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Negotiating Your Deal Memo

Alexandra Drosu / June 15, 2020

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When you receive a job offer from a studio that is a Union signatory, you can always negotiate for a better salary beyond the minimum union wage for that position. Consider a base offer as your starting point. An employer will not be surprised if you make a counter-offer. Below are some tips to help with the process. 

Do Your Research

Be prepared from the start. Talk to others in positions similar to the one you are considering and ask about both average and above-average rates. Then consider your level of experience and the project’s budget, from indie to blockbuster, streaming to network, etc. Make sure you know what a job at a certain level usually pays someone of your experience before you go in and also prepare for the conversation. “You want to practice making the request, battling the objections, sharing your data, and answering questions,” says Career Expert Caroline Cenize-Levine, Career Expert of SixFigureStart. “You want to role play the dialogue so you feel the unexpected questions and learn how to improvise a response. Work with a coach, a mentor, or someone who can at least give you the feeling of the actual event before it happens.” 

Present Your Best Self

Be more than just positive in a job interview. Be likeable. Establishing a connection with the employer who interviews you can set a working relationship off on the right foot. According to Katie Shonk, Harvard Business School Program on Negotiation: “Although it’s not always feasible to engage in small talk at the start of a negotiation (particularly if you’re on a tight deadline), doing so can bring real benefits, research shows. You and your [interviewer] may be more collaborative and likely to reach an agreement if you spend even just a few minutes trying to get to know each other.” Also, keep in mind that when a project is crewing up, lots of people are being interviewed. You might not only be competing with others who may have similar experience, you might be competing with an employer’s divided attention span and exhaustion level. This person has a lot on their plate. Make their job of interviewing you as pleasant as possible.  

Listen First, Ask Second

Listen thoughtfully to what an employer tells you, and when you respond, do so with respect. Rather than make demands in your negotiation, use what you have learned by listening and turn your request into a question. For example: “Based on my skills in [be specific], I was expecting a higher salary. What can we do to raise this number?” Note that you do not say, “Is there anything we can do to raise this number?” That is a yes or no question. Always ask questions that leave room for negotiation. 

Be Specific

When you make a counter-offer, don’t be vague and don’t give a range. According to the  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology: “Precise numerical expressions imply a greater level of knowledge than round expressions and are therefore assumed by recipients to be more informative of the true value of the [job] being negotiated.” Ask for a specific salary, and if it feels right, ask for a little more than you want; this will give an employer room to negotiate. Being specific with your request means that you have put thought into the job and also into your own worth. 

Know Your Reasons

Your resume is just a launching pad. When you ask for a higher salary, explain why you feel it’s justified. Share what you have to offer and why you will be an asset. This is especially important when you are starting out and don’t have a lot of job experience. When you make your case for yourself, be humble but never apologize for knowing your value. And as you build your case, tie it into why you are excited to have this specific job. 

Avoid “One More Thing”

When you make your counter-offer, give all of your requests at once. Don’t negotiate a higher salary, and then, once that is achieved, ask for something else. If you ask for only one thing at the start, an employer may assume that is all you want. When they give that to you, they might think the negotiation is done. Asking for “one more thing” will most likely annoy an employer and dampen an interview. 

Understand the Value of Silence

Once you have made your proposal, remain silent. If you keep talking, it will undermine your confidence. Also, an employer needs time to think about your request.

Consider More than Money

“Salary negotiations shouldn’t be limited to just salary. Salary pays your mortgage, but terms build your career,” says High-Stakes Negotiator Christopher Voss, who teaches a MasterClass in negotiation. Are there perks that would balance out a salary that’s not as high as you’d like? For example, a specific job title? Can you offset a lower salary by requesting an additional week of vacation or more flexibility in your schedule? 

Take Your Time

It’s okay to ask an employer for some time to think about an offer. Go home and sleep on it. Consider the big picture. If this is one of your first jobs, is the experience worth more to you than a certain salary? Or perhaps building a relationship with a producer or studio means more than a few extra dollars a week. In the end, make sure that you are satisfied with the benefits of your deal, and that what you receive is always moving your career in a forward direction. 





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