What Is Your Work Worth?

I’ve been around the block a few times as it comes to employment and figuring out my work’s value.

In figuring that worth out, a few excellent tools have made themselves invaluable time and time again.

I don’t use these tools until I have an interview lined up or a change in job title or I’ve been employed at the same place for 9 to 12 months. However, when used appropriately, they’ve put the leverage on my side when negotiating a salary or raise. For the cost of an hour looking up values, I’ve netted tens-of-thousands of dollars in value added.

That, and the tools have let me know if I’m walking into a proposal as being underpaid – as an advocate for the worker, never be underpaid 😐

Here, I’m opening-up my personal toolbox for your use. May it be a starting point on your next job offer, a stepping stone to ask for a raise, or merely another reference for your own methods to calculating your work’s worth 🙃

TLDR

(Really, you should read on. But, if pressed for attention, do the following.)

  1. Get the job title for the new job / your current job.
  2. Next, get the city for the job’s cost of living (CoL; google “cost of living theCityName“).
  3. Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, searching for the job title, and recording the median salary.
    1. Example for Software Developers.
  4. If the median salary is not in your current year, search “inflation calculator”, using what you find to turn the salary into your current year’s dollars.
  5. Multiply the median salary by the CoL percentage (111% CoL = 1.11).
  6. Take the multiplied result, round up to the nearest tens-of-thousands (this is the Minimum Salary you should consider for the job).
  7. Multiply the result again by either 110% (this is the Expected Salary you should quote to anyone who asks).
    1. If your Minimum Salary is less than $100,000 and you’re feeling fierce, multiply the Minimum by 125% instead of 110%.
  8. Aim for the Expected Salary or more (negotiate!). Accept nothing less than the Minimum Salary.

If you want more detail, you’ll have to read on 😁

Variables

So what’s important in determining worth? Well, simply put… everything.

That’s hardly helpful, so here are some base values needed for the figuring:

  • Job Title (Title)
  • Company
  • City
  • Base Salary (Salary)
  • Potential Bonuses (Bonus)
    • Performance Awards
    • Signing Bonus
    • Stock Discounts
    • 401K Matches
    • PTO
    • Gym Memberships
    • Commute
    • etc. (Don’t worry too much on this.)
  • Cost of Living (CoL)

Titles can be important, and bonuses lucrative, but unless you have some special arrangement to fully leverage non-salaried bonuses like stocks or commission, nothing will be cash in the bank at the end of the day.

If the salary can’t be increased, multiply the difference of what you want vs. what is offered by 2 (“2” for the number of years a person typically works in a position). Negotiate for bonuses equivalent to that number.

Sites for Values

To get values for the variables, Sperling’s Best Places, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, Salary, Salary Expert, and the job post itself will be your best friends.

(If any of the salary sites have bonuses, record those too).

  • Sperling’s Best Places
  • BLS
    • Search for the job title for the median salary and national area data.
      • Example of a Software Developer. (The “State and Area Data” tab has county information that gives you another salary value when you hover the mouse over the maps.)
    • If the salary medians are from a past year, use Google to find an inflation calculator to turn those old salaries into today’s dollars.
  • Glassdoor
    • Search both the job title salary globally and the company itself for salary information for similar work.
  • Salary
    • Enter some basic information to get the job’s salary.
  • Salary Expert
    • Get more salaries for the job title at the location of the job.
  • The Job
    •  Here is where you get the job title, company name, and city.

If your industry has compensation reports (eg Software and Stack Overflow, Video Games and the GDC Game Developers Survey), include those here too! More data, more power!

