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Truth: if you don’t ask, you won’t get

Last week, I tweeted something that’s been on my mind for a while now:

It’s something that I really try to practice in my everyday life… sometimes I go after things that are completely outrageous. And sure there are plenty of times where I don’t get what I want. But there are always those times, those unbelievable I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me moments where I actually do get what I ask for. And it’s because of those moments that I keep asking.

I think this is especially important when it comes to a career. I might be shy in my everyday life, but the workforce is competitive, and if you’re not actively asking for (and going after) what you want, somebody else is bound to get it over you.

Take your salary for example. Did you negotiate your starting wage, or did you just take what was offered to you?

In my experience, you are always worth more than the first offer. Every company expects you to negotiate, and if you don’t ask for more, the company isn’t going to just give it to you. I mean, you wouldn’t take the sticker price when buying a car from a dealership, would you? And if you buy anything off Craigslist, you would always try haggling – because you know they’re asking for more than they would accept. Right? :)

Sure, it’s hard at first – especially for women. I had such anxiety about it when I first entered the work force, and since then I’ve been called everything from greedy and bossy, to confident and assertive. But asking for fair compensation does not make you selfish or bitchy or aggressive. It makes you smart because you’re asking for what you rightfully deserve.

I have never taken a job offer without negotiating first, and I have never been turned down. In most cases, I end up $2,000 to $4,000 ahead. Sometimes I have it written in my contract to get an automatic raise after a certain period of time, or a year-end bonus. A few thousand dollars may not seem like much now, but in the long run, it can add up. Your raises, bonuses, and future earning power are dictated by how you negotiate your starting salary with a company. And that few thousand dollar gap has the possibility of becoming bigger in the future – leaving you farther behind how much you are truly worth.

Of course, when you’re negotiating your salary you have to have solid reasons why you think you deserve more. So try to evaluate your skill set and years of experience compared to other people in your field. Then try to formulate a salary range for your job. You don’t need an exact number, just a rough estimate. Check out websites like Glass Door and Payscale to help you get started. I also like looking at job postings on LinkedIn or Eluta, as well as asking friends and family to find out what other companies are willing to pay for a similar position.

Related: How 20-somethings should ask for a pay raise

The worse thing that can happen is they say no

And so what? If they say no, and you are comfortable with the salary being offered then go ahead and take it. But before you do, perhaps you can try to negotiate an automatic raise after a certain period of time, or more vacation time in lieu of a raise. I’ve only successfully negotiated more vacation time once in my career, and it was because they said no to my salary pitch. But now that I look back on it, that one extra week of vacation was worth way more to me than a few extra thousand dollars a year. so I was extremely happy.

Nobody works for free, and the reason that most of us have a job is to generate an income. You deserve to be fairly compensated. But if you don’t ask for it, you likely won’t get it.

Thoughts? What has your experience been negotiating your salary?

Prioritizing time

Life has been pretty hectic over the last few weeks, and a lot of changes have taken place. I wanted to go back to working 70 hours/week like I was doing prior to moving to Europe… but once I got back, I realized that lifestyle isn’t really going to work for me anymore. While I don’t regret that crazy work schedule (and it was actually a lot of fun!), there’s so much more that I want to do with my time.

One of my goals for 2013 was to cut down my workload down to (hopefully) 50-55 hours/week. I spend 40 hours/week at the full-time job, which leaves 10-15 hours/week for freelancing. I think this is a good balance for me, and I can always tweak it down the road if I find it’s not what I need.

In order to achieve this work-life balance, one of the first things I did was to step down from my position with the Toronto Star’s Moneyville.ca. It was a really, really tough decision because I’m one of the original bloggers that my editor hired. I’ve been writing for Moneyville for 2.5 years, and I’ve learned so much in that time. But I just can’t conduct interviews and follow-up with stories/leads during the day when I’m at work. It’s sad, but I’ve made some terrific industry contacts, and I’m still going to be writing for the Toronto Star on occasion.

