How to Negotiate Pay

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by Georgia Bea Edkins

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

Women in Journalism’s sold-out event generously hosted by Wiggin LLP explored the sometimes tricky task of pay negotiation, advising both staff and freelancers to assess personal value, build strong employer/employee relationships and rehearse for that all-important conversation.

The expert panel, chaired by Louise Court, Head of Content and Strategy at Hearst Magazines, included  Robert Hands, Executive Managing Editor of the Sunday Times, Toby Mundy, former publisher and now one of the UK’s leading literary agents and Sue Ellicott, former BBC TV correspondent, US-based Times political writer and currently an independent communications consultant.

Ellicott suggested that the issue of negotiating pay can often feel very awkward for a woman, with Court referring to an American study that claimed 57% of men are happy to negotiate pay compared to only 7% of women. However, Robert Hands believes the issue is “not a gender thing, more a confidence thing”.

As an antidote to such cautiousness in negotiating, Ellicott suggested women leave their gender outside the meeting room, allowing an employer to see us as people, not women.

Louise Court questioned whether Ellicott’s advice was a little idealistic, leading Toby Mundy to recommend instead that women develop a tough, fair, collegiate, decisive reputation rather than focus too much on being a woman in a male-dominated environment.

Mundy also proposed that women must not be afraid of being tenacious, mirroring their male counterparts, and can raise their profile by forging relationships at conferences and networking events rather than from behind a computer screen on social networks. “We live in an economy of reputation,” he believes.

In particular, the panel emphasised how important it is for us to be realistic, both about our own value and what the company can afford, to be assertive, approachable, polite and confident, and to thoroughly plan proposals before any meeting with an employer. It is important to take into account not only what you have done for them, but what you can do for them.

Some of the panel’s best advice included:

–       Always rehearse what you want to say – be clear and confident.

–       Imagine you are negotiating on behalf of someone else

–       Assess what you can offer to your employer and capitalise on this – demonstrate your value. It’s about their needs, not yours

–       Be polite but assertive. Never wait until you’re desperate, or lose your cool.

–       Stop being British. Talk openly with colleagues about pay to assess where you stand. Employers dread staff knowing what each other are paid.

–       Always try asking for a minimum of 10 per cent more than you are offered – it won’t make a huge hole in the employer’s budget.


–       Work out your bottom line – what’s the minimum you need to survive?

–       Remember, this is not just about pay, but conditions. Can you trade pay for flexible working, or other perks? Think through your proposal thoroughly.

–       You are never in a stronger negotiating position than when start a new job, especially if you have been headhunted.

Day and freelance rates

–       Work out what your minimum acceptable rate is, and be realistic. Accept that you may not be paid the same amount for every piece of work.

–       Consider working for prestigious outlets even if the pay is not great – it can be an investment in your reputation, but don’t take on a piece of work if you resent what you’re being paid.

–       Find a niche so you can demand higher prices for content

At this inspiring and engaging event, it was only right that the overriding message was an uplifting one: if you don’t ask the question, you won’t get the answer. If you don’t ask, who else will?

In other news:

Women in Journalism is looking for an intern to help with our website and social media.

Top notch digital media skills, a spare hour or two a week and buckets of enthusiasm are all you need.

Please email by June 2nd  to apply, outlining in no more than 250 words who you are and what you can do for WIJ.