Posted 07 April 2022

A guide to salaries, negotiating and asking for more

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So you’ve landed on what seems to be the perfect role, like a shard of gold shining through what feels like a sea of job ads. And then, you notice the salary… How do you know if it’s fair, and how do you go about asking for more? Negotiating your pay is never easy, especially when you’re just starting out, yet this is when money conversations are at their most important. Here, we’ve put together some essential guiding points to help you nail those negotiations.

Why is it important to talk about this?

Your initial salaries will impact your future, which is why knowing your worth, understanding what makes a salary fair, and how to negotiate are vital skills that are best built early on.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to addressing the gender pay gap. Research from Fawcett Society has shown that 60% of women in the UK don’t know what their male colleagues earn, or believe they’re earning less for the same work. And according to research by Totaljobs, women are paid on average over £6,500 per year less than their male counterparts. It also states that women feel less comfortable negotiating a salary or asking for a raise. This, coupled with a the fact that many job listings will avoid listing salaries, is fuelling the pay gap and encouraging discrimination.

Not to mention that according to a survey from, only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries, while 18% never do (🤯). We’re not here for it, so let’s get started.

What do we mean by salary?

Salaries are mostly applicable to anyone in full-time, part-time or fixed-term roles. Your salary is the money you get from your employer – either as a monthly or annual payment (or hourly if you work part-time) – and is usually agreed in your contract before you start a new job.

While many people will likely know what a salary is, what perhaps isn’t so obvious is how it’s broken down. For example, if the salary on your contract is £22,000 this doesn’t mean you will earn exactly £22,000 at the end of the year. This figure doesn’t take into account deductions for:

  • Income tax (PAYE, or ‘Pay As You Earn’)
  • National Insurance
  • Pensions
  • Student loans

You can use many salary calculators online (including this one from Randstad or this one from Totaljobs) which can help work out your exact net salary and take home pay after these deductions.

🔢 An example breakdown

A £22,000 annual salary will mean you ultimately take home around £18,622 (not excluding student loans or pension contributions from your employer), which breaks down as the following per month:

Total (or gross) wage per month: £1,833.00

minus Tax (PAYE): £157.00
National Insurance: £124.00

Net (or take home) pay = £1,552.00

🚨 A few salary-related warning signs

A reminder about taxes
If you work full-time, your employer sends your salary information directly to HMRC, and they work out and deduct your income tax (PAYE) for you. But if you also take on freelance work in addition to your full-time work, you’ll still need to register as self-employed, submit a tax return and pay any additional taxes. More about this can be read in our guide here.

Watch out for illegal salaries
While salaries for internships do exist, there are a few things to look out for before accepting one. Know that an intern’s rights depend on employment status – whether you’re classed as a worker, volunteer or employer.

If you’re a worker, you’re entitled to National Minimum Wage which is currently set at £9.50 per hour for those aged 23. However if you’re unpaid in this scenario, this makes the salary illegal. Head here to read more about unpaid internships, and what to do if you’re in one.

When will you need to talk about salary?

There are a few occasions where salary discussions can pop up:

  • At interview stage (if an employer asks for your salary expectations)
  • After you’ve been officially offered a job
  • During a pay review, or when you’ve been in a full-time job for a while

Most of the time, though, these discussions tend to happen before you start a job.

How to work out if a salary is fair

There are many factors to think about when considering a job, like the sector, company size, career progression, development and training opportunities – and, of course, earning potential. So if you’ve spotted what looks like a dream role and are gearing up to apply, it pays to know if the salary they’re offering is fair. There are few ways to do this.

🏦 Work out your cost of living

Knowing what you need to get by, and having a figure that takes into consideration your needs, skills and experience will mean that you’re more prepared to work out if a role is the right one for you.

You need to know exactly how much money you need to live. So first, break down all your outgoings. This should take into account things like:

  • Rent
  • Bills
  • Subscriptions
  • Local travel
  • Food
  • Social activities
  • Savings

Hiring managers might ask what your desired salary is when you apply, or during the interview stage, which is why it’s useful to calculate your costs beforehand and keep this essential figure in mind before you start your job hunt.

