When I was fresh out of college, I got lucky.
I got a job offer at a magazine, almost right away. It was great … except the pay. It was much lower than I’d told myself I would accept.
So I did what everyone suggested: I negotiated. I did my due diligence — including market research, a look at industry norms, and lots of number crunching. Twenty-four hours later, I crossed my fingers and hit ‘send.’
And I got steamrolled.
I took the job anyway. I was worried nothing else would come along. But the entire time I worked there, I felt underpaid and poorly treated.
Ever since, I’ve shied away from asking for more money.
I’ve always feared that the offer would be yanked out from under me, that I’d be yelled at, or that the person I was negotiating with would be offended.
Recently, I got another offer. But this time, I pushed my fear aside and negotiated better pay. Here’s how.
Take advantage of a second chance
One day, an editor at an online outlet connected with me out of the blue, on LinkedIn. I sent her a quick message:
Thanks so much for connecting! I hope this finds you well and not freezing your way through winter. If ever you need a writer, do let me know. I specialize in features and profiles, and have two pieces coming out this spring in [Magazine] and [Another Magazine].
She told me to let her know if I had any story ideas. I dug through the site, scribbling ideas for new articles as I went. Then, I wrote up an email with the pitches. She loved them.
But just as I was starting to see dollar signs, I saw the rate. It was $20 apiece — way below what I had decided I was worth when I set my rates for the year.
Cue the déjà vu.
Ask for what you need
I started with a pep talk.
I told myself that:
- It didn’t matter if this gig was $20 or $2,000 — the rate needed to make sense for the project and for me.
- This job wasn’t the be-all, end-all. I’d need other clients, anyway.
- If this client didn’t work out, I’d get others. And if it did work out, I’d still get others.
So I swallowed the lump in my throat and started typing.
“Thanks for getting back to me! I usually charge $100 for a 500-word article online. I know that’s a big leap from $20/piece. Would $50/piece be something we could discuss? Let me know!” It was a little white lie: That $100 rate was something I targeted on a low end, not something I’d earned before.
She said: “Let me talk to finance to see if we can push the budget. I’ll let you know!”
I thanked her, but a week later, I hadn’t heard anything. I was starting to worry. What if the silence was a brush-off? Still, I followed up.
The editor wrote back the next day with the news: “I got the approval! When can you start?”
My more-than-doubled rate was accepted, and it was so easy!
Build on success
Is that rate low? Yeah, it amounts to $0.10/word, still less than my target.
But the negotiation itself fulfilled a few other 2015 goals: I diversified the outlets that I currently write for and I finally got up the courage to negotiate.
I did it again a few weeks later and managed to get another $25 per article? out of a new editor for a steady stream of work.
At this stage of the game, negotiating is more about confidence than money. The more frequently I ask for a higher rate, the more I realize that I’m worth it—and that editors won’t be put off when I assert my value.
And you know what? If they are, they’re really not the kind of people I want to be working for, anyway.
Have you negotiated a better rate? Tell us your tips in the comments below.