Work for Pay, Not Free

The zeitgeist regarding labor is smarter now than it was just 10 years ago as it comes to work, pay, et al. As with all things, it could be better.

One of the ways thoughts on employment could be improved is to work for pay, not for free.

Here are points on how:

Experience

Experience is garbage. The person offering “experience” in exchange for cold, hard cash cannot go choke on that “experience.” Why? Because it holds no tangible value.

I.e. experience is “free.” Do not work for “free.”

Denied a Raise?

Say a coworker is earning more for the same (or even less!) output than you, or a new employee is offered higher compensation. You attempt to negotiate a raise but are denied.

What now?

Either:

  1. Quit (but only if you have another job lined up, are financially set to take a well-deserved break, or do not require the wage-slave benefits like health insurance)
  2. Get cut by cutting back the day-to-day effort (collecting that sweet, sweet unemployment insurance)

Do not wait! Act now for your own benefit. Check out some other options and help on cutting back:

Get a Pay Cut?

First, what counts as a pay cut? A few things:

  • Meeting or exceeding performance expectations, not getting a raise despite that.
  • Not getting at least a cost-of-living increase in wage (as of May 2022, that is North of 8.3% – anything less is wage theft by the employer).
  • Demands by work to work more.
  • Org or team changes that decrease the quality-of-life at work.

If any of the above or similar occur, it is time to cut back in proportion to how the employer has cut back on you. A few ways to do that:

  • You can always quit if able (see above).
  • You Earn Commission
    • Raise your rates, especially for this employer.
    • Retain control of your work (e.g. a photographer keeps the unwatermarked originals, an artist holds Photoshop files, programmers source code local to themselves).
    • Aim to drop the employer (if 80% of pain comes from 20% of clients, drop that 20% sooner than later).
  • You Are Hourly
    • Clock out on time.
    • Do 0 (zero!) extra.
    • Take your breaks on time and use your paid leave regardless of business needs.
    • Reread your job description; when told to do something outside of that agreement, decline to do it (unless the employer is ready to immediately renegotiate the agreement, with an immediate pay-bump for you πŸ˜‰)
  • You Earn Salary
    • Over-estimate the time it will take to do things, making sure your work takes up that extra time. (I find an extra 30-40% is a useful tool if previous performance has not been recognized.)
    • Again, do nothing extra – it is not in your job description to organize events, work on other products or projects, or in your incentive to work on anything that hasn’t been agreed on with management for how you will be judged (i.e. Objective Key Results – OKRs – used to define pay performance).

What Else?

Work advocates like the hustle-hustle-hustle icon Gary V speak to “getting in” for time vs. any other compensation, even experience.

E.g. serve coffee and run packages for the CEO for free – that may work for a select handful with a decent safety net, but that willful enslavement is not something I can ethically get behind.

And if an employer ever offers or suggests working for free, they have done you a great favor: the employer has shown you they cannot be trusted to act fairly or honestly for you. You might still do business, but you will be fighting everything the employer says because everything they say will come at a cost to you.

So if you have other ways to recognize employer exploitation or how to maximize your earnings under subpar conditions, share them! Your work has value, so work for pay, not free.

The Real Values of Your Job

You get a wage, yet that is not all. What are the real values of your job? Or any job offer?

Base Pay

The hourly or salary numbers of the job.

This is a guarantee of value. Out of virtually all other values, this is the most fundamental because it is not a hypothetical. You will be paid this by law, otherwise the law is broken.

Additionally for hourly, though a person could expect HOURLY RATE x 40 HOURS, that may not be the case. Adjust accordingly, in that it may be 35 hours instead, or there is overtime pay on the regular – talk with your coworkers about these expectations.

Stock

AKA Options (more volatile for gains or losses) and RSUs (more guarantee, less risk). This is flexible value in an employer offers at a discount or pre-set rate.

For many in, say, the tech industry, this is the bread-and-butter of employment, the real value of their compensation. For pennies on the dollar, you can gain stock then sell it at a steep profit.

