Selling Yourself: How I made $10,000 more with a single email

There was a time when I was making a sweet living on $12,500 per year working at Starbucks. It took me a while, but I finally realized that I was worth a lot more than that. Imagine how I felt when I was first offered a $40,000 salary to do a job I only had about 6 months of experience doing! I did what only a reasonable person would do. I asked for money (25% more than 40k)! And I got it. Here’s how I did it (removing the company name only):

Hello Eric,

Thank you for the offer, I am very excited to start working for TechCompany but I would first like to discuss the offer that was presented. To start, I believe that even though my title would be ‘software engineer’, I would take it upon myself to really be a team player and add value to every aspect of the company in order to not only help achieve the $1B milestone but to exceed it! I have these personal goals for while working for TechCompany:

  • Develop a fantastic product – As a software engineer
    1. Develop the product to the point where students are demanding their school to purchase the product for them. This would greatly reduce the work for salesmen because schools would be coming to us instead of vice versa.
    2. Consider the 80/20 rule when developing the software – focus on the most heavily used features (20% of the functionality) of the website and enhance them as much as possible to generate the greatest returns in satisfaction (80% of customers).
    3. Simplify the product so there is a smaller learning curve to use the site (from my initial impressions of the site).
    4. Incorporate testing standards to ensure that the product remains stable for each successive version that is released. Testing ensures that the product is high quality and remains so after future revisions. This actually REDUCES development time because you don’t have to go back and fix problems that creep up.
    5. Study actual usage of the website (physically watching people use the site) and alleviate any problems they run into.
    6. Ensure scalability of the application so that TechCompany can successfully be used by thousands of simultaneous users.
    7. Mimic the actions and techniques used by the top most-downloaded Facebook applications to increase the likelihood of a highly popular product.
  • Secure the website – As a system administrator
    1. In the first few minutes of inspecting the website, I discovered that the web server is running Webmin which, if successfully accessed, would allow an attacker complete control over the server and its information. I have a good amount of experience with Webmin and understand how it works to minimize this vulnerability.
    2. I currently manage my own server running Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn and must understand everything from the email system (Postfix) to ensuring valid firewall rules to deter attackers from an easy attack.
    3. Server is currently susceptible to cross-site scripting, which may compromise security. This is important when offering services that use credit cards and other payments over the internet. We must ensure users that they are secure in these transactions.
  • Stimulate demand and web presence – As a web marketer
    1. Help to develop highly effective web marketing strategies to help promote the website.
    2. Knowledgeable of the top sites out there where we want to be recognized
    3. Currently have contacts within the blogging community for major websites, such as Mashable.com, that would review the site for us and generate a lot of demand.
  • Help the team achieve their own goals – Team player
    1. I have a broad range of skills and knowledge that can help other employees achieve their own goals. Examples within the first day include my experience with Macromedia Flash – for simplifying the addition of adding quotes to the pages, Basecamp – to help organize the team and establish a single place to collaborate on the product.

–Sorry for the long-windedness of the email but I want to emphasize the amount of dedication and willingness I have to make TechCompany the leading application to use for your organization. According to salary.com, the median salaries for the bottom 25% of web developers is $56,095/yr for Fort Worth, TX. Although I understand that TechCompany is only 1 year old, I believe I can help TechCompany achieve its $1B valuation. Because of this, I am proposing a starting salary of $4,200 per month, before deductions. I am not at all interested in working a flat 40 hours per week – instead, I am dedicated to helping achieve the goals of the company, regardless of how many hours that will require. As I stated earlier, I look forward to working for TechCompany because I believe in the product and company.
Link 1: The value of testing
Link 2: Salary.com – Fort Worth, TX

To which he replied:

Stephen – this is great!!! Based on your responses below we are definitely willing to offer you $4,200 per month. You clearly are the team member we want on our team. I am confident you will bring much value to TechCompany and we all greatly appreciate it. Thank you for demonstrating your willingness to make the company happen!

We will call shortly so Aaron can get you fully set up with subversion, email, etc.

Awesome, right?!!? Wrong. After this email, I was kicking myself wondering how much more I could have made if I had set the bar even higher!! If I asked for 60k, would I have gotten the same response? Who knows. Oh well, live and learn, right?

Basically, the format I followed was to reiterate how excited I was about the opportunity, state the strengths I would bring to the company, followed by why I was worth in dollars. Evidence and rational is key in this situation. Notice how I sited different sources to help bring credibility to my claims. There are so many people that are afraid to ask for more money at this point because they think that negotiating on the offer is the equivalent of spitting on it and demanding more. Remember: the next time you will be able to negotiate a salary bump is in 1 year for on average, a 4% increase, which isn’t even enough to support the increase in living expenses. The motto I chose to live by: never accept the first offer. When you get your initial offer, you have such a greater amount of power to influence your annual salary compared to any raise you may receive in the future!

Remember: you are worth as much as the market will bear, not what you have been paid for in the past. I hope you remember to just ask for MORE the next time you get an offer. See what happens. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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