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Getting your rate up

June 15, 2012

Recently I was in a contract “south of the river” and my boss told me I was worth a lot more money than I was billing.  Nice guy huh?  Now we weren’t talking about a small amount either, the figure was 40% more.  As I said at the time “that’s a lot of popcorn”.

Now I have to admit I love contracting in general.  Getting to move around company to company, meeting new people and seeing different ways people have implemented IT systems.  The bit I have never been happy about is the money side.

The problem is between you and the company you work for is an agency.  This agency take a cut of what you earn and most of the time you have NO IDEA what this cut is.  This time, however, I was working directly for the company with no agency involved (I got the position through a friends recommendation) so basically I learnt I WAS SELLING MYSELF SHORT!

So after some real soul searching and asking myself “what do I really think I am worth” I decided that in the next contract I would get my rate up.  My problem was, although I am a confident guy when put up against a load of technology, I am rubbish at anything to do with money and I am rubbish at “selling myself”.

So this called for a plan.  On finishing the contract I decided on a little study break to get a few more exams (and boost my confidence a little).  I also put my CV on the job sites at 20% a day more than I would normally ask for.  Whenever an agency phoned I would say “I am on a study break at the moment and I am not actively seeking work, however if the right role comes along I could be interested.  Oh and my rate is XYZ”.

Every week I would get phone calls and most were for jobs paying a lot less than I wanted.  I knocked back all of them.  Eventually I started to get offers in the region I was asking for, often from agencies I had knocked back lower paid positions for previously.

The (hopefully) nice ending to the story is that I start a new position on the rate I set myself next week.  The next contract after that I am going to try for another rate increase and will see how it goes.

So here are my “get the best rate” pieces of advice:

1 – Speak to your contractor colleagues (including managers) to make sure you are getting paid what you are worth.

2 – Don’t be afraid to as an agent’s advice.  There are many bad ones out there but some will give you an honest opinion.

3 – Remember if you undervalue your rate you will end up getting work at a lower level that you are capable of (this happened to me).

4 – If your rate is wrong modify your rate accordingly, take a deep breath and then say out loud “I am <your name> and my rate is <your rate> and I am worth it!

5 – When selling yourself at a new rate STICK TO YOUR GUNS! If you have the right level set you will get a job at that new rate.

6 – Try to be realistic, don’t set a rate too high.  We would all like to earn £500 quid a day but not everyone is at that level.  If you find you have no offers at your price point after a period of time (it is a good idea to set the period you are willing to wait before you begin) then you may have to drop your rate a little.

7 – If you can’t get the rate you want take a look at job adverts for the rate you do want.  Do you have those skills and experience?  If not think about some certifications maybe (MCITP/VCP etc) and learn some new systems in a lab environment.  Okay this isn’t going to get you real world experience but it might get you a foot in the door!

If you are looking to up your rate good luck!  It’s a nice feeling to think you are being paid what you are worth…just don’t get greedy!  If you have any further tips do please share!

C

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