Be warned: Stock is fickle in that it can fall nearly as easily as it can rise (at least in recent years). What you may have banked as the cornerstone of your finances can become so much bitter ash.

Time Off

Sick days, vacation days, holidays. Each day is worth about .4% of Base Salary (1 8-hour day in 2000 annual working hours).

Not something to sniff at. These values can add a significant proportion to the overall value to a job, but be careful if anything is “unlimited” – these days have no value if not taken or are allowed to be taken (these instead have negative value as a lie from the employer).

Matches

Talking about the big one here – 401K matching. The employer will match dollar-for-dollar a 401K contribution.

Free money here. A very important value, though it is not offered everywhere and only works if you are able to. Keep an eye out on this!

Bonus

Annual performance, sales, commission – these can be substantial, or trivial. They can happen often, once a year, or not at all.

Whatever bonus gets offered (if any), take note and negotiate on this too!

Misc.

Largely subjective, include any other items you feel might be of value to you in your work. This bucket is mainly for values of a few hundred dollars, but could be worth a lot more.

Examples:

  • Commute Time (less is more! 0 is best)
  • Special Health Insurance Benefits (specifically of benefit to your upcoming year or lifestyle; you ought be getting basic health insurance regardless!)
  • Snacks
  • Gym Memberships
  • et al.

As with everything, a lot of these offerings only have value if you reap the value from them. If not using anything of benefit, it has no value to you and should not be included in the value of the job.

Experience?

You can’t even choke on experience, so it is of virtually no value here.

Can you gain training, networking, and exposure while on another’s dime? Sure, yet there still needs to be that “dime.”

Are some employers worth it? Perhaps. Big names, such as Google, Facebook, or Apple are all great names in virtually any field, while some banks or law firms would be great in their fields. Yet these employers are tiny compared to the vast swath of the broad market, where you are likely to be employed.

Experience is nice, but again, it cannot feed you.

Putting It All Together

Job Value = Base Pay + Stock* + Time Off + Matches + Bonus + Misc.**

*Stock is the number of shares given in a year multiplied by (market right now – rate given in the offering).
** Money is time – the more money you keep, the more time you will be giving your future self, so do not discount time savings as being worth a lot!

This will give you a dollar amount, the real value from the real values of your job.

The Value of Being a Professional

Hey there! Before going on, know that I’m hardly a professional. Knowing what a professional’s value is, however, is invaluable.

This post is for you that need to double-check if you are being valued; for you looking for work so you know what’s acceptable to ask for and what an employer ought to be offering. For simplicity, I’ll be using my own profession of software development as the example to be used.

I’ve participated in the #PaidMe movement and laid out the tools I use to put together what my work is worth before. Now, to help you not devalue yourself or others, here are those tools applied!

Note: Having a pen-and-paper handy along with a calculator to figure out the value of your own work while you read may save your time.

Inflation

From 2019 to 2021 (now), inflation has been 2.88%. (This will be important as we’ll be getting some salaries from 2019.)

Because some of the following numbers will be multiplied by hundredths-of-a-percent, there is going to be some inevitable rounding. If the values are off by a few dollars, no sweat – you should be rounding up anyway πŸ˜‰

Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the Spring of 2021, BLS has data from 2019 for the United States as it comes to compensation. In 2019, software folks (QA and dev) were most often paid $107,510 a year.

With a trusty map of 2019 pay for techies, we can take the national value and inflate it, leaving us an estimated $110,606.29 per year median.

The hypothetical $111K is contradicted by Salary.com’s reported $115,430 per year average. Since this is private company is only a statistically insignificant ~4% different, we’ll ignore Salary.com for now in favor of the official numbers (inflation and BLS).

Cost of Living

How much money one needs in different parts of the country changes drastically, even from suburb to suburb. Where your zip code is has a heavy factor in what you should be earning.