Formulas Go Brrrr

You’ve been good so far. Now, do this:

  1. Get one salary out of the reported salaries.
    1. If there’s a national salary (eg BLS, Glassdoor), multiply that salary by the CoL of the city the job is in to get the salary to use.
      1. Eg $100,000 national salary * 1.10% CoL = $110,000
    2. Calculate the Median and the Average for all salaries collected from every source.
      1. Google Sheets is a great tool for this.
    3. Whichever of the calculated Median and Average is higher, keep that and discard the other.
    4. Do this for the bonuses too.
  2. Round the calculated salary up to the nearest tens-of-thousands place. This is your Minimum Salary.
  3. Round the bonus up to the highest place (eg $102=$200, $1799=$2000, etc).
  4. Multiply the Minimum Salary by 110% to 125%. This is your Expected Salary.
    1. Why “110% to 125%”? Well, it depends. The higher the percentage, the more difficult it gets to defend during negotiations asking for the Expected Salary. Use judgement and self confidence in this – regardless of what gets asked for, a salary will always need defending, so preparing a longer argument of why the salary is warranted comes with negotiating 🙂

Tada! You now have a Minimum Salary, an Expected Salary, and Bonus values, aka your work’s worth. That said, let’s put them to work 😎

Using Your Worth

Here’s where the negotiation comes in. Negotiation is a topic unto itself and is better covered by cleverer folks than I, so I’ll leave you with these bullet points to keep in mind:

  1. Ask for more than you think you’ll get. That’s why asking for Expected Salary is the least you can do for yourself if pressed to give an expected value.
  2. If given an offer more than the Expected Salary and the Expected Salary hasn’t been told to the person making the offer, counter with at least the offer’s salary and the Bonus calculated earlier, if not asking for an increase in the offer’s salary by 10%.
  3. If given an offer less than the Expected Salary, work with the offer to see about raising the salary to the Expected (*cough* negotiate *cough*). Should the offer salary not be raised, do mental math to calculate twice the difference of the offer and the Expected Salary – negotiate for that value in Bonuses (signing bonus, PTO, etc.).
  4. Don’t accept less than the Minimum Salary. The greatest power is to the person who’ll walk away first.
    1. That, and accepting less than what’s literally fair (the median and average) hurts you, your peers, your industry, and your country. Don’t do it.

These values you’ve calculated are the bare minimum acceptable to not hurt yourself (Minimum Salary) and a reasonable request for the work to be done (Expected Salary) with wiggle-room (Bonus).

Remember, you are asking for compensation for the work to be done first, your history and experience second. Be aggressively fair for future, but only use the past as a lens instead of an anchor keeping you from accepting reasonable work.

Further Learning

What do you think? What do you use in your own work worth calculations? I’d really like to know!

If you’d like a spreadsheet with some of these formulas filled out, let me know.

Lastly, a reminder about our relationship to work and money:

Your pay is not a judgement on your value. It should only be a fair estimation of your work’s worth.

Good luck, y’all, on your next negotiation, job or raise. Cheers ~

June July Goals

Hello, all!

Welcome back and welcome to July! Trust you are healthy, getting wealthy, and wiser than you were ❤

June Goal Review

  1. BITS
    1. Won. The Body-Interaction-Thought System, my “baby” for running table top role playing games. After a number of playtests, partly converting the Warhammer 40K Deathwatch TTRPG, and uncounted hours of study, I have me a decently solid system. I’ll see about posting an Alpha-version of the system (and notes for converting your favorite games to it) sometime in the coming weeks 🙂
  2. Mods
    1. Failed. I have a Civil War Risk mod, but I haven’t figured out the territory bonuses typical for Risk games. You can see for yourself the map I intend to update and use for finishing this game:

      Civil War Map - BW - Trim - East
      Map of the Eastern Civil War-era United States.
  3. White Papers
    1. Failed. Have notes. Don’t have papers. 🤷‍♂️
  4. Tabletop RPGs
    1. Won. As mentioned, Warhammer 40K Deathwatch and its ilk of like-games has been converted. Simple abstraction, division, and averaging streamline the game to act faster while delivering a similar brutal punch 😎

July Goal Proposal

A caveat before we begin: I’ve been interviewing. Since I take a week to study when faced with these kinds of conversations, time will be taken from goals. I’ll make this up as best I can, though I will limit myself to one fewer goal this month.

