5 Salary Negotiation Tips for the Creative Professional

A job candidate plants his flag on top of a stack of cash

There are few things more nerve-racking than gearing up to negotiate your salary. But if you've taken on more responsibility in your current role and feel like you're now underpaid, you owe it to yourself to seek some salary negotiation tips. Most creatives in this situation know they're worth more but lack the tools to justify it. While we can't promise you'll enter your salary negotiation jitter-free, these five salary negotiation tips will help boost your confidence – and hopefully, your bottom line.

1. Don't get personal
We all know that the cost of living has increased over the past few years. And, yes, you'll be more financially strapped if you have a baby on the way or a kid headed off to college. While such personal circumstances may be what's driving you to ask for a raise, you shouldn't talk about them with your manager.

Concentrate instead on the value you bring to the company and the team by coming to the meeting armed with numbers and metrics that support your proposal. Just as you would when applying for a new job, focus not only on your increased responsibilities but also on the results you've achieved while tackling them.

2. Keep it real
Although you may want more money and have a pretty strong hunch that you deserve it, you should set realistic expectations. To arm yourself with accurate, up-to-date data, consult The Creative Group's annual Salary Guide, which lists starting salary ranges for more than 100 creative positions.

The guide also includes salary and hiring trends, which may be helpful in framing your discussion. You can also use The Creative Group's handy Salary Calculator to customize ranges for your local market.

Remember: While you don't want to sell yourself short, you also don't want to throw out a pie-in-the-sky request. Neither approach will lead you to the salary you feel you deserve. Go in with realistic numbers.

3. Pay attention to timing
As it is with all sensitive matters, timing is paramount when asking for a raise. If your boss tends to be chipper first thing in the morning, for example, schedule a meeting with her at the beginning of day.

It's best to avoid salary negotiation during a particularly stressful time of year for the company or your department. If your team is under the gun during annual report season, wait until the pressure lets up to time your talk. In fact, you may want to wait until you've finished a successful project so that your valuable contributions are top of mind for your boss.

4. Avoid an ambush
Your manager may go on the defensive if he's blindsided by your request for a higher salary. Whether you've decided to send a special meeting request, or you plan to ask for a pay increase at your weekly one-on-one, give your manager a heads-up that you'd like to discuss your salary so he will be in the right frame of mind for your discussion. It will also give him time to do his own research and preparation.

5. Get creative
If your boss isn't able to entertain your request for a salary increase immediately, ask when it would be best to revisit the idea. If your skills need more development before she'll consider a raise, request help with developing a plan and a timeline to get you to that level.

If your salary just isn't up for discussion, ask about other perks the company may be able to provide. A flexible schedule, work-from-home option, more paid time off or professional development opportunities can also make an impact on your bottom line and quality of life.

Finally, exude confidence, but not cockiness. If you time your talk right and arm yourself with accurate data, there's no need to overcompensate or feel intimidated. Chances are, your boss has been in your shoes and will treat you kindly and fairly if you approach the conversation with the same attitude.

Remember though, no matter how many salary negotiation tips you follow, nothing is guaranteed. Prepare yourself to end the conversation with grace and gratitude whether you get the salary increase you want or not.