Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.
This week we’re sharing the story of a woman who, after being underpaid for years, decided to quit and ended up doubling her salary while working part time from home.
Location: Chicago, IL
Title: Marketing Manager
Original Salary: $65,000
Current Salary: $90/hour (roughly $130,000 per year)
What was the situation when you decided to negotiate your salary?
When I finished my MBA program the economy was struggling and I had a difficult time finding a job. I accepted a position and though I wasn’t happy with the salary, I knew there was room to grow within the company.
While there was room for me to grow professionally, growing my salary was another issue. My boss was my biggest champion and he would consistently request larger raises for me during my annual review process. Unfortunately, HR would often refuse those raises because they had certain caps they needed to adhere to. My situation became frustrating quickly because I couldn’t get raises large enough to get me to the salary I deserved to be making.
As I was in the process of hiring a new employee who would report to me, I realized that he was being hired for $68K, which was $3K more than what I was making. When I brought this to HR, they told me I wasn’t eligible for a raise and though the situation wasn’t fair, I would make less than my new employee. I felt defeated.
After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I decided that I didn’t want to work so hard and be undervalued. I had young kids at home and it might be best to take some time and stay home with them before I searched for another job where I could be paid what I deserved.
I scheduled a meeting with my boss for the next day to quit. He wasn’t surprised, and came to me with a solution: he suggested that I quit, but that I come back to work immediately as a contractor.
I was intrigued. I hadn’t considered this as an option. I told him that I needed to do a little research and I’d come back to him in a couple of days.
How did you decide what to ask for?
As I used marketing contractors on my team I was able to pull their contracts and see what they were making. I decided to be bold and aim high – higher than what I’d seen other contractors ask for. I wanted to make $100 per hour, I wanted to work part time, and I wanted to work from home, as I was tired of my long commute.
How did the conversation go?
I told him that I was excited about the idea of continuing to help his team perform well, but that I was only going to begin working as a contractor if we could agree on a plan that made it worth my while.
He knew that my alternative was to quit and stay home with my kids, which was something I was prepared to do. I knew that he was impressed with my work and relied on me as one of his managers that consistently performed above and beyond expectations. Losing me would make his job more difficult. Knowing this gave me the confidence to be bold with my offer.
He looked over what I proposed and said, “If you can take your hourly rate down to $90, we have a deal.”
I was ecstatic. I would be one of the highest paid contractors at the company, I’d work part time, and I’d double my income. I formally quit, signed the contract, set up an LLC for myself and was in business working for him the next week.
I’ve continued to work for that company and I’ve also picked up some other jobs along the way. I love the flexibility I now have to earn more when I need it, but still make my own schedule.
What advice do you have for other women?
Get creative. I spent too long trying to fight a battle (with HR) that I would never win. I should have recognized that sooner and looked for a creative solution like the one I have now.
Know your alternative and their alternative. I went in bold with my ask when setting up my contract position. I knew that if they didn’t say yes, I was prepared to walk away. If that happened, they would be losing a hardworking employee that they trusted. We both knew I had the best alternative, which made it that much easier to go in strong and not be afraid of the outcome.