  1. Invest in Family
    1. After some sudden family loss in June and with the prospect of having to start work again, I need to not let the opportunity to enjoy the company of these others. Though without much measurable outcome, I will seek to visit my sister, keep up the family estate, learn from my parents, and spend oodles of time with Sandy the lovable cat 😍
  2. Invest in Games
    1. There’s BITS to polish, there are example BITS games to make, there’s Civil War Risk to finish, and a myriad other games I’ve started but have yet to complete. BITS and the Civil War mod will be my priorities to show off in prototype (hopefully Beta-level) form.

      roll-the-dice-1502706_960_720
      Dice from Pixabay.com
  3. Invest in Investments
    1. Money is the name of the game. It’s the scorecard for my ultimate goal: Early retirement (or, at least the ability to retire). With the stock market doing excellently, I’ll draft the stocks/funds I’d buy if the market crashes like it did in March. If such is the case, retirement will be coming much, much sooner.

June was tough, though progress was still made. As we spike in COVID cases in the US and my time is temporarily taken by interviews, I will meet July’s challenges full force 👍

You rock. Don’t forget that. Stay safe, wear your mask and keep your distance. All the best to you and yours and your goals. Need any assistance with your work? Keep me posted!

Character Sheet Essentials

Greetings again, there.

Been thinking and working a lot on tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs). In that work, I’ve needed to understand what’s necessary for making TRPGs since my work concerns a universal simplification system that keeps the game’s original mechanical balance.

So, for your next dungeoneering adventure, you making your next great game, or if you only have a packet of note cards, keep five things in mind: You (your character), Seem (your external disposition), Story (your history), Stuff (your, ah, gear!), Status (your health, experience, etc).

Going into those things in depth, keep in mind that all of the following can be recorded on one side of a 4×5 note card. I’ve pictures as examples, though these have been made game-specific for the Warhammer 40K Deathwatch TRPG:

YOU

Your character and all the important things needed to keep in mind when interacting in the game. Name, stats, any special abilities, and some reminders of IP-specific values. This card shouldn’t change during play, and rarely between sessions of play.

Sheet-You

Name
Yep.

Role
A reminder of your role in society or the game world.

BITS
The Body-Interaction-Thought values that are added to your rolls.

IP-Specific
In this case, Movement (half, full, charging, sprinting).

Skills
Anything you can do in particular.

Special
Special abilities or considerations in what you do.

Other IP-Specific
Anything else. In this case, max health and don’t-die points.

SEEM

Your character’s external appearance and behavior. This card also shouldn’t change much, unless a scar or some terrible incident has come about!

Sheet-Seem

Behavior
What’s your demeanor? Put that here.

Appearance
What do others see?

STORY

Your character has a past and a future. Here those goals and history get recorded. If the game IP warrants it, include the relationships the character has to people, places, and things. This card can change during play, especially if keeping a log of the character’s actions. (This may require additional cards / space!)

Sheet-Story

Future
Your goal(s), what you aim to do, how you’re driven to act.

Past
A log of everything you’ve done.

Relations
Optional as it’s IP-specific; how you and others relate to one another.

STUFF

It’s dangerous to go alone, so what are you taking along? Carrying and wearing, using and keeping, the gear goes on this changing card.

Sheet-Stuff

Armor #
How much protection what you’re wearing warrants.

Tools
A nicer word than than “Weapons”, but doesn’t alliterate 😑
Anything held or ready to be held.
Only ever carry 4 of these at a time; kept in the hands, on the body, or on the hips.
Since these can be changed often, best to keep the details of the tools on other cards.

Wear
Typically the suit worn, maybe your pack, and a few pieces of other gear.

Misc
A count of the miscellaneous items that you’ve packed.
Is abstracted to keep down bookkeeping.

Ammo (IP-Specific)
Sometimes ammunition kept in a magazine needs special attention.
Also is abstracted to save on bookkeeping.

Specifics
Any items carried along that you have a definite amount of.

STATUS

How your character is should be changing constantly throughout play if anything of worth is being done. Health, progression, and conditions are added and removed on the regular, possibly needing to replace this card multiple times during a single play session.

Sheet-Status

Health #
Health (thinking of renaming this to “Wounds” or “Harm”) followed by the total capacity for harm you have.

BITS Growth (ie Level Progression)
Add progression clocks or ticks (this latter is cleaner) to level up each of your attributes separately (or all at once if using an XP-pool system like D&D).

Conditions
Are you sick? Under the influence? Jot the name and a shorthand for effect here.

What’s missing? Drop a line – you’ll make for better games doing so 😁 Cheers!

