Job Search: Salary Negotiations


What am I worth? How much money do I need to make?

The best advice I can give you when you are negotiating a salary is to sit down with your potential employer, face-to-face, and talk like real people. This process does not have to be a difficult, hard-nosed, business transaction. The second and third most important aspects of salary negotiation is to know what you are worth, and how much you need to make. Lastly, you need to understand how your benefits package fits into your compensation package.

  1. Don’t make salary the primary issue of your job interview. You will look greedy. Remember that you are there to give something to the potential employer—not to “just get a pay check.” I prefer to let the interviewee bring up money first. However, if they don’t mention wages, and the interview is ending, it is okay to ask them, “I am wondering, what is the pay range is for this position?” Then you will have an idea of what you will be earning. This will be especially helpful if you are offered a job.
  2. So… what are you worth? The age old question that is difficult to answer. The good news is that you have many resources that will help you determine how much you should make at your job. There are several different ways to research how much money you should make. First, ask you instructors for a generally accepted wage in the field and geographic location you are entering. You can also check your industry’s trade magazines and journals. Most of them conduct annual salary surveys and report them in their publications. Check out How, Step and Communication Arts trade magazines. Another great reference for graphic artists, illustrators, designers and photographers is the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. Your local library should have a current copy, or you can buy one for current and future reference.
  3. I suggest that you add together all of your “bare” expenses in order to see how much money you will need to make. I have provided an example of how to do this below. I chose “average” costs for each category. If you move to a larger city these cost may be higher, and may be lower in a smaller city. Check newspapers online to learn how much an apartment is renting for in the city you may live in.

Wage Needed


The average starting wage for a graphic artist/designer is $10 to $14 per hour. If you are asked for a starting wage range, tell an employer you would like to start at $12–$14 per hour, and that you are willing to negotiate. Don’t say $10–$12 or you may be making $10 per hour.

Be careful thinking that fringe benefits are money in your pocket. If your company offers to pay for your health insurance, that is money in your pocket. If they offer you an extra weeks vacation, that is not money in your pocket. You can’t pay your rent with vacation time.