Where to start salary negotiations as a graphic designer?
June 13, 2010 4:29 AM   Subscribe

Interviewing for a job as a graphic designer with a company in a relatively small regional marketplace (in Canada). Assuming things go as well as I hope and think they will in the interview, where should I begin salary negotiations? Other guidance welcome!

I have an interview for a position I really, really want at a decent web and print design/branding firm in a small city in Canada. This company is the best in town at what they do, and pretty much the only one I'd care to work for. The marketplace is also kind of unique. There's a lot of money in this town, and most people are making decent coin. I would guess the billable rates for this position are in the $100+ per hour range.

They seem very interested based on my portfolio, and we have scheduled a first interview. Assuming things go well, we'll eventually get to discussions of compensation. What should I ask for?

I have found some good info in this slightly outdated report on Canadian creative salaries:

But there are major discrepancies in there between salaries at firms and freelance salaries. In my freelance work, I tend to charge $45 per hour and up, but Intermediate Designers in my geography seem to have salaries in the sub $45,000 per year range. That's like $20 an hour!

In my last job (in-house designer/editor) at a major corporation, I earned $57,000 per year (plus several thousand more in overtime pay). But that was a different market.

I hate, hate, hate, salary negotiations. I always feel like if I ask too little, I may get the job, but be paid far less than they would have been willing. If I ask to much, they'll reject me out of hand on the assumption that even if we agree on a salary I'll eventually be unhappy at not making what I think I deserve.

Frankly, I'd be willing to work this job for less than my previous salary, but I do want fair compensation. I bring a lot to the table outside of plain old graphic design skills, including things they mentioned in the job description are important to them: things like big-picture concept development, branding research and brand development, web development and UI experience, excellent client relations, and editing, photography skills.

How do I cut through the haze to basically find out what they're willing to pay? Any other tips on salary negotiations? What dollar figure should I start at? Or are there ways to avoid jumping in with dollar figures and get them to start with a number?

Bonus question: any general tips on how you killed your last interview? This company is pleasantly casual in many ways, but also seems to expect a high level of performance. It really does sound perfect to me...
posted by hamandcheese to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always heard to take your salary rate and double it to find your freelance/contract. It would follow that take what you'd charge for contract and halve it to get your salary rate.
posted by CharlesV42 at 5:13 AM on June 13, 2010

You really can't look at what you bill freelance vs what you make broken down hourly as a salaried position. If you can bill out your hourly freelance rate at 8 hours a day, all year round you wouldn't be looking for a salaried position. No one can bill out every hour of every day. As a freelancer you might have steady work, might not and don't have any benefits. As a salaried employee the company pays you no matter what, carries the overhead (office, computers etc.) and gives you benefits.

I'm a designer in the U.S. so I can't comment on figures but I think it will be easier for others to respond if you give more details on the level of position, how many years of experience, etc. FWIW, I've always found in-house positions to pay higher and offer better benefits whereas agency positions offer a more exciting work environment and the opportunity for more interesting work.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2010

They have a number in mind already, because budgeting is part of the can we hire someone process. Ask what their budget is.

If the interviewer wants to play games about how much they are willing to pay in the hope you you will undervalue yourself, how do you think you'll be treated in other matters?

In other words, if they won't expose their budget to you after a solid in-person interview, you do not want to work for them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:43 AM on June 13, 2010

$45/hr freelance is roughly equal to $45k salary. A common rule of thumb is freelance hourly rate X 1000 = comparable yearly salary (for the reasons Bunglegirl gives above).
posted by bricoleur at 6:29 PM on June 14, 2010

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