Salary Negotiation in the Arts (3): The Offer

This article is part of our Salary Negotiation Guide for Arts Professionals. You can read part 1 on how to deal with the Salary History Question, or part 2 on showing how much value you can add (which will make you more valuable for them, too).

Congratulations, you’ve been made an offer. Just say “yes” and you’re done, right? Wrong!

The Salary Offer Starts the Negotiation

In the arts, most of us are driven by our love for the subject matter (music, art, theatre, etc.) and we are not necessarily HR experts or especially business-savvy. This is sometimes unknowingly made worse by organizations that are under-resourced and under-staffed. Other times, they simply do not tell you about things that could help you because you didn’t ask and it is in their interest to keep you in the dark.

This situation explains why some specialties (like Development / Fundraising professionals or CEOs and Executive Directors) tend to obtain higher salaries. They are simply better at knowing all the factors that go into a negotiation and can use this to their benefit.

A job offer is not just a salary number. Even if the hiring organization is not telling you, there is a whole package of things to consider. And surprise: it is possible that some of the things that you value highly (like taking one day off per week) are not such a big deal for the hiring organization, and viceversa.

So, first ask about the entire package. Are benefits included? Medical? Dental? Retirement? Do they offer a match toward your retirement savigs? How much? These are fairly standard questions and there should not be any issues with providing you this information.

Once you have all this info, compare with your current situation to see if you will really be seeing an increase in disposable income. I.e.: If you are offered $5,000 over your previous salary but the insurance does not cover maternity care to the same extent and you know you or your partner are having a baby, that may leave you with practically the same amount of money at the end of the day. This does not mean you need to ask for more in this situation (you might), but you certainly need to take this into account.

A consideration on the fear of asking for a larger salary. The truth is, if they really want you an increase of $5,000 to $10,000 in their salary offer is not as big for them as it is for you. Why is this?

For you, five grand is a substantial amount. Perhaps it means being able to pay off your student debt or purchasing a car.

For the hiring organization, you are already going to cost much more than your net salary. To the amount they pay you, they must add employment taxes and benefits. You also need somewhere to work and space isn’t free. As a rule of thumb, an employee will cost about 30% more than his salary. If your salary offer is $45,000. You will actually be costing them around $60,000. This means that offering you $5,000 more is just an 8% increase.

If you’ve followed part 2 and shown that you can easily add $100,000 to your organization’s bottom line, then an increase like that should not be a deal breaker. Of course, not all organizations think in these terms and you also have to take into account that more formalized institutions will often have a “salary range.” If you are already at the top of that, there really is not much room for increases. But you can still negotiate! Keep reading…

Multidimensional Preferences

When you are first given a number, you should thank the manager or HR person effusively but then ask them for some time to think about it and request an email contact in case you have follow up questions.

Sometimes you will be pressured to give a “yes” or “no” over the phone. This works against you because it does not give you time to compare the entire package vs. your current situation and, most crucially, does not put in writing any additional concessions you may negotiate. So, you want to carry out the next steps over email.

Your follow up questions will typically include:

  • Additional standard benefits (with actual $$ amounts, “yes, we offer medical insurance does not really cut it nowadays. Some questions can sound simple but be deceptively complicated to answer. They might say they have to look into it and get back to you. That is normal).
  • Other benefits. Here is where you can get creative. If your job includes travel, do they provide a cell phone, pay for travel (kudos if you can get the size of your budget to make sure you won’t be under-resourced)? Will they consider paying for a relocation allowance if you are moving from out of town? Flexibility with schedules/day off?

If you have done your research, you may have found out of additional benefits (subsidized food?) from talking with other employees. Oftentimes, these will be provided only if you ask for them.

An important observation: all of this does not imply you have to play hardball. On the contrary, you are about to go work with them and want to start things off on a good foot. There is a way to be gracious, polite, but gently and firmly ask about things that are important for you/your family. It has often been reported that managers will respect you more for negotiating.

As we said at the start of part 1, there is an especially wide range of salaries for similar positions in art organizations. One of the factors that go into this is that some people utilize the tools in this guide better than others.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Leave your thoughts

Contact Us

(865) 630-0626

(865) 630-0626

(865) 630-0626