How to Estimate & Negotiate Salary Offers

Q. I have two years experience working in newspapers as a graphic artist/copy editor. I had a job lined up to work in a major city at a smaller newspaper (circulation around 35,000). It basically came down to the pay and eventually fell through. They originally offered me $15/hour. 

I had read up on how to "negotiate" and so figured that they were expecting me to come back with a counter offer. Instead of being flexible, they "thought about it" for about 10 days, then got back to me to tell me they weren't interested anymore. 

I was already looking for housing, arranging to buy a car, etc., and so when they came back and told me that they were rescinding their offer, I was completely taken aback. 

In a twist of events, a few days later a much larger newspaper in the same city contacted me about an available position. The position is exactly what I want, but I'm still a bit shaken from the last experience. I'm guessing the larger newspaper will pay more, but is that always the case? I'm not money-driven, but at the same time, I don't want to be underpaid and taken advantage of. I'm beginning to feel that as journalists we have no room to negotiate anymore. 

Do you know the starting salary range for graphic artists/copy editors at large newspapers? In my research online, it's been hard to find actual figures that are consistent. I am beginning to wish that a job came with a price tag like an item at a store!

Mathematically Confused

A. The first newspaper behaved strangely. Potential employers may refuse to budge on the offer, but they seldom rescind the offer because someone asked for a little more money. I am guessing they lost the position and used your counter as an excuse to pull back the offer.

But no matter. I still think you will have room to negotiate -- if you feel the offer from the new paper is too low. If you think the offer is fair and the opportunity good, there is nothing wrong with accepting it.

Employers have a lot more salary data than we do. To begin with, they know what they pay everyone on staff and where you would fit in. Some also subscribe to services that pool salary data from many employers.

But you are not without resources. Here are three places where you can look up salaries by job title and location. Use all three to see what the range is:

Good luck.

Question about your career or job? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Wednesday: Join me and Poynter's Colleen Eddy for a live chat at 1 p.m. ET. We'll address the question: When Is a Cut in Compensation a Good Idea?"

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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