A few example metros / locales follow. I received two different CoL calculations in my recent research – Best Places in general had higher values while PayScale was more conservative. Naturally, I went with the former (what a shame to be underpaid):

WhereCoL vs NationalEst. Min. SalaryEst. +10% Salary
Las Vegas111.6%$123,436.62$135,780.28
Redmond185.1%$204,732.24$225,205.46
Seattle172.3%$190,574.63$209,632.10
Austin119.3%$131,953.30$145,148.63
Washington152.1%$168,232.16$185,055.38
Boston162.4%$179,624.61$197,587.07
New York City187.2%$207,054.97$227,760.47
San Francisco269.3%$297,862.73$327,649.01
San Jose214.5%$237,250.49$260,975.54
CoL Applied to BLS Median Pay

You, sharp reader, will have noticed that the numbers estimated above do not match up quite with the BLS values previously. That is because BLS does not always include bonuses, stock options, the size of the company a person is employed at, or what has been the best few years for software companies ever.

More on that in the next section.

Remember: Always round up to at least the nearest thousand thereabouts. Exact numbers shown here to allow you to make your own decisions on how comfortable you are with rounding.

Also remember that odd numbers (123.45 vs 120) psychologically seem “more official” and “legitimate.” If you can round up while keeping some of this oddness when you go into negotiating your value, it’ll help you greatly!

Expected Salary Range

Not every company has or likes to have the cash on hand to pay huge base salaries. Though cold, hard cash is almost always preferred, you can leave it up to a company to make up the difference in your value.

Base salary is usually less than the CoL and BLS calculations above, yet this does not take away from your value. You can accept this lower pay by expecting the company to exchange cash bonuses, equity, PTO, or other subjective boons.

A cash bonus usually is a lump-sum payment delivered every six-months or a year. Usually about 10% of your base salary, you can negotiate this percentage higher to make up the total value difference. If the bonus is variable, say, based on performance, only calculate for the “you did no more and no less than your job” value.

Equity is some investment in the company. My personal rule aside is to only accept equity at a 2:3 rate, where for every $2 of base pay being forgone, $3 comes in equity. Why? Equity is variable with the market and often delayed in being granted to you. There is no timely guarantee for your work to be properly compensated, nor is the opportunity cost for not having cash-in-pocket slight, so as equity literally costs the company nothing to give you, asking for more is always a safe bet.

PTO (paid time off) is a common benefit working at most companies. PTO comes as paid vacation, sick time (if separate from vacation), and holidays. Each PTO day is 8 hours but the value of the whole day is your daily salary rate, i.e. base salary divided by 250 days. Daily rate multiplied by the number of days is PTO’s value.

Finally, there are other boons that the company can give. Maybe it’s better healthcare, a shorter commute, a better title, work-life separation, etc. Tangible (physical, material) or intangible (time, feeling), only you know what’s more important than cash-in-the-bank. Always keep in mind that any boon you accept in replacement of direct pay is doing the other party a favor.

Glassdoor Et Al.

Every company changes in what they may offer potential new-hires. Glassdoor, Levels.fyi, and other websites have oodles of employee-reported data on pay, among other things.

If you are looking at a company that has a presence on one of these sites, use the site. Compare the ranges of base salary and other payment options to your BLS and CoL numbers. This gives you not only an idea of what other compensation to negotiate for with the company, but also a second set of values that may be higher than BLS + CoL (needless to say, increase any site-found value by at least 10% since site values do not account for CoL increases or inflation).

Tip: I always salary search using a Google Chrome Incognito window to do my browsing. Sites like Glassdoor track your usage, preventing further use if you navigate to a different page. Incognito gets around this:

      1. Arrive at a blocked page.
      2. Copy the website URL.
      3. Close all of the Incognito tabs / windows.
      4. Open a new Incognito window.
      5. Paste the copied URL.
      6. Tada! Unblocked. Continue researching your value.

Putting It All Together

You now know what you should be compensated based off of your research into the company, role, BLS, and CoL.