⚖️ Compare and contrast other salaries

Next, spend some time researching what the market rates are for the type of position you’re applying for.

Ask around!
To start with, you could ask friends, colleagues or other contacts in similar fields what they earn. You could say something like, “I’ve been offered £X for a job. Do you think that’s a reasonable figure?” or “What do you think would be a reasonable rate for a job involving X?” More tips on this can be found here.

Check out salary comparison sites

There are also countless salary comparison resources out there to help you understand what other companies or roles are paid across disciplines, including tools on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor.

It’s worth noting that salaries for the same job might change depending on the sector, discipline and industry. For example salaries in the education or charity sectors will vary in comparison to those in tech.

While it’s common to raise your salary by leaving one role for another, some people will also start a new role and take a salary cut for their dream job, or because they’re passionate about the work. Others might sacrifice other things for higher pay, like company benefits.

📑 Analyse the job description and responsibilities

Analysing the responsibilities and skill level presented in the job description will help determine if your experience is applicable or advantageous – and can ultimately guide your salary negotiations. Consider some of the following factors:

  • What are the working hours like?
  • What level of seniority, experience or skill is needed?
  • How niche is the specialism or sector?
  • How many of the skills do you meet?

Check how many skills you offer and if your qualifications match, or even exceed the ones listed. Be critical when you do this – for example, if a job is an entry-level role but you’d be required to manage other people for £18,000, alarm bells should be ringing!

🔍 Look up company benefits

Some companies will offer benefits including extra holiday, healthcare or stock options alongside the salary. This might sway your judgement on the salary, as it could mean taking home a little less money each month for a benefits package that you’re interested in.

🤝 Consider working with a recruiter

We’ve all heard of people working with recruiters, but what does it actually mean? First off, if you talk to a recruiter, they can really help you understand a typical salary range for your position – they have a lot of info at their fingertips and can give you the inside scoop. Other benefits include access to job offers you may have missed and discussing salaries and benefits – they basically do a lot of the groundwork for you.

One thing to watch out for is that most recruiters are paid on commission, which means they earn a fee based on your first year’s salary when you get hired. This doesn’t come out of your pay, it’s an added expense for the company who hires you.

Making sense of salary ranges

✅ What if a salary range is listed?

While some employers will state a specific figure on a job listing, you might see others who share a salary range. This might look something like this: “£23,000–£26,000, depending on experience.”

Why? An employer might use a salary range during the interview or offer phase of a job search, and negotiate depending on the level of experience an applicant has. This means that the employer will determine an amount to offer you within this range, in line with your skills and experience.

Common factors that will affect the salary range here are:

  • How long you’ve worked in a field or industry
  • If you have strong recommendations or references from your previous employers
  • If you have loads of relevant skills and certifications
  • The cost of living in your area
  • Common rates in the sector you’re applying for

Salary ranges for entry-level roles
Generally speaking, employers will have a more specific idea of what they’re prepared to pay for creative entry-level and junior roles.

Oftentimes this will be between £20,000 and £28,000 – most likely between £22,000 and £25,000, although this is more relevant for London-based roles. This can also change depending on your experience; for one years’ experience you can add £1,000 to £2,000 more to your expectations. You can also add more if you have undergraduate and masters degrees.

Ultimately, don’t undersell yourself and don’t immediately accept the first salary offered to you. It’s important to negotiate with an extra £1-3k at junior level.

❌ What if the salary isn’t listed at all?

Unfortunately, it’s not a requirement for employers to list salaries, and by doing this, employers stand to gain more negotiating power.

When people see job ads without salaries, it can send alarm bells ringing – often giving off the impression that the employer is trying to get away with paying someone as little as possible. It can also be pretty frustrating for an applicant to not have this information before deciding to spend time on putting together an application. But try not to let this stop you!

Always have a figure in mind
Even if you don’t see a salary listed on the job post, we’d still advise thinking about how much you think you should be earning. It’s always good to be prepared, especially if you get called in for an interview and get asked about your salary expectations.

You could even email the company or hiring manager to ask for more specifics, or the seniority they’re looking for to help you manage expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask something along the lines of: “What salary band have you budgeted for this role?”

