Knowing what you are worth, preparing in advance and thoughtfully approaching negotiation can reduce negative perceptions and fears and make it easier to get paid the rate you deserve for a care job.
The nature of working within family care means you’ll naturally put others ahead of yourself. But remember that standing up for yourself means everyone is happier in the long run—and that includes ensuring that you make a living wage. Before your next job interview, use these expert tips to ready yourself for a successful, fearless pay negotiation.
Research market rates
Never go into an interview being unsure of what to charge. It’s important to know what the market rates are in your area. Check other profiles on Care.com to see what others are charging in your area to get a good idea. You can also check out our childcare and housekeeping rate calculators.
Determine your bottom line
Next, it’s time to determine how low you will go before walking away—that is what you’re going to be happy with, not the bare minimum you have to have to pay your bills. Because a lot of child carers do that, then they’re really struggling once they get into the job.
Decide on your range
As you figure out your bottom line decide on a range, not just a set amount, as every job is different. When you have a range, you have a better ability to negotiate depending upon what comes up in the interview. Often, new information that you didn’t know from the beginning comes up like a child has special needs or there’s a new baby or a new puppy on the way. You want to have a range so you can negotiate around those price points.
Practice, practice, practice
Never go into a salary negotiation unprepared. Plan out the conversation, outline how you want it to go and practice it with yourself and then with others. It’s a learning process that gets easier, so practice your negotiating skills in low-stakes situations, like when trying to get your kids to get ready for bed or when you’re given the wrong order at a restaurant.
Consider other benefits to negotiate for
It’s a mistake to focus solely on your hourly rate since there are many other creative ways a family can compensate you. In case you can’t nab the rate you want, be prepared with a list of other perks you can negotiate for to add to your employment benefits package. These may include:
- A work exchange: For example, if the parent’s an accountant, doing your taxes
- Contributing to tuition if you’re a student
- More paid time off
Ask for an initial phone call
Some people hiring require a screening call first, but if they don’t, request one. That way, you can see if it’s a good fit and if your pay range works for them up front. After some initial conversation tell them: “My range is $X to $Y an hour. Are you comfortable with that?” If your range is higher than what they can pay, you need to know right then and there. Carers are often scared to bring this up, but they shouldn’t be. It doesn’t mean you’re a lesser carer or that you’re putting your money above your job or the care of kids—it just means you need a living wage like everyone.
Pay rate and benefits are usually discussed during the first in-person interview. By the time it comes up in conversation, you should already have a good idea of the scope of the job and what it will entail. With the prep work you’ve done, you should be able to have an open and honest conversation about pay.
Best ways to negotiate
Build yourself up before proposing a rate
If the family hasn’t suggested a rate, take advantage of this opportunity. You know about your work and everything that goes into it, so don’t forget to explain that. They may think you just need to be a warm body there to make sure the child doesn’t hurt themselves, but actually, no, a lot more is involved in providing quality care. Don’t assume that they know how much hard work it takes, so educate them about what’s involved. Also discuss what makes you special, your expertise and your experience and do all this to build up to telling them what your rate is—that will avoid any shock reaction you might get.
Make it clear you’re on the same team
It’s common for people interviewing for a job to feel powerless and view it as a zero-sum game. Instead, think about it as more of a team effort: You are an expert that they’re relying on. Rather than viewing it as me-versus-them, re-frame it as you’re solving a problem and both working together toward a common goal, which is they get great care for their child from you. Explain why it’s legitimate for you to be negotiating and advocating for yourself (your experience, training, etc), then show how it’ll be better for them. Say something like, “You could pay less for someone who brings less to the job, but I bring [XYZ],” to advocate both for the family and for yourself.
Ask what & how questions instead of why
If you’re told, “Sorry, the most we can pay is $X,” respond with a question like this:
- How flexible is that?
- How can we make this work?
- What can we do?
Why questions tend to make people defensive, and that’s what you don’t want. Every why question can be rephrased into a what or how. Instead of saying “Why can’t you do this?” say “What are the reasons why this isn’t possible?”
Don’t negotiate against yourself
Say you can only work 20 hours a week, but at the interview, the family says they’d like you for 30 hours. The ideal response is, “I can only work with you up to 20 hours” and leave it at that. Negotiating against yourself looks like this: “Well, I’m really looking for a 20-hour-a-week position, but if you really needed somebody, I probably could do up to 30.”
Instead of feeling the need to accommodate and conceding, know what isn’t negotiable before you go in, and be firm and clear about it—that’s why it’s so important to practice ahead of the interview. It’s very hard to simply say the sentence and then not say anything so get comfortable with silence as a negotiating strategy. Let them come back and say something.
Don’t feel compelled to decide immediately
While you may feel the need to say yes right away, this isn’t always in your best interest. We make mistakes when we feel like our back is against a wall so make sure that you’re supporting and advocating for yourself. If you need a couple days to think about it, just say: “Thank you so much for this conversation, but I have a lot to think about and this is important to me, so I really want to be able to give this the time and thought it requires.”
Don’t commit yourself to a set time frame if you can help it
If they ask how long you need, say: “Probably a few days, but I’ll let you know as soon as possible.” You should feel out the specific situation, but if the family does ask for a fast decision, consider asking “How flexible is that?” and putting those negotiation skills to work by asking them to extend your decision time.
Don’t accept a rate you can’t afford
If the family suggests a lower rate than expected or says no to your proposed rate, proceed with caution: One of the mistakes carers make is feeling they have to take whatever they can get instead of advocating for what they’re worth. If you’re offered a rate that doesn’t meet your needs, suggest filling in for the family while both of you continue to search for a better fit. While it’s fine to make compromises, don’t go below your bottom line for the long term—and always be willing to walk away.
Some people think, ‘It’s OK if I start lower—after they see how great I am, I’ll ask for a raise’. But it’s a lot harder to do that. Don’t forfeit this great opportunity you have at the beginning. Accepting the lower rate to start can work only if you truly can afford the lower rate and you get it in writing. Say to a family: “I’ll start at this amount, but I really want a few pounds more an hour, so let’s do this for a month and then evaluate. If I prove to you I’m worth it, you’ll agree to pay this. If not, then maybe we part ways.”
If the family agrees to this, it should be written in your contract. Also be cautious if you’re negotiating pay and learn that your minimum rate is the very maximum the family can pay. It’s not a good idea to take a job where the family is struggling to pay you your minimum amount, because it leaves you no place to go.
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