When the talk of money comes up, here is the handy equation to keep on hand:

Total Compensation = Base + Bonus + Equity + PTO

If you have other boons you are looking for, convey to the other party that you are taking these for granted, increasing your base or bonus or equity if the other party wants to take these boons away. Never Split the Difference is an astounding book (read it at least four-to-six times so far) that goes into more depth in how to handle leveraging boons that may not have an impressive dollar value.

Now, that total compensation ought to be a range, something like the fair value you found through research of median or average pay (whichever is higher), and at least 10% more than that. Propose the larger numbers and have the other party justify why they ought to be offering you less, giving a sense of disbelief the entire time (much more in Never Split the Difference).

Barring the most dire circumstances of survival, never, ever accept below the median or average pay for the role in the place you are bidding for. It is anti-social and masochistic and despicably weak. Don’t do it.

On the plus-side, if the other party counters above your expected compensation range, smile! Then let them know that’s a good base-pay starting point. “Now let’s talk about bonuses and equity.” Using the simple trick of adding 10% more to acceptable figures, you enable yourself to maximize your worth to the other party and to yourself.

Having gotten through this article, how are you doing? Are you making out like Robin Hood, maximizing your value above par? Are you being taken for granted, paid pennies on the dollar?

If you need to be valued more, talk with those that pay you about increasing your compensation 10% if you are being underpaid by 10% or less. However, should the compensation be undervalued by more than 10%, you can still have a conversation with the payor, but it is also time to look at other companies since you have been clearly disrespected and taken for a ride 😐

Enough talk! Check your numbers, go get your value, and be confident that you are in the right (heck, you at least have the United States government backing you up). All the best to your endeavors going forward – cheers!

10 Posts 2020

In a first, I’ve posted every week of 2020! #FeelsGoodMan

Out of all of those, I want to share my thoughts on the ten most-eyed posts of 2020 πŸ‘€ What’s changed, what’s the same, you get the drill.

10. Character Sheet Essentials

This is my attempt to boil down characters to the essentials of what needs to be known. A character sheet still needs the four sections “Self, Seem, Story, and Stuff,” but there’s more wiggle room, especially on “Self,” on what a given game IP ought to include.

(Note card-sized sections are pictured for reference.)

9. BITS – The Core Mechanic

My joy of a game system, BITS delivers a faster pace of gameplay, simpler arithmetic, but a thorough set of possible outcomes for any action. Here I talk of the dice, the math, and other factors in resolving conflict in the system.

8. Cast 21 – Tools to Face Uncertainty

Back when I could upload podcasts, I outline twelve actions that remove stress and improve decision making. These are points that are recommended by the best performers and thinkers in our society which I have also tried out personally to great success 😁

7. Cast 12 – Quick Table Top Role Playing Game – 1

My first publication of a tabletop role-playing game. (Check the second part for downloads.)

I’ve come a long way in terms of knowledge and technique for making games (specifically TTRPGs), yet this first system has a special place in my heart β™₯

6. Cast 19 – Virtual Mentors

I go through the folks that I constantly learn from, folks that you can gain from, too!

The cast includes Gary Vee, Timothy Ferriss, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, Paula Pant, and more!

5. Cast 09 – GDC and Crunch

I reminisce about being accepted to the Game Developers Conference (which I later give up my pass) while also facing crunch at work (on a project that later gets culled during COVID).

4. COVID and False Arguments

There are a lot of disgusting, dangerous things being said to downplay or misinform about the current global pandemic.

One hit me so hard on social media it took me days to get over the audacity of it. Then I wrote a blog post in response πŸ˜‰

One thing I’d add to this post: You can’t give someone lung cancer from your lung cancer condition. You can give COVID-19 to another without even knowing you have it. Therefore, this is another point that comparing COVID to other diseases as a means to render mute the concerns (and lives lost) of the pandemic is not just infantile and uninformed, it is dangerous.