How to negotiate

So, you’ve been offered a role, but would like to open up a conversation about salary. Remember that they want you to join their team, and will likely flex their expectations to suit your needs more. This means that you’re in a really strong position to negotiate. Here are a couple of pointers to help you on your way to becoming a negotiating champ.

😌 Be calm and assertive in your arguments

Be ready to back up your salary expectations with examples and research. If you don’t have a rational argument for a higher salary, you run the risk of looking unprofessional.

Also, be careful of appearing too interested in the package than the actual role, because you don’t want to come across as though the money is the only reason why you’re applying!

👯 Consider mentioning that you have another job offer

If you’re between two job offers, it’s up to you whether you tell an interviewer or employer. It could work in your favour, as they might be quicker in their decision – and better yet, they could match or increase the salary. If you do have another offer, though, be candid about what you’re being offered (without giving away the organisation’s name).

And no bluffing! No one, let alone an employer, responds well to this kind of pressure; you might get left with nothing.

🤫 Don’t reveal your current salary

You wouldn’t walk into a used car dealership and tell them what your absolute maximum budget is, because you’ll probably end up paying that. When it comes to salaries you want to do the opposite and negotiate as high as possible.

However, this works best if your experience and qualifications put you in a strong position. If you’re newly qualified with less than a year or two of experience, we advise being less ambitious – you could be priced out against another candidate.

🤸 Be flexible

This means you’re willing to collaborate with your employer. For instance, they might offer you a package with more holiday pay or convenient working hours, if they can’t increase your pay. Determine what you see as beneficial in terms of a pay rise, and be prepared to compromise if they come back with another figure.

👋 Don’t be afraid to walk away

An employer might not be able to offer you more money, and then benefits might not be enough for you, either. If this is the case, decide whether it’s worth sticking around or walking away. Be sure to try all options first, like asking for more holiday time or flexible hours.

Ways to negotiate

Salary negotiations can take place over calls, video chats or over email, especially if a contract is sent through digitally for you to sign. However you’re negotiating, try to write down a clear argument so that if you go blank during a conversation you’ll have something to fall back on. Always be sure to:

  • Thank the employer for the offer
  • Set out your case, including a specific figure or range

Below are some helpful phrases to use when in doubt.

💬 Examples of things to say

If you think the offered salary is too low:
“Thank you so much for the offer, I’m excited about the opportunity to work with such a fantastic team! I wanted to ask if the salary is flexible at all? Based on my research, comparative roles within this discipline tend to start at £X. Do you have any wiggle room?”

If you’ve been offered a role without seeing any salary information, but need some time to research before accepting:

“Do you mind if I take some time to consider your offer and get back to you tomorrow?”

If the offered salary is lower than what you were being paid previously:
“Thank you so much for sending the information through. As this is lower than my current salary, I wanted to ask how much room there is for negotiation. I would be looking for £X…”

If the offered salary doesn’t meet your skills and experience:
“Having reviewed the job description, I feel that my skills in X in addition to X experience in X places me on the higher end of this band. Would you be open to considering £X?”

What to do next

✍️ Get it in writing

Once you’ve negotiated your salary and accepted the position, the first thing to do is to congratulate yourself! Then, be sure to have your salary and benefits agreed in writing. This avoids any misinterpretations or problems in the future.

➕ Ask for more money once you’re in

Every company is different, and how you progress is always going to differ from one place to another. That being said, progression and fair payment will always be just as important!

So if you’ve been in a role for a while, say a year, then it’s probably time to start thinking about a raise. This is something you can discuss in appraisals or performance reviews, so make sure to plan out your talking points in advance.

🔚 A final note

Hopefully by now you’ll be feeling a lot less worried about any money chat. If you’re ever in doubt, then always do your research – the power of knowing the company and industry you’re working for is your strength here!

Be sure to look around and gain some knowledge of what’s out there, and the rates that other people are working for in your sector. And finally, know the amount that you need to live. All of these ingredients will make for the perfect recipe to interrogate, argue for and negotiate your salary.


We’d like to think writer Ayla Angelos, as well as our Company Partner Represent and sister company If You Could Jobs for contributing their time, insight and advice to this guide.

Written by Creative Lives in Progress