determined their own priorities.
Certainly, decide how much money you want and can realistically make from a job or a gig, but also investigate your other goals before the negotiation.
Have you ever had a price in mind when you’re selling something and then when asked, out pops a completely different number? I have.
Four days after my husband and I closed on our first home, I learned I needed a new car. With limited cash on hand, I needed to get rid of my 1997 Toyota Avalon quickly. So as one of the lovely gentleman we hired to help us move was filling my car, I mentioned that it was for sale. I’d determined the Kelley Blue Book value and searched Craig’s List, so I knew my numbers and had a plan. I’d ask for $2,000 and go as low as $1,500.
But what pops out of my mouth? “I’ll take $1,250.” I can’t imagine what my face did after saying the number. I was seriously surprised and frankly, pissed at myself.
Whether I said the wrong number because I was distracted, because I needed the quick cash, or because the man asking was in the midst of moving all of my possessions across town will remain a mystery. The reality is, it was the first time I’d said the number out loud. This happens to my clients all the time, and with much bigger numbers than mine.
Even if you don’t feel nervous, practice saying aloud what you want. You can say it to your cat, a confidante, or a consultant, but just hearing the words come out of your mouth can help you avoid my car kerfuffle and be more confident naming your value when it matters.
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