Awhile back, someone in the process of interviewing for a UX job asked me this question:

Hi Joe! I was asked for my salary expectations during the 1st round of interviews and I didn’t know what to say. They said to get back to them with a ballpark estimate soon. The position specifically would be doing all the UX/UI/user research without any other designers. This would also be my first “real” job. Would you give a number at all?

Here’s my response, which I think may be helpful to many of you in the same situation.

You should absolutely give a number.

And that number should be specific and firm. If you give them a range, they will almost always choose the number at the low end. Keep in mind, also, that most companies are willing to pay you more than what you’re asking for. Quite often the reason they’re asking you to go first is because they’re betting your number will be lower than theirs.

To figure out what that number is, start with the going/average salary for that work in your area. ​This article from Springboard​ provides some solid insights for people working in the US-market as well as links to other sources.

You want to be in line with going rates for someone doing this work, with your level of experience, and you also want to be able to defend what you’re asking for. Also consider what you’re making now; never make a lateral move in terms of salary. With every new job, you always want to increase what you’re making by some meaningful percentage.

You want this on the table during your first interview.

If the salary they’re prepared to offer you is too low for your liking, you want to find out as soon as possible. And do not fall for the “we’re a startup, we have no money” line. Their financial issues are absolutely NOT your problem

And do not accept offers of low salary + equity stakes. This only pays dividends for one in 10,000 people, and the odds are likely much worse than that.

Above all else, be confident and remember that you are interviewing THEM as well. You have every right to be paid what you’re worth, what the market will bear. There are more open positions for UX folks than at any point in recent history. Remember that the advantage is yours; they need you

Never be afraid to negotiate.

You are allowed to negotiate, and you are allowed to ask for a higher number than what they come back to you with! Do not forget this — never be afraid to negotiate the number. The only employers that will ever walk away from this, say “forget it” and rescind the offer are those that are abusive — and you do not want to work for those people, no matter what they pay you. I say all that because you should not ever feel bad about asking for what you think is appropriate.

And lastly, if you’re looking for a job, do this research now. Before your first interview. You want to go in prepared with an answer to this question in your first interview; otherwise you’re operating from a position of weakness.

I completely understand how hard it is to answer the salary question, honest :-) But in the scenario here, if you expose the fact that you don’t know what you’re worth, you’ve given up almost all of your negotiating power. Which means that number has nowhere to go but down.

If you forget everything else I’ve said here, always remember this: whatever ideal salary you have in your head, you need to walk into that room (or that Zoom call) believing you absolutely deserve it.

I founded the UX 365 Academy to cover all the never-discussed situations, soft skills and situational knowledge and tools you need to succeed in your career, particularly when the road is rough.

Whether you’re trying to land a UX job or are fighting for legitimacy and respect once you’ve got it, I can help you tackle your toughest challenges and sharpen your skills. ​Check it out — and consider what a small investment in YOU can do for your career​.