Career Resources

Career Q & A: How Much Should You Be Getting Paid? Tips from a Creative Recruiter

November 3, 2014 Career Resources

I am re-entry the workplace after maternity leave and am nervous about salary negotiations. My last job definitely was underpaying me — can you help me make sure I’m fairly compensated?

— Delia S.

“What kind of salary are you looking for?”
“What’s your hourly rate?”
“Can you give me a project estimate?”

These dreaded questions can turn an otherwise smashing interview into awkward-city. And even more-so for a mom who’s just recently returned to the workforce after a long maternity hiatus. Aim high and risk losing the work, or low and undervalue yourself? We all want to be paid fairly, but when it comes to advocating for ourselves, the statistics are pretty staggering. Here’s some shocking statistics what we found from Linda Babcock’s book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change:


Also, some interesting stats regarding the gender gap in the creative industry as reported from the American Community Survey:


Granted there are many factors to consider when comparing men and women in the workplace, BUT the fact remains that we need to better advocate for ourselves!

To help we asked creative recruiter and Brooklyn mom Catherine Nemser for some tips on figuring out what you’re worth.

Tips on Finding Your Salary or Rate

1. Search online for salary information regarding your position and geography to get a sense of the market.

Note from Lina and Larissa: Some sites we have found helpful are: Glass Door, AIGA’s Survey of Design Salaries, Coroflot’s Creative Salary Guide, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary and Job Market Report from 24 Seven. Remember to sort by geography as rates can vary wildly based on where you are located.

2. Talk to recruiters as part of your job search. They will have salary information for a variety of positions and have a sense based on the size and reputation of the company.

Note from Lina and Larissa: In the olden days, we used to just cold-call creative recruiting agencies from the phone book. However now so many recruiters use LinkedIn as a tool, it’s a great way to locate ones in your market and be immediately in touch with an individual, not the front desk. To make your best impression, be sure to keep your profile up-to-date and see our tips on writing a better bio.

3. Connect with people in your field to get a sense of the market rate for positions. Colleagues may give you a range (you can ask for a range not to make them feel uncomfortable). You can also see if someone in a higher-level position might give you the information.

Note from Lina and Larissa: This sounds super awkward but once you get over your initial fear, it’s surprising how open and helpful friends and colleagues can be. After all, they want to look out for you and make sure you get a fair deal! Just the other day, a friend asked me to see if her freelance rates were still in line after maternity leave and I was happy she did.

We hope that helps you figure out fair compensation and negotiate with confidence! If it feels uncomfortable, you’re not alone: when asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.” However, another study calculated that women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t. So maybe it’s worth a trip to the dentist!

For more statistics to make you mad enough to start negotiating, check out Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change

Have a creative career related question? You send us a question, we find someone to answer it!

Photo credit bradleypjohnson. Used under a creative commons license.