5 Unconventional Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

Have you ever felt a little bit out of your element? Of course you have. Maybe it was traveling to a foreign country, eating an exotic meal that you’ve never experienced, or pursuing a new hobby outside your comfort zone.

There are two other areas where people often find themselves out of their element: Negotiating their salary and starting their first business. And yet, they have a lot in common. And so it was that I found myself a bit out of my element on a bustling night in New York. I spent the afternoon at a co-working space called Impact Hub, and on my way out they were setting up for an event called the “Women Motivating Women Power Panel.”

I stopped to chat with 3-4 early arriving attendees, and had a great conversation around the topic of changing careers, the future of work, and starting an inspiring business. I decided to stick around and set up shop in the far back of the room, as 50-60 women filled the event space. I later spoke with Lisa O’Donoghue-Lindy of Career 2.0, a labor of love for five women based in Washington DC. Their goal is sharing stories of women who have started over in new professions or launched companies, with the hope of inspiring others to follow their passion.

5. Do Your Homework

This tip was provided by Marlo Scott, the founder and CEO of Sweet Revenge, an amazing establishment in Manhattan’s West Village combining decadent cupcakes paired with beer and wine in a bistro ambiance. A former media and marketing pro “working for the man,” Scott watched as the cupcake craze exploded in the early 2000s when Magnolia Bakery was featured on Sex and the City.

Scott said she spent countless hours researching the market, analyzing the industry, running the numbers, trying out recipes with a chef and her friends, and knew that when she was laid off for the third time, it was time to take action and start her own venture (and get “sweet revenge” on her corporate world bosses).

When preparing for a salary negotiation, homework is also the critical first step. Preparation breeds confidence, and it’s only by running the numbers, analyzing the industry, scoping the competition, and knowing what you’re worth that you’ll be ready to negotiate properly when the opportunity presents itself.

4. Never Underestimate Yourself

The second tip was from Deborah Hernan of Ottilie & Lulu, a natural skin care company catering to the “tween” market. Hernan talked about her fascinating career, including managing the schedule and communications for Elizabeth Taylor. My favorite part of her story was finding out that the typical drugstore shelves were divided between baby items, and products for teenagers, neither of which fit her tween demographic. Undaunted, she ended up finding a fit with an unlikely retailer: Toy store FAO Schwartz.

This type of ingenuity can work in negotiations as well. First, you must always have faith in yourself, and never underestimate the true skills you have for a job. Second, it’s important to look for creative ways to solve a problem, even if you’re told, “it’s just always been done this way.”

3. Jump Right In

The third tip was from Sumeera Rasul of Madesmith. As a veteran of some of the world’s best companies (Google, Apple, R/GA, BBDO), she was able to bring valuable insight from the corporate world into her small business. However, no matter how much experience you have or how much you try and prepare, there comes a point where you just have to jump in with both feet and make it happen.

The same goes for salary negotiation. You can prepare for months, work until 8pm every night to show your determination and drive, and hope that you get recognized by your boss for that big raise and promotion, but the fact is that you need to take control of your career and ask for what you want. I continually help clients role-play and practice scenarios for their salary discussion, but in the end they can never be 100% fully prepared, because you never know how a conversation is going to unfold. You just have to jump in.

2. Use All Available Resources

Mary Molina of Lola Granola provided this tip to the audience. Her company makes gluten-free snack bars sourced from ingredients such as Massachusetts cranberries, New Jersey blueberries, and New York honey and oats.

As you can imagine, there are a thousand things an entrepreneur needs to learn when taking a company that started in a kitchen and is now featured in stores such as Whole Foods: ingredients, sourcing, packaging, distribution, hiring, marketing, legal, technology, and so on. However, there are also thousands of resources to tap into for knowledge, so don’t do it alone.

You also don’t need to go it alone in your negotiation. From Salary.com’s free salary info to their personal salary report, as well as advice from friends, mentors, and coaches, seek out resources that have done it before.

1. Identify What You Don’t Know, Then Learn It

Barbara Werner of Musical Pairing provided the final piece of advice, which builds on Tip #4. Barbara is a fascinating lifelong learner (she has a culinary degree, manicuring license, tattoo license, and is certified in reflexology and canine massage), and was intrigued at the way music can influence how you feel about eating. So as always, she dove into the research to learn more. In the process, she discovered a formula around it, which led to a book, an app, and a business.

I’ve seen that one of the top reasons people fail to negotiate is simply that they didn’t know that they could, or didn’t know what to say when the situation arose. By “knowing what you don’t know,” you can pick up the skills you need to make sure you earn what you deserve now, and throughout your career.

Everything You Need to Negotiate Salary in One Place

Whether you’re in or out of your element when it comes to negotiating salary, you need to be prepared. But are you ready to negotiate?

The first thing you should do is research, so you’re able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what’s a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

For Employers

Individualize employee pay based on unique job requirements and personal qualifications.

Get the latest market pricing for benchmark jobs and jobs in your industry.

For Employees

Analyze the market and your qualifications to negotiate your salary with confidence.

Search thousands of open positions to find your next opportunity.

Related Salary.com Content