Web designer Charli Prangley has revealed what she earned at key points of her career, including her time at stock-market darling Xero.
In a candid new video on her YouTube channel, Charli Marie TV, she also confesses to various job-interview blunders, and offers advice for those trying to negotiate a salary with a new employer.
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"It's all very taboo, isn't it, to talk about how much we get paid," says Prangley, who graduated from Massey with a first-class Design BA.
"But that's what I want to do, because I don't think money-talk should be a thing that we avoid.
"The more we talk about how much we earn, the more we can help each other get paid what we're worth."
Prangley's first job, graphic designer on the marketing team for a Wellington-based reseller of Mitsubishi Electric products, paid $35,000 a year.
"I did not negotiate that salary at all. I was just thrilled to earn a living doing full-time design work."
The following year, in late 2012, she went for a marketing designer role at trendy cloud accounting startup Xero.
"When they asked my salary expectation, I said I wanted to make over $50,000 - and what they offered me was $60,000," Prangley says.
"I was obviously undervaluing myself and I appreciate that Xero didn't take advantage of that."
She adds, "I know now that I should have tried to negotiate because 1) It can't hurt to try and 2) When you get a raise at a company, it's usually based on a percentage of the salary that you're on - so when you come in, you're setting a baseline. So the higher you can negotiate that initial salary, the more you'll get in raises. Not negotiating when you start out can limit your earnings at a company as a whole, which is unfortunate - so learn from my mistake."
Xero also offered an annual cash bonus and a long-term incentive in terms of shares. Always look at the whole package, not just salary, Prangley says.
A move to Xero's London office a couple of years later left the young designer with mixed feelings about the company, however.
By that time, 2014, a couple of raises at Xero had seen her salary increase to $73,000.
"Now the cool thing about this move to London was that Xero had an office there so I could transfer within the company and not have to look for a job in London, which was cool.
'[But] my biggest mistake was I treated this move too much like Xero was doing me a favour and not enough like I was filling a role, a vacant role, for a design position in the office in London; they didn't have any designer there any more," she says.
"Xero didn't help with any relocation costs because they said it was a self-initiated thing.
"And basically I have some regrets about how I handled that situation."
That year, Xero's then CEO Rod Drury was earning $1.66m per year, though most of his wealth was tied up in his block of shares, which were on their way to their current valuation of around $1.1b.
Prangley adds, "I did know that living in London, I was going to have a higher cost of living, and Xero knew this too, so what they offered me for this transition - this move to do the same job I was doing in New Zealand but based in London - they offered me £42,000 [in today's money, $78,000] - so that was about a 15 per cent increase.
"Now I'd done my research and found that the cost of living in London was about 27 per cent higher.
"So that's what I was hoping for in a raise, and what I did speak to my manager about - but that's what we ended up on and I took it."
Xero won battle, but lost the war as Prangley moved on just six months later to a new role at retail technology startup Edited, also in London.
"Now in this role, the mistake I made in the [job interview] process was actually answering them when they asked what I was earning currently," she says.
"This something that a potential employer is always going to ask you and I would advise you not to be the person who says a number first."
"When they ask you what you're earning or what you want to earn, it's always a good idea to ask them what the range is for this role - and then you can give your answer based on that," the designer advises.
"If you go in there and lay a number on the table first, then you are setting that benchmark and there's potential that the company could take advantage of you."
She adds, "Honestly, what you're currently earning should have no impact on what your value is in a role at a new company."
This time, she did negotiate, to a fashion.
"I told them that the salary package I was earning currently at Xero was £45,000 ($83,000)," she says.
"And they said, 'Well, you're probably actually getting paid pretty well for where you're at in your career5', and they offered to match that.
"In a stroke of boldness though I decided I would try to negotiate and I asked them for a whole £1,000 extra.
"I asked for £46,000 ($86,000) and they agreed pretty much immediately.
"And that's when I knew I should obviously have asked for way more than that."
She adds the zinger, "This is what I hate about this whole salary negotiation process. You end up being paid a lot of the time based on your negotiation skills rather than your design skills, which I think is lame."
Finally hitting her straps
Prangley's year and a half as a marketing designer at Edited were a flat patch, earnings wise. The company wasn't big on performance reviews, she says.
Things brightened in late 2016 as the Kiwi took a designer job with ConvertKit, a US-based email-marketing company that was happy for her to work from home in Europe.
She started in December 2016 on US$60,800 ($86,700). It was barely more than her previous role, but ConvertKit also offered a vacation bonus and profit-sharing.
And, also to her liking, it has standardised salaries, tied to an industry survey by Radford that gauges the market rate for various roles at different levels. Employers can match the levels measured by Radford or a startup could decide to, say, pay all staff 80 per cent or some other fixed percentage of the Radford mark.
And it didn't hurt that performance reviews and salary increases came around every six months, each around 10 per cent.
July 2017 saw a bump to US$66,000 ($94,000).
February 2018 a rise to US$73,000 ($104,000).
And September 2018 saw a jump to US$80,500 ($NZ114,700).
She made then made her case for advancing from a "level 3 web UX (user experience) designer" to a "level 4" under the Radford survey numbers, by making a case for her skills and that she was ready for more responsibility - without having to worry about salary negotiation tricks, since the money side was set.
Her manager agreed with her argument and she was rewarded with the biggest pay-bump of her career so far as in July 2019 her salary increased to US$105,000 ($150,700).
"I was proud of myself for advocated for myself," Prangley says.
And then there was more good news as a new Radford survey came in with re-mapped data and Prangley's salary was increased to US$115,000 ($164,000) in November to match the new market rate for her position.
She says she could earn more if she moved to a large tech company, or a hot startup bulging with venture capital money, but she likes ConvertKit and the work/life balance afforded by her remote working.
Prangley cautions against using any of the salary figures quoted above in your own negotiations, as the situation can vary depending on where you live and what type of company you work for, among other factors.
But she hopes her negotiating tips will help all up-and-comers.
Wait, there's more
In comments after her clip, Prangley was asked how much she has made from the YouTube channel, which has chronicled her career, and offers tips and tricks for those in her profession - accumulating 148,000 subscribers along the way, and putting her in a position where she's been invited to speak at various industry events.
She pointed to the "income report" section of her blog, which doesn't give dollar figures, but which has tracked an increase in "side-hustle" money as a percentage of her total income for each year.
For 2019, "side-hustles" accounted for 24 per cent of her income, up from 18 per cent last year.