How Much Should a Developer Make?

Developer salaries vary widely. Let’s talk about money. What should you be getting paid? Let’s walk through the factors to take into account when negotiating a pay raise or getting your first job.

Ask for what you want

The absolute most important thing I can tell anyone who’s thinking of asking for a raise or is in a position of interviewing for a new job is to ask for exactly what you want. In fact, take what you want and add $30k to it. No one wants to pay you what you’re actually worth or what you want. Money is such a taboo, uncomfortable topic that people almost never ask for what they actually want.

Don’t negotiate with yourself

A lot of people will have a number that they want and believe they’re worth and then try to justify asking for less money. Why? This is so fucking stupid! Why would you ask for less than you want? Because you feel sorry for the company? You feel greedy? You feel like you don’t deserve it? You’ve taken too many days off? Too much vacation? Forget all that! Think about the people who are in a position to give you a raise. What do you think they make? Do you think they deserve that amount of money? So long as you’re a reasonable person and you don’t ask for a million dollars or something then you need to come in with a high number and an absolute minimum number. Do not accept anything less than your absolute minimum. Expect push back. Expect the person in charge to come back with a number lower than what you wanted. Don’t accept it.

Don’t ask them for a number

Another big mistake is asking the person in charge of raises to tell you how much of a raise they want to give you. They’re going to look at their finances and then low ball you. It usually isn’t even malicious either. It’s just human nature. If I have a bunch of money saved up and I want to buy, for example, a new guitar (I love guitars) I would look for the model of guitar I wanted and then sort the ones I find by price. There are going to be a lot of guitars that I can afford to buy but I’m not willing to spend the money on. Now if I find a guitar that has all the right specs, sounds great, and that I absolutely love I’m going to look for the lowest price I can buy it for but I’m still going to buy it even though it hurts to part with that money. Now if I were given the option to pay what I thought was fair for that guitar I would still pay for it but I’d likely offer up half of what the guitar was actually worth.

In the previous example you are the guitar. If you give yourself a price tag then people know how much to pay for you. If you say “pay what you think is fair” then you’ll get screwed and you shouldn’t feel butt-hurt that you didn’t get what you wanted.

Know how much you’re worth to start

A good first step is to look online at the salaries for jobs that are similar or the same as yours. Find out what people who do your job with your experience and skill level are being paid in general in your area. That’s your ballpark number. That’s you’re absolute minimum number. Next you have to ask your coworkers how much they make. Yeah, that’s uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be. If you make more than others in your office then people won’t be pissed at you, they’ll be mad at the boss. Sharing salary information between coworkers is actually a good thing. You know what the going rate is for work done in your office is. This will help you figure out if your company is simply poor or is screwing people over. If you find vast differences between salaries for similar positions it’s a sign that the company is paying everyone the absolute minimum and your coworkers probably suck at negotiating.

Six figures is not a lot of money

There used to be a time when a six figure salary meant you were rich. I can testify that the first 100,000 does not make you rich. When you start making 200k that you can start to relax about your salary as a software developer. Life is expensive and anything less than 100k is peanuts in the times we’re living in.

Be firm, not a dick

When you ask for a raise be polite, make a good case, and reject anything that doesn’t satisfy your requirements. If you hear the line “that’s the most we can offer you” your reply should be “I can’t accept any less than $X” where X is your desired salary. If you’ve done everything right up until now you’ll get to your number if you stand firm. If you’re a valuable employee then no one wants to lose you and it’ll be more expensive to replace you than it would be to simply pay you more.

Do your homework, go in with a goal, and you’ll walk out happy. Enjoy your new salary. Maybe next time I’ll talk about how to not blow your new income on stupid bullshit that’ll lead to you needing another raise.

Career, Web development

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