One of the biggest challenges – whether you are a recent graduate or an experienced creative – is getting paid what you’re worth. There may not be a formula for determining salary, but armed with some research, you will be ready to negotiate pay in either your current job or for a new position.

Take a Balanced Approach
Determining what you’re worth isn’t just about identifying an arbitrary dollar value. Consider key factors like market value, geography, and benefits for a more balanced look at what you can expect to earn. Industry trends, company hierarchy, and prior experience all play a role in determining your market value. Make a list of A, B, and C-level companies you’d like to work for and review their websites and social media pages, paying particular attention to information on current job opportunities. Compare specific job descriptions to benchmark job descriptions and salary data to determine the salary range for your target job. Understand that these figures fluctuate depending on location and cost of living.

No matter where you work, remember that compensation is only part of the equation. Before you have a conversation with a hiring manager or HR, think about the benefits you desire and factor these into the larger compensation package. For example, you may consider a lower salary if it means little to no commute time. Don’t need health benefits? Negotiate the value as part of your base salary or ask for other perks like more vacation time. The goal is to reach a middle ground that is mutually beneficial for you and your prospective employer.

Know the Facts
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers a comprehensive resource library that includes information on wage data, pay, and benefits, unemployment, and more. Compare your findings with income statistics broken down by demographic for a reality check on what Americans bring home. Assessing the big picture will give your research some context and relevancy. The more informed you are about where you fit within your industry’s job landscape, the better equipped you will be to chart a financially rewarding career path.

Before starting down that path, you’ll want to get a finger on the pulse of industry-specific wages by talking to professionals or recruiters in your field. Be a detective. LinkedIn is a great place to begin to build your network and introduce yourself online. Ask for informational interviews where you gather details about job duties, titles, and general salary expectations. Do not ask for personal salary figures. It’s important to talk to people at different career stages so that you get an accurate picture of salary milestones and the typical professional trajectory in your industry. Attend professional networking events in your area. Professional organizations, LinkedIn, and Meetup groups post-event information online, making it easy to plan ahead. Make sure you attend a variety of events including seminars, workshops, social hours, and business meetings to discover as many facets of your field as possible.

A little research goes a long way in preparing for salary negotiation. With the right tools and a plan of action in place for building your professional network, you are certain to hit on salary trends that will point you in the right direction. Knowing what you’re worth is only the first step. Next, you’ve got to ask for what you deserve based on the skills and experience you bring to the table. If you’re still stumped, submit an online application with your resume attached. One of our recruiters will reach out if your qualifications match our open jobs.

Good luck!

Jessica Joy Reveles for Artisan Creative