#PaidMe

Hi, folks!

Guess who’s still in a strange land of finicky data? No matter! That doesn’t prevent writing a few things down 🙂

There’s been a few hashtags going around over the last few weeks. #TechPaidMe, #GameDevPaidMe, #PublishingPaidMe, #ComicsPaidMe, even just #PaidMe.

Think it’s about time I contributed to #TechPaidMe / #GameDevPaidMe. Why? Why not? Transparency in worker pay gives power to the worker. Gives power to you.

uncle-sam-29972_960_720
Uncle Sam from Pixabay.com

My history has been thoroughly and chronically underpaid for the value brought. After reading Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference, I’ll never do such things again. After reading this post, maybe you won’t be underpaid either. Sound good?

I’ll save you some time by crunching the numbers with 2020’s income tax for take home pay (THP), then inflation (Inf; doesn’t count Roth 401K and IRA contributions), then normalized cost of living (CoL; to a US national 100%) so you can get some decently useful.

The Data

(Skipping pre-2013 dev work as I was preoccupied with other things at the same time.)

2013
#TechPaidMe
Software Developer
Base: $45,000
THP: $37,816
Inf: $41,620.54
CoL: $54,122.93
Secure Banking Solutions
Madison, SD

That means in 2020 dollars, adjusted for cost of living nationally, I took home about $54K. Let’s continue…

2014-2015
#TechPaidMe #HealthcarePaidMe
Technical Services Problem Solver (customer support + custom dev)
Base: $69,000 (I think? I actually can’t remember. I just know it was under folks hired some 3-6 months after!)
THP: $51,757
Inf: $55,988.32
CoL: $50,079
Epic Systems
Verona, WI (Outside Madison)

2015-2016
#GameDevPaidMe
SDET II Tools Developer
Base: $66,000
THP: $48,387
Inf: $51,690.73
CoL: $40,926.94
Microsoft
Tigard, OR (Outside Portland)

2016-2018
#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Software Tools Developer
Base: $75,000 (not including bonus up to 15%)
THP: $59,588
Inf: $60,842.61
CoL: $54,518.47
Aristocrat Technologies
Las Vegas, NV

At this time, I read Never Split the Difference among other books and Reddit posts. Continuous learning evidently pays dividends:

2018-2020
#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Senior Software Engineer
Base: $104,500 (not including bonus; had a raise for a few months before a promotion with a final raise here)
THP: $80,179
Inf: $-
CoL: $71,844.98
Aristocrat Technologies
Las Vegas, NV

Despite all of the lower-than-expected pay, despite coming late to the FIRE Movement, I am well on my way to financial independence. No debt, minimal other expenses, and investment performance is set to CoastFIRE me in less than 10 years, FatFIRE in less than 15. If we suffer a crash in the markets, independence will happen sooner with savings on hand that were meant for buying property 2 weeks before COVID-19 locked the US down. #BulletDodged

If you feel comfortable in sharing, what have been your numbers in tech and game dev? I used to be very sensitive over letting others know what I earn, so I understand if all you get is a reference point for your future salary negotiations 😉

Before we go, checkout these resources that have been such boons to me:

It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this, and ask for what you’re worth ❤ cheers ~

Goals Recap – December 2019

1912
Phone screen lock images from Yigit Koroglu, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and the National Archives Catalog.

December heralded the end of not just a tough year, but a decade.

Many things happened, including a few goals. I’m very comfortable in what all occurred because I have a mind of what’s required in 2020. (More on that later.)

Regardless, we do need to review what got done and what I let slip:

  1. Podcast
    1. Failed. I had podcasts ready for every Friday in December. However, between technical failures and my own forgetfulness to schedule their release, only 50% of the casts made it out in time.
      Into the future, I want to be more regular, though podcasting will fall from the position of priority it’s enjoyed for the last two months.
  2. Abridged TTRPG Modules
    1. Winning. I wrote an article on scaling back my game designs. Guess what I didn’t do? 😅
      I have multiple tabletop roleplaying games being polished right now. I’ll see about providing a sample soon for your potential play. Sound good?
  3. Shallow Seas 10K Words
    1. Failed. I did not make it. However, Shallow Seas and other stories will be top priorities in the next decade.
  4. Celebrate EOY
    1. Won! My end-of-year letter is written, I had loads of fun, and a smidgen of time was spent with some very important people in my life.

