Everything’s negotiable: What to do when negotiations stall

A few weeks ago I did an AMA with SuperPath, a Slack community for content marketers. I got a bunch of great questions (check out my video answers here). But one that stuck out to me was a question I happen to get fairly often:

Sometimes more salary isn’t in the cards. Are there alternative forms of compensation you’ve seen folks negotiate?

When you’ve exhausted every way to reply to an objection* the negotiation is not over. There’s still a way to reach what’s called “full compensation,” which is to get you as close to the monetary value you’re asking for with other things.
* stay tuned, we’ll cover this in a future email too

The key to remember when you’re negotiating a new job, in your existing job, or even with clients as a freelancer or a consultant is this:

EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE.

Say you’ve done your research and you would like to be paid $90,000 a year. You’ve compiled your list of wins and your justifications for why you have earned that salary. You’re ready and a rarin’ ta go.

But, before you go into the negotiation room (or the negotiation Zoom in this day and age), you should also prepare a list of non-monetary negotiables that would matter to you AND how much they’re worth to you.

This means that if, at the end of the conversation, the person you are negotiating with says, “The very best we can do is $80,000,” you have a list of ~$10,000 worth of other negotiables that can get you as close as possible to that $90,000.

Important note: The key here is to get the money first. We’d rather have money in our pockets to do with what we choose and invest how we want. Total compensation is an absolute last resort.

Not sure what to consider? Here are just a few things that you can negotiate:

  • Your start date
  • Vacation time
  • A flexible work schedule
  • Paid parking or transportation, including a vehicle (if you have to go into an office or travel to field locations)
  • Parental leave
  • Continuing education/conferences/tuition reimbursement
  • Work from home setup/telecommute tech options/home office stuff
  • Signing bonus
  • Paid moving expenses
  • Guaranteed bonus at X months
  • That corner office you’ve been eyeing (if you’re in-person)
  • A new title
  • A wardrobe allowance (say, if you’re meeting with clients or are in a field where you’re recorded/televised often)
  • Guaranteed severance package
  • Childcare
  • Housing subsidy (especially if you’re commuting long hours to get to an office)
  • Bonuses/equity
  • Travel opportunities (once it’s safe to do so again)
  • Your next promotion
  • Projects you want to be a part of
  • Tools you need to do your job
  • And pretty much almost anything else you can think of.

If you’re freelance or a consultant and you want to negotiate your rates, you can negotiate trades, referrals, permissions, social media promotion, testimonials, case studies, video interviews, and more.

Determine what’s important to you when it comes to work and life, and then figure out how much $ it means to you. So, back to our original ask. We want $90,000 and the boss says they’re capped at $80,000.

First things first, ask for a signing or quarterly/annual bonus. Bonuses often come from a different bucket of money than salaries, so that one-time boost can get you closer to that top number.

So we’ll decide to ask for a $3,000 signing bonus. That gets us to $83,000. Only $7,000 left to get us to $90,000.

Next, what about some extra time off? If we’re working fewer weeks per year, we’re actually earning a higher “rate” per hour. If time off matters to you, calculate how much it’d “cost” to get paid for a week or two of vacation. Based on the weekly rate for $90k/year, we can say that an extra 2 weeks of vacation is about $3,500. Now we’re at $86,500. So that’s only $3,500 from $90,000/year — your original ask.

Say you have been eyeing that Senior title as a prefix to your current job. Ask for it! The higher up in the food chain you are at your next negotiation (at a new job or your existing position) the more you can ask for based on the market rate for that position. Seems worth ~$3,000ish, right?

Boom! We’re at $90,000 total compensation even though the boss said we were capped at $80,000.

The key to total compensation and negotiating to get to that final number:

Know what you want in advance and know what it’s worth to you.

This is one part of the prep work before you go into a negotiation. Here’s a quick list of how to get ready before you have the money conversation:

  • Research your worth. Know the exact number you’re asking for and make sure it’s backed by research. Your ask should take into consideration your years of experience, your industry, your specialities, comparable rates, and what others are being paid (This is why we should talk about what we make!).
  • Know what non-compensation negotiables matter to you. And know what the company offers. Sometimes set benefits (like health insurance or retirement matching) cannot be negotiated on an individual. It never hurts to ask, but come up with a few options in case some are no-gos.
  • Practice your talking points. Have a friend or colleague act as the person you’re negotiating with. Practice what you want to say. Notice where you get nervous. Have them cycle through objections so you can get used to overcoming them.