3. #PaidMe

Surprised that this isn’t higher. I got on the bandwagon of a summer hashtag that had folks sharing salary in different industries.

I went farther, breaking down role, base pay, take-home pay, inflation to 2020, and normalizing to a national cost-of-living.

Check the data out yourself to have a reference point in your own salary negotiations 😊

2. Trip Across COVID America

I fled Las Vegas to the wilds and eventually the East Coast in May. What’s written retells my journal entries for the trip, including a very eye-opening understanding of poverty in the forgotten, decaying rural sections of America.

1. What Is Your Work Worth?

I wish I had this guide when I started in the professional sphere.

What’s inside is a step-by-step formula to calculating what you ought to be paid along with surefire ranges you must ask for when negotiating pay.

It’s dangerous to go about with ignorance when it comes to money. Take this insight along for the ride.

If you’ve missed out on these crowd-pleasers, it’s not too late! I also recommend checking out the other posts – you’ve plenty of content to gleam from.

What has been your favorite post? Which articles would you recommend I read? Let me know! Cheers to your 2020 wrap-up ~

Devaluing Your Worth

As I approach a new year with a new company, let’s look at common nasty bits of the flip-side of how to value your worth: devaluing it πŸ’©

First Off: Not Knowing Your Value

You would do yourself a better favor ignoring any new paid work if you haven’t done the bare minimum of any interview process.

That bare minimum? Doing the research, ie:

Know where the money is πŸ’²

Figure out how much a title pays nationally. Know what that role pays in the region and industry (though industry is less and less relevant). Glassdoor the salaries paid at the company. Normalize everything to the cost-of-living (CoL) of the town you live in and where the company is headquartered.

Of those numbers, get the median. Get the average. Pick the highest value.Β At least multiply that number by 110%, if not 110% to 125%.

Then what do you have? Value. Or, more precisely, an appropriate range (high average or 110% to 110% or 125%) of value you must ask for with the role with the company in the city. Anything less is at best worthless, if not going to be a sticking point for you later.

Second: Anchoring Low

A common negotiation tactic is to anchor the talks on a low value.

You are not low value.

When the company goes low, you go high. Heck, if the company goes OK, you go high. If they go high, you goΒ higherΒ πŸ”₯

They mention a range lower than yours or doesn’t intersect the top of your range? You sigh, you flinch, you gasp, and you quote them your researched range. (Apply emphasis that your skills warrant the top of the range no-doubt.)

You are cornered or feel compelled to mention a range? That 110% to 125% is looking awfully fine right now πŸ˜‰

If you feel uncomfortable asking for this kind of cash, just know other companies across the nation are paying at or above your quoted. So why do you deserve any less? (If you have an answer to this rhetorical question, there are some confidence and self-esteem issues you need to figure out ASAP.)

No, seriously, if you don’t think you doing a role is worth the nationally determined compensation for the title, stop reading this article. I wish I had something of mine to link here, but I don’t – go get help!

Side note: If you ever find yourself being in the very rare and unusual position of the company offering more than the top of your not-yet-quoted range, tell the company the both of you are close, but you were looking for approximately-10%-over-the-company’s-value. That way you leave nothing on the table that the company was not already planning on giving you!

Third Up: Not Shutting Up

After you have spoken, cease speaking 😢

Simple, ya? No. Human nature wants to justify ourselves and our expectations of others to others. To do that, we’ll lace our speech with weak words and bury our hopes in our own babble.

When you’ve stated your range, when you’ve told the company they need to have a better offer, when you’ve asked for that bonus, shush.

As many professional negotiators put it (see this post’s Further Learning section):

They who breaks silence first loses.

This in part applies to:

Fourth, Your Greatest Enemy: Yourself

What I mean is you will negotiate against your own self interests.

There are many ways to hamstring your efforts:

      • Quoting a dollar range first.
      • Agreeing to additional responsibility without additional compensation.
      • Settling for splitting the difference.
      • Generally being too agreeable πŸ˜‡

The root of your self-harm is fearing the discomfort of disagreeableness.