50%-ish success rate. Pretty bad, especially considering I backed off a bit. For December though, I don’t much care. Analyzing my 2019 and peering into the future, I’ve found more important things to concern myself about. Writing, property, financial milestones… I look forward to sharing not just January’s but 2020’s goals with you in a bit!

December Goals Revisited

Hey, folks! After four hours wrestling with Audacity and an inexplicable series of crashes, I’m writing you a post. Boring!

We’re gathered here today to remember that we command our tools (ie goals, schedules), they don’t command us.

That clear? Cool 😎 Now that we have an understanding there, I’ve come to understand December needs some rehashing:

  1. Keep the Podcasting and EOY Goals
    1. Parties and seeing friends and remembering the year – check!
      Podcasting? Hopefully. I’ve really borked Audacity – by the time you read this post, I’ll have decided on my own what to do 😑
  2. Step Back the Modules
    1.  I had such aspirations to write three full games in the month of December… Oh well. Instead, you’ll see three mini-tabletop role playing games. A page for setting, a page for mechanics and characters, a page for phases of play, and a few pages for items and NPCs.
  3. Deescalate Shallow Seas
    1. “Great vague-booking, Jimmy! What the heck does that mean??”
      It means I’m down-scaling 40,000 words to write to 10,000. (40K would be about 80 hours of writing over three weeks at my 500 words / hr.) I’m also nixing the idea of a first draft – We’ll start at the beginning, but correctly this time.

I had a long rant for you about how tools and what we set out to do shouldn’t consume nor command us… how goals aren’t our tyrants – we’re our own masters yadda yadda ya…

It sounded better spoken. Maybe you’ll hear it someday if Audacity recovers 😁 Or I’m short on post ideas 😅

Whatever the case, take care! I’ll aim to get something cast-worthy your way soon ~

Goals Recap – November 2019

1911
Phone lock screen base image from an unknown source

My November has been full of study, just the way I like it. Think we’ll need to redirect to creating more, studying less for December, though that’s another post 😉 Despite there being a week left, it’s Thanksgiving, so let’s get on with it:

  1. Podcast
    1. Won. A podcast every week talking about these goals has been absolutely fun. So much so, I think we can continue this into December 😁 Checkout cast 01 here.
  2. TTRPG
    1. Winning. Editing the system right now, though it still requires some example modules (or full games) that leverage these rules and will be distributed after this post.
      Overall, the greatest contributions of this goal are:

      1. The 4M Stats: Mind (mental ability), Muscle (physical ability), Machine (tool use), Maybe (optional stat for a narrative)
      2. Character squad mechanics
      3. Advancement through gear
      4. Game Master and Player prep shortcuts
  3. Redirect Shallow Seas
    1. Won! I used the Ring Theory / Ring Structure to re-outline my Shallow Seas universe. This wasn’t difficult after some study, though deciding on the Dragon (the big-bad thing the Heroes slay) required some serious thought.
  4. 2019 Pics
    1. Failed. Having only made it to March / April of all of my 2019 content, I merely did not get to posting every day, multiple times a day. Sigh.

Oh! And there was a fifth extra goal: Extra writing. This kinda happened, though it wasn’t writing fiction: It was writing scripts for podcasts, taking notes on how to make and direct tabletop role-playing games, and filling in RPG modules and rule systems.

So that was November. Fun. Now, we’re onto figuring out December’s role for my goals. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving, and a fine start into the last month of the decade! 😃

Monthly Goals – November 2019

I’m itching to do more with tabletop (TT) RPGs. I also want to write. After some self-analysis for my career, getting myself out in the open more is also a prerequisite to my success.

