Ammo To Help You With Salary Negotiations

Update from Jan. 3, 2021

People across the nation began self-reporting their salaries on public Google sheets last year.

View salaries for folks in the media world, agency world, and even employees at museums. Baristas in Seattle, the Bay Area, and Southeast Michigan launched sheets of their own. Jewish non-profits joined the party, and the Huffington Post also linked to sheets for people in publishing, academics, and design internships.

Want more? View the salary for every Buffer employee here. We’ll save you a click: Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne earns $280,500 per year in the Bay Area, while the lowest-paid employee is Meilyna, a customer advocate who earns $57,719 per year in Brunei.

What’s behind this movement? To find out, we spoke to Raphaela Sapire, the founder of NastyGap, an online platform that helps people navigate salary negotiation. 

“The past few years, there’s been an outcry in the media around (workplace inequality),” Sapire said. “So it’s more common to be having that dialogue. And as part of that, I see how salary could fit into that discussion.”

Per Sapire, employee salary info is not shared more readily by companies in part because they often pay private companies for aggregated compensation data. So they’re not inclined to share it for free. Lots of venture capitalists (VCs) have salary data for their portfolio companies, but they don’t disseminate it.

The salary data asymmetry likely has contributed to the assorted Google sheets that we see today. A few years ago, Sapire found a database with anonymous salary data for VCs in New York.

“I was able to use that data to negotiate a 28% increase in my own compensation,” she said.

Tips And Resources For Salary Negotiation

If you want a raise or better offer, determine the number you’re asking for.^ Research salary comps at Payscale, Glassdoor, or AngelList, or just create your own survey. 

“According to HR leaders that I've spoken with about those public databases, they're not always accurate…especially for creative director-type people where you're kind of a unicorn - you've got this unique background,” Sapire said.

“You need to say your number and then be quiet.”

-Raphaela Sapire

“Sometimes you have to come at finding your number in many different ways. And so that's just one of the reasons that I also recommend people create their own. If you're part of a meetup group or an email listserv, a Slack group that's specific to your industry, you could create a Typeform and share the link.”

Entering a salary negotiation, this is Sapire’s top advice.*

  1. Do not negotiate against yourself: Don’t tell your supervisor or the hiring manager your target salary and then lower that amount before you hear a response. People often do this to avoid an awkward silence.

    “You need to say your number and then be quiet,” Sapire said.

  2. Don’t know your market rate? Don’t share a number: If you haven’t done your homework on what your market rate is, do not share a target salary that may be off. Instead, say that you expect a competitive offer or an offer commensurate to your experience and expertise.

  3. Agreeing to concessions is more important than the amount you concede: Let’s pretend you ask for $80k/year. The employer counters with a $60k/year offer. Rather than coming down to $65k/year to get closer to the counter (which most people do in this scenario), drop down to $78k/year. This assumes you’ve done your research and feel confident in your number.

    “You can still get to a win-win outcome and capture more of the value on the table by conceding smaller amounts, but conceding more often, and you'll likely grab a bigger piece of the pie than if you jump a big amount down,” Sapire said.

Addressing The Gender Pay Gap

So how is it that women are being paid on average less than men for the same work?

Northwestern published a study in 2019 that shows female workers in the gig economy set “hourly bill rates that were roughly 74% of the average man’s hourly bill rates.”

When there is more transparency around what jobs pay, Sapire says the gap between what men and women ask to be paid diminishes.

“It's not that as women we don't value our work, it's just that we have trouble attaching the appropriate number,” Sapire said. “This is why it's so important to do your research and why it would be so amazing for companies to share their data so that people would be able to use information to make sure that they're getting paid appropriately.” 

Ultimately, all the research and studying in the world won’t help you get paid what you want unless you have self-confidence.

“When you're actually in the room negotiating, before you even open your mouth, you have to believe in yourself and your self-worth,” Sapire said. “A lot of what I think is really important around negotiation has to do with mindset, because there's a lot of bias that is inherently built-in.”


^If you’re curious about equity compensation, this blog from Fred Wilson is helpful. Carta also has a good explainer series. Also, here’s an equity guide from Wealthfront.


*For more tips, visit NastyGap.com. One-on-one sessions with Sapire cost $250/hr. and she typically works with clients for 1-3 hours. There are also online courses available. ICYI: Sapire’s favorite negotiation book is “Ask For It,” by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

BusinessNick Schenck