I’m not sure how that will affect my 2013 income goal of $85-90k, but I’m still going to try as hard as I can to get there. I’ll need to make between $1,500 and $1,600 each month in freelance income in order to hit that target. So far this month, I’ve pulled  in just under $2,000 – so it’s possible as long as I keep on top of everything.

As for the full-time job, it’s been great so far. Although it feels weird to be a decision-maker (and a boss), I’m really enjoying the challenge. The people I’m working with are nice, and I think this is a great next step in my career. I was really nervous about being able to handle such a crazy position, but it turns out all of the experience I’ve had in past jobs has really prepared me for this one. Plus, it looks like down the road there could be some major international travel involved. So fingers crossed. :)

Anyway, with the extra time I had on my hands over the weekend, I was able to accomplish a few things to get my finances back on track:

    • Increased my mortgage contributions back to accelerated bi-weekly payments with an additional 20%.
    • Created a spreadsheet to track my 2013 income.
    • Submitted paperwork to turn my TFSA with TD Canada Trust into an e-series mutual fund account.
    • Started sorting through my 2012 receipts (this is going to be a long process).
    • Started looking for an accountant.

How was your weekend?

A career change

Some of you know that for the past few months, I’ve been casually looking at full-time job postings. I knew finding the right job would be tough, so I wanted to take my time finding a job that would allow me to further my career, provide the financial stability I want, as well as align with my personal values. And I’m happy to say that as of late last week, I was offered a position with a Vancouver-based high tech company that I just couldn’t refuse. :)

First, let me backtrack a bit because ending my full-time freelancing career was not an easy decision. One interviewer even asked why I wanted to give up what seemed like a perfect location-independent career, and that’s a valid question. As a freelancer, I had the ability to create my own schedule, travel whenever I wanted – and I made more money this year freelancing 25-30 hours/week than I did at my 40 hour/week full-time job last year. It really was a tough lifestyle to give up.

Related: Why I’m quitting my day job and moving to Europe

But, working for myself over the last year has made me realized a few things about myself:

I don’t like working alone
It’s funny because I’m not a super social person, but I hated the isolation of freelancing a lot more than I thought I would. I get to network and converse with people online all the time. And often I’ll meet clients and colleagues in person. But it’s not the same as the social interaction of working with people on a daily basis. I miss bouncing ideas off of people. I miss collaboration.

I want to work on bigger projects
As a one-woman show, I’m always working on projects within my budgetary means. But, the high I get from working on projects way bigger than myself is something I’ve been craving more and more.

I miss stability
Knowing you’re going to get paid every other week is something I really took for granted before this year. Like I said, I made more money in 2012 than at my full-time job last year, so it’s not necessarily about the amount of money coming in. It’s the frequency, and the stability knowing that I will definitely get paid. Plus the medical benefits are nice. :)

I miss making more money
In the back of my mind, I keep thinking about how I need to be utilizing my (relative) youth to its fullest potential. Working hard now while I have the energy is going to pay off in the future. So by taking on a full-time job, and pushing my freelancing back into a part-time role, I’ll be creating a potential income level that will help me save significantly more each month. It would be silly of me to waste that kind of opportunity, because I know 10 years from now I won’t want to work 65 hours/week.

Related: A freelancing career isn’t for everyone

So there you have it. This blogger is moving back into the corporate world, and I’m really, really excited about this job. It’s in the high tech field of science and nuclear medicine – something I have no background in, but am extremely eager to learn about.

It’s a big chance to work with a company that aligns with my personal values, and work in a department with seemingly unlimited growth and potential for advancement.

As for freelancing, it will still play a big part of my life. I expected to have to work 40-50 hours/week this year to create the income I wanted for myself. But as it turned out, I only needed to put in as much effort as I did last year. So the idea of moving the 25-30 hours/week back into evening/weekend work is a definite possibility. BUT I will likely be cutting back on the amount of new clients I take in, and potentially scale back on my current projects because this full-time job is going to be extremely challenging.

Of course, this blog will continue as it always has. I expect new life to be pumped into it, because I’ll finally be able to grow my savings and achieve more financially with this added income. :)