With these things in mind, I present to you, my goals:

My Goals Due EOM:

  1. Podcast
    1. 15 minutes, every week. I’ve struggled with how to shoehorn myself into what to talk about. The solution seems to be to talk about these goals and what’s on my mind. What could be better than me talking about making things better?
  2. TTRPG
    1. More tabletop role playing games! Play a TTRPG, draft a complete TTRPG system, and give myself kudos for publishing my TTRPG notes and/or playtesting the TTRPG.
  3. Redirect Shallow Seas
    1. Shallow Seas takes direct inspiration from Star Wars. I’ve written two-thirds of a first draft, but it feels flat. November can be the time to rewrite what the world is, the plot, and where to take the story.
  4. 2019 Pics
    1. Do you know what I’ve been doing? Do I? Let me go through my gigabytes of photos and videos of this year, figure out what’s going on…
  5. BONUS – Write
    1. It’s NaNoWriMo! 2016 was a lot of fun when I participated. 2019 is not that year. Thinking that Saturday’s could be set aside for writing-jams so this huge collection of stories in my backlog don’t get stale 😉(Won’t hold myself to this extra goal – it should push me to accomplish more sooner, though!)

Let’s get to it 😁

1911.jpg
Phone lock screen base image from an unknown source

Goals Recap – October 2019

1910.jpg
Phone lock screen base images from Pinterest and IStock

In October, Tabletop RPGs (TTRPGs) were my life. Here’s why:

  1. Titles and Loglines
    1. Won? This is tough. I pick working titles based on my gut instinct as soon as I have a premise for a world or story which fits decently well. The loglines are rough since I tend to change the stories to great extent when outlining… I at least have something for what I set out to do. Are they any good?… Meh.🤷🏻‍♂️
  2. Truths
    1. Won? I have a brainstorm of the ‘Truths’ I’ve encountered consistently in life, but it’s unorganized and unedited for my own biases. More work is required before this can be useful to others 😑
  3. (Tabletop) Role Playing Games
    1. Won! 😎 … But at what cost? Information on how to make games, write games, prepare games, run games, play games, interact with players, and so much more is running around in my head and in my notes. I want to finish this gestating system I have created for faster-combat-focus-while-roleplayable TTRPGs, but haven’t determined if it’ll be my priority for any upcoming month.
  4. A Pull-up
    1. Won! I feel so good about this!!! Gah! I’m up to three pull-ups at a time now (context is previously doing 12-15 pull-ups seven months ago). Still not 100% with my shoulder, but this is a huge milestone. 💪🏻

Physicality – check. I did things – check. I studied – check. I secured my future – check (kinda). October was a good month. Can’t say it was a super-smashing success, though it certainly wasn’t a failure.

Look forward to what gets planned for November – ought to be a legit month ~

Monthly Goals – October 2019

As was committed last quarter, last month had stellar impact in what I wanted to have accomplished. Writing, money in housing, people, experiences, all of it worthwhile.

But I’ve been having a nagging… urge, to work more on tabletop RPG systems. The ideas have been stewing for a few months now, but even as I write this in September, I’m surrounded by notes on different play systems. In October, I’m going to leverage that drive, while not forgetting to write something too 😁

My Goals Due EOM:

  1. Titles and Loglines
    1. Taking a hint from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, I’ll be fleshing out, at the bare minimum, the titles and loglines of my bucket full of back-burner stories. (This feels particularly liberating, no longer having to use “Working Title” anymore 🙂)
  2. Truths
    1. Putting together a collection of “Truths” (see capital ‘T’) is on my end-of-life to-do list. Having discussed some of these with intellectual persons, I already have my first pre-order for the collection once it’s put out (unknown to them, it’ll be put out for free [I’ve a short rant about why – Truth!]). In October, I’ll get at least this collection together concerning people, people interacting, the world, stories, religion, government, and an outlook on the future. (Daunting, no?)
  3. Role Playing Games
    1. I’ll continue my study of tabletop role playing games, but I’ll also put together the systems I think might work best for fast, intuitive, flexible gameplay 🎲 Anything to further this understanding will be taken up, including organizing a role play session, watching games be played, and going solo through my own systems.
  4. A Pull-up
    1. My arm still isn’t 100% from a shoulder injury experienced earlier in the year. Though able to do a few push-ups again, pull-ups are still a no-go.  I aim to fix that. 💪🏻

Join me in celebrating how good it is to get after some important bits! 😃

1910.jpg
Phone lock screen base images from Pinterest and IStock.