Be conscientious of your value, be kind to those you negotiate with, but be brave enough to be disagreeable when a benefit to you and your future selves is on the line.

What have you done in negotiating down your value? I’ve done all of the above and more – which have you? Share your experiences for others and myself to watch out for.

COVID is still very bad – While you Zoom safely from home, may you earn your worth and more 😁 Cheers~

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 πŸ™ƒ

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 πŸ™‚

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 ~

#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 πŸ™‚

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.

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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

2021+
Checkout the post.

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 πŸ˜‰

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 ~

Cast 24 – Motivation Under Stress

Download for home. (4m 29s)

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Image from Pixabay.com.

Times are tough. That’s true for millions if not more. It’s likely true for you.

Out of all of it, keep this in mind:

You got this. You are strong. You are resilient. Others have survived immense struggles. You have too. You will again.

You got this. And for all the work you’re putting into each day, each hour, that’s awesome. You are awesome. You are incredibly capable.

You got this. You overcome obstacles rather than cower. Even the smallest hurdle will stop those of lesser ability. You are much more than that.

I look forward to hearing of your feats, but it may be dangerous to go alone – take this toolbox to help stress and decision making. Hit me up to share your accomplishments – I want to know them, grow from them, for that being shared would be generous indeed.

Cast 21 – Tools to Face Uncertainty

Download for home. (22m 22s)

This is a long one. Listen – it’ll be worth it.

Have an announcement I’m leaving in the cast. But to help you, below are abridged bullets my notes on dealing with stress and making decisions when things are uncertain.

(Most of these tips come from my mentors, both virtual and live, so if anything here helps you, they will be of greater utility!)

Dealing With Stress

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Stress pencil from Pixabay.com

  1. Sleep.
  2. Eat (fats and proteins).
  3. Make lists.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Long walks.
  6. Visit nature.
  7. Intense exercise.
  8. Cut down the schedule.
  9. Remember and consume intense media.
  10. Discover minimally viable life.
  11. Days > years.
  12. Bonus not included in the cast: Cut down on stimulants. (Looking at you, coffee!) β˜•

Making Decisions

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Feet and arrows from Pixabay.com

  1. Doing > planning.
  2. What do I enjoy more?
  3. What is required for me to feel satisfied?
  4. Will I be better for having done it?
  5. Am I living my best life? How can I?
  6. What do other people want more?
  7. What would I need to do if I was to die in three months? Six?
  8. What would the decision look like if it were easy?
  9. Make the decisions / choices simpler.
  10. 90/10 Principle (upgrade from the 80/20 Principle).
  11. Say “no” if I can’t give it a “HELL YES!”
  12. Say “no” if there are no next steps or long term benefits.
  13. Say “no” if I am considering this because of guilt or obligation with no merit for myself.
  14. What’s the worst possible failure? How can we mitigate that?
  15. What would I do if not afraid?
  16. Will worry help the outcome?
  17. What do I fear that lacks unrecoverable risk? πŸ’€
  18. Does it tell a white truth?
  19. How close is this to my sought-for legacy?

Tell me, what are your strategies for dealing with stress? Techniques for making decisions? Comment – I and others could learn a lot from you!

Cheers!

Cast 20 – Living Mentors

Download for home. (7m 20s)

Last week’s cast talked about those I’ve never met though consult on a daily basis.

This week I thank a few people I who’ve had unimaginable impacts on my life, true role models to emulate.

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Water droplet impact from Pixabay.com

There are more of you out there, those that know not of this podcast, those that listen every week, more than I can count (or include in a <15 minute ‘cast!) – I adore you ❀ This is no slight to you, merely a recognition of the gifts others have made.

Such acts of gratitude are supposed to be cathartic, especially in times such as those we find ourselves in. I highly recommend you to try the same – come up with the role models in your life, living or dead, and listen to what they teach, watch what they do. They persevere – you will too 😊

Cheers ~