Your Personal Price Tag: How Much Are You Worth?

What are you worth? What is the dollar figure per hour that makes you cringe on either end of the spectrum? I was never taught to value myself, my time, or my ideas. Of course I was expected to make a living, but no one in my family expected me to be successful in the financial sense. And why should they? They all thought I was going to be a starving artist, or a designer eeking out a middle class life.

Then I entered a completely different life. And I had to teach myself what I’m worth. I still struggle with that question. Every time I make a mistake, I knock off another few thousand dollars on that number. If I successfully complete a project, I rarely mentally re-coup my losses. When it comes to salary figures, you can look at Glassdoor and Payscale to get a general idea of what people in your position, by title, are making annually, but that doesn’t really provide a fair picture of what you personally are worth.

The truth of the matter is you are worth what you can sell yourself for. You are a product, just like any product your company is selling. There is always a certain amount of money your company is willing to pay for the product of you, and a certain amount of discount they are hoping to get based on your insecurity. If you price yourself too low, however, they will start wondering what is wrong with you. So, you must have a pricing strategy in regards to yourself and your value.  The trouble is, so many variables are hidden, and they sometimes change on a daily basis.

I’ve figured out the sales game when applying for a job and accepting the role, always negotiating for an improvement in my salary. The trouble is that I find the only way to improve my salary is to leave my job and go to a new job. The challenge is when I don’t want to look for new job. For instance, I really like my current job. And a part of me, doused in insecurity (some based in reality), wonders if I’m even worth what I’m paid. But then I need to take a step back and quantify my accomplishments, and accept that despite not being perfect, there is a value that I contribute. Still, I’m not clear what that value is. And that value is the number which my company thinks it’s worth keeping me on versus replacing me with someone else. I don’t know what that number is.

I do know a similar position that is being hired for within my company has a salary range that starts $30k above what I am currently making. That makes sense, since they are looking to hire someone more experienced than I am. But then I question if my experience is undervalued. Perhaps I haven’t worked at name-brand companies, but I’ve built up quite the repertoire of skills and expertise throughout my career thus far. I don’t want to be greedy, but I don’t want to be stupid either. I’m not sure how one can guess at where their current desire for more income falls on that spectrum.

Ultimately, I still believe that if I can be perfect and actually be 100% on top of everything plus perhaps contribute 10% to 20% more than my commitment in ways that is useful, I would clearly be deserving of a raise. This isn’t taking into consideration other benefits and options and such, so there is a lot to factor in which makes the whole “worth” question so much more complicated to answer.

What I do know is that in Silicon Valley I am never going to be able to afford a condo on $90k a year. I’m lucky that I’m still living with roommates and that my landlord hasn’t raised my rent except to account for an increase in HOA. I’m almost 30 and I still have roommates. I’m looking ahead at my 30s and worried about not being able to save enough before I have a family. I don’t want to work just for a salary; I want to work with a team I respect for a boss(es) I admire to promote/create/sell a product I believe in. I have all that today, so maybe that’s enough.

If I follow my historical salary increases, I can catch up with lapses in raises by taking into account lost salary when I negotiate my next job offer. Or maybe I should learn to negotiate without having to leave a company. I hate the thought of having to sell myself. I’d rather focus on selling my company and our products.

 

 

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3 comments

  1. I think it depends on my relative point of reference. Compared to other people in my industry, I am statistically underpaid. But compared to the average 20 something year old, then I'm actually on the overpaid side. I calculate I'm worth about $20 an hour based on my education, experience, and work ethic, and I'm currently making more than that so I can't complain overall, especially when the unemployment rate for my age group is 15%.

  2. Leigh says:

    I think that at the very least my personal price goes up 2-3% per year to keep up with inflation. Last year, I got promoted and got a big raise, so I'm curious to see what happens this year. I'm hoping for 4-5% raise since I think I've done well this year and I see 2-3% as being the minimum cost of living raise, but we'll see.

    After seeing how much of a raise I got for my promotion and the fact that it was a percentage based on my starting salary, I really wish that I had tried to negotiate my starting salary better. If I'd started at say $3,000 more, I would have gotten more of a raise and that just compounds.

    I would say that specifying an hourly rate is hard with how much I make in bonuses each year. At this point, I would agree that I'm worth what I get paid overall, though I would, of course, be happy with more.

  3. I love this post! I've always been reluctant to negotiate salaries, probably since I've typically worked in state agencies that have a set pay scale. And to make things even more embarrassing, my income has DECREASED every year since I finished grad school. Obviously my price tag started out low and has been marked down numerous times over the years until I'm hanging out in the bargain bin.

    It's so important for people, especially women, to recognize (and ask for) the amount they're worth. Until we do, we'll all feel we're settling for less yet fail to figure out what to do about it.

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